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Here’s a bit of warning that the producers of Fringe should put ahead
of every episode: "Do no watch if you’ve eaten anything in the past
eight hours." Good gravy, but this show likes to go graphic. There were
times I wasn’t sure if I was watching the newest J.J. Abrams drama or
National Geographic’s Surgeries Gone Wild. Tucked into this gore was a
middling serial killer drama that ultimately tied into The Pattern, but
didn’t really sustain interest for a full hour of television.

At the heart of the episode’s structure lies a conceit that Fringe will no doubt
employ early and often as it tries to spread its general premise in the
least painful way possible. That formula will go something like this:

  1. Crazy, shocking, and seemingly impossible event occurs before the credits
  2. Olivia and The Two Bishops get brought on the scene
  3. Elder Bishop slowly remembers research done in the 1970’s that caused said shocking incident while Younger Bishop snarks
  4. Olivia solves crime thanks to CSI-esque research coupled with
    conspiratorial help from both Homeland Security and Massive Dynamic
  5. One small sliver of The Pattern revealed right before closing credits

This is all fine and well for the early goings, as I’m willing to wager
a lot of people tuned in for the first time tonight after watching the
season premiere of House. That lead-in audience explains why every line
of dialogue in the first act of the episode directly repeated
everything outline in last week’s pilot. I realize this is all
meta-analysis rather than episode analysis, but I do hope that the time
comes sooner rather than later when the show feels confident enough in
its premise and audience to avoid wasting precious episode minutes
rehashing for those trying to play catch up from home.

The Pattern of the Week stemmed from research done back in the day by Walter Bishop and
Claus Penrose. Turns out they were working on a sort of super serum for
soldiers, with the ability to quickly age fighting men from fetus to
age 21 at an accelerated rate. But instead of churning out an assembly line of
Captain Americas, they instead churned out boys who aged in exponential dog years.
Unable to turn off the aging mechanism, these specimens aged
uncontrollably, eventually looking like Blue from Old School.

At the end of the pilot, Olivia’s ex-partner warned her that Phillip
Broyles may have selected her for a reason. And tonight, we got a
potential glimpse into her connection with the Pattern, in the form of
a serial killer she tracked with John Scott more than a decade earlier.
This serial killer was a byproduct of the Bishop/Penrose Baby Soldier
Brigade, and through Penrose’s help stayed alive through the pituitary
glands of the victims he killed using methods so graphic that I shan’t
repeat them hear. But sufficed to say: this is SO not why I got a high-def TV.

Olivia and the Two Bishops eventually find this serial killer via a
device called an electronic pulse camera. Now, don’t go looking for one
of these bad boys at Best Buy, as it’s only a prototype of a fictional,
multinational conglomerate that might not work with Homeland Security
so much as run it, for all we know. The device worked in much the same
way that Jeff Goldblum’s 1990’s-era MacBook interfaced with an alien
spaceship in Independence Day: by the power of
donothinktoohardaboutthis. It’s a power that will come in handy as the show progresses, methinks.

And yet, I actually found the EPC more plausible of a plot point than what
followed: Olivia deciding to bolt onto the scene without calling for
backup beforehand. Yes, I get that there was little time to waste, and
I realize I need to let things like this go, but one does not bust into
a potential murder scene with only Pacey as backup. Just not how it’s
done. Maybe Olivia was worried that her colleagues would be unable to
leave the office in any case, what with the enormous, floating "BOSTON FEDERAL
BUILDING" block letters blocking their exit.

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Perhaps sensing what preceded it wasn’t up to snuff, the show stuffed
in quite a few tidbits of mythological coolness into the final act. For
starters, there’s the power play being waged over Olivia by Broyles and
Massive Dyamic’s COO, Nina Sharp. Earlier in the episode, we saw
Broyles debriefing an unknown group of individuals, with Sharp among them.
Clearly Olivia’s character fits somewhere into the Pattern, although
it’s uncertain either side knows what it is. Nevertheless, both think
it beneficial to employ her services.

The second, and equally intriguing, note was sounded by
Walter Bishop concerning his son. Looks like Daddy might have done a
little experimenting upon his boy as a child. Heck, given Penrose’s affection for the serial killer, can we really assume the two Bishops are even
related? The possibilities are fairly endless at this point: everything
from genetic modification to behavioral implants to brain rewiring
is possible. It’s obviously a mystery with a long-term payoff, but it’s
worth it to keep an eye open as the season progresses for clues.

A few odds and ends from this week’s episode:

  1. Loved Walter’s attitude while helping Peter revive the last victim. He
    wasn’t so much as concerned scientist as a bored Dell tech employee trying
    to help a customer boot up their computer.
  2. I’m waiting for the episode circa sweeps in which Walter goes from
    "doddering, lovable old man" to "potentially the most dangerous man in
    the world." Penrose might have lied about his continued involvement in
    his research, but I have no doubt of his sincerity when he says, "No
    one in power should ever learn what he knows."
  3. That last shot of the remaining super soldier clones: was that inside
    of Massive Dynamic? Given that last week’s episode ended inside of that
    complex, I couldn’t help but wonder if the surprising (although
    awkwardly edited) finale shot showed another part of the same facility.

All in all, a letdown of an episode. It has the trappings of a mediocre
episode of Lost: gripping intro, fascinating ending, but a lot of
fluff in the middle. However, this is show still finding its feet and,
perhaps more importantly, its audience. Pattern of the Week eps will
only get them so far; in the long run, character development will
always win out over gratuitous gore. That’s true, at least, for this
viewer.


But I’m only one viewer. Tell me what you thought of this week’s
episode. Did it measure up to the pilot, or take a step back? Why are
Broyles and Sharp so interested in Olivia Dunham? And what did Walter
to do his son that he know regrets?  Leave your thoughts and comments
below!

Ryan also looks for The Pattern over at Boob Tube Dude.