I was one of those people last year who was on the fence about Fringe. I found the first half of the season unbearably slow and antiseptic. That all changed as the season went on, and the last two episodes sealed it for me. I even placed the series on my One Hundred Greatest Television Series list. So I was eager to see what the season premiere would hand us.
What it handed us was a wallop of emotionally charged story telling with a dose of “Ohmigod did they just do that?” horror.
It turns out that this show is a worthy successor to my beloved and late X-Files.
We start with the piercing sound of metal on metal, and then a guy staggering out of a car crash, bleeding from a head wound. He runs off as a crowd gathers. He gets access to an apartment building and promptly kills a man. He then takes out a contraption that seems to plug into the soft palette of the mouth, causing shape shifting. He takes on a new body, leaving the old one on the floor. Then he leaves.
Meanwhile, Peter and Walter are having one of their cute moments at a grocery store. It’s Peter’s birthday on Friday, and Walter has it in his head that Peter needs a birthday custard. Peter insists he hates custard. Walter, in his permanent state of self loathing psychosis, neglects to register this. Seems alternate universe Peter adored custard. This world’s Peter just wants to get the hell out of the grocery store. He gets his wish with a phone call.
This is where we meet Agent Jessop. She’s been assigned to find out about the car crash. Seems the shapeshifter has crashed into a FBI issued SUV. Peter arrives with Walter, angry and panicked. Jessop tries to get some answers about Peter’s relationship to the FBI, but Peter is having none of it. The SUV belongs to Olivia, who is nowhere to be found. Jessop and Peter argue about what she needs to know ( apparently, nothing, it’s classified) while Walter fiddles with the SUV. Suddenly, Olivia crashes through the windshield, unconscious and bleeding.
This all happens before the title card.
Olivia is rushed to hospital, clinging to life, Peter and Walter on her tail. the doctors inform our beloved Bishops that Olivia won’t make it. Walter refuses to believe this information, and we get a beautiful scene of Walter, helplessly and lovingly standing over a shattered Olivia, with Peter mournfully observing through a window.
Jessop heads off to FBI headquarters, where Broyles confronts her. It’s a routine accident, and she is ordered to sign off on the report. Broyles then crashes Peter’s pity party, and informs him that he is off to Washington. seems that the government wants to shut down Fringe division. Peter himself then questions the existence of Fringe. We then see Jessop at a computer, trying to get into the Fringe files. She uses a stolen password to get access.
Rachel ( the fabulous Ali Graynor) shows up to execute her sister’s living will, and she tells Peter to say good bye. Peter does so, only to be shocked by Olivia suddenly waking and speaking in greek. She cannot recall anything that happened to her, but knows instinctively that she is in danger and begs Peter for her gun.
Peter returns to FBI Boston to discover that his credentials have been revoked. Jessop then rescues him, taking him with her. She gives him the file on the accident, but expects answers about FRinge. Peter tells her that they do nothing. Jessop is going after a guy she believes is involved with the accident, but discovers a dead body. Peter calls in Walter, who gets into it with an M.E. Jessop gives him the body to take to his lab.
A new guy walks into a shop. He asks the man at the counter for a Selectric 251. He is informed it never existed. The new guy insists. The counter dude tells him it’s been six years, and he won’t be waiting forever. The new guy sits at the typewriter and types in that he has finished his mission and asking for extraction. Then, in a mirror, he sees his answer. His mission is not over. Finish it. And kill her.
Charlie shows up, and gives Olivia a story about his days as a police officer in which he was shot and hospitalized in the line of duty. He also tells her that she now has a gun under her pillow. Olivia finally admits being afraid, and that she cannot load her gun.
Walter has Astrid making custard as he performs an autopsy on this mangled body. Turns out our dead guy was a victim to a shape shifter. He then shows Jessop and Peter a video of experiments he and William Bell did on a girl a while ago. They were trying to make her see God. They got a tale of the shape shifting mercenary.
Broyles in front of the senate is a hoot. He refuses to be talked down to by Senators who know jack about what he does, and tells them that he has spent his whole life protecting them from fears both common and strange. Unimpressed, they pull Fringe Divisions funding. Broyles meets Nina outside, where she tells him to save the day. And they kiss ( nearly died at the kiss).
Jessop and Peter are called into a mortuary with a body matching wounds that Astrid has red flagged. Jessop informs him that her father was a soldier and that he was adamant that he always finish his mission. Peter then clicks on the fact that the shape shifter’s mission was Olivia, and he flies out of there like a bat out of hell.
The shape shifter, though, has now taken over Olivia’s nurse, and is asking leading questions to Olivia, who really cannot remember a thing about the accident or anything else from that time. Disappointed in getting no new information, the shape shifter attacks Olivia. Jessop arrives and shoots the shapeshifter, who takes off through a window. Peter, Jessop, and Charlie all head to the hospital’s underbelly. The shapeshifter gets behind Charlie, who shoots. Jessop and Peter both run to where Charlie is, and he’s standing over the dead body of the nurse, broken contraption beside them.
After a nice Olivia and Peter moment in which Peter brings her flowers and they talk, Peter hand Broyles the shape shifter gadget, and tells him to use that to save Fringe’s funding. Our last moment is Charlie in the hospital basement. He’s lugging something to the incinerator. Turns out- it’s Charlie. Charlie is no longer Charlie, it’s the shape shifter.
Overall, a thrilling, quick, tight episode. I’m still unsure about our new agent, Jessop. She’s shown with a bible at the end. Is she looking for something to confirm end of days? Our regular cast is in good form, and the story is now taking real shape. I’m not much for mythology shows, but I’m totally getting wrapped up in this one.