Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fringe 3.17: "Stowaway"

“A compassionate soul vampire?”

I found “Stowaway” to be a middling episode of “Fringe,” when compared to other recent episodes (just about anything the “Fringe” team produces now is better than the first half of season 1), but it definitely had a few positive qualities that stood out to me. Although I still think Anna Torv’s Leonard Nimoy impression is somewhat lacking, I did enjoy the schoolboy giddiness with which Walter and “Belivia” approached their work in this episode. I also found the mystery of the week to be satisfyingly emotionally affecting. Paula Malcomson (who I recognized as Amanda Graystone from Syfy’s short lived series “Caprica”) gives a wonderful performance as Dana Gray, a woman who cannot die, no matter how desperately she wants to. Ethical quandaries abound, both in the mystery of the week and the drama surrounding William Bell’s “rebirth.” And most importantly, to me at least, we finally get to see what our universe’s Lincoln Lee is up to! He’s quite nerdy, and just as endearing as the Other Side’s Lincoln (should I start calling him Alt-Lincoln now?).

The episode opens with the rest of the Fringe team reacting to William Bell taking up residence inside Olivia’s brain. Everyone (especially Peter) is upset about the situation except for Walter. Walter is actually kind of giddy. Peter is especially peeved when Belivia says that Olivia’s brain can only accommodate another consciousness for a few weeks. No way is Peter risking his girlfriend in this way for several weeks on end. Broyles makes Bell promise that he will stay in Olivia’s brain for no more than 48 hours. By that time, they’re all sure that Walter will have been able to find a suitable alternative host for Bell. Bell has very detailed requirements for her permanent host, and they are all written down in a file called “Reentry” at Massive Dynamic. Peter rushes off (as much as one can rush from Boston to New York) to fetch the file. Has anybody around this lab ever heard of express shipping?

We then transition into the case of the week. A woman, who we later learn is Dana, is trying to stop a man named Jim from committing suicide by jumping off the roof of a building. She reminds him to have “hope in raindrops,” which I thought was rather beautiful, the idea being that every raindrop nourishes the ground and has a purpose. Dana manages to keep him talking for a while, but eventually Jim says he doesn’t believe in hope and jumps up on a ledge. Dana grabs onto him to try and keep him from jumping, but after Jim keeps going on about how cruel the world is, Dana pushes off the building and they both smash into a car down on the street. Dana, only slightly bloodied, manages to get up from the fall and run away. At first I thought that Jim must have cushioned her fall enough for her to survive, but I was thinking too simplistically for this show!

The Fringe team is brought into the case of the week when they see an online video of Jim and Dana’s fall from the building. Walter, always ready to blame himself these days, thinks Dana must have survived due to soft spot between the universes. The Fringe crew aren’t the only people affiliated with the FBI to be interested in this case. We take a brief detour to the FBI office in Hartford, Connecticut and meet none other than our universe’s Lincoln Lee. A fellow FBI agent alerts Lincoln because he’s seen the video and Dana is well known to our office. Lincoln later explains to the Fringe crew that his office investigated the murder of an entire family, including Dana, several months ago. She should be dead, but her image and fingerprints have turned up at multiple double suicides since. Meanwhile, Belivia has run some tests to confirm that there was not in fact a soft spot near the building from which Dana and Jim jumped.

Peter brings Lincoln to Walter’s lab, and Lincoln is…surprised…to say the least. He’s especially confused by Gene the cow, understandably. There’s a hilarious scene where Walter and Belivia hypothesize whether they could put Bell’s consciousness into Gene, by the way- it’s one of the highlights of the episode. Walter and Belivia have a hypothesis about what is going on with Dana. They have figured out that her molecules are stuck together more tightly than most people’s. They think this could be why she is surviving all these suicide attempts. They also hypothesize that she’s stealing energy from all the people she jumps with. As Lincoln puts it, they think she’s a “soul vampire.”

We see Dana visiting her family’s graves, delivering some flowers. As she’s leaving the cemetery, her cell phone rings. She’s taking a call from a suicide prevention hotline. Meanwhile, Peter and Lincoln (who make a pretty good and adorable-until-Olivia-return team) have discovered the suicide prevention organization where Dana had been working under a pseudonym. Her boss only had glowing things to say about her, being sure to mention how many lives Dana had saved. Dana’s boss also mentions that Dana had been struck by lightning twice. This provides some sort of explanation for why her molecules were so stuck together.

It doesn’t take long for Dana to arrive at the caller’s house (it’s her MO to make house calls- presumably so she can “die” with the caller). He’s sitting by a window with a gun in his hand. He has put a bomb on a train, and he can’t live with what he has done. He gives Dana the details of which train car has the bomb, and he wants Dana to get rid of the bomb. Shocked, Dana calls 911. Just as the dispatcher picks up, the man says something about Azriel and shoots himself. Intrigued by the mention of Azriel, Dana pays a visit to a church, where a nun reminds her of the story. Azriel was not going to be let into Heaven, but angels lifted him up anyway, the idea being that the innocence of the angels would outweigh anything Azriel had done. It was here that I began to suspect Dana was looking for a “good” death for herself and was going to use the bomb to do it. My suspicions were heightened by the fact that when Peter and Lincoln were going through Dana’s belongings, they found a book called “Afterlife of the Soul.” Peter and Lincoln also think Dana wants to die, but they don’t yet know the Azriel connection.

The Fringe team gets a lead on the case. Someone who lived in the bomber’s apartment building heard the gun shot and saw Dana leave. The Fringe folds discover that the bomber’s apartment is truly the lair of a sociopath. They get especially nervous when they see receipts for bomb making materials on a table. Meanwhile, Dana has arrived at the train with the bomb, and she sits in the seat the bomber told her about. She picks up a bag from underneath her seat, opens it slightly, and confirms there are explosives inside. She places the bag on her lap and makes small talk with fellow passengers when forced to.

Peter calls Dana’s cell phone, thinking he can either talk her down or keep her talking long enough that the FBI can get a trace on her. She doesn’t answer the call on the first attempt, so Peter has the caller ID on his phone changed to make Dana think it’s her late husband’s phone calling. Peter succeeds in getting Dana to answer the phone, but he doesn’t succeed in talking her down. The FBI folks also couldn’t get a trace on her phone. Astrid is able to narrow things down to three trains using the times they left the station in Boston. Walter and Belivia, giddy and hyper as ever, do the rest. The FBI has the train stopped, and when Dana sees the agents approaching, she runs. She and the bomb blow up in a nearby field, and she finally dies. Water and Belivia speculate the explosion finally broke the bonds between her molecules.

At the end of the episode, Belivia shows up at the Bishop house and tells Peter that Walter suggested s/he stay the night there. Which I imagine is seriously awkward for Peter. They do have a nice conversation about destiny and fate, though (their second of the episode) as Belivia pours some tea. This was a big red flag for me, because apparently Bell put the soul magnets in Olivia via a cup of tea she had in his Other Side office at the beginning of season 2. As Peter and Belivia are talking, nearby church bells start to ring. Just for a few seconds, Olivia comes to the surface, obviously feeling very confused. Peter is thrilled to have her back, but it’s fleeting. Belivia says that there must be some complications s/he didn’t anticipate.

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