Friday, September 30, 2011

Fringe 4.01: "Neither Here Nor There"

“If you really want a story, you can look under the dome. I’m growing an ear.”

So “Fringe” returned for its fourth season with sort of a whimper. While I certainly wouldn’t count “Neither Here Nor There” among the show’s worst episodes (there are some monster-of-the-week episodes in the first two seasons that could take that award easily), it wasn’t spectacular, either. And lately, I expect spectacular from “Fringe.” I think it’s a case of going one shocking twist too far. It’s getting difficult to stay invested in the characters when they keep changing universes. This time we had yet another main title sequence color (following original blue, Other Side red, 1980s awesome, and future white), amber, to denote that this is a completely new timeline where Peter never existed. Sort of. Traces of his presence have been left behind, and the Observers other than September aren’t very happy about that. We also get to know the Lincoln Lee on this side a little better, too. I guess he’s going to be sort of filling Peter’s place on the team until they finally realize Peter is missing and bring him back. Which I hope is soon, because he’s an integral part of the chemistry between the characters.

The episode opens in the bridge between the universes under the Statue of Liberty. The two Olivias are exchanging case files and giving each other a hard time. The animosity doesn’t make as much sense without Peter. Alt-livia having a baby with Olivia’s boyfriend was a whole lot worse than Alt-livia just taking on Olivia’s cases and hanging out with Olivia’s friends for a little while. At a diner elsewhere in New York (I presume), two Observers, one of which is our old buddy September, talk about how traces of Peter still remain, even though he should be completely erased from existence. September promises he’ll take care of it. Can we just have Peter back already?

In Connecticut, we see the rather nerdy, our-universe version of Lincoln. He’s at the house of his partner, Robert, and we see him interact with Robert’s wife and kids. I guess all of this is supposed to make us care about Robert somewhat, but it didn’t really do much for me. We then see Lincoln and Robert at work. They’re chasing a translucent-looking bad guy, and Robert goes down. The translucent man places his hand on Robert, and Robert seems to sort of shrivel up. A translucent suspect and shriveled-up FBI agent are odd enough to get Fringe Division involved, and Olivia and Astrid go to the scene. Olivia is cold in her interactions with Lincoln because she doesn’t know him anymore. She won’t really tell him any information about what happened to Robert or what’s going to be done with the body.

Walter is trying to reanimate a bird (and he’s sort of successful) when Lincoln walks into the Harvard lab demanding to know more information about Robert’s death. He threatens to call a journalist friend and tell him about the lab if he doesn’t get the information he wants. Olivia is pretty pissed that Lincoln found them, but she doesn’t really have time to deal with it because a call about another death has come in. And there’s that whole going to the press issue too, of course. This latest strange death is in Boston, and Lincoln tags along. He begins to get in Olivia’s good graces by noticing one witness who is sitting apart from the group. Olivia talks to this witness and gets a photo of the translucent man out of the conversation. She then tells Lincoln that there have actually been more than two murders related to this case. This episode has been very much from Lincoln’s outsider point of view (we really don’t know things until he does), and I’m not sure if I like that. We viewers have been hanging around with these characters for a long time, so it feels like we should have the inside scoop.

Broyles shows up and gives Lincoln the additional clearance level he needs to officially know about and help with the investigation. Lincoln quickly is able to contribute yet again, mentioning that Robert took iron pills for Crohn’s Disease. Walter will definitely look into to this lead. When the team returns to the lab, Walter is missing. Lincoln manages to find him in the dunk tank, and Walter explains that he was hiding from a man who appeared in a mirror. Walter is just generally really paranoid and pretty much agoraphobic in this universe without Peter. Oh, and Lincoln’s lead about the iron pills turns out to be helpful, although not in the way everyone originally thought it might be. None of the other victims had Crohn’s Disease, but all had some sort of condition caused by heavy metal poisoning. We then quick cut to the translucent man (who looks really gross, by the way), who is injecting himself with something.

All of a sudden, the Fringe team picks up a charge on the credit card of one of the victims. It’s a re-up of the victim’s commuter pass. The team then realizes that the areas where the victims were killed were all centered around the commuter rail system. They’ve got to check the train stations for the translucent man. Olivia and Lincoln are surveilling one particular station, and Olivia is telling Lincoln about John Scott in a sort of “I know what it’s like to lose a partner too” attempt at bonding. The conversation is interrupted when the translucent man arrives on the scene. Two agents go down in the ensuing fight. Lincoln tends to one of them while Olivia goes after the translucent man. The man attacks her, but she puts up a fight and eventually shoots him. The injured agent wakes up and tells Lincoln that there’s more than one translucent person. Lincoln ends up having to shoot another, and we later see a third translucent person sitting on top of a tank. They’re zombie-like, and it turns out they’re shapeshifters from the Other Side.

Lincoln returns to the Harvard lab to thank Olivia for releasing Robert’s body to his family, which is something she pretty much said couldn’t possibly be done at the beginning of the episode. Walter starts getting really agitated when he makes the translucent man-shapeshifter connection, because that means Walternate is responsible for the havoc. Olivia, meanwhile, takes Lincoln to the bridge under the Statue of Liberty. He meets Alt-livia and looks very, very confused. Back in Boston, September is about to fire up the machine he built to completely erase Peter from the time stream. For some reason, though, he thinks better of it. Walter sees Peter’s image in his television screen and goes absolutely nuts because he has no idea who Peter is.

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