Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fringe 4.03: "Alone in the World"

“Hey. I’m a little freaked out. You wanna talk about it?”

“Alone in the World” was a decent episode of “Fringe,” mostly because of the many great Walter moments, but there’s still something missing. Lincoln’s a wonderful character, and I’m really glad he’s a regular presence on the show now, but he doesn’t work as a complete replacement for Peter. He’s not fully developed enough yet. Plus, I miss the Peter/Olivia chemistry. And seriously, Bad Robot and FOX powers that be, if you’re thinking of setting up a Peter/Olivia/Lincoln love triangle for later in the season? Please don’t. Way too much time has been invested in setting up Peter and Olivia. Derailing that now would just be blatantly antagonizing viewers. Another issue I have is the continued use of this completely new universe. Is the world of the show in which I invested for three years (plus one other, fairly well developed alternative world) gone for good? I’ve always greatly respected the creative leaps the “Fringe” staff is willing to take. In fact, that’s why I think “Fringe” was the best network drama on television last year, but this feels like one leap too far, especially when this is likely to be the show’s last season. It would be a shame to spend the last time we have with these characters with iterations of them other than the ones we’ve grown to know over the past three years.

The episode opens with Walter having a chat with his therapist from St. Claire’s. Apparently these regular check-ups were part of the conditions for Walter’s release from the institution in this universe, presumably since Peter isn’t there to keep an eye on him. They’re having a civil conversation, although it’s clear Walter’s trying to hide the visions of Peter he’s been having, but then he sees a reflection of Peter in the therapist’s clipboard, and it all goes to Hell. Walter would continue to have these sorts of freak-outs intermittently throughout the episode, such as a time when he’s trying to explain something he needs for an experiment to Broyles, but he has to shout over Peter’s voice. The therapist has already raised concerns about Walter’s behavior after the session, so this isn’t looking good for him at all.

Then it’s time to introduce the mystery of the week (yes, there’s actually a pretty contained mystery this time around). We see a little kid chased into a creepy, cellar-like tunnel by two bullies. One of the bullies accuses the kid of ratting out the stash of drugs he was keeping in his school locker. Before they can start hurting the kid, though, something grabs on to the two bullies, and they’re clearly in pain. The kid manages to escape the tunnel before he’s caught, too. Meanwhile, at Fringe HQ, Olivia has called Lincoln in for a meeting. And it’s super awkward. Olivia basically wanted to let Lincoln know that if he freaks out over all the stuff he reads in the Fringe case files, she’s there to talk. Lincoln doesn’t quite know what to make of this, because he hasn’t freaked out yet. The awkwardness doesn’t end until Olivia is saved (as per usual) by a phone call from Broyles informing her of their latest case.

The two bullies from the tunnel look like they’ve completely decomposed in the few short hours since they died. Walter, unfortunately, doesn’t have any theories about what’s happened yet, even as Olivia and Lincoln check out the tunnel. There’s a break in the case when Olivia and Lincoln get a tip about a kid at a school, Aaron, who was regularly bullied by the two kids who died. They bring Aaron back to the lab, and he bonds a bit with Walter. Walter needs to draw some blood from Aaron for one of his experiments, and it trying to get Aaron, who is afraid of needles, comfortable, he mentions Peter. It becomes obvious that Walter is projecting the two-time loss of his son onto this new little boy. While all this bonding is going on, the body they have at the lab (the other bully’s body is at the morgue, and Walter wants it to do some extra tests) has been getting more and more moldy. Lovely picture, I know. Luckily, Walter notices this and puts it in containment right before it explodes and releases massive amounts of spores. Ah, a good, old-fashioned creepy and gross “Fringe” case.

Walter calls Olivia (who is with Lincoln at the morgue) right away, but nobody can get word in time to the morgue employees in the room with the second body that the moldiness is going to go ‘splodey any second. By the time Olivia and Lincoln make it to the room, the two employees, who we got to know in a very brief scene, are moldy themselves. Olivia, Lincoln, and some other FBI folks put on hazmat suits and check out the now thoroughly moldy examination room. Walter, after doing some more tests, tells the rest of the team that he thinks powerful UV light will kill this fungus just like it would any fungus. That should work just fine for the examination room, but Olivia has a better idea for the original tunnel. Flame throwers.

While the Fringe plans are all clicking into place, Walter and Aaron have some more bonding time. Walter makes milkshakes, which are most likely sure to be a hit with any tween. Aaron then takes the opportunity to ask some questions about what happened to Peter. Walter gets very somber as he talks about how the original Peter from our universe died of the mysterious illness (just like in the original timeline), but “our” Peter drowned in the lake as Walter tried to kidnap him instead of being saved by September the Observer. And boy must that sound super confusing if you aren’t a regular “Fringe”-watcher. Meanwhile, Olivia and Lincoln find a big hole in the wall of the tunnel that is of course housing a massive amount of fungus. As the Fringe team starts to shine light on and burn the fungus, Aaron starts seriously freaking out. He also gets so feverish that he passes out. Walter calls Olivia and asks her to stop whatever they’re doing to the fungus.

Olivia calls off the flamethrowers and starts doing a little investigating. She finds some drawings and turns them over to Walter. Walter confronts Aaron with the drawings because they suggest Aaron has been to the tunnel before. It turns out that not only was he a frequent tunnel-visitor, but he also has developed a psychic bond with the fungus. Psychic fungus, yay! Or not. Walter explains to the rest of the team that each colony of fungus is like a big brain (which immediately makes me think of a few episodes of “Futurama” in particular. In response, Broyles gives Walter two hours to try and break the psychic link between Aaron and the Fungus before they call in the flamethrowers again. The fungus is spreading, and they can’t let it keep doing that.

As the time keeps ticking down, Walter gets a little desperate and wants to essentially lobotomize Aaron to try and save him. Thankfully, Olivia convinces Walter that cutting out the sections of Aaron’s brain that seem to be linked with the fungus would be a really bad idea. The fungus is spreading even further than anyone originally thought, so Broyles decides to move up the timetable on the destruction. A Massive Dynamic tech (I was wondering if it was Brandon) administers a toxin to the fungus in the tunnel just before the fungus fights back and kills him. Aaron is not doing well at all, and Walter realizes the true nature of the psychic connection. Aaron’s the one controlling the emotional link between himself and the fungus because he was lonely. Poor kid- his only friends are some sentient fungus and a crazy mad scientist. Walter pleads with Aaron, invoking the losses he suffered with Peter, to get Aaron to finally release the fungus. Aaron eventually does as he’s asked, the fungus dies and Aaron doesn’t, an Lincoln, who was also hit in a fungus attack, starts to recover (in Olivia’s arms no less…that can’t be going anywhere good).

Once the fungus threat is over, Aaron is wheeled off to the hospital. Walter briefly considers going with him to keep him company (a good idea considering Aaron’s abandonment issues and all), but then he sees another image of Peter. It totally freaks him out to the extent that he starts trying to do brain surgery on himself. Thankfully, Olivia finds him before he can do any real damage. It turn out she’s been seeing Peter too. He appears in her dreams. Walter is overjoyed at the news that someone else has shared the same hallucination, because it means he isn’t going crazy. Or going more crazy, as the case really is. He’s plenty crazy without seeing and hearing strange apparitions of Peter!

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