Sunday, April 29, 2012

Fringe 4.16: "Nothing As It Seems"

“Here we are. Beer. For when you turned twenty-one . . . I probably wouldn’t drink that.”

“Nothing As It Seems” had an extremely interesting premise, but I’m not quite sure if there was sufficient payoff. The premise is that we would revisit an old “Fringe” case that we remember from the Blue Universe, but this time with a bit of an Amber twist. The problem was that the case itself wasn’t especially compelling. Okay, I guess people turning into large mutant animal creatures could be kind of intriguing if this was a Syfy Saturday night creature feature, but this is “Fringe.” The best episodes of “Fringe” take the time to develop the guest characters as well as our main Fringe Division crews (of both universes). I didn’t really feel anything for the mutants the team was chasing in this episode. We didn’t know enough about their motivations, other than one woman expressing a desire to be the next Eve. The end of the episode suggests that this particular case was more than anything else moving the chess pieces in place for the season’s end game. Somehow the mutants figure into David Robert Jones’ nefarious plan, and that’s supposed to be enough.

As I already mentioned, this episode was a repeat of an old case with a twist. The old case was from the late season 1 episode “The Transformation,” and was the second time a “Fringe” case involved a long distance jet flight. In this episode, we once again see a guy on the plane furiously writing something down. He gets a bloody nose and rushes to the lav to do a quick test of some sort. The test results aren’t good, and he rushes to tell the flight attendant that he needs all the sedatives he can get or there are going to be big problems. The flight attendant is skeptical about this, naturally, so when the guy goes back to the lav again, she involves an Air Marshal. The Air Marshall tells the guy (who also happens to be named Marshall) to get out of the lav. The door opens, and we think a big mutant is going to burst out, but Marshall didn’t change after all. I was wondering at the time if he was suddenly replaced by a shapeshifter, but I don’t think that’s the case. Instead of changing into a mutant on the plane like in the original episode, Marshall changes as the TSA are rummaging through his luggage. The poor TSA agents don’t stand a chance against a giant mutant porcupine!

We next see Olivia having a chat with an FBI shrink. Apparently the FBI isn’t as keen on Olivia completing her transformation to Blue Olivia as Olivia herself is. After the psych visit, Olivia has a meeting with Broyles. She hasn’t been cleared for duty because 40% of what she told the shrink about her past was “wrong” (she was giving details about Blue Olivia’s past, not Amber Olivia’s). Because of this, the FBI higher ups think that Olivia is “not the agent they licensed.” Olivia is feeling a bit down when she heads home, but Peter is there to cheer her up with wine and talk of a vacation to Vermont (where all they need is a “rug and a fireplace” . . . that Olivia sure is a lucky woman). The vacation is postponed, though, when Peter gets a phone call from Lincoln. He’s been asked to help on their new case, and with Olivia’s go-ahead, he agrees.

When he gets to the lab, Peter is greeted by Walter and a big stack of gifts. Apparently Walter chose and saved a gift for Peter each year since he died. Although this Peter isn’t Walter’s original Peter, Walter figures it’s the best he’ll get, so he wants to give Peter all the gifts. There’s a bottle of stale beer for Peter’s 21st birthday and a porn magazine for his 16th birthday, among many other gifts. It’s quite hilarious and sweet. After he’s finally briefed on the case, Peter says he remembers the case from the old timeline, only in that scenario, the plane crashed, frying the porcupine mutant to a crisp. The mutant, Marshall, had been injecting himself with a sort of designer virus. Peter goes to interview Marshall’s sister to see if she knows anything about the letter Marshall was writing on the plane. She doesn’t. Peter mentions to Lincoln that he doesn’t remember the name of Marshall’s partner who was also turning into a porcupine, but Olivia would remember. Lincoln says Peter should give Olivia a call.

It turns out that the partner’s name was Daniel, and as they drive to his house, Peter and Lincoln have a rather awkward conversation about Olivia. Lincoln basically concedes to Peter in their little romantic competition. When they arrive at Daniel’s house, Olivia is there. She just couldn’t resist being part of the case. Lincoln rolls his eyes and lets her stay. It’s rather amusing how she has both her boys wrapped around her finger. Go Olivia! As the trio investigate Daniel’s house, Olivia mentions that things look a little different from what she “remembers.” At that moment, Lincoln is attacked by a porcupine monster which then proceeds to crash through the window. Back at the lab, as Walter works on stitching up Lincoln, the team talks about how the case is slightly different from the original, Blue Universe version. Conrad Moreau, the man behind the distribution of the virus in Blue Universe, died five years ago. Peter notices an unusual tattoo on Marshall’s body. He and Olivia are going to go to their old book shop to see if the shopkeeper can decipher the tattoo’s meaning.

At the bookstore, Peter and Olivia try to butter up the shopkeeper by asking him questions about some obscure Sci-fi. Then they ask him to interpret the tattoo. He takes a quick look at it and immediately asks “are you one of them?” Peter and Olivia clearly aren’t “them,” so the shopkeeper has to give them a bit more of an explanation. They symbol from Marshall’s tattoo is connected to a cult that focused on the “guided evolution of Man” and “mutation by design.” Sounds like just the sort of group that would create an army of scary mutant animals. We then see a woman taking care of an injecting Daniel. She’s much more excited about the prospect of mutation than he is. She says that they’re going to be like Adam and Eve.

Back at the lab, Walter tells Lincoln that he might have the mutant virus because he was scratched in the attack. Walter can’t do anything while the virus is dormant, but he thinks there’s an 80% chance he can cure it when it enters its final stage. When Peter and Olivia return, Walter enjoys watching the whole team work. He says it’s like having family, which for some reason makes Lincoln a little grumpy. I guess it has something to do with no longer having a shot with Olivia. The team finds a number palindrome in their research, and Walter says that’s how he and William Bell used to number their files at Massive Dynamic. This, of course, leads to yet another insta-trip to New York City where they pay Nina a visit. Nina says the project that matches the file number they found had been overseen by David Robert Jones.

At the lab, Lincoln is chowing down on some bacon Walter fried up, even though he says he doesn’t usually like pork. He’s also craving other fatty stuff. Walter deduces that lipids are needed for the porcupine transformation to happen, and he holds up a bag of liposuction fat. Apparently surgery centers had been robbed for the stuff. The team is going to investigate exactly which plastic surgery clinics had missing medical waste recently. Walter creates a really gross looking smoothie to mimic the injections and try to control Lincoln’s mutations. Apparently the injections made the transition more controlled. Peter sees wings on the computer model of the mutant Lincoln is predicted to come, and that leads the team to look into surgery centers in high rise buildings. There is only one that meets the criteria. Lincoln finally starts thinking it might be smart to call for FBI back-up, but it turns out Olivia has already done that, even though it’s sure to get her in big trouble with Broyles.

The FBI, including Lincoln and Peter, raid the surgery center in the high rise building. As this is going down, Olivia realizes that porcupines are nocturnal. She calls Peter and tells him to turn on the lights to draw the mutant out of hiding. Peter does and the creature attacks Lincoln. Lincoln shoots Daniel, but then his wife/girlfriend/prospective Eve attacks. Peter appears just in time to shoot her. Poor Lincoln. He’s just the team’s punching bag in this episode. Both “Eve” and Lincoln wind up in the hospital, but according to the post-case wrap-up, they’ll be fine. The team suspects that David Robert Jones might have been distributing the mutation serum, but they aren’t quite sure why. Their best theory is that he wanted to play God. At the end of the episode, we see another couple injecting themselves. Then the shot pans out to see a jailkeeper and what appears to be a rather horrific version of Noah’s Arc with mutants of all types.

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