After all the great plot twists at the end of last season, you had to figure Fringe would need a stand-alone throat-clearing episode before dishing out its next surprises. But this “monster of the week” tale still introduced a new element to the show — if you count recuperating Agent Dunham’s limping around on a cane in a hopeless funk. (Maybe it’s some synergistic promotion for Fox’s House?). Then again, gloomy has been Dunham’s trademark.
The Evil: In rural Pennsylvania, an underground creature is kidnapping townspeople and doing very bad things to them in its subterranean lair.
The Determination: The Gollum-like monster is actually the son of a scientist who tried mutating him in the womb so his wife’s lupus wouldn’t leave him stillborn. The child survived but is now doomed to a life as a flesh-eating freak. Even worse, he has to live in rural Pennsylvania.
Intel on Massive Dynamic: Nina Sharp advises Dunham to seek counseling from a Sam Weiss to get over the emotional trauma of her near-fatal car crash. But the address Sharp gives Dunham leads her to a bowling alley, where the guy behind the counter identifies himself as Weiss. “Have the headaches started yet?” he asks her ominously. When she says no, he replies, “They will.” He seems friendly enough, even if he looks like the ne’er-do-well cousin of the Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne.
Wacky Factor: Convinced Dunham visited a parallel universe, Walter tries to replicate her accident with a model car, a bunch of Polaroid cameras, and a frog. Plus, he wins the coveted Best Line Award when he cuts a local sheriff down to size by telling him, “We’re all victims of our own gene pool. Someone must have peed in yours.”
Paranoia Level: Medium. Dunham insists that she’s on the mend, but she still can’t remember that she entered an alternate New York and met William Bell. Plus, the experience has given her freakishly amazing hearing, which kicks in without warning — The flies! So loud! — and is beyond her power to control. She also doesn’t know that Agent Charlie Francis has been replaced by the parallel-reality shape-shifter that caused so much trouble last episode. But it appears that Evil Charlie doesn’t want to kill Dunham — not yet, anyway. Communicating with the Cool Typewriter, Evil Charlie is instructed to help jog Dunham’s memory about her fantastic voyage, which suggests that this mysterious group is less interested in her than they are in what she knows about Bell’s whereabouts.
A solid stand-alone episode, but we’re mostly glad for the promise of juicier developments — hopefully coming soon.