This episode prominently featured “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” the REO Speedwagon megahit of the mid-eighties. We’re betting the choice was ironic — ever since Paul Thomas Anderson whipped out “Sister Christian” in Boogie Nights, it’s become de rigueur to juxtapose a dramatic narrative moment with cheesy arena rock. But Fringe and “Can’t Fight This Feeling” actually have a lot in common: They’re kinda lame and forgettable, but totally tolerable.
The Evil: Passengers in an office-building elevator mysteriously plunge to their death.
The Determination: A gangly loser named Joseph Meegar has had his electromagnetic patterns amplified by a mad scientist — not Walter, but another mad scientist. Consequently, the loser now unwittingly has the power to control and destroy electrical devices.
Intel on Massive Dynamic: So, John Scott’s not back from the dead like we thought. Instead, he’s in Agent Dunham’s mind! He’s now like a male version of Battlestar Galactica’s Number Six: He’ll play with Dunham’s emotions while offering her cryptic advice that’ll give clues to the next big plot twist. It’s doubtful he looks as striking in tight red dresses, though.
Wacky Factor: Walter went to town last night. He demonstrated how electromagnetism worked by rubbing his wool socks on the carpet and shocking Peter. He asked what a boom box was. He orchestrated a plan to catch Meegar with pigeons, which he referred to solemnly as “magnificent creatures.” And, oddest of all, the writers apparently think having Walter constantly forget Meegar’s name is a hilarious running joke. Actor John Noble is still the best thing about Fringe, but you do wonder how much longer he can make a bundle of dopey “eccentric” quirks into a character.
Paranoia Level: Medium. At this stage, some patterns have been established: Walter’s past government experiments factor into the show’s mystery, Peter makes wisecracks, Dunham takes up space. But another routine is creeping in — the obligatory “horrifying” scene. Last night, Meegar’s boss’ hand got caught in some machinery, causing the poor guy to scream in anguish as blood spewed down his arm, and Meegar was strapped to a gurney while the mad scientist who isn’t Walter cruelly electro-shocked him. (Fox dramas apparently require characters writhing in pain every ten minutes — it happens on 24, House, and to those who sit through Bones.) But the ridiculously gory high came when Walter removed the heart from one of the elevator victims and got it pumping again. We were praying for an homage to Airplane!’s brilliant bouncing-heart gag, but alas, the show had room for only one eighties reference this week.