Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fringe recap (S1E1) - 09/09/08

Exterior plane shot, on a dark and stormy night. The fasten seatbelts light comes on – electrical storm ahead – and passengers are getting nervous. One is getting very nervous and sweaty, grabbing an injector pen and injecting himself with insulin. He’s still very nervous despite his seatmate attempt to calm him. As the plane tilts, Nervous Insulin Guy bolts out of his seat. The interior lights flash and his face has started rotting! Nope, I’m wrong: everyone’s faces are rotting, including the co-pilot – whose lower jaw just fell off! Awesome!

The credits are boring, vaguely X-Filesy. The song is boring too. True Blood wins for best new opening so far.

Ah, here’s some sneaking-around motel sex with a blonde girl and a cute guy. They’re FBI agents who are having a secret office romance. She (“Olivia”) gets a phone call from Charlie, her boss, and bounces out of bed, into clothes without showering. Um, yuck. There was an incident at Logan Airport: the international flight we just saw has landed. After she leaves, Agent John Scott gets his own phone call.

At Logan, Olivia learns that there are supposed to be around 150 passengers but there doesn’t seem to be any sign of life aboard ... except for the previously Nervous Insulin passenger who appears to be perfectly fine, healthy and driving away in an SUV. The scary Oceanic Air lawyer ("Phillip Broyles") is in charge of the interagency task force on this case. Olivia wants to be involved so he tells her to suit up. They open the plane: the passengers’ flesh has melted from their bones and there’s nothing but gooey skeletons left.

Cut to the Boston Federal Building where the task force is busy! Olivia gets a lead to follow up on and shortly thereafter, she and John are rummaging through the dumpster at a Chelsea storage facility. They start opening storage bays and begin to find ones that are slightly suspicious – containing lab equipment, naked rats, computers – and then the Nervous Not Dead Insulin Guy pops up. The FBI agents give chase until NNDI Guy sets off a bomb in one of the storage trailers, obliterating John (I’m assuming) and knocking Olivia out. Didn’t J.J. Abrams do this already in Alias, killing the heroine’s main squeeze so as to give her motivation?

Olivia wakes up in the hospital and wanders the halls, looking for John. Ah – he’s not dead, but he was infected by all the chemicals that were in the storage units and is in a medically induced coma until the doctors can figure out what’s wrong. Oh, eeww - he looks AWFUL. Later, Olivia is searching on those magical television show search engines for “tissue hardening” and “flesh rotting” and gets actual usable results: one Dr. Walter Bishop, did a bunch of experiments for the government but who has been in a mental hospital for seventeen years and only allowed visits from immediate family. Broyles tells her to go find Bishop’s son to get access to the father.

Apparently, Peter Bishop (a/k/a Pacey, who hasn’t aged a day since Dawson’s Creek), IQ 190, high school drop out, is currently in Baghdad wheeling and dealing shadily. Olivia catches up with him and pleads her case for assistance with his father. Pacey: “I’d rather stay in Iraq. That’s how much I want to see my father.” Olivia begs; he refuses (calling her “honey” and “sweetheart” in the process); then she threatens; and he acquiesces. Atta go there, honey.

On the plane home, Olivia lets Pacey in on what his father had been doing: working for the government on “fringe science,” such as astral projection, telekinesis, invisibility, mind control, teleportation, reanimation, genetic mutation. “My father was Dr. Frankenstein?” asks Pacey. Olivia doesn’t dispute it. So she’s Mulder and he’s Scully. They get to the mental hospital and it’s one of the good ones with screeches and screams echoing down the corridors. Pacey won’t go into his father’s room so Olivia goes in alone. Dr. Bishop says, “I knew someone would come. Eventually.”

Off-camera, Olivia tells Dr. Bishop about the icktastic flight and John. He says that being able to see through John’s skin is not good, but can be reversed – at least on lab animals. Bishop then realizes that Pacey must be in the hospital if she was able to get in to see him. He wants to see his son. A reluctant Pacey calls his dad “Walter” and his dad thought he would be fatter. Heh. It’s not going that well, particularly when Bishop says he needs to see John’s condition – because the only one who can sign him out of the mental hospital is Pacey, as immediate family and guardian. Pacey tells “sweetheart” that she should have been more careful what she wished for.

Trailer for new Bond movie. Looks like: “meh.” But Shepherd Book is in the new Samuel L. Jackson movie! Which also looks like “meh.”

On the way to the hospital, Bishop tells Olivia that he used to share his lab with one William Bell, some uber-millionaire who founded “Massive Dynamic.” Then he pisses himself a little. Pacey is incredulous. Olivia is grossed out but asks Charlie to set up a meeting for her with Bell. Later, at the hospital, Bishop takes a tissue sample from John’s arm and announces that he wants to go to his lab. When Pacey and Olivia tell him that his lab has been shut down for years, he pitches a fit. So Olivia gains him access to the lab. It’s in a basement at Harvard University and hasn’t been touched for seventeen years. Yeah, right.

Bishop gets his lab set up, including bringing in a live cow for testing. More primetime television shows need cows, I think. While his father works, Pacey brings Olivia coffee and tries to find out what is in his FBI file. It was a bluff. They chat. It comes out that Pacey owes a lot of money to the mob. That’ll probably come up again later.

Bishop finally tells Olivia that John is suffering from a severe reaction to the various chemicals that were in the warehouse. He can’t be cured without an exact analysis of all the chemicals (which they don’t have/can’t get unless they find NNDI Guy and make him ‘fess up), and has only a day or so before his body shuts down. Unless – and here’s the fringe science – they can pull off a synaptic transfer. Bishop thinks that it is possible to synchronize two separate brains to share information so that Olivia could mind-meld with John and get the suspect’s description that way. Bishop says he even retrieved information from a corpse this way, but that only works if they’ve been dead less than six hours. During all this, Pacey is making smart ass remarks that are not helpful but are definitely kind of funny. Bishop tells Olivia that to do the mind-meld she’ll have to put a probe in her brain, float naked in some vat and be heavily drugged with psychotropic drugs. Over Pacey’s shouted objections, Olivia decides to go for it. “Excellent,” says Bishop, “let’s make some LSD.” Hee.

Olivia strips to her undies and Bishop sticks the probe into the base of her skull, then shoots her up and puts her in the float tank. Eeuw: John’s there on a gurney, looking sticky, a probe stuck in his brain as well. Bishop, Pacey and Olivia’s assistant wait and watch the monitors, hoping the two agents’ brains sync up. In the tank, Olivia is having visions. She’s in a junkyard, calling to John. Someone scuttles behind her as she flashes to a child’s bedroom, then a graveyard. She finds John – their brainwaves perfectly matched – and he tells her he’d been thinking about her. Psychic-smoochies! She asks him to remember the storage units, to remember what NNDI Guy looks like. They flash to the storage yard, chasing the suspect. Just as she sees the guy’s face, the Bishops yank her out of the tank. “I was there!” she gasps, “I saw his face!”

Back at the FBI, Olivia reconstructs the suspect’s face with rendering software. An agent says he was a passenger (Insulin Guy)… with a twin (our suspect, Richard Steig). Steig’s last employer was Massive Dynamics. The airborne pathogen was his creation, let into the plane’s atmosphere via his brother’s insulin pen. Olivia goes to confront Massive Dynamics who offers to give her information on Steig, but who is extremely protective of the company and its work. “Do you believe that Steig may be part of the Pattern?” asks the Massive Dynamics executive. Olivia doesn’t know what she’s talking about. “Oh, I assumed you had clearance,” snips the executive. “Science and technology may have advanced beyond that which we can control – you should know what you’re getting into.”

Olivia returns to Boston and calls Pacey, interrupting a Spongebob Squarepants episode that his father is very much enjoying: “This is a program for children?” Hee. They all drive to Southie and, leaving the Bishops in the car, the FBI starts busting down doors, looking for Richard Steig. They find a hidden lab, stocked like the ones at the storage facility (naked rats, computers, chemicals). In the car, Bishop asks Pacey to please not send him back to the mental hospital. Pacey can’t promise anything but then sees Steig sneak out the basement. Telling his dad to stay in the car, Pacey gives chase on foot, Olivia catching up somehow. Then it’s just Olivia chasing Steig - what happened to Pacey? Oops – there he is, punching Steig in the face.

At the FBI HQ, Olivia interrogates Steig. He wants immunity; she wants a detailed list of all the chemicals in the storage unit; he has nothing to say. Frustrated, Olivia leaves and Pacey sneaks into the interrogation unit. He says that the chemical compound in John’s body is water-soluble, so he could extract it and slip it into Steig’s body. Steig starts to get a little nervous so Pacey picks up his coffee mug and slams it onto Steig’s hand – yowch! Steig hollers and Olivia busts in, telling Pacey to stop. He shakes her off, saying he’s going to count … to 1 and then slams the mug into Steig’s hand again. Bad cop Pacey gets the list of chemicals.

The two Bishops argue about how to cure John– who is looking WAY transparent right now. There’s more lab work and eventually, when Olivia checks in with Broyles, things are starting to look up for John. Broyles thinks Olivia has done good work and tells her that there has been a lot of recent activity similar to what happened on the plane – weird, X-Filesy stuff. It’s the “Pattern” and it’s as though someone out there is experimenting on the world. Olivia just wants things to go back to normal– but Broyles doesn’t think she can let this stuff go.

Back in the lab, John is still shiny but he’s no longer see-through and he takes a breath, waking up. Pacey looks at his dad with actual respect. When Olivia stops in to see Steig at the hospital, he tells her that he was forced by a government agent to do what he did. He taped the conversation and buried it – which Olivia quickly goes out and finds. She plays the tape and recognizes the voice: it was John! John, who is getting out of his hospital bed and smothering Steig with a pillow so he can’t talk to anyone else.

Olivia rushes back to the hospital, alerting the FBI to John’s treachery, then sees him driving off. There’s a big car chase but I’m trying to watch the scenery to see if they really filmed in Boston. John tries to run Olivia off the road but ends up in a big solo crash. He dies in her arms, choking out, “Ask yourself why […] sent you to the storage facility?” but unhelpfully not telling her whom he’s working for.

She goes back to the lab and grabs Pacey, telling him that his father needs to keep the work going, and so Pacey needs to stay too to keep an eye on the elder Bishop. Pacey wants to know what happened to John but she brushes it off. He agrees to stay, against his better judgment but because he’s already got a crush on her.

Last scene: an orderly wheels John’s body down a hallway. The Massive Dynamic executive stops him, looking closely at the body. “How long has he been dead?” she asks. “Five hours,” replies the orderly. She says, “Question him.”

I give Fringe a strong B+ - certainly not the amazing start Lost had - but I think it'll continue to get better, now that the characters have all been introduced. Boy, 'tho, that J.J. Abrams sure does like to make me type a lot.

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