After the big push forward in the scheme of things last week, it’s back to normal on Fringe this week. Well, about as “normal” as things can get on a show like Fringe. With Olivia back where she belongs and trying to return to a normal life, the show itself returns to its usual setup: with a Monster of the Week that is definitely one of the strangest cases we’ve seen in a while. And so, looking for a good send-off episode before the holiday break and reshuffling, I sat down to watch this episode, curiously titled “Marionette”, with an ever-refreshing live Twitter feed from Walter himself beside me. Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of cool revelations there, but would there be on the show itself?
I would venture to say yes. There was fallout from Faux-livia’s faux-relationship with real Peter, and we got a satisfying case of the week with some really unique visuals. Pacing was definitely back to normal, and there weren’t a lot of major moments, but I don’t think every episode needs to be a whizz bang actioner. Sometimes you just have to let the procedural elements of the show take over and be mildly entertaining.
This week we have the disturbing case of a man who stops seemingly random people and cuts out their organs, but not before alerting emergency services. It was a puzzling opening scene that didn’t really click until later. The Fringe team is sent in to investigate, including a back to work Olivia with a new initiative. It turns out that some creep is taking the organs of transplant patients, but instead of outright killing the victims, our villain injects them with a compound that slows the rate of death, seemingly out of compassion. The first victim, that train passenger from the opening scene, ends up without a heart; the next victim gets his eyes gouged out. It turns out that our harvester is taking these, erm, trophies back with him to his lab and inserting them into a dead girl.
Like many a Fringe episode, this one wasn’t for the feint at heart. The show seems to be going for the craze factor more often nowadays. I sort of miss the days when people turned into sand or had psychokinetic powers, but I guess that well is dried up. As the episode progresses, we find out that the dead girl was an organ donor, and these victims were the recipients of her various pieces. Worse still, it is later revealed that the girl committed suicide, and the bad guy was a psychiatric patient who wanted to give her a “second chance”. All of this culminates in a haunting scene where our villain, a man by the name of Roland Barrett controls his lifeless work in progress with a series of levers and strings, and makes her perform ballet poses, as she did in her prior life. It’s crazy and sick, but altogether well-shot and intriguing, in that bizarre way that only Fringe can pull off. (For those wondering at home, this is where that episode title fits in.) Sadly, by the time the puppeteer revives the girl, he realizes she lacks the soul he fought so desperately to preserve, and the girl dies once more.
Our other storyline has to do with Olivia trying to assimilate back into the world she was taken from for months, and the fallout from Peter not noticing he was getting it on with a doppelganger. Peter confesses fairly early on in the episode, and Olivia takes it pretty hard. She puts on a tough face, as we know her to default to, but the near-total takeover of a woman who looks like her but is not takes its toll as the episode moves forward. There’s a particularly well-acted scene where Olivia goes through her apartment, but the psychological filth causes her to throw everything in her apartment in the washer– clothes, bed sheets, time itself. Props to Anna Torv for showing a range of silent emotion throughout as the crushing realization of Peter’s actions washes over her.
By the end of the episode, Olivia is struck by a comment from our baddie, Mr. Barrett, and pretty much tells Peter off. So much for that tough exterior… Just when it looked like things were back to normal, a wrench is thrown in the personal. Another wrench? A cryptic final scene where the Observer is back (yay!) and looks to be hunting down out favorite crazed doctor. Sadly, that’s got to be the tease that lasts us a month, as Fringe moves to Fridays in January.
If you’re reading these and are a fan, watch the show (especially if you have a Nielsen box)! It would be a shame to lose such a promising drama to the Fox den when it is pumping out some of the most intriguing content this side of broadcast sci-fi.
Review by Mark Ziemer