But boy, does it have a crazily fascinating first half. The introductory scene amusingly finds Walter swapping bong hits with a Massive Dynamic security guard played by Jorge Garcia. (It’s Hurley from “Lost!” Which Bad Robot alternate universe is this?) Walter’s discovery of William Bell’s office inspires him to redouble his efforts to think like he did when Bell and he were partners. I like the implication that both geniuses were more productive when they were together than separately — it’s like the idea that John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles work never equaled their fractious but fruitful collaboration. And Walter implies that he bedded Yoko — coincidence?
Next, we see some thieves scaling up the face of a building with ropes as they’re breaking in. Only the perspective’s fooling us: they’re actually scaling down the building, having already robbed it. They need super-heavy shoes to keep from floating away, and when a security guard shoots one of them, the body drifts out of the heavy boots and hangs literally at the end of the rope. It’s like Willy Wonka’s Fizzy Lifting Drinks used for nefarious purposes.
The Fringe team discovers that the crooks pilfered a minerals archive’s supply of Osmium, the world’s densest metal, and practical problems of a lighter-than-air corpse provides for some nicely weird imagery. (It’s like the body would literally float to heaven if given the chance.) The other thief is in a bad way and finds sinister scientist Alan Ruck (whom we’ll all probably remember mostly for playing Cameron Frye in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off). The other lighter-than-helium guy starts bleeding from the face and dies, and Dr. Ruck amputates a foot and scrapes the bone-stump in one of the most grisly images “Fringe” has ever offered us. (Maybe “Fringe” feels the need to compete with “The Walking Dead” for prime-time gross-outs.)
The Fringe team wonders why the various bodies have atrophied leg muscles and but well-developed upper bodies. The answer seems inspired by the documentary Murderball: they all (or at least most) seem to have been confined to wheelchairs due to multiple sclerosis. Dr. Ruck has secretly been trying to use the zero-g invention to cure paraplegics — making them light enough to walk — with the goal of giving the formula to his own disabled son. One wonders how outrageously Dr. Ruck lies to the young men he uses as guinea pigs. Getting to walk again? Sounds pretty good. Allowing an unsupervised scientist to give you a potentially lethal material that could cause you to float into the stratosphere? No way, dude. Dr. Ruck’s test subjects also seemed surprising willing and able to break into secure locations.
“Os’s” museum heist-centerpiece served as kind of a reverse-gravity version of Tom Cruise’s lower-from-the-ceiling caper from the first Mission Impossible movie. The twist is, if the thief makes a mistake, he’ll fall up. Peter’s rescue of the floating felon proved quite exciting — I’m surprised the episode didn’t capitalize on the image of a person, living or dead, soaring up towards the stars. At the end, Dr. Ruck gets caught and his son calls him on his bad attitude towards the young man’s disability. “I wanted you to be happy,” says Dr. Ruck. “I was happy,” counters the son.
Nearly as odd as the helium-style humans was the sight of a bubbly, happy Olivia Dunham this week. The episode presents Peter and her in the full bloom of love, and Anna Torv plays the role as positively giddy. “Hello, Nina! Watcha doin’ here!” she exclaims at an appearance from Nina Sharp, like they’re teenagers on the way to Study Hall. Peter and Olivia have a policy of full (emotional) disclosure, and by the end of the episode, Peter reveals the secret that he’s been trying to crack the black-box discs he harvested from all those shape-shifters he killed a few weeks ago. It’s unclear whether Olivia’s discovery that Peter was the mystery assassin she was trying to track down will have any repercussions.
The “Previously on ‘Fringe’” recap at the beginning may have revealed its plot points a little too directly. By mentioning the idea of “soul magnets” that can summon deceased intellects, and showing the bell that William Bell left Nina Sharp, clearly the episode was building to the bell being rung and William appearing from beyond the grave. We’re led to believe that Bell’s spirit will inhabit Nina, but instead, Olivia starts speaking with the slightly-slurred speech of elderly Leonard Nimoy! The episode ends with William Bell in Olivia’s body, which seems just stooooooopid.
For one thing, it’ll probably put a damper on Peter and Olivia’s sex life if she’s going to be speaking like Spock from now on. One can only assume that “Os” and next week’s episode, apparently called “Stowaway” (in reference to the mind-meld plot?) represent the “Fringe’s” writers getting the ridiculous plots out of the way to make room for the sturm und drang sure to accompany the endgame of Season Three.
What happened to zero-gravity thief that Peter saved? Will he die?
Didn’t William Bell die in the alternate dimension? That must be a pretty good soul magnet if it can summon him from that far away.
Really, wouldn’t Nina or someone in her office have rung that bell at some point over the past few months?
Why does the Osmium effect wear off? I like the weirdness of the super-light bodies turning super-dense, but the explanation didn’t really satisfy me. Walter theorizes that the super-light Osmium phenomenon is a side effect of the two universes coming closer, which is consistent with the show’s overall mythology, but is still difficult to get my head around.
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