Fringe Episode 1.19 "The Road Not Taken"
Story By: Akiva Goldsman
Teleplay By: Jeff Pinkner & J.R. Orci
Directed By: Fred Toye
Original Airdate: 5 May 2009
In This Episode…
A frantic woman is trying to get to a hospital. She tries to hail a cab. She gets on a bus, then quickly needs to get out. Stumbling through the streets of Boston, she explodes into a flaming ball of bad graphics. When the gang checks out the crime scene, Olivia sees two bodies, until Peter corrects her, she blinks – only one. Of course, Walter's mind immediately jumps to spontaneous human combustion, but later decides it's some type of pyrokinesis. Dental records reveal the victim is Susan Pratt. An investigation of her apartment reveals two important things: a check for $33,000 from an attorney named Isaac Winters, and the charred-out shell of a bathroom.
When Olivia has another reality slip, Walter theorizes it's something along the lines of déjà vu and a blurring of time and space. Olivia's seeing the road not taken. Another time slip – she's at the FBI when it shifts, the whole building is under quarantine, and Charlie hands her the file on the charred "twins" – leads Olivia and Astrid to hunt down a possible twin sister of Susan Platt. Bingo – Nancy Lewis. Olivia discovers both girls were in the same drug trial she was in as a child, and the twins' different last names and no husbands lead me to believe the girls were separated at an early age.
Before Olivia and Peter can get to Nancy, someone else gets there first: Isaac Winters. Evidence of a struggle shows the girl did not go gently into that cold night. Scorching at the window shows she has the same fiery personality. Peter notices melting on the window and theorizes that the sound during the struggle may have gotten "recorded" into the melty glass, like a record album. It works, and yields one interesting sound – the abductor placing a phone call. Olivia uses an app on her iPhone to dial the phone number according to the digital bleeps in the recording (yeah, it's a stretch, but based in reality and cool nonetheless). And guess who's on the other end of the kidnapper's call? Olivia's arch-nemesis, Harris.
She and Charlie stake out Harris, and follow him to a warehouse. Harris is there with Winters and the captive Nancy, strapped to a chair in a research room, poked and prodded by Winters. Winters is shot dead by Olivia, who is locked in the research room with Nancy by Harris. Nancy has been "activated" – stressed to the point of explosion. Olivia calms her down, gets her to focus her energy elsewhere. That elsewhere turns out to be Harris, in the observation room. He blows up, and Nancy – and Olivia – are safe.
Dig It or Bury It?
Don't get me wrong – it was a great episode. But it feels like there were lots of pieces and story bits that were built and went nowhere. Don't start pulling this Lost shit, Abrams! For example, the whole "maybe, maybe not" separated-twins thing. Another example: the delightful Clint Howard had a small role in this episode, as a conspiracy theorist who believe that William Bell created MassiveDynamic as a cover for his drug trials and human experiments. Seems pretty cool, but then the character devolves into claiming the war ZFT is preparing for has something to do with the Star Trek mythology, and he was the son of Spock. At first I thought this was foreshadowing next week's guest star Leonard Nimoy, but when Clint's character was never touched on again, I decided it was merely an unsettling promo for J.J. Abrams's Star Trek film (a couple weeks ago, I noticed that an episode had a giant billboard for 17 Again painted into a cityscape).
Walter, desperately trying to remember where he may have hidden the original ZFT manifesto, uses sensory techniques in the hopes of triggering his memory. He must have Frankenberry, and throws a minor temper tantrum when Peter tells him he couldn't find it, and instead he must try Berry Boom. "It's full of all the artificial sugary goodness every growing scientist needs."
X-Files did at least one episode on spontaneous human combustion, and at least one on pyrokinesis. Also, Clint Howard's character reminded me of The Lone Gunmen, only less geek and more creep.
Human combustion has long been one of those "urban legends" that seems to have been well documented and at the same time unsubstantiated. But this whole "infecting" people with something that allows them to, essentially shoot fireballs and whatnot… well, that's some fictitious X-Men crap right there.
Oooh, last episode of the season. The secrets will be revealed. We get to meet William Bell. I predict that it will be a great episode, but raise more questions than answers. You know they had two different versions – one that answered all the questions in case they didn't get another season, and one that would force viewers to return in the fall should they get a pickup.