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Fringe Watch: Electric Slide

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Eric Leibowitz/FOX

Brief spoilers for last night’s Fringe after the jump.

After the previous episode of Fringe gave me new hope for the show’s potential comes an installment that was more of a push. On the plus side, the story involving Electromagnetic Guy had a quirky playfulness that has been missing from some of Fringe’s more straightforwardly scary stories. (The opening scene, in particular, with the sweeping crescendo of REO Speedwagon as he primed himself to meet his crush, reminded me of a flashback scene from Lost.) It gave us a tantalyzing glimpse of Baldy / The Observer leaving the doomed elevator, while again giving the Massive Dynamic headquarters a rest, and pursuing the reasons that John has materialized in Olivia’s head.

On the other hand, the episode repeated enough patterns from every other Fringe episode that it makes me wonder how many tricks this show can have in its repertoire. Once again, we encounter a Pattern phenomenon that just happens to duplicate some project that the government had Walter work on back in the Cold War. (I realize the guy doesn’t have all of his memory or a full set of marbles, but has anyone thought of just sitting him down and making a list of his previous creepy experiments?) And while I am no biophysicist, I have the sneaking suspicion that the hoo-hah science—”Everyone has a unique magnetic fingerprint!”—was out there even by hoo-hah TV science standards. Oh, and Astrid seems to have gotten over being knocked out by Walter fairly quickly.

Not a terrible episode, but comparing it with last week’s illustrates one of the challenges of the show. Even when one of the anthology Pattern cases is decently written, we just don’t know the subjects well enough to really care about them, and Fringe works best when it focuses on the characters we do care about. (In particular, the relationship between Walter and Peter made the last episode especially compelling.) The last act of the show, with Olivia pursuing John’s phantasm to the basement storage room, was the most interesting, but it felt weirdly tacked on.

I’m sticking with the show, but this wasn’t quite the electric shot in the arm that the introduction of The Observer was. Anyone care to disagree?