I don’t typically pay much attention to TV ratings. That’s something for network execs to stress about, not me. However, when shows that I like are on the so-called “bubble” for renewal, it’s worth checking in every once in a while to see how well or badly they’re doing. Unfortunately, ‘Fringe’ is doing very badly this season, even compared to last season, which wasn’t so hot to begin with. The situation looks pretty dire. Although Fox will let the show play out to the end of this current season, another renewal after that seems unlikely. Of course, I said that last year too, so who can predict what will really happen? In the meantime, Friday brought a new episode that both gave us a case-of-the-week and moved the ongoing storyline forward.
In ‘A Better Human Being’, a young mental patient named Sean seems to have a psychic connection to a trio of home invaders and experiences their thoughts in real time as they murder a homeowner. He says that, at various times, he’s heard up to eight or nine voices in his head. His doctors naturally think that he’s schizophrenic, but Walter (who of course has his own background with mental illness) believes that the voices are real.
The victim was a journalist who had been working on a story about a retired fertility doctor. It seems that the doctor had been conducting illegal DNA experiments in order to genetically engineer a superior human specimen. Further, he used his own sperm in all of the samples. (I’m suddenly reminded of the recent season of ‘Bored to Death’.) He fathered hundreds of children, including Sean, all of whom share a psychic bond. When Walter takes Sean off his anti-psychotic meds, the boy’s mind unblocks and lets through a flood of other voices.
Groups of the teens have been working together to protect themselves and prevent discovery of their condition at all costs, hence the murdering of anyone who comes too close to uncovering the story. They eventually murder the doctor, after which this storyline is frustratingly left hanging. We never find out what happened to the other hundreds of children, or whether they have a leader.
During all this, Olivia has continued to experience memory bleed from Peter’s timeline. Her own memories are fading to the background. Walter blames Peter for somehow projecting his memories into her, but she even remembers things that he couldn’t have known. Walter does some tests and finds that Olivia has Cortexiphan in her system. He confronts Nina Sharp, who insists that all of Walter’s Cortexiphan samples are accounted for under lock and key. He demands to see them, and discovers that the samples had been switched out with a harmless liquid. Nina feigns shock, but we already know that she’s been doing something to Olivia.
In a final twist, Olivia is kidnapped from a gas station convenience market. The way this scene plays out is very strange. She suddenly tells Peter that she needs to use the bathroom, almost like an excuse to get away from him. Then she vanishes. At first, we think that she ditched him, and then that she was kidnapped by the psychic kids. Instead, she’s dumped in a room with Nina Sharp, who’s tied to a chair and looks disheveled. This would imply that the Nina back at Massive Dynamic is a shapeshifter. If that’s the case, then we still don’t know who’s really behind all these shapeshifters, since we were last left to assume that it was Nina. I’m going to put forth a crazy theory here: Could it be the alternate universe’s William Bell? In all of our trips to the alt-verse, we never encountered Bell’s counterpart.
The preview for the next episode promises big answers to the mystery of the Observers. I’d hope that the loose ends from this episode (involving the psychic kids) might be tied up as well, but I have a feeling that won’t be the case.