I’m still waiting for the current season of ‘Fringe’ to kick into high gear. I mean, I know that we’re only three episodes in, and the show is clearly trying to re-establish some form of normalcy before unleashing the truly weird stuff on us. I’m sure that’s being saved up for later in the season. Even so, Friday’s episode was particularly low-key.
‘Alone in the World’ opens with a young boy named Aaron being chased by bullies. He runs into an old, abandoned bunker, where the two assailants are promptly attacked by… something… that rapidly infects their bodies. Aaron himself seems unaffected and runs away.
By the time the Fringe team gets there, the two bullies are dead and already in an advanced stage of decomposition. Walter determines that their bodies were overtaken by a hyper-aggressive fungus, and it’s starting to spread beyond the bunker. It quickly extends through the sewers and kills a homeless man more than three miles away. Broyles wants to take immediate action to stop the infestation.
Like most fungi, this one is sensitive to UV light and heat. However, attempts to attack it result in Aaron also being hurt. It seems that the boy had spent a lot of time in that bunker prior to leading the bullies in there. As Walter explains, the fungus has evolved into an advanced life form with a neural network that is on the way to becoming self-aware. (Walter names it “Gus.”) While lonely orphan Aaron had been hanging out in that bunker drawing pictures on the walls, Gus bonded with his nervous system. Aaron feels what it feels, and vice versa. The fungus attacked the bullies as a defense when they threatened Aaron. The more scared he gets, the more aggressively Gus spreads.
Broyles gives Walter a short deadline to sever the connection between Aaron and Gus before he uses an experimental neurotoxin on the fungus. If Walter can’t do it, Broyles will have to consider the boy acceptable collateral damage. Stopping the plague is more important than any one child’s life.
Walter tries to convince Aaron to “let go” of the bond with Gus, but Aaron doesn’t want to. The fungus is his only friend. When Broyles orders Olivia and Lincoln to inject the neurotoxin into the fungus, it doesn’t seem to have any affect, and Gus attacks Lincoln. Eventually, Walter convinces the boy to let go, and the fungus dies.
I have a lot of problems with the resolution to this storyline. First off, Lincoln, Olivia and a random Red Shirt agent stupidly walk into the middle of the fungal mass without wearing haz-mat suits, even though they’d worn them earlier in the episode. What’s that about? Even though this fungus is clearly a dangerous threat, Broyles and even Walter seem awfully cavalier about killing a new sentient life form. And when the neurotoxin doesn’t work on it, the thing just instantly dies because Aaron decides not to be its friend anymore? C’mon, that’s a massive cop-out, and all-around lame writing.
The better part of the episode is its emotional element. Walter becomes strongly attached to Aaron because the boy reminds him of his own son. (It’s confirmed in this episode that, in the new timeline, young Peter did exist, but drowned in the lake because the Observer didn’t rescue him.) In a very funny moment, Aaron asks Walter what happened to his son, and Walter tells him everything – alternate universes, mental institution and all. The dumbstruck kid thinks he’s nuts.
Walter himself also worries that he’s going nuts. He continues to see Peter’s face in reflective surfaces, and hears his voice calling to him for help. He’s scared that he’s having a breakdown and will be sent back to the mental hospital, so he attempts to give himself a lobotomy. Olivia stops him and reveals that she’s had recurring dreams of the same face that Walter sees. Relieved that it isn’t all in his head, Walter resolves to find out who this person is and contact him. Hopefully, this means that the show will finally start to address the events of last season soon.