‘Fringe’ aired the first half of its two-part season finale on Friday. Admittedly, it’s probably not fair for me to judge the episode until I can see how all of its plot points play out in the second part. However, at this moment, it sure feels like a gigantic, unwieldy mess, and perhaps one of the most frustrating episodes that the show has ever aired. Considering that this is ‘Fringe’ we’re talking about, that’s saying a lot.
I’ll do my best to recap the events of ‘Brave New World, Part 1’, but I have to be honest that I had a lot of trouble following the various storylines, most of which feel like they were tossed in completely at random without any particular purpose in mind.
The episode starts as a typical case-of-the-week. Several people spontaneously combust after riding an escalator at an office building. Upon noticing that the other victims all drop dead when they move, a handful of survivors manage to avoid this fate by remaining still until the Fringe team arrives. An E.R. nurse named Jessica (Rebecca Mader from ‘Lost’) volunteers to be carried and transported back to the lab to be Walter’s test subject. Walter initially suspects a virus, but then determines that the handrail on the escalator was covered in robotic nanites that infected the victims. Security camera footage shows David Robert Jones planting them.
Walter and Peter toil at a chemistry set, concocting various bubbling liquids that are somehow supposed to be an antidote for the tiny robots. (Wouldn’t a small EMP blast be the most effective way to destroy them? This is never suggested.) Meanwhile, Jessica, who supposedly can’t move for fear of bursting into flame, has no trouble talking or moving her head and hands all around, until suddenly from out of nowhere she starts burning up. Peter and Walter pour colored liquids into other colored liquids furiously like mad scientists in some 1930s B-movie, until Olivia steps in and uses her magical Cortexiphan powers to instantly stop all the nanites.
Ummm… OK. That’s kind of lame, but whatever. The show has done worse in the past.
Why would Jones want to plant nanites on this escalator or kill random people? How does this further his plan to destroy two universes? That’s never explained. Hell, the question isn’t even raised by anyone. He’s just an evil dude doing random evil things again. Cue the “Bwaa haaa haaa!!”
Next, we learn that William Bell (Leonard Nimoy, stepping out of retirement) has been behind David Robert Jones the whole time. Wait a second, since when is Bell suddenly evil, and why would he want to destroy the universes? The fact that I would ask this means that I’ve put far more thought into it than the episode writers did. They needed a plot twist, and they gave us one.
Bell tells Jones that their plan, which he compares to a chess game, hinges on their sacrificing a bishop. Presumably, he means either Walter or Peter. The next thing we know, a beam of light shoots down from the sky in the middle of the night and blows up a building, like a leftover VFX shot from ‘Independence Day’. Apparently, Jones and Bell now have satellites in space redirecting and focusing light from the sun like a laser beam. Why do they want to do this? Who knows? If the beam isn’t stopped, it will eventually ignite a recently-discovered oil reserve beneath the city of Boston (say what now??!!) and burn the whole city down.
Peter and Olivia rush to a pair of buildings that are supposedly the source of the transmissions controlling the satellites. You’d think that they might call a whole S.W.A.T. team to join them, but no, it’s just the two of them. Fortunately, both buildings are empty and they have no problems getting to the roofs of each in order to shut down the antennas. While Peter is working on his, Jones suddenly attacks him with a crowbar. Yes, this is the evil genius’ master plan – to show up by his lonesome to attack Peter with a crowbar. Sigh.
Peter turns out to be a giant wuss in the fight. Jones gets the better of him until Olivia, from the other building, once again uses her magical Cortexiphan powers, this time to take control of Peter’s body and make him sock Jones in the jaw, upon which Jones falls on top of some electrical cables, gets zapped, mumbles the realization that he was the chess piece that needed to be sacrificed, and crumbles to dust.
Wha… ??? Absolutely none of this makes even the tiniest bit of sense. Not even remotely.
But things aren’t over yet. Oh no, there’s a third storyline we have to deal with. Throughout the episode, Walter has insisted that he’s had a memory of William Bell visiting him in the loony bin a few days after Bell supposedly died. Everyone else thinks that Walter is just being nutty, but he’s determined to prove this by confiscating the sign-in sheet from the mental hospital, and conducting a weird experiment on it that involves lemon cake, pig brains, and almond extract. Honestly, I’m pretty sure that the writers just picked random words from a newspaper or something and tossed them together.
Anyway, the experiment reveals William Bell’s fingerprints on the sheet. Vindicated, Walter drags Astrid with him to an old warehouse that he believes will lead him to Bell. Inside, they hear the sounds of Jones’ mutant menagerie. Snooping around, they run afoul of some security guards. Astrid kicks a little butt, but then gets shot and William Bell reveals himself to Walter. The end.
Ugh. Trying to explain what happened in this episode is just painful. It feels like the writers ran completely out of ideas, and decided to dust off and combine together three totally unrelated episode pitches that had previously been discarded for good reason. Nothing in the episode makes any sense, and the apparent death of Astrid once again contradicts that stupid flash-forward episode from a few weeks ago.
I sure hope that ‘Part 2’ isn’t nearly as bad as this one.
[Note: I will be traveling on this coming Friday and through most of the following week. My recap of the season’s final episode will have to be delayed until I get back.]