When two 12-year-old kids bully another boy, they are found dead and in just hours after dying their bodies are shockingly in an advanced state of decomposition. As the Fringe team investigates the mysterious case, they uncover an amorphous figure claiming more victims. Meanwhile, Walter becomes increasingly distracted by his hallucinations.
Fringe airs Friday nights at 9:00 on Fox!
Writer David Fury (Buffy, Angel, 24) makes his Fringe debut with our first truly Walter-centric episode of Season Four. And while it's got a lot going for it, it's also hampered by a "monster-of-the-week" story that strains even the belief of even a Fringe-obsessive like me.
But that's only at the end. Up until the final few minutes of that plot's resolution, it's actually a fairly creepy and effective story of a fungal growth that is slowly gaining sentience. There truly is a fungus among us!
And no, I didn't have a problem with the fungus effectively developing a gigantic neural network underneath the city. But forging a psychic/emotional bond with a lonely 12 year old was a bit too much. Especially when it turns extra-schmaltzy and we find it was the boy holding onto his connection with the fungus, named Gus by Walter, of course, rather than the other way around.
Because, you see, as the title suggests, this is all about feeling alone and isolated, which means the rest of the episode was essentially a master class in television acting as John Noble works the entire emotional range of Walter. Strangely enough, he befriends Aaron (Evan Bird) and we learn what happened to the Peters of both worlds.
The rewritten history of this world still has our Walter's son dying before he can figure out a cure. Then, as before, he discovers the Other Side and Walternate's dying son. Again he breaks down the walls between worlds in order to kidnap and cure the other Peter. This time, however, the ice of the frozen lake upon which his equipment is set up, cracks and Peter drowns.
Thus setting off the War of the Parallel Worlds.
As the episode draws to a conclusion and the tension is rapidly building, Aaron's psychic connection to Gus threatens his life, as Fringe Division's attempts to kill the fungus are also killing the kid. The connection has to be broken somehow, but Walter can't figure out a way of doing it in the time Broyles (Lance Reddick) allows.
You see, the fungus is spreading and killing people. So Broyles is ready to sacrifice Aaron, and Walter fears a quickie lobotomy is the only way to keep the boy alive.
And for a few moments I thought they might just do it.
That's how good John Noble is.
But his breakthrough that Aaron is the one holding on to the emotional connection makes him realize that he needs to make Aaron believe that he's not alone; that Walter cares for him and won't leave him.
So yeah, schmaltzy. But Noble sells it and I'll be damned if it doesn't almost cause a tear or two to well up.
But what really brings it all home is what happens afterward.
Aaron is saved, of course, and is taken away with Walter promising to visit soon (I'm pretty sure this is a point that will be immediately forgotten by the writers). Left alone in the lab, Walter realizes that the way to stop his hallucinations (which aren't hallucinations) of Peter is to perform a little self-surgery with his handy-dandy home lobotomy kit.
Even though we don't see much of the actual attempt, it's still gruesome as we hear the light tap tap tap of the hammer on the brain spike. And if Olivia (Anna Torv) doesn't show up when she does, we'd have nothing but drooly Walter to look forward to next time out.
And as she slowly SLIDES THE FUCKING SPIKE OUT OF WALTER'S FUCKING EYE (!!!) we discover that she's been dreaming about a guy. And she drew a picture of him. And Walter recognizes him as the guy he's seeing in reflective surfaces and hearing calling for help.
I will readily admit that the contrived convenience of this revelation by Olivia, which has not been mentioned or hinted at at all in the previous episodes should be a point of contention.
But she did just SLIDE A FUCKING SPIKE OUT OF WALTER'S FUCKING EYE (!!!), so I rolled with it.
Because that's how Fringe works. It covers its stupid moments with horribly cool ones and luckily I'm easily distracted by shiny objects. Like a FUCKING SPIKE SLIDING OUT OF WALTER'S FUCKING EYE (!!!).
Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor to Shot for Shot. His first novel,The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is on sale now for Kindle US, Kindle UK, and Nook, or can be sampled and/or purchased at Smashwords. He is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy and blogging occasionally at Infernal Desire Machines.