An electrical engineer and his wife, a professor of theoretical physics, are involved in a series of time loop anomalies.
Fringe airs Fridays at 9:00 on FOX.
Why yes, that was Brad Anderson, director of Session 9 and The Machinist, who directed this episode, as well as the excellent "One Night in October" from the beginning of this season (and episodes going back over the past couple of years, now that I look). Somehow I missed his name on that one, but that may explain the upsurge in quality on these two episodes. He seems to have an affinity for tragic scientists/researchers that translated very well to what are, so far, my favorite episodes of the season.
It doesn't hurt that Stephen Root plays the role of Raymond, the put-upon husband who has built a time bubble in an attempt to spend the rest of his life with his Alzheimer's-stricken wife before the disease hit. Root is one of the best character actors working today and when he shows up – and he shows up often – he always elevates what's going on around him. His radio owner Jimmy James was perfect on NewsRadio as far back as 1999. More recently, his performances as Judge Mike Reardon are always a treat on Justified; Bill Dauterive on King of the Hill is a classic; pathetic vampire Eddie Gauthier from True Blood was one of my favorite characters on that show; and the perverted dentist Dr. Hepa on Louie provided one of the funniest moments in that first season.
And those are just the tip of the television iceberg. On the big screen, he played Milton in Office Space, and had small, but memorable parts in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Dodgeball, Idiocracy, No Country For Old Men, and the recent Red State.
What I'm saying is that he's a mark of quality and helps to make this episode really work, despite the fact that he's not playing a comedic role, which is where his strengths normally lie. Instead, he is heartbreaking as he tries to get his theoretical physicist wife (played by Romy Rosemont) to finish the formula that would allow for the creation of a time bubble to be maintained permanently, regardless of the consequences.
The ending wasn't really a surprise, but thanks to Root's performance it was still powerful and depressing. In a good way.
But what about the regular cast, you ask?
They do good jobs, as usual, with the highlight being Joshua Jackson's understated performance as Peter. He's really doing good work here, playing up the logical side of the character as he works out that this isn't the world he's supposed to be in, and thus, these aren't the people he knows and loves. There's always a subtle sadness when he's working with Olivia (Anna Torv) and there's always a weary patience when trying to relate to Walter (John Noble).
Plotwise, it was a nice twist to discover that the time slips weren't directly caused by Peter's presence, although indirectly, he seems to have been the reason that the time bubble was possible. Raymond wasn't able to make his machine work until Peter popped into being, so there's a connection; we just don't know what it is yet.
I really appreciated that the writers, Robert Chiappetta and Glen Whitman, didn't string this out. As soon as Peter realizes this twist, he lets Broyles (Lance Reddick) know and keeps the story moving. Next week, however, is the mid-season finale as we head into holiday programming, so don't expect too much movement on this front until at least January.
Another thing that's really being highlighted with Peter's return is how much he's changed since that first season. He's still smug and smarter than just about everybody in the room, but he's also actually developed into a heroic figure. The lack of hesitation when he volunteers to strap on the Faraday harness that will either allow him to safely pass through the time bubble horizon or will do nothing and he will instantly disintegrate, recalls Olivia leaping without hesitation out a window in the original pilot in pursuit of a fleeing suspect. That moment won me over completely to the character, and similarly, this episode has erased any doubts I had about Peter.
Hopefully the ratings slump that the show is in won't affect the way this season plays out. If it's going to be the last one, they're on track to end on a high note.
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.