Okay, I’m aware that as part of the “All-Pilot Project”, we’ve already done a small bit on this series, but I’ve just watched it now, TWICE, on Hulu.com, (the first time through I was folding laundry…) and I’ve taken four pages of notes, so please, bear with me. I am about to attempt to become for this site and Fringe what Jeff Jensen is for Lost and ew.com (I mean, after spunkybean’s own EJ, of course). So let’s pick apart this pilot Episode!
On a turbulant flight through an electrical storm, a man injects himself with an EpiPen that is filled with a contagious biological agent that effectively causes the skin of every passenger to melt off, leaving a plane full of gooey skeletons to, due to a sophisticated new auto-pilot, land safely at the airport on time. That’s good at least. ETA: On Time. Every passenger: Late.
Female Body Inspector?
There is an interoffice romance taking place in secret between FBI Agents Olivia Dunham and John Scott. This will surely up the stakes if something happens to either of them in the line of duty… Foreshadowing? I’ll never tell!
Attack of the B-Plot
We are introduced to Agent Phillip Broyles of Homeland Security(hey, it’s Michael Abbadon from Lost!), who dislikes Dunham because she sent a Marine buddy of his to jail for sexually assaulting three female recruits. The significance of this? The writers needed a reason for them to dislike each other. Simple as that.
From Storage Unit to Burn Unit
Broyles, seemingly out of dislike, sends Dunham to check out an apparently useless lead at U-Case Storage. Scott tags along and things get lovey-dovey. Always a bad sign early in the episode. It’s like saying, “Wow, things are so great for us! I sure hope nothing goes wrong!”, but something always does. They snoop around and find canisters of ammonia in a dumpster. This spurs them on to break into several storage garages, where they eventually find bizarre laboratories. Filled with monitors, cages full of roosters, rats, and monkeys, and jars full of ferrets. (Who stole a ferret from the ferret jar? Dunham stole a ferret from the ferret jar! Who me? Yes you! Couldn’t be! Then who?) Nothing good can be going on here. Scott eventually gets into a chase scene with the guy responsible, and surprisingly it’s the same Epi-Pen guy from the plane! Whoa! He sets off a bomb that nails Scott and Dunham gets out of it with minor injuries and without getting to see the runner’s face.
As Crystal Clear as Early 90′s Pepsi
The blast does not kill Agent Scott, but it just infects him with some synthetic compounds that were being used in the labs. He is put into a coma because these materials have crystallized and hardened his skin and turned him see through! It’s really gross. He looks like Kevin Bacon halfway through that procedure he had in that movie Hollow Man. The doctors are stumped. It looks as if it’s up to Agent Dunham and the power of love to save him now. She does some research and finds that his symptoms all lead back to the work of a now institutionalized Doctor, William Bishop. The only way to get to him is to have a next of kin accompany her. This leads her to his son, Peter.
Joshua Jackson plays Peter Bishop. He is a bit of a wild card. High school dropout who faked being a college chemistry professor for a while. His IQ is 190 and he speaks Farsi. When we find him, he is in Iraq convincing rich Arabs to give him the well paying job of overseeing the construction of a new oil pipeline. When Dunham finds him he does not want to come back to America. Especially to see his estranged father. She pulls some big brother stuff on him and threatens to spill the beans about his whereabouts to “certain people”. This makes him cooperate nicely. We find out later he owes big money from gambling. We also find out that Dunham didn’t know that and was bluffing. Cheeky!
The Good Doctor Bishop
Our introduction to this character doesn’t disappoint. Walter Bishop is my favorite doc to hit TV since Gregory House. Before we see him, we find out that one of the creepy pseudo-sciences he was dabbling with was reanimation. His son then compares Dr. Bishop to Dr. Frankenstein. This feels like the beginning of a recurring theme, and I for one am going to keep an eye on it and bone up on my Mary Shelley. This role is played brilliantly by little known actor John Noble. Dr. Bishop used to be a scientist who worked for the government on something called Project Kelvin. He was arrested and put in a nut home after he accidentally killed an assistant by using her as a human guinea pig. He says he could possibly help Dunham, but he’d need to see Scott himself. When he sees his son, he checks his pupils and later asks to take his blood pressure. My guess is that his assistants weren’t the only human test subjects he ever messed with… Oh yeah! I’m sure that will come to something later. Maybe Peter is a clone because he killed his real son long ago with a botched experiment! Just guesses here. They sign him out and travel to see Mr. Cellophane (cause you can look right through him, walk right by him, and never know he’s there!).
Our Corporate Friends
On the ride there, we find out that Dr. Bishop used to have a lab partner named William Bell. Bell is now the CEO and founder of the multi-billion dollar company, Massive Dynamic. I guess Bishop is to Roebuck as Bell is to Sears. I wonder if this will be significant down the line?(heavy sarcasm) A billboard they pass for MD bears this slogan: “What do we do? What don’t we do.”
To cure Scott, they need the list of ingredients that were being used in the ferret-jar labs. To get those ingredients, they need to find the runner from U-case Storage. To find him, they need a description of him from Agent Scott. Quite a circular problem, yes? Not with super-science to help! Dr. Bishop hooks up a mix of drugs, a mind probe, and an isolation tank to let Dunham communicate with Scott inside his coma. Awesome, right? She looks like one of those psychics from Minority Report in the tank, while talking to Hollow Man in a dream world of thoughts just like J-Lo in that movie The Cell. I loved it.
The oldest plot device in the book! It wasn’t the EpiGuy, it was his twin brother! A Dr. Richard Steig. It turns out he’s the one who switched his brother’s meds with melty-plague. They track him down and Peter beats the list of ingredients out of him to save Scott. What do you know, He’s cured! Hooray!
The Plot Thickens!
After Dunham questions Steig a second time, he leads her to a taped phone conversation between Scott and himself. It implicates Scott as working for another organization that was interested in buying the melty-plague. The incident on the plane was like advertising for Steig’s other potential buyers. Scott threatens to come after him if he dares sell to someone else. Dunham’s world is rocked! She calls to warn her fellow agents, but it’s too late! The barely-opaque agent has already pillow-choked Steig to death! An intense car chase ends with Scott dying in Dunham’s arms with the odd dying last words, “Ask yourself why Broyle sent you to the storage facility”. Weird, no?
On The “Broyler”
Before the Climax, Agent Broyle let’s Dunham in on “The Pattern”, which seems to be connected to Steig’s activity. The Pattern includes the following:
1) Children disappearing for years and turning up half way around the world and not having aged a day.
2) A low flying plane emitting a high pitched noise over the ocean that seems to have caused a tsunami.
3) A coma patient waking up after being out for years and writing a ton of numbers that happen to be coordinates that are classified above Top Secret.
Broyle then attempts to recruit her to his group, a branch of Homeland Security that deals with all this Fringe science. By the end of the episode she says yes.
Though we don’t get to meet Dr. William Bell in this episode, we do meet a higher up in the Massive Dynamic company, a Ms. Nina Sharp. She is an interesting character. Due to cancer, her right arm was lopped off and Dr. Bell replaced it with a very nice robotic appendage. It would be enough to make Luke Skywalker a little jealous, hers makes his look like crap. She, of course, knows much more than she lets on to Agent Dunham when she is questioned earlier in the episode. This is confirmed at the very end when she receives Agent Scott’s corpse in what I’m sure is a very secret underground laboratory. The last lines of the pilot struck me as instantly classic.
Sharp: “How long has he been dead?”
Nameless Worker: “Five hours.”
Sharp: “Question him.”
I’ve also compiled a few things for geeky fun. J.J. Abrams is the sort of writer where everything shown or mentioned in the story is significant, especially the numbers. We all remember when we found out about 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42. Well, here was every number shown or mentioned in the pilot, let’s see if they “add up” to anything!
Dunham’s Office: #2168
Peter Bishop’s IQ: 190
Walter Bishop’s lockup: 17 years
Peter’s Price for Pipeline work: 600,000 all in.
Broyle’s Office: #4290
Steig’s Twin’s Passenger Number: #108
Cow’s Ear Tag: #219
Number of disappeared children from The Pattern: 47 children
Hours after death you can still extract information from a corpse: 6 hours
And just for kicks, here’s some Dr. Bishop Quotes
I just pissed myself. Just a squirt.
So much has happened here, and so much is about to.
– Concerning his lab:
The only thing better than a cow is a human. Unless you want milk, then you really need a cow.
Excellent! Let’s make some LSD!