"Excellent Soap/Strangers on a Train" (FRINGE #2)

As per usual, I warn those who have not read the Fringe comics but would like to read them against reading any further, as this does contain spoilers. The first half of the second comic, titled "Excellent Soap," opens with Bell trying to convince Walter that his father knew Albert Einstein and that Einstein didn't wear socks, but Walter doesn't believe him. It's some nice comic relief right at the beginning of the comic, but I can only imagine how much worse it must have gotten between the two of them during their days as partners. We get a glimpse of that in the season two finale, "Over There, Part 2," which is a fantastic scene. It is obvious that some time has passed between the first comic and this one (I would imagine at least a year). The relationship between Walter and Bell indicates as much, since it is much different than that in the first comic, and Walter refers to Bell as "Belly." I remember how during the first season, when this comic was first released, some fans speculated that Bradbury was an Observer due to his attire, despite the fact that he has eyebrows and hair on his head. As much as it interested me (since it is possible that they could have used a wig and fake eyebrows), I was pretty sure that he was not an Observer. However, their choice of attire could very well be related to the Observers, something upon which will be touched in this entry.

I wonder if the professor to whom Walter speaks is significant at all or if we know who he is. I find it interesting how the comic leaves him unnamed, even though he does seem to be significant somehow. That scene would not have been included if he were not, I don't think. He seems to be someone that Walter trusted, someone that he went to for advice and for guidance. Walter refers to him merely as "professor," so we know that he was one of Walter's professors, but I don't have any kind of relationship with any of my college professors, yet there seems to be a father/son sort of dynamic between these two. Like I said, there is a great deal of trust. In this comic, he is a very old man, and this is the 70s, so it is incredibly unlikely that he is still alive (my point being that it is incredibly unlikely that we will see him in the TV series, but perhaps Walter will mention him), but I find it worth thinking about. In whom would Walter put that much trust? What was special about this professor? I also remember wondering if Rachel Matheson was actually Nina Sharp using an alias, and I don't think that I was the only one. She is young (right around the age that Nina would have been, in fact), and she has red hair. If it weren't for the fact that a later comic disproves such a theory, it would definitely be a theory that I would still have, because it would explain how Walter and Bell met Nina. Like I said, though, it unfortunately holds no validity any longer.

Bell makes a comment in this comic that I find to be monstrously ironic. He seems to be very uneasy about the situation involving the Fresh Start Soap company secretly conducting scientific experiments, and when he is asked about his uneasiness, he says, "I'm just not entirely comfortable with this kind of power in private hands." I don't think that I even need to say why that is ironic, and if I do, then you don't have any business being on this website. It's also odd, because once again, we are led to believe that Walter has not been entirely truthful in the picture that he has painted for us of he and Bell as younger men. In the comics, Walter doesn't seem to care much about the potential consequences of his pursuit of science, while Bell is uneasy and cautious. Bell doesn't trust the soap company and doesn't want to do anything for it until he is given reason to trust it, while Walter is more than willing to help it, despite the fact that he knows very little about it; the teleportation machine has him drawn in. I also wonder if what happened to the chimpanzee is what happened to Jones; if so, then a newly found strength would explain how he was able to break through the wall of his hospital room like the Incredible Hulk in "Ability" (1.14). He was most likely cuffed to his bed, which means that he broke free of that, too. The final observation that I would like to make, although probably not significant, is that the heads remind me of the frozen heads in "Momentum Deferred" (2.04). This story leaves us with the possibility that Rachel cannot be trusted, as she tells Walter and Bell that she wishes that the two of them had not found the heads in the jars, heads that are still alive.

The second story in the comic is titled "Strangers on a Train" (most likely a reference to the film Snakes on a Plane) and opens with a man named Johnson waking up on a train with an injury on his head, missing an important briefcase. He is told by his superior that he had better find the suitcase or else his next warning won't be so kind, so he is under a great deal of stress to find the lost briefcase. Finally, he is led to a man who gives him a device to locate the briefcase, but when he does, he realizes that it is he who has the briefcase, another version of himself, which suggests that he is in some kind of time loop, since he hits his alter-self on the head and then runs with the briefcase, leaving him in the same state in which he was at the beginning the story. Usually, the "stand-alone" stories don't make it very clear as to what the time period is, but the fact that the briefcase says Fresh Start Soap on it is, I think, meant to indicate that it takes place around the same time period (if not during) the first part of the comic. This is to what I was referring when I said that the company could have a connection to the Observers. In "Fracture" (2.03), Gordon tasks his soldiers to lift a briefcase, which was all a plot to destroy the Observers, and we see that the Observers' Couriers wear long trenchcoats. I definitely prefer the Walter/Bell stories to the "stand-alone" stories, but at the same time, I do like how the "stand-alone" stories tie in to the Fringe mythology in one way or another, and this one definitely does, earning it a rating of nine walked dogs. Even in the comics, there is much to think about, much to theorize about, and much to be excited about, which isn't too far off from the TV series.

"The No-Brainer" (1.12)

Before I begin discussing this episode, I will warn those who have never seen Fringe but would like to see it not to read any further, as this entry does contain spoilers. Not much about this episode will tell you much about the overall Fringe story, of course, but I like to be courteous, anyway. Aside from the bit about Jessica Warren, the mother of the young woman who was killed in the accident about twenty years ago, Carla Warren, this episode has very little to offer and is pretty much completely and totally “stand-alone,” which is incredibly annoying, especially since it interrupts a nice little arc that the season has going for five prior episodes in a row (“In Which We Meet Mr. Jones,” “The Equation,” “The Dreamscape,” “Safe” and “Bound”). I will admit, though, that the first scene is pretty engrossing, and it definitely caught my attention the first time that I watched the episode. I mean, a very cool-looking three-dimensional hand coming out of a computer screen and killing a teenaged boy by the name of Gregory Wiles is pretty dang interesting if you ask me. I also love how “Spaceman” by the Killers can be heard during this scene, since I love the Killers and I love that song, but Gregory's mother is ridiculously stupid. If you're leaving the house and you check on your son to tell him that you're leaving, you don't leave anyway even though he's staring at his computer screen and not answering you. I mean, I know that he's a teenager and that teenagers tend to be dismissive like that, but I know that I would check to ensure that he is okay. She just comes off as incredibly stupid to me.

As usual, Walter's Walterisms shine like the sunlight in this episode, and, as always, he serves as very satisfying comic relief. When we first see him, he is very excited about his opinion about Darwin, which is an ill opinion, and after relaying his opinion to Peter and Astrid, he is expecting them to be as excited, as well, saying, “Thoughts! Peter?” Very shortly after this, Astrid tells Peter and Walter that Olivia needs them, and as Walter stands up, he can be seen zipping his fly. That makes me wonder why the heck his fly was down in the first place but also makes me wonder whether or not I want to know why. Later in the episode, he tells Olivia that what happened to Gregory could be a result of Syphilis and then says to her, “You do always have your sexual partners wear a condom, I hope.” As I have said before, he is so quick to say whatever it is that's on his mind without first thinking about the consequences, such as who could potentially be offended. He also tells Peter at the automobile retailer that he wonders “if they sell cars here with those seats that warm your ass.” This is a reference to the second episode of the season when, near the beginning of the episode, Walter is “in the car fiddling around with the seat warmer,” where he says to Broyles, “I've never seen a feature like this before. It warms your ass. It's wonderful!” Lastly (and I have to mention this), he says to Peter in regards to Olivia that “I hope she doesn't notice the $2,000 for the baboon seminal fluid I ordered. I hope I can recall why I ordered it.” Indeed, why would Walter need $2,000 worth of baboon seminal fluid?

Anyway, talking a bit about the case (there unfortunately isn't much to say, since, as I said, there is no apparent connection to the mythology whatsoever), when Olivia and Charlie first speak to Gregory's parents, Gregory's mother talks about her son using the present tense, which is interesting. Even though he is dead, the parents seem to be relatively calm, and since the mother speaks of Gregory using the present tense, I think that they are in denial, and it has not yet hit them that their son is gone and that he's never coming back. This is why she speaks of him using the present tense; she has not yet accepted the fact that he is dead. This episode, needless to say, is utterly disgusting, as a lot ofFringe episodes are, as is made evident when we see the second victim, who has liquified brain matter all over his face where it has seemingly dripped out of his cephalic orifices; it's just plain disgusting. I have to say that, near the end of the episode, after Olivia catches Brian Dempsey by freeing Luke (since she knew that he would go directly to his father), Peter comments on how stupid Luke has to be, and Olivia says that it's to be expected, since he is nineteen, and I am utterly offended. Not all nineteen year-olds are stupid, you know. Sure, I have made some really stupid decisions in my life, but in the past year, which has been my nineteenth year, I have made some of the best.

Near the end of the episode, after Brian Dempsey has killed himself and his son is arrested, Peter is in the car with Olivia, ready to leave the scene, and he can't seem to understand the situation. He says, “Why would the kid protect a murderer like that?” since Luke was aware of what his father was doing but lied to the FBI about it. Olivia simply says with a smile, “Because it's his father,” obviously trying to convey a point to Peter and making a rather obvious parallel, which brings me to my next point of interest. Jessica Warren is, as was stated previously, just about the only piece of the mythology that we get in this episode, which isn't much, but I remember when I first saw this episode on television, and it was so exciting to wonder what the letter says and who is really on the phone when Peter answers it near the beginning of the episode, since it was obvious to me that he is lying when he says that it was someone who had the wrong number, as I'm sure that it was to just about everyone. Peter doesn't want Jessica to speak with Walter, though, and just the same as it is made clear in “The Equation” (1.08), it is clear once again that Peter genuinely cares for Walter and doesn't want him to get hurt. He is, of course, missing the larger picture, a picture which Olivia tries to get him to see, which is that he is undermining Walter, believing him to be unprepared for something for which he very well could be prepared, and Olivia ends up being right in her assessment when Jessica and Walter do meet, talking about how much they miss Carla, sharing an embrace (which is so sweet), a scene that is made so much more emotionally intense now that we have finally met Carla in episode 2.15, “Peter" (2.15)

Something that this episode does make me wonder, though, is why Harris is so insistent on holding Olivia back from this case when, since the case doesn't seem to have any ties to ZFT, he doesn't really have any involvement. Obviously, based on what we learn in episode 1.19, “The Road Not Taken,” we know that Harris was a mole working for ZFT, so what advantage does he have here? Was Brian Dempsey working for ZFT, perhaps? Is it an attempt to try stop Olivia from investigating the Pattern, or, since she put him away for molestation charges, is it just power play? It could just be a power play in this case, because as Broyles notices, he definitely has a “personal vendetta,” and it's interesting how in the pilot episode, Broyles torments Olivia because she put Harris away, but now, he is on her side and threatening Harris, telling him that he will risk his career in Olivia's name. Quite some time ago, it was suggested by the Fringe Podcast that Olivia is now like family to him, and sometimes, one sees family members as free reign to pester, but if someone else steps in and tries, that is a “no-no,” invasive of one's own territory, and I agree with this. Broyles seems to have developed a very paternal relationship with Olivia, one that I admire very much. It is a relationship that is made evident throughout season two when, always in regards to Newton, Olivia feels that she has made a bad decision and Broyles consequently comforts her, and I hope to see more of that in the future.

In this episode, we once again see Peter performing the coin trick, the trick that involves rolling a coin across his knuckles. It's odd, because prior to episode 2.15, “Peter,” I never really noticed it before, but it is something that we see Peter doing in a few episodes throughout the first season, and I never thought anything of it before. This is not the only tie-in to “Peter,” though, since, as previously discussed, we meet Jessica Warren in this episode, and in “Peter,” we meet Carla Warren, her daughter. When I first saw “Peter,” I did not realize at first that Carla was the frequently talked about lab assistant who died in the fire, because even though I definitely remembered Jessica, I didn't remember her name, and prior to “Peter,” I'm pretty sure that “The No-Brainer” is the only episode in which Carla's first and last name is mentioned, because even though she is frequently mentioned, her name is not. Anyway, both Olivia and Peter are so good with Ella, and, as I know that I have mentioned before, Olivia forming special bonds with children is something that we see frequently throughout Fringe. Does it simply relate to the fact that she was a child when she was a part of the Cortexiphan trials, or does it show that she has a very prominent maternal side to her, possibly hinting at a future little Olivia or little Peter? I don't know, because there is that look and exchange of greetings shared between Peter and Rachel near the end of the episode, a look and exchange of greetings that is then followed in episode 1.16, “Unleashed,” with Peter telling Olivia that he and Rachel have spending a lot of time together, something that seems to make Rachel jealous.

Obviously, though, during season two, the relationship between Olivia and Peter reaches new heights, and Rachel isn't even part of the equation. In fact, so far (season two, at this point, has aired up to episode 1.17,”White Tulip”), we haven't even seen Rachel save the season premiere (“A New Day in the Old Town”) when Rachel tells Peter that Olivia always liked him. Is the small interaction that we see between Peter and Rachel during season one simply meant to throw us off, to take our minds off the possibility of there being something between Olivia and Peter, or is what Rachel tells Peter in the season two premiere enough to tell Peter that whatever they had can't be pursued? Speaking of Rachel, though, I do wonder if she is a mole, and this is one of those episodes that I recall really making me wonder about that. As I remember the Fringe Podcastmentioning, Rachel seems to try to coach Ella in this episode, trying to convince her that what she is claiming happened did not happen. The only problem, however, as far as this episode is concerned, is that as I mentioned in regards to Harris, this case doesn't seem to have any ties to ZFT, unless Brian Dempsey was ZFT, so why care? Why trouble yourself so much trying to keep Ella quiet? One could say that since she doesn't have any ties to Fringe Division, she is just an ignorant mother who doesn't believe her young daughter's crazy imaginative stories, but I don't think that Rachel is ignorant. Something about her tells me that she may have sinister motives, and hopefully, if that is the case, that story will unfurl soon. Anyway, I give this relatively horrendous episode four beakers of brain goo (a no-brainer, indeed) and advise you to stay on the fringe.

"Bound" (1.11)

Before I begin, I would like to advise against reading any further if you have not seen Fringe would like to see it, since this entry does contain spoilers. Well, something that I really like about this episode is that it is sort of like a part two to “Safe,” since it picks up right where “Safe” leaves off. It's a pretty decent episode, and I ultimately give it eight 8-balls. My only real complaint, however, is that this episode marked a return from a lengthy hiatus, and my anticipation, as I'm sure everyone else's was, was very intense, and within the first ten minutes or so of the episode, Olivia frees herself from her captors. I was hoping that her abduction was going to be a major season one plot, but we get almost nothing except Loeb telling her at the end of this episode that they were trying to save her and then Jones telling her in “Ability” (1.14) that they were trying to figure out whether or not she had been given Cortexiphan as a child. It was a little anti-climatic for me, and I know that I'm not the only one who feels that way, since I recall Darrell of the Fringe Podcast saying pretty much the same during the episode of the podcast that covers “Bound.” The only other downer that this episode has to offer is the introduction of Harris's character. He is, of course, mentioned in the pilot episode, but this is the first episode in which we actually meet him, and of course, he really turns out to be everyone's favorite character. Actually, we all hated him and loved seeing him burn to death in “The Road Not Taken" (1.19).

Anyway, I wonder what's up with the “old man” mask that Loeb wears. I mean, I obviously understand the purpose of him wearing a mask; it's to protect his identity, but why that mask? Does it signify something in particular? Am I missing something? Loeb's henchman, or whoever he is, is incredibly stupid. When you're holding someone against his or her will and have reason for them to be held, you don't release him or her from his or her restraints. Olivia asks if she can have some water, which is fine, but then asks if she can be released from her restraints so that she can sit up and drink, and I can't believe that he falls for that; that's just plain stupid. She, of course, smashes the glass over his head and then takes him down in a rather epic fashion (a fashion that is very reminiscent of Alias), and it serves the idiot right. Olivia then takes the cylinder and hides it, which is incredibly smart. It shows us that she is very good at thinking on her feet, even in a heightened state of emotion. It's good that she does, too, because if she hadn't have hidden the cylinder, Harris's men undoubtedly would have confiscated it, and Harris most likely would have denied its existence. The plot would not have gone in that direction, though, simply because that would have clued us in very early, too early, that Harris might have been a mole, which, of course, he was.

Am I the only one, by the way, who finds it incredibly creepy that when Olivia wakes up in the hospital, Harris is seen sitting there in front of her bed watching her? What a creeper, and speaking of that scene, I find it very annoying how that scene shows us flashes of Peter and Walter as Harris makes mention of them, as if we don't know who they are. It's quite obviously expository information for those new to the show, especially since, as I said, “Bound” was the first new episode that aired after a lengthy hiatus, but I, someone who had been watching the show since the pilot episode, was and am very annoyed. Anyway, Olivia does not seem at all happy that Rachel is in town, and I wonder why that is. When she actually meets up with Rachel and Ella, she seems very happy to meet them, hugging them and telling Rachel that the two of them are more than welcome to stay with her. However, it is very clear that when Charlie first tells Olivia that a woman named Rachel is there to see her, Olivia does not appear to be pleased, and after she speaks with Rachel and Ella, she gets into the elevator, and she doesn't seem to very pleased at this point, either. I can't figure out why, though, she would be upset that her sister is here to see her.

Well, this episode's science is rather disgusting, to say the least. Immunologists are killed by very large slugs that grow rapidly inside of them and then crawl through their mouths. As Peter says, it's “disgusting.” It is very similar, I suppose, to episode 2.09, “Snakehead,” and that is an incredibly disgusting episode, too. For the first and, so far, only time in Fringe's history, it is an entire sixteen minutes (and then some) before we see the intro, which is odd. Olivia escapes, she shows Peter and Walter where she hid the cylinder, and Kinberg, the first victim, is killed before we see the intro. Anyway, there is a very interesting line in this episode. Peter asks Walter why he just doesn't kill the super-slug (which, as we find out later in the episode, is a super-sized cold virus), and Walter says, “You can always kill it, son. You can't always bring it back.” Astrid then says to Walter that “you probably could.” This is a great line, because it foreshadows what we learn in the season one finale, that Peter died, and Walter consequently brought him back (which we now know was from the Other Side). Olivia demonstrates some of her typical Oliviaisms, such as getting right to the point when speaking to Tara Coleman, asking her, “How long were you seeing him?” She also, which I love, asks Broyles if she can enter his office after she has already entered, which Broyles notes, saying, “I hate that, knocking and asking while you're coming in.” That's Olivia for you.

It's not too long before ZFT, via its super-sized cold virus, claims its second victim, another immunologist by the name of Russell Simon. Now, I'm thinking that when Harris found out that Olivia was planning to put Simon in protective custody, he had to have signaled Loeb to give Simon the “powder” in a glass of water after “agreeing”to “keep him safe.” Obviously, when this episode first aired, we weren't supposed to have considered that, but now that it has been almost a year since “The Road Not Taken” (1.19) has aired, we are all obviously well-aware that Harris was a filthy mole. Olivia, of course, becomes even more driven after the second victim, and there is yet another great Oliver scene in this episode. Peter seems very concerned as to why Olivia was being held, and Olivia says, “Who cares about me?” She is not concerned as to why she was abducted; she just wants to stop the killings, but Peter says, “I care about you.” That is so adorable. I also love, though, how Charlie calls her Livvy; that is so adorable, too, but not in the same way. Olivia and Charlie were like best friends. I don't think that there was ever anything between the two of them, and I think that showing us in episode 1.16, “Unleashed,” that he had a wife was intended to tell us that. They trusted each other, and Olivia turned to Charlie when she needed help, which healways provided. It's really sad that he is gone, but he's only gone in this reality, and I have reason to believe that by the season two finale, we will see Charlie again.

Returning to Rachel, though, after she tells Olivia about Greg leaving her and Ella, Olivia comforts her and tells her that they can stay with her for as long as they want and then detects something. She detects something and asks Rachel, “Is there something else, something you're not telling me?” Rachel says that there isn't anything else, but come on, Olivia detected something, and if Olivia detects that something is wrong, then something is wrong. Is this scene meant to hint that Rachel is a traitor, that there is another reason why she is there besides Greg leaving her? I definitely think so, and I think that it has to do with Ella being given Cortexi-Fan. It's possible that Ella is even a clone, as we have seen in episodes 1.02, “The Same Old Story,” and 2.07, “Of Human Action.” It is very likely, I think, that Rachel's reason for suddenly showing up in Olivia's life, besides her situation with Greg, of course, has to do with Olivia's stepfather, a story that, as has been promised, will eventually be told. I am really hoping so, because that will make one intense story, which is not to suggest that the story is not already intense as it is. A family tie, though, between Olivia and the enemy would elevate the story to an evenhigher level, and, as I said, it's something that has been promised, so I am psyched for that.

During the scene in which Olivia and Samantha Loeb are talking in the Loebs' kitchen, I love it, because they are obviously playing around each other. Olivia is aware that Samantha is possibly a traitor, and Samantha is aware that Olivia is aware, but they still continue the show, and it's almost comical. For example, Olivia tells Samantha that she is in the area, because she is working on a case, and Samantha asks her what the case is. Before answering, Olivia looks deep into Samantha's eyes, looking for something, anything, and then says, “Suspicion of a double agent.” At this point, their tea is ready, and Samantha stands up. I love the symbolism here, because the tea is boiling, just like Samantha is inside, red hot with annoyance and fury. One thing of which I can't seem to figure out, though, is why Loeb tells Samantha to kill Olivia if Olivia was so important. Is this a plot hole, or did he expect Olivia to prevail? Was the grief displayed in the interrogation room fake? If so, then he is a top-notch player; I'll give him that. I love how Samantha calls for Olivia after being instructed to kill her by saying her name in a manner that sounds as if she is playing “Hide and Seek” with her, and Olivia suddenly shows up behind Samantha and says Samantha's name in the same manner; it's just so funny to hear it out of Olivia, obviously gloating inside that she has prevailed, and, as usual, she does, but, also as usual, she seems to have a much more difficult time taking down a woman than she does a man. The man whose head she smashed a glass on near the beginning of the episode, for example, seemed to have been a piece of cake, yet she struggles for quite some time with Samantha before finally shooting her in the head.

When Olivia finally does apprehend Loeb, I find it awesome how she just can't help herself; Loeb smiles, and she pistol-whips him. What's behind his smile, though, I wonder? Surely, he must have been thinking that Samantha was dead since Olivia is alive, but that's why I say that his display of grief in the interrogation room may be an act. It may be that he smiles at Olivia with a similar attitude as Jones's attitude when Olivia successfully turns the box of lights off in episode 1.14, “Ability.” “That's my girl,” Jones said. However, when he seems to lose control in the interrogation room, he says to Olivia, “Do you not understand the rules, what we're up against, who the two sides are? Tell me at least you know that.” Similar to how Nina says in the previous episode, “Safe,” that “we are in a race against highly motivated individuals,” I wonder who he is talking about. I am assuming that he is referring to the alternate reality, but even so, why did he need to kill those two immunologists? Was it so that they wouldn't interfere with the sealant in “Ability” (1.14)? Even if that's true, what was the sealant for? Hopefully, we eventually have answers to these questions. Walter, anyway, continues to try to get Olivia and Peter to start dating, this time by consistently telling Olivia that Peter was really worried about her while she was gone, which clearly embarrasses Peter. The last scene of this episode, by the way, is so adorable, a scene in which we see Olivia and Ella curled up together, fast asleep. It really warms my heart. Anyway, stay on the fringe.