Fringe - "The Same Old Story" (1.02)

Definitely a very interesting episode, “The Same Old Story” temporarily lays to rest the John Scott story that dominates the pilot episode (even though there are a few references to him throughout the episode) and jumps into a story about a woman who conceives a child within minutes and then has the baby, dying in the process, which ages eighty years within three hours, ultimately dying of old age. There are a few questions raised in this episode, ones that, at the time, really had no answers, but now, I really do think that there are a few ways to answer them, especially after these first few episodes of the new season. As I always say, but I don't ever want to to forget, because as my friend Fady always says, I shouldn't spoil people, even people that show no interest in watching this show, even though it's one of the absolute best television shows in history, this entry will contain spoilers, not only in relation to this episode but also the new season.

Firstly, I want to discuss my annoyance with this episode's stark exposition. The writers cleverly found ways to insert lines into the script so that those who missed the pilot episode could still have a slight understanding of what was going on, and I find that to be bittersweet. It's good, because indeed, I do think that it effectively caught those who had missed the pilot episode up with what was going on, but at the same time, that encourages viewers that it's okay to miss episodes, and I don't think that that is a good thing. I think that a television show should be like a very long movie, and when you're watching a movie, you shouldn't get up and leave the room for ten or twenty minutes and then return expecting to still fully understand what's going on. If you're interested in a television series, enough to watch it, then you really should be watching it every week, and if for whatever reason, you can't, then episodes are always available on FOX and HULU's websites directly the following day, as far as I know.

I'll give you some examples of this annoying exposition in this episode. Firstly, there is the scene at the “Jedi Council,” when Nina expresses her annoyance with Broyles for so readily trusting the trio with such a major task, and she expresses her annoyance by listing off the faults that she finds with each of the characters, Walter, who has been in a mental institution for seventeen years, Peter who has been up to no good overseas and Olivia, who was intimate with John Scott, a traitor to the country (not really, of course, but she presumably thought so at the time, as we all did). Then, during the scene in which Nina is discussing Olivia, we see flashbacks of John Scott breaking out of the hospital, crashing into Olivia and then dying in her arms, something that we had already seen in the pilot episode. Yet another example is when Peter finds Walter hiding in the closet, and when Walter mentions the mental institution, Peter spits out the name of the institution (St. Claire's) and then reminds him that he got him out of there. The final example that I can think of from the top of my head is when Walter says that he will need a lab, to which Broyles replies that he already has one, reminding him of where it is.

These are all lines that were clearly written into the script tactically to help catch people up, and that's good for those who do need to be caught up but annoying for those who are caught up because it seems so redundant and unnecessary. There was even a little bit of it in the most recent episode, “Dream Logic” (2.05). Walter tells Peter that he doesn't like Seattle because it reminds him of St. Claire's, and since we don't know what that is, he, of course, has to add that it's the mental institution in which he stayed. Like I said, that's just incredibly annoying for those of us who have been keeping up with the series, at least to me, anyway, because it's obvious information that I already know that I don't need to see, or hear, for that matter, rehashed. I know that J.J. said early on that this show would be a lot easier to follow than LOST, but I still don't think that as a television writer and producer, you should be encouraging your viewers that it's okay to skip episodes. There are a lot of very vital episodes in Fringe; for example, if you skip over “Momentum Deferred” (2.04), then you evidently surrendered a very vital and large piece of the puzzle.

Anyway, I am done ranting about that for the time being. I find the “Oversight Committee” to be interesting, or, as I like to call it, the “Jedi Council,” because we have yet to learn what that is and how it functions. We also do not know how it is chosen who is on the council or, for that matter, why Nina is on it. My guess is that it's due to the fact that as “executive director” of Massive Dynamic, she has vital information regarding the technology associated with the Pattern, but initially, it didn't seem to me as if Broyles trusted her very much, and he still doesn't give me the impression that he fully does. A lot of people say that in “A New Day in the Old Town” (2.01), Broyles' reaction to Nina's kiss is rather robotic, in that he doesn't really have a reaction, but that's not the way that I see it at all. He seems, to me, to be a bit spiteful of it, almost as if he is thinking, “It's just like you to do something like that, Nina,” but that's just my opinion. He seems to be cautious of her, and I think that there's definitely a lot of tension in their relationship, whether it be professional or romantic in any way. Also, I wonder if the Jedi Council is government-oriented or more like Dumbledore's Army? That's one of the few questions that this episode asks to which there is still no answer.

The other question that comes up for me in this episode is the scene in which Olivia seemingly imagines herself having a conversation with Broyles inside Massive Dynamic. He asks her if when she and John Scott were intimate, whether or not they were “safe,” and when she doesn't respond, he says, “You weren't, were you?” Olivia then begins screaming in agony as a large bulge begins to form in her abdomen, suggesting that she is experiencing what Lorraine Daisy experiences at the beginning of the episode, but what was the purpose of that scene? Broyles obviously didn't seem to really be there with her; it seemed as if she was alone. However, this is what I'm wondering. Is it possible, as has been discussed before, that Olivia's ability to travel to the other reality without facing the unfortunate consequences a result of her Cortexiphan trials? If so, then have we been seeing that happening more than we realize, and if that's true, then perhaps that is what we saw in that scene. Perhaps in the other reality, this did happen to Olivia.

Then again, however, there is evidence to contradict this. For example, we know that, as was revealed in “The Transformation” (1.13), John Scott isn't really a “bad guy,” so he most likely wouldn't have done that to Olivia even in the alternate reality. Secondly, this did not happen to the Olivia in this reality, and so for that to have happened to her, she would have had to become the other Olivia, which we presumably know is not how dimension-hopping works. Not only that, but I think it's fair to assume that that would have killed her just the same as it did Lorraine Daisy, and we know from the scene in “The Road Not Taken” (1.19) when Olivia meets Scarlie that Olivia is not dead in the alternate reality, or at least wasn't at that point. Perhaps it was just a vision that she had, used as a red herring to get us to focus on the lie regarding John Scott being a “bad guy.”

Something else that now has me wondering about this episode is the fact that Olivia tells Peter that when she and John were investigative partners, the two of them investigated a series of five murders very similar to the ones that occur in the episode. They were essentially the same, in fact. This is something that I don't think is really resolved by the end of the episode because we still don't know who was committing those murders. I suppose that it could have been Christopher himself, but something is telling me that that is not the way to lean. It is more likely, I think, that there are other people out there like Christopher, and we actually know that, in fact, because Walter even says that the experiments were initiated in order to create soldiers, having them rapidly age to the point of young adulthood, and of course, the problem was that they hadn't thought ahead and developed a way to stop the aging process once it had gotten as far as they had wanted it to, so it's very possible that there are other people out there who kill people for their pituitary gland so that they can slow their aging process. Is it at all likely that Claus Penrose has the same condition as Christopher? We can assume that Christopher is the result of some sort of experiment and that Claus is not his biological father, especially since Christopher refers to him as the man he called his father, but I still think that it is plausible, since I don't see any evidence to fight it. Perhaps, it has to do with the three men that we see in beds at the end of the episode.

This is a relatively decent episode. Stemming from the mind-blowing pilot episode, it really can't be compared, but it's still a really good episode, and I remember being really excited to see “The Ghost Network” (1.03) after first seeing this one. The scene near the end of the episode with Christopher rapidly aging is actually very eerie, with the lights flickering above him resulting in his face being shown only once every few seconds, and the general concept behind this episode is one that I hope to see come back in this show, because the aforementioned ending doesn't have a very satisfying conclusion. Who are those three men at the very end of the episode, and are they at Massive Dynamic? Walter speaks of soldiers throughout this episode, and I wonder if this has any relation whatsoever to the super soldiers that we have been seeing in this season, such as the Charlie impostor? Walter also mentions Peter's past to Olivia near the end of the episode, and when Olivia tells him that she doesn't know what he's talking about since there was no file, he changes the subject and urges her to forget that he said anything. First of all, I find it very odd that Olivia has not mentioned this since, and second of all, was he talking about what we now know to be true, that Peter somehow died in this reality and that Walter therefore stole alter-Peter from the alternate reality? If so, then what did Walter not cover up? Obviously, there was something that he wasn't able to hide or to cover up, or else he wouldn't have been so worried about what Peter's medical history would have said. Anyway, as I said, I really like this episode, and I think I'd have to give it five shirtless and aggravated Peters and two Walters hiding in the closet.

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