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Fringe: In Which We Meet Mr. Jones

In one of his popular essays—it might be “Anthropologist on Mars,” from the book of the same name—neurologist Oliver Sacks describes a test performed by one of his colleagues on a high-functioning autistic man. That man had an obsession with light switches, so his doctor doctored up a device to track his eye movement while watching a romantic, Douglas Sirk-style movie. In the movie’s climax, as the couple finally kissed while swelling music played, the testee’s eyes tracked to the upper right frame, where—unnoticed by probably anyone, ever—a light switch was visible. The true importance of the moment was lost to him; or, to him, the moment was important for another reason.

Sometimes, watching Fringe, I feel like a light-switch-obsessed blogger.

I keep noticing the wrong things—the moments that are supposed to be important, judging by the score, are lost on me. But little things stand out as worth noting.

In this episode, it was the relationship between Peter and Walter, especially the scene where Peter tied the back of Walter’s hospital gown like a mother helping her young child zip up his hoodie. For a son who calls his father by his first name, Peter does a wonderful job of caring for a man he doesn’t seem to like, and who doesn’t seem to notice him—not to mention the inherent sadness of caring for a relatively young parent who was given to torturing his child back in the day. Are we ever going to get more of his interior struggle?

This episode also introduced some crazy mythology. Mr. David Robert Jones is something of a substitution cipher himself. His encounter with Olivia was appropriately creepy but oddly unsatisfying. We get a mention of the mysterious ZFT. And we meet not just Mr. Jones, but also Agent Loeb, who is—gasp!—a double-agent at least partially responsible for the Great Empty Panda Heist. Among other things.

The Pattern seems to be increasingly important, which is a good thing. (Mr. J.J. Abrams et. al., I hope you’re reading this.) Mythology is good, as it keeps viewers hooked on a show. I would like to be hooked, please!

Pseudo-science is not so good, but at least the parasitic jaws inside Agent Loeb were, um, memorable. Communicating with the dead seems to be something of a leitmotif on Fringe, which is certainly an unusual take on our current obsession with forensic pathology. The history of attempts to communicate with the dead is quite interesting, as I learned while surfing that Internet thing while simultaneously watching this episode. In the words of Abaddon himself: “This can’t possibly be scientific.” Yeah, it’s not.

Our Theme of the Week is loyalty. Not much more to say about that.

Moments In Which I Said, “Seriously?”:

• I shouted at my screen: “It’s a substitution cipher!” when we encountered the code. Really, if I can guess it, the baddies need to amp up the cryptography. I only got 100 pages into Cryptonomicon.

• The Jimmy Hoffa thing.

• If Peter can still talk, the sedative isn’t blocking his higher brain function.

• Olivia’s three wants for a lover are straightforward, decisive, and charming? Her character needs a few more dimensions.

Three out of four Giant Empty Pandas.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)


  1. Why this episode? Why now?

    I'm hoping--fingers crossed--that as the mythology gets deeper we'll all suddenly be struck by an urge to watch back-episodes of Fringe to remind ourselves of who is who and what is what. This seems to be one of those Important Episodes, so I thought I'd give it a go for the first of my retro-reviews.

  2. Stranger things have indeed happened. Whenever I find myself impatient with a first season episode, I remind myself of the wonderfulness that was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Anyone remember "I Robot, You Jane"?

  3. I Robot, You Jane was definite Fringe material. Think about it... a demon turned into a robot by a scanner?

  4. Breath mints, fruit cocktail, electroshocking his own son? Walter is a fascinating character and even with the promise of future coolness, I don't think I'd still be watching if it weren't for him and his unusual relationship with Peter. Broyles finally had something to do other than look stern and authoritative; he looked like he'd accidentally wandered onto the set of Weird Science.

    And the monster inside of Loeb looked like shrimp with teeth.

    That is all.

  5. I only got 100 pages into Cryptonomicon, too.


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