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Fringe: Midnight

“Alone in a darkened room.”
“I wanna tear you apart.”

We’ve only got two episodes left of this, our first season in the Fringe Division. Some major answers seem to be coming, and many of them appear to revolve around William Bell and the role of Massive Dynamics in the experimentations on human beings. Could it all be as simple as figuring out that William Bell is a bad guy? And how does that relate to our Theme of the Week, redemption?

Dr. Boone was something of a boon for our heroes. He had all the answers. Then again, he asked for quite a few boons from them, too. A boon can be a gift, “a thing freely given,” according to the OED. But it can also be the request itself, the act of asking for something to be given—the doctor engaged in both definitions. The nature of the gift is interesting. The bestower never gives just the gift, but also an obligation to ‘deserve’ the gift, retroactively. That’s why we write thank you notes: to prove that we’ve earned what’s already been given, and to return the gift with the gift of gratitude. The ultimate gift is sacrifice of the self, but it also carries the ultimate obligation. Dr. Boone sacrificed himself to save his wife, so her obligation is to live a life worthy of that sacrifice. But in a Christological understanding of the gift (which is almost the required lens through which to view self-sacrifice), an obligation also falls on the witnesses to that boon.

Here, that’s Olivia, Peter, Astrid, and Walter. With the possible exception of Astrid, about whom we know exactly nothing, each of our characters has something to atone for. Walter (who really opens up when he senses an intellect akin to his own) desired redemption, as was highlighted in his discussion with Dr. Boone. Walter worries that the soul might exist, and that his might be doomed. I wonder how, and when, Walter realized the evil that comes from overzealous scientific pragmatism. Did he finally get around to reading Frankenstein? Was it in his time in St. Claire’s? And on a loftier level, how does the obligation of the witness come into play, when the witness was already unsure of the state of his own soul? Midnight, notably, is also a time in which the balance between good and evil is up for grabs—a moment of possible redemption, or possible damnation. (That’s only been true since we had clocks, though. Before that, noon was a creepy time. Seriously.)

As far as the mythology goes, Walter’s attempts at redemption might help us clear up who’s who in the big war: the bad guys are the scientists without morality (whether on this plane or another) and the good guys are the ones reacting to the scientists. Reaction, of course, is the prerogative of law enforcement—“taking the war to them” hasn’t, historically speaking, been super-successful or entirely legal.

Walter’s philosophical and soteriological musings were interestingly counterpointed by his exuberance over The Clapper. (Although I probably feel that way if I had one, as well.) He even made cookies for the EMTs. Peter ran hot and cold, too. His statement about hating the cold when he and Olivia discovered the body spoke volumes about his comfort level with all the death that they’re forced to experience on a weekly basis, but he opted out of the quick insult to the girl at the club: I was quite worried that he was going to tell her she wasn’t “hot enough.” And he got to play with the lights and siren. Although I’d probably do that, too, if I could.

As far as the ‘home stuff’ goes, let’s take a minute and have a shout-out to all the single mothers out there. Yes, it’s got to be damn hard, both personally and dealing with the guff that people are willing to dole out. Very little rest, lots of work, all the blame. But I (as someone without kids) like to think that it would be okay to portray a happy single mother who isn’t reduced to tears at the sight of a marginally contented couple. Surely, some people are comfortable with the choices they’ve made. Rachel’s angst about her soon-to-be ex was pretty tough, though. Sounds like divorcing him was a good idea.

The Good:

• Bauhaus, She Wants Revenge, NIN, and Ladytron? Yipee! Yes, my musical tastes run to the discordant and gloomy. So it does drive me crazy when discordant and gloomy songs are used to portray how evil someone is, or to imply that all poorly lit nightclubs are populated by evil denizens. But it’s still nice to see these exciting bands get some mainstream airplay.
• “Just for the record: one mad scientist is my limit.”

The Bad:

• Biological attacks? Let’s not get all conspiracy-crazy about swine flu. Or maybe we should.
• “Shrimp cocktail.” It is unbelievably disgusting. Almost as gross a syphilis. Or all those bloody spines.
• One of the photos that Olivia showed Dr. Boone was of a guy in the weeds, who I think was the same guy that Peter and Olivia discovered later in the episode.

C’mon, That’s Ridiculous:

• “No, there are no vampires, sadly.” Everyone here knows that Walter’s wrong about that one.
• Boone’s wife craved spinal fluid because the contagion used hers all up. So she drank other people’s. Analogously, drinking blood would cure leukemia. Or eating arms would replace missing limbs.
• Did you know that St. Clare is the patron saint of, among other things, television? That's gotta be a Vatican II thing.

This episode was heavy on the set-up and deep thoughts. I’m curious to see how the next two episodes play out, although, having read a truly marvelous casting spoiler about next season, I have some suspicions that nothing will wrap up neatly. Let’s stay mum about the spoiler (if you know what it is) in the comments section, as people who don’t want to be spoiled shouldn’t be tricked into it. I ask it of you, as a boon.

Three out of four Shrimp Cocktails.

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


  1. Josie-

    I can't remember if some other blog did it, or if I am just thinking about Billie's reviews of Lost, but we should start listing some of the ridonkulous names that Walter calls Astrid. This week's was great - "Aspirin"!

    I find the build up to William Bell to be weird. Maybe I've been watching too many conspiracy/sci fi shows a la Alias and 24, but it seemed obvious that Bell and Massive Dynamic were the bad guys from the beginning. So the end of the episode was like, "duh." Unless the big deal is that now they might be able to get evidence against him.

    Is it just me?

  2. It's never just you, Serena. Maybe, the big deal isn't figuring out the mystery, but watching what happens to our heroes as they do it? Hmm...that doesn't sound like very exciting TV, to be honest.

  3. The episode was okay and interesting, although as Serena says, duh, William Bell. Loved your review, Josie.

  4. The opposite of gloomy music to signify evil is of course, take cheerful/innocent-sounding music and use it instead. See "Blue Velvet" by David Lynch for for example. the effect is pretty effective.
    Oh the ep was okay and it's odd we know so little of Astrid. Agent Francis has had more backstory then her so far.
    Loving the reviews.

  5. I am finally getting to the point in this show where I will stop what I am otherwise doing and give the screen my full attention. Rumor has it that one has to get through Season One and then it become spectacular. So -- paying my dues.

    Stupendous review, Josie. Your reviews are truly a boon.

  6. I'm glad I'm not the only one late to the Fringe party!

  7. >>"Dr. Boone sacrificed himself to save his wife, so her obligation is to live a life worthy of that sacrifice."
    That's not fair T_T She never asked for him to sacrifice himself on her behalf, she should be perfectly entitled to squander this rare gift as she pleases. How tragically romantic would it be if she figures she can't live without him and ends it upon realization? What a cruel thing it is to make your SO live after you. Dr Boone was a selfish, selfish man and tried to hide behind love. Shameless! Badmash!

    The thing with Ray-ray's (sorry) divorce is kind of interesting. What freaking grounds would the husband have to win full custody? Does he actually have something on her?


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