JJ Abrams' Fringe episode 14 review

Review Billy Grifter 2/17/2009 at 6:17AM
Fringe

A transporter that neither works properly nor kills you? Brrr...

I wasn’t massively excited by the last Fringe episode. The show seems to wallow in some mid-seasonal morass, like so many seem to do these days. But episode 14, entitled Ability, is the last chance to inject some energy into the proceedings as it now won’t return until April at the earliest. If like me you’re a fan of the show, you’ll be glad to hear that it does come to life and progresses the main plot arc in a substantial way.

As a diversion the show doesn’t open with the weird and wonderful happening, that’s held till after the credits. What we do get is a revisiting of the events of episode 10, where Mr Jones teleports himself out of a German high security prison.

A discussion of which is exactly where we find the Fringe team, with Walter explaining some of the issues that being disintegrated and then re-integrated pose, which are unsurprisingly numerous .

We then cut to Mr Jones, who is released from a decompression chamber, as predicted would be needed by Walter, but doesn’t look too well for the experience.

It’s only now that the weird stuff is unleashed, when a news vendor gets a two-dollar bill that causes all his facial orifices to close, suffocating him. I’m usually fine with the effects in this show, but the way this is presented it looks just like make-up, sadly.

Oliva, looking for answers as ever, goes to see transfer prisoner Mitch Loeb, but only gets some rather obscure prophecy about ‘what was written will come to pass’.

Written where, and by whom? Fringe has prided itself on being obtuse, but at this point my heart sank that we would get another smoke and mirrors run-around. But I was wrong, so wrong.

Walter examines the vendor, but that doesn’t tell is any more than we know already, but the Fringe writers have a real surprise ready to unleash.

Mr Jones turns up at the FBI offices and gives himself up! He announces he’ll only talk to Agent Dunham, and he’d like a small section of seemingly innocuous everyday items.

There’s some messing about with officious twit Sanford Harris at this point, where he won’t let her see him. This characters purpose isn’t working, and I really think they need to kill him off soon, please. An agent dies from the same chemical attack that killed the news vendor and Olivia gets to talk to Mr Jones at last. The objects he asked for are used to create a primitive jamming signal so they can talk in private, somewhat implausibly. Prior to this with Peter’s help they find a manuscript which details what Mr Jones and his followers believe, which fleshes out the bigger story.

There are two dimensions; ours and another which is more technologically advanced. The ‘pattern’ is where people from the other dimension are entering ours, causing increasingly strange occurrences. The document predicts that now they’ve crossed only one of these dimensions can ultimately exist, theirs or ours.
That’s great but what has it to do with Olivia? Mr Jones tells Olivia that’s she’s been recruited as a solider to fight this dimensional war, and that she’s been injected with a compound as a child to help her be that warrior, which she doesn’t really accept. He also tells her that he’s planted a bio-weapon bomb, and to stop it going off she needs to complete a test which he’s devised with a box of electronic lights.

Olivia doesn’t buy it, so they decide to fake Mr Jones into believing she passes that test, which surprisingly he doesn’t buy either.

I’ve left out plenty, but the crunch comes when Olivia finds the bio-bomb and discovers that it has the same rows of lights mechanism as the test she flunked, and the only way to deactivate it is to do it for real. She stops the bomb by turning the lights off, although she still doesn’t believe what tale Jones is telling or that it was actually her that did this.

So far so good, but Fringe holds its best twists for the end. There is an excellent conversation between Astrid and Walter, where she compliments him on building a teleporter, even if it kills those it transports. His reply is chilling. “Kills you…it does something unthinkable… but it doesn’t kill you’. Eeeek!
Cut to Olivia who has gone to see Jones in hospital, to discover that he’s left via a very large hole in the wall. What does the process do exactly? I think we need to know now!

But they’re not done yet. Alone, Walter finds a dusty typewriter in a lab cupboard and types the world ‘Ability’. I was forced to review back though the episode and use a Zoom feature on my PVR next, to confirm what I already suspected. The letter ‘y’ in Ability was vertically misplaced, and it was also on the prediction manuscript, which was presumably written by Walter. A mind-job of epic proportions, dear Watson.

Phew. After a couple of less than stellar stories Fringe actually delivered some real surprises and came out from under its warm blanket of confusion, thankfully.

I’m now really interested to see what happens next, whereas last week I wasn’t that bothered.

As a side note I’d also like to tell you something about Anna Torv, the charming actress who plays our Fringe heroine Olivia. If you’ve watched the series from the outset, and thought that her scenes with Mark Valley (as duplicitous Agent John Scott) seemed to have real chemistry, then you weren’t entirely confusing drama with reality. A week ago they got married for real. I can only hope their relationship doesn’t go the same way as it did in Fringe!

Check out our review of episode 13 here.

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