There’s a lot of things to talk about with this week’s Fringe: the main plot, where an ancient radio signal is hijacked to brainwash people; the developing relationship between Peter and Olivinot; and of course the cliffhanger, which brings the danger in this series to the next level. But there’s one, more important thing to talk about, one simple phrase uttered at the beginning of the episode:
“It’s me! Laird!”
I honestly don’t think I’ve laughed so hard at anything in a good long while. At the very least, it was the funniest thing that’s ever happened on Fringe… And sadly, it wasn’t on purpose.
At the top of the ep, different people from very different walks of life are all anxiously tuning into their ham radios to listen to what we find out later are ancient number sequences, broadcast since before the beginning of time (seriously). At the same moment, they all start to convulse, and then fall unconscious. When they wake up, their memory is gone. There’s a crusty old sea captain. An Asian artist. And a mother who, terrified, confronts the man in her house – who is really her husband – with a knife. To which he says the above phrase.
Now, look: I understand some people have the name Laird, based on the fact that I checked the Internet to make sure this was true. And I understand that your natural reaction in this situation would be to assure the person attacking you that you knew them, by saying your name. What I don’t get is why the writers gave a character who has maybe three lines the most ridiculous name they could think of.
Honestly? It sounded like he was lying. If someone told you their name was Laird, you’d think they were lying, too, right? But he wasn’t. And though I spent the whole episode suspecting him of doing something wrong, or being in on the plot to wipe people’s memories, he was just a guy. A guy named Laird.
Maybe it shouldn’t have upended the episode so much for me, but it was just the start of a bunch of random silliness. As mentioned, the sequences, broadcast from number stations (which actually exist, by the way) are created by ancient pre-people. Peter figures this out because he’s given a book about The First People, which is written about the theory that they created the number stations. In the back of the book, there’s a calendar that is based on the number sequences. Peter says that it can’t just be a coincidence, that the calendar proves the sequences are from the First People.
So hold up a sec. It’s true that the First People created number sequences, because there’s a book written about the First People and their connection to number sequences that… Sorry, my brain is breaking a bit here… includes the number sequences? That’s a tautology, right?
And then there’s the other silly thing going on, and that’s how our friends are reacting to Olivinot. I guess there’s no real way of knowing how I’d act in the situation, “my co-worker has been replaced by her evil double from another universe.” But I’d like to think that if I knew this was possible, and “my” Olivia was acting weird, and totally unlike herself, and forgetting things… That at the very least I would know something was wrong, and tell people. Particularly when this sort of thing happens all the time.
I call this the Buffy Robot rule. In Buffy, the first time the Scoobie Gang encountered a robot, they were shocked and surprised. The second time, within ten minutes of the episode, as they gathered to figure out what was weird about the newcomer in their midst, they all knew it was a robot. Because they had dealt with robots before. And we moved on from there, mystery solved.
Here, we’ve had weeks of people commenting on Olivinot’s strange behavior, down to Peter even saying, “You aren’t Olivia,” last week – and it still doesn’t matter. This week, Nina all but does the shifty cat-clock eyes at Olivinot’s strange behavior… And then fills her in on what Olivia usually does.
Which is crazy.
Yet, because of top-notch acting and directing, this was an exciting episode with an enormous finish. It’s just too bad the writing was working against it. Maybe secretly it was being ruined behind the scenes by… Laird.
- I’m really enjoying the episodes set on Earth-2, but… They don’t have the real Walter Bishop.
- “If you break the universe, it’s on your head this time.”
- There was a nice unspoken detail with Olivinot getting all the Number Station material to Astrid, because in her Universe, Astrid is a computer. Olivinot makes another mistake no-one cares about.
- Hey, it’s Marshall from Alias! Or course he’s behind this week’s evil tech!
- The other weird thing in this episode? Nina convincing Walter to let Peter build the machine… Emotionally, she’s right, and the backbone of the episode is Walter learning to trust Peter. Except plot-wise, we know she’s wrong, that the machine is evil. Makes it confusing to know who to root for, I think.
- This occurred to me last week, but Peter appearing to Olivia is a nice little parallel to the “ghost” of Human Target guy appearing to her in the first season.