All the conspiracies started to make sense last night on Fringe, in one of the most rewarding episodes ever for people who love the show's mythology. For those who don't, there were Trek jokes. Spoilers!
Let's untangle the tangled web at the heart of Fringe, shall we? First of all, show creators Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and JJ Abrams all worked on Star Trek, which is hitting theaters on Thursday. The writer of last night's episode, Akiva Goldsman, worked on some of the cheesiest flicks in the pre-Dark Knight Batman franchise, as well as inserting a little oomph into the I Am Legend and I, Robot scripts. So yes, it was bound to happen that one day these four supernerds would get together and spawn an episode so packed with in-groupy pop culture references that smacking is probably in order.
After the Ghostbusters reference, but before the random references to Arthur C. Clark's Childhood's End and a long discussion about how Stephen King coined the term "pyrokinesis" (relevant to last night's Special Power), we had a charming scene where a Random Internet Weirdo spills first the entire mythos of the Fringe series and then recaps the plot of the upcoming Star Trek movie, all in one go (see clip). Oh so cute, Fringies. Luckily, the actual plot of the episode was so fucking cool that I will forgive you JUST THIS ONCE for self-indulgent weenie-related activities.
Basically, we're getting to the bottom of secret renegade science group ZFT (short for "destruction through technological progress" - don't ask). We learned last week that William Bell, the mysterious owner of megacorp Massive Dynamic, is funding ZFT's crazy experiments that all center around creating supersoldiers via a drug called cortexifan. And we know that Vague Agent Olivia Dunham ate some cortexifan as a kid, and has recently started developing spooooooky powers.
And last night, in "The Road Not Taken," we learned that William Bell also wrote the ZFT manifesto, though apparently a special chapter he included about ethics was excised from the version that's been circulating to the science terrorists via 4Chan. We also met yet another set of cortexifan victims, a pair of twins who have (yes) pyrokinesis. One has blown herself up accidentally, leading to a fringe unit investigation, and the other is slowly losing control of her burny powers.
But what's truly cool is that Olivia has started manifesting one of the other side-effects of cortexifan that we hadn't seen before: She's dimension-hopping. Because remember, there are two parallel Earths and one is slightly more advanced than the other. And they are about to go to war, hence the need for soldiers, hence the cortexifan, yadda yadda. As Olivia investigates the burning twins, she starts seeing visions of that parallel Earth, where apparently Boston has been bombed to hell (see first few seconds of the clip - pretty creepy). Also, in the parallel Earth, both of the fire twins are dead (only one is dead in our world), there are giant quarantine zones (unexplained), and Broyles has moved his desk (oh noes!). Plus, Olivia's phone is red instead of black. So things are more dangerous and stylish in Parallel Earth.
As Olivia and the Scoobies race to figure out William Bell's connection to ZFT, asswipey sexual harasser Harris butts in and tells them to stop investigating. Then he orders a psych consult for Olivia, just to mess with her. Thankfully the Harris harassment subplot ended last night, when we discovered that he's in on the ZFT experiments on the fire ladies. He helps kidnap and experiment on the remaining twin, and the Scoobies catch him red-handed. Quite literally. When he tries to trap Olivia in a room with the soon-to-blow firestarter, Olivia helps her to redirect her fiery urges - at Harris. Boom! That was truly awesome.
But not nearly as awesome as the parallel universes coming together, or Massive Dynamic VP Nina Sharp showing up at Broyles' house late at night with like a million pictures of the Observer. Apparently he's been showing up all over the place, and Sharp says mysteriously, "Remember last time that happened?" Indeed, crazy things are happening. After Walter discovers the missing ethics chapters from ZFT while alone in his lab, the Observer pops through the door. With a sad look, he takes off his hat and says to Walter, "It's time to go." And Walter walks out quietly with him, leaving the ethics chapter behind.
I love the little Name of the Rose flourish in that subplot, the idea that there is this crucial missing book that changes our entire interpretation of everything. Hopefully that ethics chapter won't meet the same fiery end as Aristotle's book about comedy!
So where does this leave us, Fringe freaks? Walter has disappeared with the Observer, after admitting to Olivia that he doesn't remember anything about the experiments done on her and the other cortexifan kids. Olivia is seeing another dimension, where violence is everywhere (maybe the war has begun?). We know for sure that the goal of ZFT is to create supersoldiers for the interdimensional war (though we also know that some of the ZFT types are also just showoffs who like to engage in "bizarre acts.") And - in the last breathless seconds of the episode - we see Sharp getting shot by ninjas in her apartment.
Seriously, except for the Star Trek thing, this was a truly awesome episode with a lot of payoff for those of us who have been glued to the set every Tuesday night, looking for answers. Can't wait for the finale next week, when hopefully there will be some serious interdimensional fu!