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Author's Note: Having grown tired of what's currently available on TV I've decided to rewatch some of my all time favorite shows. I'm limiting myself to one episode per week in order to experience the storytelling as it was originally intended, which hopefully will preserve the thrill of having to wait a week to see what happens next. This article covers the Fringe episode “Bound", which originally aired on January 20th, 2009.
In “Bound” Fringe finds a balance that it hasn’t been been able to achieve thus far in season one. Up to this point the episodes have either drifted towards X-Files-like “mystery of the week” stories or have focused on adding to the show’s mythos, but this chapter manages to deliver both.
It’s important to note the airdate of “Bound” which was originally broadcast nearly two months after “Safe”, which of course left us on a cliffhanger with the fate of protagonist Olivia Dunham in the air. Late in the previous episode she had been captured by the mysterious David Robert Jones for unknown reasons. We immediately rejoin her and just as the episode’s title indicates she’s strapped to a gurney and quickly being wheeled through some kind of facility. She eventually finds herself at a makeshift operating room where a masked man extracts spinal fluid from her in a particularly squirmy sequence.
Having what he came to get, the masked man exits the scene and is revealed to be Special Agent Mitchell Loeb, who we learned in the previous episode is a high-ranking Jones henchmen. Olivia is able to exploit her remaining captors and escape with a container full of unidentified liquid, contacting Broyles who tells her to wait for him to arrive on the scene. The always-savvy Dunham wisely buries the container in some sand before the FBI shows up, not to offer help but to arrest her.
Olivia awakens handcuffed to a hospital bed with Sanford Harris at her side. I have to admit this scene was really confusing, the sequence plays out as if it expects the audience to know who this man is, despite the fact that this is the first time we’ve seen him. Their exchange delivers the necessary exposition though, in the past Olivia had arrested Harris for sexual assault, and now that his conviction has been overturned he’s back and looking for revenge. He’s been tasked with auditing the Fringe division, and easily points out all the character flaws the team’s members possess. Peter has a long criminal record. Walter experimented on people, only escaping prosecution because of the mental instability that saw him spend years at St. Claire’s Mental Institution. And he calls into question Olivia’s judgment for surrounding herself with these two men. He orders her not to investigate her own abduction, which obviously is consuming her attention.
She returns to work and discovers that the facility she was held at was empty by the time the FBI got to the scene, and that only her fingerprints could be found making her look as unstable as Walter. She passes by Loeb’s desk who assures her that he will discover who kidnapped her, and blissfully unaware of his duplicity she offers her trust and gratitude. But we the audience know better.
Olivia takes the Bishops to recover the samples she hid in the sand, and Walter gets to work trying to identify what the mysterious liquid is. It doesn’t take long for him to announce in a grim tone that he knows exactly what it is, and in a flash we’re taken to a college classroom where a professor is giving a lecture on the danger of common diseases. The transition lends an ominous tone to the scene, and the payoff doesn’t disappoint as shortly after taking a drink of water the professor falls ill before a giant slug emerges from his mouth. We finally have this week’s fringe event, and the always-brilliant title sequence rolls.
Despite still being under the watchful eye of Harris the team heads to the college and manage to capture the creature that emerged from the victim, now revealed to be epidemiologist Miles Kinberg. While Walter takes the creature back to his lab for observation Olivia questions Kinberg’s teaching assistant, who was having an affair with the professor. It turns out that Kinberg had recently accepted a position at the CDC, and that another scientist was to work there in a similar capacity. By this point Walter has deduced that the creature is actually an enlarged version of the cold virus, appreciating the irony that a man who specialized in the study of widespread disease had been murdered using the most common human ailment of them all. He confirms that the material Olivia stole from her captors was the culprit, connecting the dots between the opening sequence and Kinberg’s murder.
The other CDC hire is Dr. Russell Simon, who the team brings in for both questioning and protection. Simon simply has little to offer in terms of information, and soon Loeb visits him with a cup full of the substance Walter is currently studying. Poor Charlie Francis ends up with a front row seat to Simon’s death, and just like Kinberg he falls victim to an oversized cold virus.
Olivia has another interaction with Loeb, and this time she’s able to use his unique shoes to identify him as her captor in the opening sequence. With Harris watching her every move she knows that she can’t make an accusation on her coworker, so instead she visits his home where she’s caught in the act of breaking in by his wife who we know is in on the conspiracy. What follows is a cat-and-mouse game between the two women, with both parties aware of the other’s true intentions. While Olivia uses a bathroom visit as an opportunity to search their home, Mrs. Loeb contacts her husband who instructs her to murder her house guest immediately. The two women struggle, but it’s Olivia that ultimately wins the battle by shooting Mrs. Loeb in the head.
The team sets up a sting that catches Loeb, and while he’s initially unwilling to cough up any information the revelation that Olivia killed his wife pushes him over the edge. He begins to babble incoherently, claiming that by stealing Olivia’s spinal fluid he was actually saving her life. He informs her that she has no idea what she’s done, and that there’s some kind of conflict on the horizon.
“Safe” did a great job of building momentum for Fringe, and “Bound” capitalizes on it. While the Harris subplot feels half-cooked it doesn’t serve as a distraction, an impressive feat given how prominent his presence ends up being in this episode. And it’s also nice to get a break from Massive Dynamic, the technology giant isn’t mentioned once in the entire episode. The same goes for David Robert Jones, despite the fact that Loeb’s connections to the mysterious scientist effective make him Jones’ proxy in this chapter. Fringe is finding the confidence to branch out, and the narrative risks it is taking are working.
Observer Sighting: Walking on the sidewalk outside Walter's lab at Harvard.