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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 “In Which We Meet Mr. Jones", which originally aired on November 11th, 2008.
In last week’s review of Fringe’s sixth episodes, titled “The Cure”, I mentioned that while the show still delivered enough character development and strange science to keep me interested that it was beginning to feel too formulaic. The timing of “In Which We Meet Mr. Jones” couldn’t have come at a better time, as it finally closes the book on Fringe’s prologue and moves into the show’s first act. The mysterious Pattern that has been little more than a whisper in the background up to this point finally gets its time in the spotlight, making the show feel like like mystery-of-the-week programming.
In what proves to be the longest pre-title sequence yet, we’re immediately dropped into the field as a team of FBI agents are getting ready to launch some kind of sting. It’s a bit jarring which ends up working with the overall narrative the episode tells, none of the recurring characters are on the scene and we’re left wondering what exactly is happening. But the sensation of confusion only pulls us deeper into the scene as the characters prove to be just as bewildered as we are, as they stop a truck that proves to be full of nothing more than some stuffed panda bears.
The leader of the mysterious field op is Mitchell Loeb, who turns out to be buddies with Fringe team leader Broyles. While the two discuss the sting Loeb falls ill, displaying symptoms of cardiac arrest. He’s rushed to the hospital where a rather graphic sequence takes place, as his chest is opened up to reveal that a jelly-like parasite sporting some nasty-looking teeth has embraced his heart. Even though the decade-old special effects border on cheesy when seen today the creature is terrifying to witness, the whole concept of such an intimate invasion is difficult to watch. The heart is such a symbolic part of our body, the source of our essence as well as a tangible representation of our capacity to love and feel, and to see it preyed upon by a gelatinous gray blob made me uncomfortable. The creature begins to spread roots throughout Loeb’s body, indicating that it intends to stay for awhile.
Loeb is taken to Walter’s lab at Harvard where he makes the mistake of poking at the creature, which results in the host going into cardiac arrest. This misstep does yield something positive though as Walter acquires a sample of the parasite’s DNA, and from there he’s able to determine that the creature is man made. Astrid studies the code and is able to pick out the initials ZFT, and when Olivia takes this acronym to Broyles he finally stops teasing her with the Pattern and lets her in on some of its secrets. He points the finger at a man named David Robert Jones, who is being held in a prison in Frankfurt, and while Broyles says she’s wasting her time because nobody is allowed access to the criminal Olivia insists on flying to Germany to try.
She’s able to use an embassy connection to gain access to Jones, who they believe knows the antidote to eliminate the parasite, although he’s only willing to talk to her if he can speak with a man named Joseph Smith. Unfortunately Broyles and his team have identified Smith as a potential mole and are about to raid his house, and once Olivia possesses this information she sends Peter after them to make sure Smith survives the encounter. In what proves to be a tension-filled scene on a global-scale Peter arrives at Smith’s house, only to see the man gunned down by the authorities.
Once Walter is made aware of the situation he orders Smith’s body brought to his lab, where he once again embraces his unique brand of mad science. He believes he can gain access to the dead man’s brain by wiring him up to electricity, which unfortunately will require his son Peter to also be connected to the juice. I had mixed feelings about this scene: on one hand it felt very repetitive as it was all too similar to Olivia’s time in the tank featured in the show’s pilot, as well as the experiment seen in “The Ghost Network”. But it also delivered insight into the relationship between Peter and Walter, as the father admits to having experimented on the son in the past. It’s a heartbreaking moment as we witness the betrayal on Peter’s face upon learning this revelation, but it’s also a display of his heroic qualities as he’s able to put such gross mistreatment behind him in order to help save Loeb’s life.
Meanwhile, back in Germany, Olivia finally finds herself face to face with David Robert Jones, deliciously played by Jared Harris. There’s a Silence of the Lambs-like quality to the scene as the young, attractive female agent faces off against a monster who has a casual, well-educated charm to him. Olivia is forced to stall after Walter’s solution runs into some roadblocks, making for some fun banter between Harris’ Jones and Anna Torv’s Olivia. Just like the raid on Smith’s house director Brad Anderson does a fantastic job of ratcheting up the tension in this scene, crosscutting the cat and mouse game between Jones and Olivia with the happenings at Walter’s lab.
Walter and Astrid eventually get everything working and as time runs out in Germany Peter is finally able to make a connection with Smith’s dead brain. Jones only has a single question to ask of Smith, who he still believes to be alive, which is “Where does the gentleman live?”, and after a stress-filled moment Peter is able to slash some vertical lines on a sheet of paper. With the help of both Walter and Astrid Peter is able to decipher the words “Little Hill”, which Olivia delivers to Jones. In response he offers up a chemical composition that when injected into Loeb kills the parasite, saving the man’s life.
The final twist of “In Which We Meet Mr. Jones” comes right before the credits roll, as Loeb recovers in a hospital bed. After discussing the potential for a mole with Broyles Loeb finds himself alone with his wife, who leans over and tells her spouse that the code word is “Little Hill”. Everything in this episode has been a ruse conducted by the Loebs in order to acquire this information, opening up our imaginations to question who this couple really is, and what they’re planning on doing with “Little Hill”.
This is the episode Fringe needed, and while it echos a few elements that we’ve already seen it takes the show down the path towards the series finale. I don’t intend for that to mean that the previous six episodes are a waste, quite the opposite in fact. They’re fun and do a good job of establishing the characters, but while they have a tendency to perhaps wander a bit “In Which We Meet Mr. Jones” displays a sense of direction that we haven’t really seen to this point. Fringe has found its legs, as well as an interesting antagonist in Jones, and I’m looking forward to seeing where the show goes from here.
Observer Sighting: At the airport in Germany.