Full disclosure: We had some severe thunderstorms and tornado warnings in Arkansas tonight, so my Fringe viewing was not seamless. The local Fox affiliate broke in with weather updates about three-quarters of the way through the episode, and then again in the last 10 minutes. I missed about four minutes of the show, in total. But frankly, so much of what I saw of “Fracture” was a mess—on a script level, on a directorial level, on an editing level, and even on a performance level—that I’m not really sure that the interruptions made it any worse.
The story was just okay. We begin in Philadelphia, where beat cop Dan Gillespie gets a mysterious call from “The Colonel” and heads to a train station, where he retrieves a briefcase from a man in black and immediately gelatinizes and explodes, leaving no trace behind except for the mutilated bodies of the people standing near him. Meanwhile, in a nearby suburban neighborhood, The Colonel (played by Stephen McHattie) informs another sleeper agent, Diane Burgess, that the “Tin Man parameters” are in effect, and that she should continue injecting her rotting foot with the vials of chemicals provided for her.
Upon learning that Officer Gillespie served in Iraq, Peter decides to call on his contacts in the Middle East, so he and Olivia fly overseas and—I assume, since I missed this chunk due to the storms—discover that The Colonel’s very close to putting Burgess in play the way he put Gillespie in play. So the FBI tracks the woman, prevents her from blowing up (just in time), and captures The Colonel, who proceeds to tell Agent Broyles that he’s building up his private army to fight the forces of the other dimension, who’ve been gathering data on Earth-1 and passing it along. To whom, you may ask? Well, judging by the final scene of “Fracture,” unsettlingly stalker-ish photos of Peter and Walter have been placed in the hands of… The Observer! Gasp! (Sort of. I'm withholding my full sense of alarm until I find out what The Observer's presence actually means.)
Unlike the previous two weeks’ episodes, which juggled a number of storylines and locations and generated a real sense of Fringe’s expanding milieu, “Fracture” is so curtailed that it almost feels like it was made for the Fox accountants. The cast is small, the sets are few, and not much happens. The plot’s practically twist-free, until the very end. Large chunks of the episode are given over to Peter talking to Walter about finding a new place for them to live, and Walter trying to learn more about Astrid—and really not discovering much, except that she doesn’t like it when he experiments on fruit. So Astrid’s underused yet again, even in an episode where she gets a lot of lines.
But then a lot about “Fracture” is undernourished. I groaned when Olivia discovered Officer Gillespie’s stash of mysterious chemicals by pure chance (because she was puking at the time). I groaned again when Peter and Olivia flew to Iraq and the soundtrack switched to stock “Arabian” music; and I groaned even louder when Peter found his source in some kind of hookah bar, dressed with props salvaged from some “exotic” ‘30s Hollywood adventure. And I was completely distracted by the preponderance of ADR on the soundtrack, often shoehorned on as the camera drifted off the character who was speaking. The story's too simple and the acting too broad, and yet the episode still felt choppy, as though the Fringe creative team had to scramble to fix “Fracture” in post.
“Fracture” was written by David Wilcox and directed by Bryan Spicer. Until either gentleman redeems himself, I’m planning to treat their names in the Fringe credits as a warning as dire as any tornado siren.
-Spicer, by the way, has some good credits on his resume: One of my favorite Burn Notice episodes from this season (“The Hunter”), and episodes of 24, House, The Lone Gunmen, Parker Lewis Can’t Lose and Eerie Indiana. David Wilcox, on the other hand, has worked on Law & Order and Life On Mars.
-Ordinarily, I’d break down the thematic significance of Walter’s little monologue about discovering “the world’s best apple fritters” when he took a wrong turn near the lab. But I’m too disgruntled to wax philosophical.
-Walter tried to teach Peter about human reproduction by having him work a jigsaw puzzle of Miss July. I don’t have a problem with that. But only 500 pieces?
-I wish there’d been more of Olivia and Sam this week. He tells her that she can reclaim her memories by calculating bowling scores, and he irritates her to the point that she leaves her cane behind and walks unassisted. But that’s about it. Not much guru-in’ going on yet.
-Hey, where’s Agent Jessup?
-Tonight’s song: “The Air That I Breathe,” as recorded by The Hollies. The song was co-written by Mike Hazlewood and Albert Hammond, the latter of whom wrote and performed the song “It Never Rains In Southern California,” which appears in the Lost episode “Some Like It Hoth.” And Hazlewood and Hammond also collaborated on the Blue Mink song “Good Morning Freedom,” which appears in the Breaking Bad episode “4 Days Out.” So there’s some useless trivia for you. (Oh, and Hammond’s the father of The Strokes’ guitarist, but y’all already knew that, I’m sure.)