Welcome back, Fringe-ophiles! Maybe it's because the two-week absence made my heart grow fonder, but I enjoyed this episode, which ramped up the action and the weirdness, while putting a few more pieces in play for the series' Master Plot. And while I have yet to see an episode of Fringe that rises to the level of "great"–and while I'm still concerned that Fringe's reliance on repetition is going to prove to be a byproduct of frantic wheel-spinning rather than a function of some grand plan–on a pure entertainment level, I thought "In Which We Meet Mr. Jones" was quite good.
I especially liked this week's Freak-Meet (my new handy term for Fringe's cold open. In a classic bit of House-like misdirection, we're dropped into the middle of an operation by an FBI team led by Agent Mitchell Loeb, who approaches a truck we assume will contain some kind of crazy bio-tech oddity: a family of illegal immigrants bleeding from their eyes, perhaps, or a homeless man telepathically communicating with the ghost of Philo T. Farnsworth. Instead, the team finds a few stuffed pandas, and Fringe saves its opening twist for the very next scene, when Loeb reports back to Agent Broyles, and promptly collapses in his office. Loeb's problem? A bad case of teeth-heart.
Following the credits, "In Which We Meet Mr. Jones" moves the players into place quickly. Broyles calls in Walter to figure out exactly what the hell the strange, toothy organism surrounding Loeb's heart is, and how to remove it. Meanwhile Olivia gets briefed by Broyles about a shadowy organization known as ZFT and a man named David Jones (played by Jared Harris), and she promptly jets off to Germany, where Jones is imprisoned, and where she knows (and has a romantic connection to) a plugged-in dude named Lucas. Astrid pitches in too, poring over a sheaf of numbers found in Loeb's effects and decoding them using "the Caesar shift." And Peter is tasked to find the one man that Jones will spill to: a guy named Joseph Smith, whom the FBI caps before Peter can make contact.
If Fringe's opening Freak-Meets owe a lot to the structure of House (and Law & Order, and other procedurals), its end-games are rapidly becoming uniquely Fringe-y. In this case of "In Which We Meet Mr. Jones," an episode with a lot of forward momentum culminated in a finely cross-cut sequence that had Peter hooked up to electrodes in order to read the mind of The Corpse Of Joseph Smith, while over in Germany Olivia tried to convince the titular Mr. Jones to give them the antidote to cure Loeb's teeth-heart (which had sprouted roots, and was rapidly choking away the lawman's life). Very exciting stuff.
But what's more exciting to me are the multiple indications in this episode that Fringe's bigger picture may be coming into focus. Start with the title, which seems to indicate that we will someday see Mr. Jones again, along with his agents of ZFT, who "traffic in scientific progress." Then there was the attention paid to Olivia's romantic past, coming one episode after the hints about her troubled youth, which indicates that they're finally going to flesh out her character; and the offhand mention by Peter that Walter has hooked him up to electrodes before, which moves that backstory forward a bit. And capping it all: tonight's kicker ending, which had Agent Loeb and his wife Samantha whispering conspiratorially to each other about the information The Corpse Of Joseph Smith provided to Mr. Jones... the words "Little Hill."
In the closing scenes, Broyles placates the curious Olivia (and chastises Fringe's audience) by giving a little speech about how she's going to face more questions than answers on this job, and how, "Tomorrow we'll do this all over again." But "In Which We Meet Mr. Jones" offered some promise that each week do this, we might just be rewarded for our perseverance.
-Sorry about dragging my feet on writing and posting this. Got distracted by the WSOP Final Table.
-"Hello Peter, this is me, your father, Walter Bishop."
-Walter once ate a fruit cocktail in Atlantic City, even though he's not a fruit cocktail kind of guy. And his breath is atrocious.
-The episode opened in Weymouth, Mass., which I believe is home to the annual Awesome Lady Bass Player Festival.
-Olivia's a little too easily mollified by Broyles' big closing speech, don't you think?
-Tonight's episode was directed by genre-oriented indie-film auteur Brad Anderson, who's made more than a few movies that I like. It would be cool if he became a regular contributor. This episode was well-paced.
-"There is much that you have not been made aware of, regarding The Pattern."