After a week spent wading through indie and art cinema in the thin air of Park City, Utah, I was very much in the mood for some spooky, witty, action-packed Fringe tonight, and even though “The Bishop Revival” marked the second consecutive episode in which the team investigates what’s making people fall to the floor clutching their faces, I thought this episode was much more enjoyable than last week’s (which I watched immediately prior). Maybe my brain’s been turned to mush by mumblecore movies and too many late nights, but I have to feel at least a little bit warmly toward any Fringe that has Olivia needling Peter for letting Walter drive. “Lose a bet?” she cracks, to which Peter replies, “It was either that or flying lessons.”
I also dug the Cloverfield-style caught-on-video Freak-Meet, in which a wedding videographer records the groom—and ultimately the rest of wedding party—asphyxiating due to some mysterious source. Fringe Division looks into it, and discovers that while most of the candles at the wedding smell like jasmine, one smells like cinnamon. Turns out that an ageless Nazi mad scientist named Alfred Hoffman—a man with a connection to the Bishop family—has come up with a way to target and kill groups of victims who share certain genetic traits. In a restaurant, Hoffman pours his poison cinnamon-smelling extract into hot tea, which wafts through the room and takes out everyone with brown eyes. And at a meeting of the World Tolerance Initiative, Hoffman plans to use sterno cans to wipe out a whole bunch of minorities at once, until Walter thwarts him with some genetically targeted gas of his own.
Plotwise, there wasn’t much going on in “The Bishop Revival.” The FD tracked down a criminal and felled that criminal; that’s really it. But the killer’s methodology is cool, and the trappings of his villainy—from his Aryan aloofness to the dank basement where he works—were all delightfully old-school. And from a Fringe-mythology standpoint, the most significant part of this episode was the revelation that Hoffman has been involved in the Bishop family business since Walter’s father was out there lab-rattin’. Almost as significant: the Bishops once had a different name. On most shows, that wouldn’t be such a big deal, but on a show where people have extra-dimensional doppelgängers, news of name changes might one day matter to the meta-narrative.
In the meantime, “The Bishop Revival” did build family weaknesses and strengths into the story itself, both via Hoffman’s ability to divide people by their DNA similarities and via Walter’s irritation with Peter for selling his old German science books. (To Markham! We have a Markham sighting!) I might’ve been more moved by Walter’s ultimate profession that “there’s nothing I wouldn’t do” for Peter if he hadn’t said something very similar in the previous episode, but I do like that Fringe doesn’t presume that everything is permanently okay between father and son just because they good around in the car together. If there’s one thing this episode shows, it’s that some people will always be troubled by bad blood.
-Purple never goes out of style.
-Naturally Hoffman was able to strike at a wedding, where the blending of two families means that everyone assumes any stranger must be a guest of the other party. There’s some metaphorical significance there, and if I wasn’t so bleary-eyed I could figure out what that is. I could probably also tie it all to Walter’s fantasies about Peter and Olivia getting married someday. (“Do you think she’ll call me Dad?”) But let’s table all that for a week when I’m not recovering from Sundance-lag.
-Walter’s “Astrid” mispronunciation of the week: “Ostrich.”
-Another unnecessary bit of episode-to-episode repetition: For the second time in three weeks, an adventure concludes with Walter standing up to Broyles, and Broyles backing down. Coincidence, I’m sure, but I’m still getting a little anxious about Fringe reverting to formula mindlessly (as opposed to “pattern-specifically”).
-Walter’s books were purchased by an artist who uses the pages in conceptual pieces that turn photos of kittens into swastikas. Silly yes, yet also very Fringe-y to introduce works of art that look different to different viewers, based solely on perspective.
-So here’s a weird, Fringe-y thing that happened while I was watching “The Bishop Revival:” I felt myself starting to drift off about 15 minutes into the episode (because I only had a couple of hours sleep last night), so I paused the show to let myself go unconscious for a few minutes. It’s something I often do when I watch movies or TV shows at home and get sleepy; I can take a micro-nap of five or ten minutes and wake up refreshed and alert. Except that this time, after I paused, I kept hearing Fringe in my head. My mind was continuing the episode. And when I snapped to a few minutes later, I freaked out momentarily because I was still hearing dialogue in my mind, even though the image on the screen was paused. I reached for the remote in a panic, trying to figure out what was going on. Real alternate universe stuff.
-Speaking of alternate universes, there’s only one more Fringe before the winter hiatus. It’s reportedly a mythology episode too, so that should give us all something to nourish us between Lost installments.