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- TV Series: Fringe
- Episode: Unleashed
- Starring: Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble, Lance Reddick, Jasika Nicole
- Written By: Zack Whedon, J.R. Orci
- Directed By: Brad Anderson
- Network: Fox
- Series: Fringe
A Monster is Just What the Doctor Ordered
By Stephen Lackey
April 15, 2009
Last week’s return of Fringe was less than stellar. It wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t that exciting. Showing the softer side of Olivia and adding a new dimension to her character was the most important part of the episode. This week’s episode was a good bit of fun though. This week is literally a “monster of the week” episode. A group of college students bust into a lab where product testing on animals is going on. They bust out all of the animals but one of the animals is something they’ve never seen before because it has never existed before. The animal is a genetic experiment, a hybrid of many different animals including a bat and a snake!
The episode offers up elements we’ve seen before including the use of humans as carriers of the monster’s eggs. I was really hoping for some thrilling hunting in the woods stuff and I got only a little of it. The suspenseful scenes of the monster in the woods, and eventually in the sewer, were great fun but way too short. Most of the episode unfolds in the lab. Walter is tortured because he believes that the monster is the result of some work he did in his younger days and he’s more determined than ever to stop this beast. In the end, the monster story is fairly straight forward and conspiracy free but it’s built on and around some fantastic character development and dialogue. Walter was full of one-liners all the way through the episode. Most of Walter’s funniest stuff is never meant to be funny by him but even his intentional joke this week is really humorous. Olivia reads to her niece at the beginning and end of the episode. She’s reading a story about a monster,a nice thematic element.
It’s a real magic trick in a show like this one to develop relationships between the characters without it feeling too much like a soap opera or like filler between more important scenes. The creators of LOST have done it both extremely well and extremely poorly, so character moments on Fringe could go either way. Fortunately, at least up to this point, the character development has been spot on. Along with the monster goings on it appears that Peter and Walter are finally starting to really get on each other’s nerves. Usually, Walter gets on Peter’s nerves but he’s so much in his own world it only seems to affect him in brief moments. This week, Walter is exhausted with Peter too and they spend most of the episode snapping at each other. Walter is a scientist and his need to continue his investigations and experiments are almost obsessive compulsive at this point. When he thinks of an experiment, he has to do it and if they means filling a sink full of acid then so be it. He doesn’t think ahead that Peter might try to wash his face in that sink. There’s also the possibility that he takes Peter for granted because he did some experiments on Peter when he was young. Peter has also apparently established a friendship with Olivia’s sister. In on short scene, Peter asks Olivia if the friendship bothers her and Olivia replies that it does not but it obviously does. The subtly and slow build of Peter and Olivia’s relationship is being played for realism rather than melodrama and that’s refreshing.
Since both LOST and Fringe are brought to us by the same producer it’s hard not to compare scenes of the Fringe monster in the woods with the smoke monster on the island on LOST. The smoke monster scenes in LOST are played for straight suspense and horror and the scenes of the monster this week on Fringe are also suspenseful but there’s also a good bit of quirkiness and humor mixed in. This sort of formula was previously done best on The X-Files.
Last week, I found myself really missing “the pattern” and Massive Dynamics and Donald Bell and everything else Fringe is based on, but this week I was totally engrossed in the story of the week. It was horrific, suspenseful, and hilarious. From the opening of the episode with Walter growing a human ear inside an omelet to his recollections of a woman he once knew to his request for a bucket for monster maggots and a second for Astrid to throw up in, Walter was at his most entertaining in this episode. Without spoiling too much, there’s a nice quiet moment with Olivia displaying her fear of the dark and of monsters. I only wish there’d have been a few moments early on in the episode to tie to this scene. The best places for this could have come when she was reading the story to her niece. That’s a really minor complaint of a fantastic installment in this series. The episode was co-written by Zack Whedon, brother to Joss, who proves here that he can do great work even when he’s not collaborating with his brother. He actually wrote on some other great shows such as Deadwood too. “Unleashed” is a top notch episode of the week for Fringe.