Fringe, Ep. 4.07, “Wallflower”: Promising episode undone by narrative-necessitated stupidity
Fringe Review, Season 4, Episode 7: “Wallflower”
Written by Matthew Pitts & Justin Doble
Directed by Anthony Hemingway
Airs Fridays at 9pm (ET) on Fox
This week, on Fringe: Lincoln isn’t sleeping, Olivia has migraines, Peter’s having trouble adjusting, and Eugene just wants to be seen
After last week’s excellent episode, “Wallflower” has a lot to live up to, and, frankly, a dip in quality is almost to be expected. Even with that in mind, this week’s episode of Fringe fails to impress, ruining a promising setup and interesting cliffhanger by committing one of the cardinal film and television sins in its third act- plot-necessitated stupidity. There’s nothing wrong with a character being stupid or making foolhardy mistakes, but when a character makes an out of character, stupid decision for no legitimate reason other than that the plot demands it, any attachment to the character or moment goes out the window.
This week, Olivia decides to separate from her team while searching for Eugene, the freak-of-the-week invisible man who’s been trapped in an apartment building. She throws away a quick, “This is taking too long” and sends the other FBI agents, along with their handy dogs (who have Eugene’s scent), away, though she should know better, and has in the past and, perhaps worst of all, despite time being an utter non-issue. Actually, the fact that Eugene’s trapped puts time on the FBI’s side; they can take as long as they like- he’s not going anywhere. The best move, by far, is to be patient and thorough. This is the first sign that Matthew Pitts and Justin Doble’s script has serious issues, but it’s unfortunately not the last. Even ignoring that issue, the dialogue given to Olivia and Eugene when they finally meet is annoyingly cliché. Of course the, “look! It’s dramatic!” underscoring doesn’t help, but there’s only so much actors can do with lines as trite as many of the ones given to Anna Torv.
Then there’s the question of how this whole pigment-stealing process could even work, given what we see, and that road only leads to more questions normally swept aside by Walter’s brief mentions of pseudo-science. As soon as an episode loses the viewer, as this one does in the stairwell, all of the benefit of the doubt is lost as well and suddenly every little detail that hasn’t sit quite right becomes increasingly memorable and significant. The final nail in the episode is the lack of subtlety shown towards the end during Olivia’s scene with Nina. Unlike the previous few episodes, this one makes sure to specifically discuss the case-of-the-week’s relationship to the main characters’ mental states, hammering the point home. Yes, the scene has a secondary motive of preparing the audience for the end-of-episode reveal, but it only serves to further the disconnect between the audience and Olivia. The PTB on Fringe can tell us that Nina was like a step-mom to Olivia, but this just isn’t reflected in the performances. Eugene’s final scene is also highly misjudged. His scene with Olivia doesn’t put enough leg work into making us care for him, so when the object of his affection tells him that she’s noticed him, that she sees him every day, rather than a touching moment for the character, it’s a reminder that he’s murdered people, at least one a day apparently, so he can take an elevator ride with a pretty girl.
It’s too bad that these mistakes come up, because “Wallflower” starts out as another strong episode. We get our first glimpses into the home lives of Lincoln and Astrid, making both far more interesting, and the premise and initial execution of Eugene is excellent. Also intriguing is the ending, which has any number of potential motivations and readings. This was not intended to be the fall finale, but due to the World Series episode shakeup, it has become such and functions well in this role, prompting discussion (plenty to analyze over the hiatus) and allowing for any number of possibilities.
As ever, the interpersonal dynamics are the strong suit. The budding friendship and romance between this Olivia and Lincoln is sweet, and strongly mirrors the early Olivia/Peter relationship. Peter’s few scenes are also well handled, as he attempts to work on a way home. His breezy interaction with Olivia, and his firm pronouncement to Lincoln that this is most certainly not his Olivia, are encouraging and indicate that the series wisely won’t be going down the will-they-won’t-they path again. There is plenty of drama without it and it would only distract from the far more pressing audience concern of how the writers are going to work their way out of this one.
Even when it missteps as it did this week, Fringe is well-made TV sci-fi and the vehemence of frustration caused by as significant of a wasted opportunity as “Wallflower” ends up being is only a sign of its usual high caliber. One doesn’t get frustrated at a poor show airing a poor episode; clearly Fringe can do better. Here’s hoping that’s just what we’ll get when it comes back in January.
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