Written By: J.H. Wyman & Jeff Vlaming
Synopsis: People in and around hospitals are found dead with their bodies partially or wholly turned to ash — and while there’s nothing unusual about people dying in unusual ways around the Fringe Unit’s Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) and his father Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble), there is something unusual for head honcho Philip Broyles (Lance Reddick), who dealt with this specific phenomenon in an earlier life-altering case.
Alien Territory: If the title “Earthling” didn’t give it away, then here it is: “Fringe” finally dealt with the topic of extraterrestrial life. Now, it’s not completely clear that this “shadow man” — which is some sort of shadowy astral projection that turns people to ash upon contact — is an alien, but that’s certainly the implication based on its connection to an astronaut and the fact that the organism is presumably launched into space at episode’s end. I was really hoping that “Fringe” wouldn’t go down the alien path, since that territory is firmly claimed by the already similar “X-Files.” Additionally, I won’t be pleased if this is a one-and-done thing — if the idea of aliens just got introduced to the world of “Fringe,” we better get a much clearer understanding of this further on down the line.
Popping Broyles: Aliens aside, this episode focused prominently on Agent Broyles, who has been an underused player on “Fringe” since the very beginning. Despite my support for the actor, however, I wasn’t wild about spending too much time with Broyles. I think he works better as an enigmatic figure, and while we haven’t lost all of that mystery, the more vulnerable side that we saw tonight kind of disrupts his tough-as-nails persona in my eyes. That’s not a knock on Reddick as an actor in any way, shape or form — but I think maybe the “Fringe” writers didn’t need to pull the curtain back on Broyles as much as they did tonight.
Ashes To Ashes: Here’s where I’ll give some credit to the whole alien-shadow-creature-thing: its murderous method of choice was sweet. Personally, I’m not looking to get killed anytime soon, but if I had to go out via one of the crazy “Fringe” methods, I think I might pick murder-by-ashing. It seems pretty painless, you don’t have to put anyone through the process of cremating you since it’s already done, and it looks pretty darn cool. Those who’ve read my “Fringe” reviews know that I’m not big on the mystery-of-the-week element, but I have to give this episode some credit for at least making it look good.
Walter’s Weekly Wisdom: “It reminds me of Christmas!” – Dr. Walter Bishop
Conclusions: Kind of a weak episode tonight, especially since we’ve waited two weeks since the last installment. I’m not that down about it, though. I do love Lance Reddick, so seeing him get some more air time was nice, if not very well executed. Further, the next few episodes — including one set to focus on the Observers — sound a lot better, so we’ve got the next couple of weeks to look forward to.
Next Week: Speaking of the upcoming episode, we’ve got another mind-control case on our hands thanks to a man who can use “100% of his brain power,” as opposed to you and I who only use about 10%. Okay, I really only use about .1%.
What did you think of tonight’s “Fringe”? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!