“We basically erected a sign outside of Leonard’s house which said, “Please come back to Fringe,” and we are hoping that by season five he says yes.””
“Is there another bad guy who is pulling his strings or above him? I think we’d be wrong to say anything other than just David Robert Jones … He’s pretty compelling and he’s pretty—nefarious is probably too loaded of a word. He’s definitely a suitable opponent for our team. It’s taken all of them to deal with him.”
Well, I’ll tell you what: that Jeff Pinkner lied, but good. Early on Friday, I edited down a transcript of a roundtable producers Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman had with the press, for posting on MTV Geek, including the above two quotes… Which meant that, when I saw what I saw in this week’s FRINGE, my jaw just about hit the floor.
Massive spoilers ho, by the way.
The first, and biggest thing that happened is that I didn’t read the opening credits. Which is crazy, because I do that on literally every show I watch, trying to keep track of who wrote and directed each episode in particular, but also scanning for any guest stars to look out for. For some reason – and I’m glad I did in the long run – I didn’t read the credits on this episode, for the first time in years. So I missed the big honking, “Special Guest Star Leonard Nimoy” in the opening crawl. Which meant, when William Bell turned around and revealed himself to David Robert Jones, I just about screamed in my seat.
Here’s the thing: two years ago, I participated in a conference call with Nimoy, where he said he was retiring from acting. His role on FRINGE would be his last. And for over two years, he’s only appeared as a voice, CGIed, or in “previously on” footage. Until he frickin’ shows up like nothing’s happened. Did Wyman and Pinkner always know this was going to happen? Did Nimoy? Was this always part of the plan, to give him a break, and then spring his appearance, and unretiring from acting as possibly the biggest shock return of a character, ever? (I mean, maybe Darla on Angel, but it took me a few minutes to remember who Darla was when that happened).
This – if nothing else – elevates this episode beyond the standard FRINGE fare (which is already well elevated over other fare, of course). The problem, though, is the other thing the producers lied about: David Robert Jones. In order to have William Bell return – and goddamn, that was some return – DRJ gets knocked down to the level of common thug. All season, he’s been the big bad, the one to contend with, and he not only gets suckered into doing some escalator repair, he’s dispatched in the simplest, silliest way possible.
It’s unfortunate, really, because there’s so much good about this episode:
– Olivia coming into her X-Men powers, first curing a victim of DRJ’s machinations, then puppeting Peter’s body to beat up DRJ on a roof-top.
– Charlotte from LOST! After having Desmond last week, they went from best character on LOST to probably worst character… Yet she came off extremely well in her short screen time.
– Walter calling Astrid, “Alex,” which was a great joke, and not just because my name is Alex.
– Poor Astrid getting gut shot at the end (though there’s a pretty easy out for that, isn’t there, lemon cake?)
Despite these stand-out moments, the episode was extremely strangely structured, cut almost into two half hours: the first, solving the mystery of commuters spontaneously combusting if they moved; the second, the search for William Bell. Both would have worked as their own episode of FRINGE, but instead felt jammed into one over-stuffed hour.
The big question of course is, how will this all tie into the last hour of the season? It’s possible this is all set-up, with everything getting tied together with a neat bow (and with Charlotte appearing in the teaser for the next episode, this may well be the case). But it’s also possible this is just the sort of go for broke thinking the Producers have always applied to the show. Either way, we’re promised a “moment we’ll never forget – ever,” by the FOX promo department. That’s a pretty tall order… But for the show that just pulled off a two year long con, I’m willing to give ‘em the benefit of the doubt.