The following contains MAJOR SPOILERS for "The Arrival," the fourth episode of the Fox series, "Fringe."
"It has arrived," says a peculiar bald man called The Observer as an egg-shaped torpedo emerges from the ground.
The same statement could be said of "Fringe." This program is catching its stride.
Agent Olivia Dunham and her team are called in to investigate the torpedo, which surfaced with destructive force at a construction site.
Unknown to them, before the torpedo's arrival, The Observer (Michael Cerveris) was patiently waiting nearby, taking notes and scanning the scene with high-tech spy glasses. He soon makes a phone call, confirming the device's appearance to an unknown party.
Dunham is informed this mysterious device appeared once before in 1987. Little was learned other than it generated vibrations and a transmission before exploding downward. Was the device destroyed in the explosion, or did it simply burrow down to make an appearance at a later date? The latter is most likely.
The torpedo isn't Dunham's only concern. Peter Bishop expresses his desire to move on. He sees little purpose in his involvement with these investigations. This is a key scene, asking a question that begs an answer.
Before Peter's concerns are addressed, the FBI's containment site for the device is attacked. A gunman with an incredibly powerful pistol capable of emitting energy waves kills everyone present. Fortunately, Walter had it moved to his Harvard lab prior to this.
Seeing this energy wave pistol in action is a reflection of the powerful individuals behind "the pattern." A firepower display of this nature only reinforces the necessity and urgency behind Dunham's investigations. Clearly it's time for someone to equip her with some comparable toys!
Undaunted, the gunman quickly captures the original officer leading the 1987 investigation. He uses a bizarre mind reading apparatus that painfully extracts truths, uncovering Dunham's possession of the device.
Walter Bishop abruptly flees with the device after learning of the gunman's moves, going as far as injecting Agent Astrid Farnesworth (Jasika Nicole) with a tranquilizer to guarantee his escape.
Walter later meets with The Observer, who thanks him for hiding the device. He promises Walter that answers to his questions will come. This scene and the earlier phone call placed by The Observer shows another group is in play beside the sinister folks steering "the pattern. Could this be Massive Dynamics, or another competing corporation? Does Walter know more than he has indicated?
After meeting The Observer, Walter is picked up by the FBI and learns Peter was captured. Walter is convinced Peter knows where he hid the device, despite not telling him. The mind reading apparatus appears to posses limited telepathic abilities, making even unknowable secrets vulnerable to exposure.
As the episode concludes, Dunham kills the gunman before he can eliminate Peter or escape with the torpedo (which vanishes underground again), Peter has a mind-blowing encounter with The Observer, and Agent John Scott makes a shocking appearance.
The crazy torpedo drilling through the earth like a "Dune" sandworm was a fun bit of high science. Add in the gunman's futuristic energy pistol, his mind reading machine, and The Observer's stunner weapon that zapped Peter, and you have a big leap forward in the "Fringe" mythology. This is one unhinged world!
In fact, much of this episode's events are cloaked in mystery. Though numerous questions loom, "Fringe" is starting down a fascinating path.
I like the spotlight placed on Peter's role in the show. During the first three episodes, I wondered about his place in these investigations. Was he a necessary component? Dunham explains that Walter issued an ultimatum: Peter stays, or he refuses to cooperation in future investigations. Walter even claims he would prefer returning to the asylum to life without Peter. Additionally, Dunham says Peter is a critical translator for Walter's frequent and abstract rants.
After encountering The Observer and the Gunman's mind reading machine, Peter's desire to depart is squashed. He seeks answers now, and acknowledges the impending threat of "the pattern." As a result, Dunham reveals he was hired as civilian consultant for the Department Of Homeland Security. Now we see Peter's place cemented. Nice development.
The Observer raises all sorts of good questions for future episodes, which I could spend an entire article on. No doubt he is a byproduct of some early fringe science. Also, Dunham's quick observation of The Observer as a presence in another "pattern" event in noteworthy. The FBI took considerable time to make the connection, yet she was on the ball right out of the gate. She's no slouch. Is that simply a character strength, or are fringe science tweaks in her past as well?
What Didn't Work
Dunham's tactical skills still show embarrassing flaws! She rushes into a high-stakes showdown once again without calling for backup. Though she guns the villain down competently enough, she simply dismisses his energy weapon, kicking it aside. Can I possible come off my couch any quicker? I'm sorry, at that point my thoughts would be dominated with securing that weapon at any cost. How can you ignore something that wouldn't be out of place in an episode of Star Trek? I kept waiting for the episode to conclude with her at home, pulling the weapon from her coat, and mischievously smiling. Now that would be the Agent Dunham I'd salute!
Perhaps I missed something, but did I spy Army Combat Uniforms (ACUs, which feature digital camouflage) in those 1987 photos? Flub or time travel?
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
"Fringe" stars Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble, and Lance Reddick. "The Arrival" was written by J.J. Abrams and Jeff Pinkner, and was directed by Paul Edwards. "Fringe" airs on FOX Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET.
Bryant Griffin is the Lead Designer and a Staff Writer of Airlock Alpha, writing out of the Tampa, Fla. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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