The following contains MAJOR SPOILERS for the "Bound" episode of the Fox series, "Fringe."
"Fringe? returns on good footing as the second half of the season opens following the capture of Agent Olivia Dunham.
She is held by rogue FBI Agent Mitchell Loeb (Chance Kelly) and several henchman in a makeshift warehouse lab. Loeb wears a mask to conceal his identity, but Dunham is keen enough to note a stained shoe. They inject a mysterious compound into her spine.
Later, after Loeb exits, she slips her restraints, deftly overpowers the remaining men and flees the site. Dunham quickly calls for help on a pilfered cellphone, simultaneously stashing several of the lab?s vials for evidence.
But as backup arrives, they abruptly draw weapons, tasering Dunham.
She awakes handcuffed in the hospital, finding Agent Sanford Harris (Michael Gaston) at her bedside. Harris is playing hardball with Dunham. Years ago, she put him away for sexual assault. He now serves Internal Affairs, investigating the FBI?s Fringe division and Olivia?s questionable actions since her appointment.
After her release, she secretly gathers her stashed vials and tasks Walter and Peter Bishop to test the contents.
Meanwhile, the episode?s primary story unfolds as an epidemiologist collapses while delivering a college lecture. As the teacher?s aid moves to assist him, a cat-sized slug suddenly wiggles its way up his throat, killing him as it spills onto the floor.
Dunham and the Bishops immediately investigate this bizarre development, capturing the slug and soon discovering it possesses similar properties as the vial?s contents. Walter believes the creature is a mutated and oversized cold virus cell.
The deceased epidemiologist also presents a lead. He was recently offered a key CDC job. Dunham learns one other scientist was presented with the same job offer, and suspects he may be in danger too. Despite being placed in FBI custody, the scientist is slain by Loeb, using a glass of water to descretely deliver the mutating cold virus.
As the episode concludes, Dunham apprehends Loeb after discovering his subversive activities (thanks to the shoe), but not before killing his wife in a brutal chick fight.
Loeb insists he was trying to save Dunham by injecting her during the kidnapping. He also indicates there are two sides involved in the Pattern. Of course, he claims to serve the benevolent side. Despite these admissions, he refuses to elaborate further.
If two sides are involved, Massive Dynamic is logically a player. Other possible leading candidates are Mr. Jones (Jared Harris) and the unseen founder of Massive Dynamic, William Bell. Hopefully answers will surface by the season finale.
The reveal of the cold virus slug racing across the classroom floor as students fled in horror was an effective introduction to another Pattern phenomenon. Just as good was Walter?s prompt capture of the critter and his found recollection of experiencing similar days in his old lab. That was a gut buster!
In past reviews I?ve been critical of Dunham?s tactical skills. She simply seemed inept in most action sequences. However, tonight she takes a cue from ?Alias?? Sydney Bristow, delivering a world of hurt to Loeb?s henchmen and nailing his creepy wife with a well-placed gunshot to the head. This display of proficiency is just what Dunham needed. Her repeated bumbling through fights would only serve to undermine her competency as an agent.
Overall, ?Fringe? continues to exhibit a satisfying stride. Still, it would be nice to see the show ramped up to greater heights by the season?s end.
What Didn't Work
It was a disappointment to see events from the previous episode, such as Mr. Jones? escape, ignored. Except for the resolution of Dunham?s capture, we essentially have another standalone episode. Sorry, but this show is screaming for an amped up serialized format. An emphasis on formulaic storytelling will only hobble ?Fringe? from truly taking flight.
Harris? beef with Dunham is understandable, but his early treatment of her bordered on reckless and somewhat unconvincing. How much power does this nut job have?
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
?Fringe? stars Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble, Lance Reddick, Jasika Nicole and Kirk Acevedo. ?Bound? was written by J.J. Abrams, Jeff Pinkner, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, and was directed by Frederick E.O. Toye. ?Fringe? airs on FOX Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET.
Bryant Griffin is a Staff Writer of Airlock Alpha, writing out of Tampa, Fla. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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