The bats have left the bell tower.
The victims have been bled.
Early on, it looked like tonight’s episode of Fringe was going to be even more of a freak-of-the-week outing this usual—almost to the point of being un-Fringe-y. By the midpoint, it was clear that “Midnight” was deeply tied into the show’s larger mythology, though for me, the tie-ins were too few to make up for some fairly routine vampire-hunting action, and a handful of squandered opportunities.
The premise of “Midnight” is a simple one: Somewhere out on the mean streets and goth clubs of Boston, there’s a sexy blood-sucking beastie, raging with syphilitic fever and on the prowl for hipster-meat. This ersatz Vampira’s infection has been cooked up in a lab by agents of the anarchy-sowing agents of ZFT, including one unwitting scientist: Dr. Nicholas Boone, the husband of our FOTW. While Boone works alongside Walter (who may be the man behind ZFT) to cook up an antidote, Olivia and Peter are hot on the heels of the monster, looking for her elevated heat signature and creepy CG-eyes.
“Midnight” kept fumbling towards different themes without every really completing any one thought, and had the episode explored any of the ideas more fully, I’d have probably been more into it. For example, this episode could’ve been about:
-Secret Lives. From the opening scene of a man lying to his woman so that he could go tom-cattin’ to the concluding scene of Walter leaving the room while Olivia watches a videotape about ZFT (made for her by Boone), there were intimations throughout “Midnight” of exactly what happens when people stray to the dark side. But only intimations.
-D-I-V-O-R-C-E. There was a lot of marital discord this evening, most notably between Olivia’s sister and her ex, who’s filed legal papers and is now asking for custody of creepy little Ella. Some might complain about Olivia being distracted by such mundane domestic stuff while she’s in the middle of stalking a chemically-enhanced vampire-woman, but I liked the little reminders that the disruption of normal life takes multiple forms. Also, I get the feeling that this breakup is going to prove to be significant to the show’s master-plot, because I think Ella is significant to the master-plot. (One complaint about this subplot though: I wanted to hear more about the crazy “Two Singles Together” group that visits Olivia’s home.)
-The Toll. Olivia makes a little speech to Broyles about how many people have lost their lives since she started working with Fringe Division, and I thought in her frustration there was a nice reminder of the stakes she’s been playing for this whole time. At the end of the day, mind-blowing craziness or not, Olivia is a law-enforcement officer trying to keep the peace and exact some measure of justice. ZFT, Al-Qaeda, cosa nostra… the name and the tactics don’t matter as much to Olivia as the basic idea that there are bad folks out there who need to be stopped.
The big series-changing twist in “Midnight”—though one that shouldn’t surprise any regular Fringe-watchers—is that one of those bad folks is apparently Massive Dynamic founder William Bell, whom Boone claims is one of the ZFT higher-ups. With two episodes left in the season, it looks like we’re rushing headlong to a finale that will answer some questions about what happened between old lab partners William and Walter, and what connection they both have to organization that wants to remake the world through a campaign of terror.
Again though, I wish the main story in this episode had been a little more compelling, and the subplots less scattered. There were some amusing bits scattered throughout “Midnight”—like Walter comparing one of the killer’s victims to a shrimp cocktail, and Peter introducing Olivia to his useful car thief pal Mako, and Walter running the lab’s lights on a Clapper, and Peter grooving on running the siren in Olivia’s car—but in the end the vampire-hunting and vampire-curing just didn’t have enough zing to me.
What did have zing was the interaction between Walter and Boone, two wacky scientists who understand each other better than nearly anyone they know. (“I know very well who you are,” Boone says, to which Walter replies, “That makes one of us.”) To me the most interesting idea introduced in “Midnight” is Boone’s contention that ZFT develops super-viruses like the one that spoiled his wife in order “to show off to other scientists,” to prove that they’re world-domination-level bad-asses. I was sorry to see Boone die at the end of “Midnight;” I would’ve liked to have enjoyed a few more conversations between him and Walter. But I’m glad he was around long enough to drag out this gem from Walter, which may be a particularly meaningful comment in the weeks to come:
“If there’s a soul, there’s a chance at redemption.”
Stray observations (The All-Quote Edition):
-“What kind of work do you do, Olivia?”
-“One mad scientist is my limit”
-“There are no vampires, sadly. But it’ll be something exciting, I’m sure.”
-“You know what I hate worse than the cold? Not much.”
-“I also have a cow.”
-“They’re going to fight the super-syphilis with super-penicillin!”