The surprising thing about this episode of "Fringe" was not the story. It's how much I realized that I had missed the show. It's a gamble to take new shows off the air for any significant amount of time early in the running; even a baseball/election-inspired delay can be enough to distract the audience. Shows need time to get under your skin and take root (no pun intended). It will be interesting to see if the ratings reflect a dip caused by this mini-hiatus.
At least the show came back with a vengeance. I've come to the conclusion that we're still working through the introductory phase of the season, and the status quo hasn't quite come together. The main characters are fully rendered, but there are elements on the periphery that are still coming into focus. For example, in this episode in particular, we learn more about the structure of those behind The Pattern, and just how pervasive they have become.
The writers will have to be careful not to push the pseudo-terrorist angle of those behind The Pattern too far into familiar "Alias" territory. Olivia is no Sydney Bristow, and The Pattern doesn't need to be as Byzantine as the Rambaldi mythos. The nature of the bizarre experiments is complicated enough at this point. This episode gives me hope that the writers are keeping certain boundaries in mind. It would appear that while the experiments are linked in terms of source, they are not currently seen as connective in purpose. They are simply the product of amoral scientists who see the world as their Petri dish.
Not that this is a new revelation; the episode simply confirmed and reinforced that premise. Just as it pointed to the irony of using a scientist with equal amorality to catch those behind The Pattern and mitigate its effects. It's the intellectual equivalent of using Hannibal Lecter to capture serial killers. At the same time, I have the growing suspicion that Walter is not as coherent as we think he is.
Walter's actions always seem to be derived from some memory of past experimentation or brilliant leaps of creativity. But what if Walter only "remembers" those past experiments because of the situation at hand? What if Walter's recollections are a false security blanket? I can easily see a scenario where Olivia depends on one of Walter's memories, only to discover that the man was completely off the charts. After all, Walter's perception of reality is warped at best. He may believe what he says with absolute conviction, but he's clinically insane and could be drumming up confidence and suspicion where neither is warranted.
These are elements that intrigue me and keep up my interest. Similarly, I was happy to see and hear more from Broyles in this episode. His motivations appear above board, but his association with the very questionable Massive Dynamic continues to suggest an unseen agenda. I look forward to more clarification of that relationship. I could do without so much gore (it's why I generally avoid medical shows), and Olivia's personality is developing a little too slowly, but these are items that should attend to themselves.