FOX tried to frame this episode as some sort of âlostâ episode from the first season of the series, as if the producers found it under a pile of pizza boxes one morning. At least, thatâs the way they handled the description of the episode in recent press releases. Thereâs nothing before or during the episode to tell the audience that it takes place earlier in the seriesâ timeline beyond a few subtle character cues and Charlieâs jarring presence.
Fans with a good memory will recall that the first season ended not with the finale, but with the production of an extra episode that was originally going to be slipped into the early part of the second season. Of course, that was before the writers worked out the second season story arc, which effectively precluded the insertion of an episode like this. The second season has seen the characters in a different psychological space, and âCharlieâ was never acting like his old self enough for this episode to make sense.
The end result is an episode that just doesnât seem to fit. Itâs still a âFringeâ episode, but it just seems out of place. Iâm reminded of how editors will take previously unaired footage and insert it into a recap montage at the beginning of an episode. This feels like the full-hour version of that practice. Or, to step back into a previous era of television, like watching a re-run of an episode from an earlier season that you never knew you missed.
Unfortunately, I know better, so the lack of proper context made it hard to enjoy the episode. As episodic as âFringeâ tends to be, often to its own detriment, there are still subtle points of character continuity that keep the forward momentum flowing. As Iâve already noted, the characters have all changed slightly from who they were in the first season, especially as the danger to the world has escalated.
Perhaps this, more than anything, helps to illustrate my point regarding âX-Filesâ and the lessons that should have been learned from mistakes of the past. The case at the center of this episode could, in fact, have taken place at any time in the seriesâ run. Thereâs nothing about it that demands it take place in any particular season. Very little about the case pertains to the circumstance of the characters at a specific point in the overall plot.
But thereâs the rub: those connections should exist. Shows like âSupernaturalâ, another heir to the âX-Filesâ legacy, demonstrate that a show like this is invariably stronger when the external conflicts of a particular case pertain to an internal conflict. Some of the most beloved stand-alone episodes of âX-Filesâ were centered on how hunting down evidence of a particular entity or killer provided insight into the psychological state of Mulder and Scully at that precise point in their lives.
In other words, episodes shouldnât feel generic. They shouldnât feel like filler. And despite some minor attempt to explore the main charactersâ ideas on faith, there wasnât much to the episode. The scenario underscored the already-established notion that human consciousness is separate from the body, and thus able to be accessed in all sorts of unusual ways. Thereâs nothing new under this particular sun.
Lest I forget to give credit where credit is due, the cast is still going some great work in this episode. They couldnât have known at the time that the episode wouldnât fit within the framework of the early second season, so they are clearly doing their best to keep up the progress from the end of the first season.
Considering that the second season has felt very uneven and disconnected, this only adds to my growing frustration. For all my criticisms over the growing imbalance between the serialized and episodic elements, the more stand-alone installments of the second season have still contained enough character context to make it clear that it belongs within the second season. The generic nature of the story and the misleading presentation This episode doesnât fit in more ways than one.