Fringe 1.8: "The Equation"

While this is another episode dominated by stand-alone elements, there are plenty of connections to the existing continuity and hints of something dark and ominous on the horizon. Walter's sanity is placed in relative context, and there are hints of future challenges to his freedom.

This early in any series, let alone any season, it's hard to tell what will be important. Will William Sadler's character become a recurring thorn in Olivia's side? Will all these comments about Peter's past associations and his threats against the doctor ever become a genuine subplot? Was the phase equation part of The Pattern, or was it some kind of covert Massive Dynamic experiment?

One gets the impression that this episode was more about what the case revealed than the case itself. Even so, I found the basis of the situation to be intriguing enough on its own. As an engineer with a strong musical background, the integration of mathematics and musical theory was a nice touch. I'm not sure that the connections would have worked out quite in the manner presented, but the intentions were clear enough and the execution was clever.

The episode never quite explained how the various subjects were induced into the savant state, or how the hallucinations were being introduced into their perceptions. If there's a weakness to the episode, that would be it: too many aspects of the "fringe science" in use are intentionally vague. That's always been true of the "science" shown on this series, since the writers take unusual concepts and twist them around, but beyond the math/music connection, there wasn't much in terms of the concrete.

There was, however, a new look at Walter's relative insanity. We're used to seeing him around Olivia and Peter in the Harvard setting. From that perspective, Walter is clearly unbalanced and out of his mind, even dangerously out of touch with the context of his own memory and conjecture. Compared to his former inmates at the institution, however, Walter is far more focused and aware. Part of that is the medication, of course, but it does play into the possibility that Olivia and Peter may think of Walter as more functional and helpful than he really is.

All of which makes this episode feel like the calm before the storm, despite the fact that it was hardly a moment of quiet reflection. A lot has been introduced, and while I don't expect the writers to abandon the semi-anthology model completely, I do suspect that some mythology is soon coming our way.


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