Season 1, Episode 2: “The Same Old Story”
Original Airdate: 16 September 2008
Written by Jeff Pinkner, J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, Paul Edwards
Directed by Paul A. Edwards
Patterns of Interference: In a Boston motel, a one-night stand ends with stripper Loraine Alcott convulsing and a rapid growth developing in her stomach. The man, Christopher Penrose, panics and drives her to a hospital. He drops her off and leaves in a hurry. Loraine is rushed to surgery and is bewildered when asked how far along she is in her pregnancy. Loraine dies as they are about to perform an emergency Cesarean, but when they remove the baby, its appearance horrifies the hospital staff…
Later, Broyles meets with the committee (Nina Sharp being one of the attendees) overseeing investigations into “The Pattern”. Broyles relays to them information on the events at the hospital as well as introduce the new team he’s formed, including profiles on Olivia, Peter and Walt. Nina disapproves of Walt’s involvement, concerned that his previous work could have been used behind the Pattern. She also has concerns about Olivia, but Broyles vouches for her. He later calls Olivia and tells her to round up the team and meet him at the hospital.
Broyles takes them to see Loraine’s body and informs them that the baby died an hour after its birth, but not before growing to adult size and old age. While Walt examines the body at his lab, Olivia and Peter follow-up on a lead at the motel. Olivia founds evidence to suggest this could be the work of a serial killer that she and her previous partner (and lover) John investigated but never solved. Meanwhile, Christopher is shown entering another strip club and picking up a woman…
Olivia meets with Charlie about her request to open up the old serial killer case. Charlie is concerned about being in the dark with regards to Olivia’s work in Fringe division, but as a friend supports her and offers to get her the requested case files. Elsewhere, Christopher take the woman from the club to an old warehouse, and while she is distracted plunges a needle into her.
Peter returns to Walt’s lab, where Walt reveals the pregnancy and subsequent events are linked to experiments he performed 30 years prior. Walt then takes Peter to a locked garage with a car he hid away 17 years ago, which contains boxes of experimental data he wishes to take back to the lab and which may prove useful in this case.
While reviewing the old case files on her serial killer case, Olivia makes a note of the killer removing the pituitary gland from his victims. Walt links this to the current case, as the pituitary gland controls growth in humans. Walt recalls a Dr. Claus Penrose whom he had worked with and who conducted experiments on uses of the pituitary gland. The team finds Dr. Penrose and discusses the case with him. Dr. Penrose proves reticent and claims his work on growth experiments ended years ago. When they leave, Olivia receives word of the killer’s latest victim, the woman from the club. Walt’s investigation leads him to understanding why the killer removes the pituitary gland.
During the Vietnam War, Walt’s research was directed at cultivating soldiers – literally growing soldiers in a lab to adulthood within 3 years for the purpose of fighting in the war. The problem was they were never able to stop the growth agent at the desired “age” and thus the research was abandoned. Walt believes that someone has made a breakthrough in the process, and the killer is the result the experiment. The killer must continuously extract the hormone from the pituitary gland of his victims so that he does not rapidly age and die. This condition would be passed down to his child, which is how Loraine died when she accidentally became pregnant. Elsewhere, Dr. Penrose meets with Christopher at a secret location, telling his son he needs to be more careful. They are close now; they only need one more victim…
Desperate to find the killer, Walt posits the idea of that the last thing a person sees is imprinted in a manner that can be extracted, but to prove his theory he would require a highly specialized piece of technology that only Massive Dynamic owns. Olivia arrives at Massive Dynamic headquarters to request said equipment, and after an awkward meeting with Nina Sharp, obtains the special camera and takes it back to the lab. Walt begins the process of extraction as Christopher lures another victim. Walt’s process proves successful, and the team is able to triangulate where the latest victim was murdered.
Olivia and Peter rush to the warehouse, where they find Dr. Penrose about to perform the extraction on a new captive. Christopher flees, and Olivia gives chase. The captured woman goes into cardiac arrest and during the chaos Dr. Penrose also flees. Peter calls Walt and asks to be walked through restarting the woman’s heart. Walt casually assists Peter in successfully doing so.
As Christopher flees, he begins to grow sicker and older. Olivia chases him through the warehouse district and eventually finds him collapsed and dying of old age. Christopher reveals that a man paid Dr. Penrose to perform the experiment but kept him alive out of love. Christopher then dies.
Olivia returns the camera to Nina, who tries to tempt Olivia with a job offer at Massive Dynamic. Olivia later meets with Broyles who tells her that Dr. Penrose has thus far evaded capture. She also tells him that Nina offered her a job, but she turned it down, telling Nina that had Broyles offered her a raise. Later at the lab, Walt is speaking with Olivia and cryptically refers to Peter’s medical history, but a confused Olivia states that there was nothing in Peter’s file aside from his birthdate. Walt leaves it at that.
Later, as Peter sings a lullaby to get Walt to sleep, the scene cuts to a room with three men identical to Christopher, in beds / incubators that bare the Massive Dynamic logo…
Scientific Method: Cloning and harvesting the pituitary gland of the brain to prevent rapid aging. Extracting the final images from the retina of the eye of a dead person.
Fringe with Benefits: Olivia has brief flashbacks to the good and bad with John Scott. Olivia’s anger at having to revisit old cases with John that they couldn’t resolve. It’s clearly more than just frustration; there’s guilt that perhaps she missed something due to her emotional involvement with him.
Agent of F.R.I.N.G.E: Is there more to the dream sequence where Olivia suffers the same fate as Loraine? Olivia is conflicted as the she begins to shine a wider light on her prior investigations and questions her judgement.
Walt’s Faults: Walt’s finding comfort in the closet is bittersweet. Walt’s fascination with the seat warmers in the car. It reinforces the idea that Walt has been locked away for quite some time. Walt forgetting that his old lab has been reopened is troubling; this is more than some cute absentmindedness. Walt’s warning that condoms are not always effective and how Peter and Olivia should be aware of this. Had a good laugh at Walt’s casual suggestion of cocaine as a means to start the woman’s heart.
Daddy Issues: Despite Peter’s frustrations with his father, there is something in the way of his easing into working with him in this episode. (John’s Note: Why? Why is Peter being so accommodating? I’m not seeing it.)
Observatory: The Observer can be seen in the hospital when Broyles and Olivia are walking towards the rapidly-aged baby. He can also be seen at the club where Christopher Penrose picks up his victim.
Lunatic Fringe: There is a two-part episode of Sliders (“The Exodus”) where Angus Rickman needs excretions from the pituitary gland in order to survive. Just like in Sliders, Christopher needs the excretion in order to stop his aging process.
Endgame: We want to like this episode more, as it starts out really strong with Loraine delivering the baby and dying, but then it gets a little mired in the middle before picking up once again at the end. Also, the endgame does an awful lot of character development but is imbalanced by the world building dump. The connection between the doctor and son is not much subtly telegraphed as it put out on full blast.
(John’s Note: Walt continues to be my favorite character, but considering some of his cryptic comments, I can’t help but feel he’s going to turn in some way as the series progresses. From I’ve heard from those who’ve watched the show previously, nothing is what it seems.)
Massive Dynamic rating: 6.5
The episode begins with an intriguing premise but gets lost along the way. The charm of the characters – Walt in particular – buoys it, but only so much. Still, the ending continues to tease some tantalizing mysteries.