Fringe Rewatch 1×03 – “The Ghost Network”

Season 1, Episode 3: “The Ghost Network”
Original Airdate: 23 September 2008

Written by David H. Goodman & J.R Orci
Directed by Frederick E.O. Toye

Patterns of Interference: At St. Anne’s Cathedral, a troubled man, Roy McComb, attends confession and admits to having visions of horrible events. He reveals a vision of a biochemical attack on a bus, which occurs concurrently. On the bus, a man – Matthew Ziegler – releases a gaseous agent and escapes, but not before taking a backpack from a woman. At the church, Roy leaves in a rush, but not before dropping a crumpled drawing of the people suffering in the bus attack. Elsewhere, a police officer comes upon the bus, only to find its passengers dead, suspended in some sort of chemical mass.

Olivia and Charlie Francis attend John’s funeral. She shares an uncomfortable moment with John’s mother, and Olivia later vents to Francis about the cover-up of the circumstances around John’s death and his betrayal. Broyles then approaches Olivia to tap her for an investigation.

Peter and Walt are sharing a meal at a diner (where Walt admits- in typical Walt fashion – to self-medicating using a diverse number of prescription drugs) when Peter suddenly stands and approaches a stranger at a counter, having realized the man had been following them all day. Confirming his suspicions when Peter finds the stranger’s camera contains pictures of him, the man cryptically tells Peter that he was supposed to “check in” when he returned to the country. Peter takes the memory card from the camera and warns the man to not tell anyone that he saw Peter. Later, the Fringe team converges at the bus, where Broyles has gathered them to investigate the attack. Inside, the passengers are encased in an amber-like substance.

Roy is at his job and suffers another vision, which he quickly begins sketching. It is an image of a woman bleeding from her hands.

While examining the passengers’ remains,  Olivia notices one of them had a video camera, and upon reviewing its contents notices a woman on the bus with a backpack that was not found among the remains. They discover the woman was a DEA agent, Evelina Mendoza. Olivia brings in her handler, Grant Davidson, who reveals Mendoza had been undercover but requested being pulled out after discovering Cartel members  discussing the Pattern. Davidson requests to ID the body and say goodbye, and Olivia perceives from his body language that Davidson and Mendoza were involved, similar to Olivia’s relationship with John.

At Walt’s lab, Olivia is informed that the chemicals used in the attack were ones supplied by a Massive Dynamic subsidiary. Francis calls Olivia and informs her of a lead, and meets him at Roy’s home, where agents have uncovered numerous drawings and models of Pattern-related events over the past year – but each one is dated from before the incidents took place. Roy is brought into custody for questioning.

Olivia meets with Nina Sharp regarding the chemicals and requests information. Olivia notes the continuous links between incidents of the Pattern and Massive Dynamic, which Nina coyly counters. Meanwhile, with the Fringe team watching on, Roy confesses to Francis his precognitive ability to draw future events. Roy admits that he has had this ability for 9 months, around the same time Broyles and his team became aware of the Pattern. Walt conjectures that Roy is psychically linked to someone or a group of people responsible for the events behind the Pattern, which is met with skepticism. Walt sets about proving it using a brain scan. However, during the scan Roy’s body begins to react strangely, with his veins bulging from his face and neck. Peter and Walt realize Roy’s blood must contain a metallic compound – and this compound is somehow linked to his abilities.

After further investigation, Walt realizes this phenomenon is linked to another project he and William Bell worked on in the past. They believed there were wavelengths outside of the current known range that could be used to transmit information – and taking it one step further, could have a subject transmit or receive this information directly to the brain using an iridium compound. Peter discovers Roy’s picture in some of Walt’s old files, angrily realizing that Roy was one of Walt’s old test subjects. Walt counters that the amount of compound he would have injected into Roy would not be nearly enough to result in his current state . Someone over time has altered Roy into a receiver of this “Ghost Network”, which has been co-opted by some force to transmit events and plans surrounding the Pattern. Walt constructed a device years ago that could tap into the signals Roy is receiving, but hid it in the wall of his old home at Cambridge.

Olivia and Peter travel to his childhood home to retrieve the device. Roy is hooked up to the makeshift equipment and begins undergoing the procedure. As Roy is tuned into the ghost network, he begins speaking in Latin, which reveals instructions for a meeting and references to an item “being on her” the whole time. Olivia makes a startling realization, and rushes to the morgue to confirm it. There, she finds Mendoza’s hands have been cut open (similar to Roy’s earlier drawing), and realizes that Davidson was not sharing a tender moment with the agent – but rather extracting a chip embedded in her hands.

The Fringe team rushes to the pickup spot, located at a bus terminal. Roy begins to pick up a call from Davidson to his employers about where to meet. Olivia tracks down Davidson thanks to Roy’s intel, and after Davidson makes the exchange with Ziegler Olivia apprehends him. However, when Davidson turns around she realizes he’s been shot and Davidson collapses. Ziegler attempts to escape but is apprehended by Olivia and Francis. The man drops his gun and gives them the briefcase, but steps into the path of an oncoming bus rather than be taken into custody.

Olivia and Broyles debrief and ID Ziegler, who was also tied to two other Pattern cases. Broyles considers this a major step forward in their investigation, and provides Olivia with additional information on previously unknown Pattern cases.

Later, Broyles is seen handing over the chip to Nina Sharp, who provides it to a Massive Dynamic scientist. The scientist comments that the chip could be key to breaking some unspecified encryption, and then proceeds to share with her progress on pulling information from a test subject… who is revealed to be John Scott…

Scientific Method: Precognition, but one where the person receiving the visions can’t interpret what is happening and instead translates it into sketchings. The ability is actually caused by an iridium compound in Roy’s blood, which is tuned into an otherwise undetectable wavelength (the eponymous “Ghost Network”) which is secretly used to share information on the Pattern.

Agent of F.R.I.N.G.E: Olivia continues to grapple with guilt and frustration over John’s betrayal and secrets. She feels as though John’s mother blames her for his death. She also gets the sense that there is something more to Broyles, which causes her to question her trust in him. For now, all Olivia can do is wait and observe.

Walt’s Faults: When Walter is out, he must be constantly monitored as he is concerned about going to the bathroom. Peter learns that Walter is self-medicating with a host of legal drugs.  Another of Walter’s research inquiries has been used by someone to create a “Ghost Network”. (John’s Note: It begs the question, how much of what we are seeing all boils down to Walter and his work of the past?  I mean, I know there are connections, but is he the starting point of it all?)

Daddy Issues: “Where is Mom?”  “That’s a story for another time.” The rabbit hole goes pretty deep in the Bishop household.

Peter is angry at Walt’s prior testing on Roy and blames him for the man’s life being in danger.

Observatory: Olivia passes him at the terminal.

Dynamic Appearances: Didn’t make the connection until watching this episode that Kirk Acevedo, who plays Charlie, was the big baddie, Ricardo Diaz, in Arrow where he did a really bad Pacino impression.

Peter Hermann, who plays Grant Davidson, has previous made several appearances as a defense attorney on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.

Endgame: There’s concern that the show is already moving into cliche territory with Broyles meeting with Nina, affiliated with the potential “Big Bad” corporation (an idea that has already been overdone everywhere else).  The trope of people pulling skills out at convenient moments (like Astrid when it came to her Latin) is a bit tiresome.

However, the burgeoning friendship between Peter and Olivia (with Walter sort of winking in the background) is a highlight so far.  As out of it as Walt may seem, he is aware something could be developing.

The idea of someone able to tune into frequencies is an intriguing twist on the old tale of Lucille Ball picking up radio airwaves with her new teeth fillings. The 21st century twist is a fresh one, with a solid premise with good pacing and an intriguing setup. But every episode thus far has ended with a shady Massive Dynamic reveal. Will this be a thing for the first season?

(John’s Slightly Spoilery Note: I did a quick check on IMDB for Zak Orth and saw that his Roy McComb doesn’t return, which is a shame as he had what I thought was a telling line at the end of how he liked to help.  I thought maybe they were setting something up for the future.)

Massive Dynamics: 8

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