The first episode of the new season of Fringe began with a car crash, perhaps an apt metaphor for what this show is not. It ended with a chilling (well, not all that chilling, given the circumstances) goodbye to one of our favorite characters. But in the world of Fringe, goodbye does not always mean farewell.
Let's start with the two-car pile-up on a Manhattan street. We see the driver of one of the vehicles leave the scene of the accident (causing me to refer to him as The Accident Man), and moments later witness him commit a far worse crime as he forces his way into an apartment and murders its owner.
The Accident Man then stands in front of a mirror and, using his hands, reshapes his face from human to some sort of troll-ish visage (the exact opposite of my morning routine). He attaches a tube into the mouth of the man he has just murdered, slides the other end of the tube into his mouth and seemingly sucks out his essence, as his face changes again, from troll back to human, looking exactly like the man he just murdered. As we return to the accident site, we learn that the other car involved is registered to Agent Olivia Dunham.
As if that weren't disturbing enough, the scene quickly shifts to a supermarket in Boston where accomplished sous chef Walter Bishop states that he wants to see the look on Agent Dunham's face when she tastes his custard. Peter Bishop, like the rest of us, is comically uncomfortable with that image. Walter and Peter are shopping for ingredients for Walter's acclaimed custard, which he wants to make for Peter's upcoming birthday.
However, Peter claims that he hates custard and has never liked it; Walter cryptically counters that he used to love it when he was a boy. Their banter is quickly stopped when Peter receives word that Olivia, or at least her car, has been involved in an accident.
Walter and Peter arrive at the crash site and while Peter deals with lead agent Jessup's puzzled inquiries as to how Agent Dunham could have been in the accident when she is nowhere to be seen, Walter fiddles around with the smashed vehicle. Suddenly, with little more warning than the car alarm, Agent Dunham finally joins the scene of her own accident and comes crashing through the windshield.
Outside the hospital, Agent Broyles makes Agent Jessup - officially the second-hottest agent in the FBI - sign an innocuous report of the incident, leaving out anything mentioning Agent Dunham's reappearing act. Inside, the Bishops are told that Olivia's head trauma was too great and she will not have any brain function. Walter being Walter, refuses to accept this "primitive" diagnosis, yet tears up and apologizes over Olivia's comatose body. Later, Broyles and Peter commiserate over whiskey. Broyles tells Peter that the FBI will be shutting them down. (Hopefully after the season.)
After a touching reunion with Olivia's sister, Rachel, outside Olivia's hospital room, Peter goes in to say his last goodbyes. Agent Dunham, however, has other plans. As Peter leans in to kiss her forehead, Olivia's eyes fly open and she starts speaking in tongues before shooting up in bed, screaming. At least, I assume it was her screaming and not me. Olivia cannot remember what happened to her, but believes she was told something important, something that could endanger the lives of everyone on the planet. Fearing for her safety and obviously unsettled, she begs Peter for her gun.
Peter tries to follow up with Agents Broyles or Francis at the FBI headquarters in Boston, but is told that they are unavailable and that his access has been revoked. Flashing crazy eyes, Peter attempts to fight the agents sent to escort him from the building, but Agent Jessup - making the seemingly 15-minute trip from New York to Boston - shows up to vouch for Peter.
Agent Jessup, who claims she is "following a case", takes Peter to the home of the man who apparently ran down Olivia in New York. They find his body, dead and drained. Walter arrives and demands that the body be sent back to his lab, prompting one agent to call him crazy, leading to the exchange that all of us fans have had at one point or another:
Jessup: Is he crazy?
Peter: Ohh yeah!
As if a store devoted solely to the sale of typewriters wasn't creepy enough, it turns out that The Accident Man is using said store as a way to communicate with another world. Wearing his new face and referred to as "one of them" by the store owner, The Accident Man, using a special typewriter, connects with his parallel universe bosses and claims to have accomplished his mission: killing Agent Dunham. However, he is informed by the magic typewriter that Dunham survived and that she had the meeting that she was supposed to have. The man demands new orders, to interrogate Olivia and then kill her. And then to possibly look into this whole computer/e-mail thing as a new means of communication.
While Agent Jessup gets her first introduction to Fringe Division, Charlie Francis visits Olivia in the hospital. The seasoned agent sees through Olivia's facade and tells her that it's okay for her to be scared, and that she'll be okay. Agent Francis, a good guy 'til the end.
During the drained man's autopsy, Walter notices three holes in his mouth - the markings from the straw device that we saw used earlier in the episode. This sparks Walter's memory, and he recalls an experiment he ran wherein a test subject describes seeing a "soldier" from "another universe" using the machine to alter his face. "They can look like any of us," she whispers.
Back in Washington, Agent Broyles has to face a Senate hearing on Fringe Division. "Unsubstantiated claims of invasion, reports of technology run amuck" - this is how one Senator describes the Fringe Division. Had this been a Senator from the great state of Fox, these words probably wouldn't have come across so negatively.
Broyles defends his division, but the senators are not convinced that it is worth the human or financial cost. Outside the hearing, Broyles gets some positive reinforcement from the words, and lips, of Nina Sharp (I hope their kiss doesn't go any further - getting to third base with Ms. Sharp would probably be a robotic experience).
Inside the hospital, The Accident Man, now disguised as Olivia's nurse, tries to pry information from Olivia using a rather aggressive bedside manner. After determining that Olivia doesn't remember anything, the nurse tries to kill her, only to be stopped by Agent Jessup (maybe next time try a head shot, Jessie). Jessup, Peter and Charlie chase the nurse into the scariest hospital sub-basement ever, where it appears that Charlie manages to kill the soldier.
Back in the hospital, Peter reveals that he recognized the phrase Olivia muttered when she sprung from her coma. It was a Greek phrase that Peter's mother used to say to him every night, roughly translated to "Be a better man than your father."
When Olivia asks Peter if it's true that Fringe Division is being shut down, he responds with a confident "No". We learn that Peter has taken The Accident Man's shape-shifting device and tells Broyles to offer it to the Senate hearing board in return for leaving Fringe alone. As the clock ticks down on the first hour of the new season, we see Agent Jessup making some notes in a file and looking at the Bible. Typical Saturday night for us.
In the hospital, Olivia is finally able to load her gun again. She's going to need it, as we see in the final scene that The Accident Man was not killed by Charlie, but instead actually killed Agent Francis and took his appearance. Man, Charlie did not have an easy run on Fringe.
After all, it was Charlie who just barely survived mutant parasites in his blood stream last season, only to be killed and incinerated just an hour into Season 2. Let's take a moment to remember Agent Charlie Francis, one of the better supporting characters in television. Let's also take a moment to pray that we never have to see that freaky sub-basement again.