Later episodes of Fringe that focus heavily on a case of the week and that don’t move the mythology forward in a significant way are often said to have a “season 1” feel. That’s not a particularly informative description, and it says nothing about the relative quality of the episodes. Last week’s “Os” was more or less a standalone, but it was one of the most fun episodes that the show had done in the long time. Fringe opted for another standalone this week, and while some might question the wisdom of advancing the mythology at a snail’s pace, I don’t see anything wrong with such plotting in principle. In fact, I’d be pretty annoyed (and confused) if Fringe were to burn through its mythology in just five or six episodes. Thus, one of a standalone episode’s objectives is to distract the audience from the fact that it is using dilatory tactics to put the brakes on continuing storylines. It has to make the audience forget that they’re watching filler. This week’s episode didn’t succeed on that front. It’s not that “Stowaway” had a “season 1” feel. (There was certainly no mention of The Pattern here.) But it did feel like an episode that could have been left out without losing much.

This week’s case was pretty bland. In fact, it was so bland that I don’t think I followed it completely. A woman wanted to die so that she could meet up with her family in the afterlife, and to do that, she had to convince other people to commit suicide with her…or something like that. It was kind of nonsensical. Anyway, with Olivia being possessed by William Bell’s soul (henceforth referred to as Bellivia), there was a perfect opportunity to introduce us to another FBI agent: Over Here’s Lincoln Lee. I think he’s a fascinating character, and I’m interested to find out why he’s so much more demure than his alternate-universe counterpart. That being said, I think it was a mistake to introduce him in this episode. His cool, calm demeanour would have been a better contrast with a more energetic case. Here, instead of anchoring the insanity, he merely added to the monotony.

The other main thread of this episode was Bellivia, and it’s where I think the show squandered a lot of opportunities. Wisely, the writers/directors/editors decided not to focus too much on Bellivia. As surprisingly spot-on as the talented Anna Torv’s Leonard Nimoy impression is, it’s the kind of thing that would get annoying after a while. But the show didn’t capitalize on the few scenes in which it used Bellivia. We found out that William Bell is a philanderer – I loved that shot of a creeped-out Astrid buttoning up her blouse – but we didn’t find out much else. Bellivia didn’t really help with the case either. He (she?) just wore a turtleneck and a lab coat and hung out with Walter for most of the episode. Moreover, because Nina Sharp wasn’t in this episode, the show missed an opportunity to delve back into Massive Dynamic’s history and to explain William Bell’s complicated relationship with her. Finally, while I can believe that Fringe division has seen enough weird stuff that they’re not shocked to find out that Olivia has been possessed by William Bell, I had a hard time believing that everyone (except for Peter) would be cool with it.

The twist at the end was way too predictable, to be honest. I guessed that Bell’s soul would get trapped in Olivia’s body right from the opening scene. While I’m not opposed to the idea of Bell’s soul being trapped, I just don’t want to see another episode of Bellivia. I’m sure Torv is having a great time chewing scenery and pretending to be a man, but I’d like Our Olivia back, thank you very much. On the bright side, I guess that we have Peter being all like, “RAWR! I want my girlfriend back because I wuuuv her!” to look forward to next week.

Altogether, not a strong episode of Fringe, but not exactly a clunker either. There wasn’t anything horrible about “Stowaway.” In fact, I quite enjoyed the Bellivia/Walter banter. But “Stowaway” just didn’t feel like a necessary episode in the grand scheme of things, and honestly, at times, it was kind of boring. Hopefully, next week’s episode is a bit less of a snooze-fest.

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