Season 2 Episode 13

What Lies Below

Aired Friday 9:00 PM Jan 21, 2010 on FOX
out of 10
User Rating
480 votes

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Episode Summary

While investigating a case in an office building where a man's blood literally burst from his arteries and veins, Peter and Olivia are trapped in a CDC quarantine when it's discovered that the blood carries a deadly pathogen.

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  • The X-Files was a great show. So was Fringe.

    The X-Files was a great show. So was Fringe.

    Yes, Fringe either "borrows" or "steals" from The X-Files.

    So what?

    Verdi borrowed or stole from Wagner.

    "Good artists borrow, great artists steal"

    As long as you do it well, what's the problem?
  • What Lies Below

    Sometimes it is difficult to create something completely new. Being original is hard work. But it is always possible in a universe like this peculiar grasping in common situations and give them another guise, paint them with the special touch. Make them different.

    This happened in the last "Johari Window" in the vein of mutant creatures in a small village received due attention, with almost everything on the site. Now comes the 12 with the hope that history will repeat itself, do the same virus that made his cheeks deformed. Unfortunately this "What Lies Below" is a gigantic failure.

    Beginning in the interpretations that had a day out. The premise, while not releasing anything new, built an interesting basis for a different dynamic between the pair protagonist, Peter (Joshua Jackson) and Olivia (Anna Torv). The first infected, healthy second, the two enclosed. It cast doubt on their relationship of friendship, affection and their dialects, their choices and decisions. To what extent do we protect those we love at the expense of the rest of the world? That is what could have been the baseline of the whole story but was relegated to the background. Jackson and Torv stick their autopilot, without a drop of blood and heart, and with some moments that they even skim the ridiculous. We can not fully monitor the transformation of Peter, his duel inside (if there was) and finally we have the right to confrontation without a flame. It does not take a central development of the plot to the characters evolve, these episodes are for this very lonely, to test the character, with themselves and each other. "Fringe" just can not do that.

    And if a double enclosed was a disaster that was out here could be much more interesting, Walter (John Noble) and Astrid (Jasika Nicole). There is here a dynamic that never sets, balance between the father / daughter, teacher / student and touches the shifting fields of love. This uncertainty makes it alive and exciting, unpredictable and exciting. If the old scientist had already proved their quality, Astrid shows here that deserves more, much more. And both deserved a better script this story because the virus was written over the knee, disconnected from everything and everyone. There is a virus that came from far and will be sold. The sale goes wrong and a building is quarantined. Some are infected, some not - without much notice and despite claiming to be by direct contact - and suddenly, in a time trial with a hammer, a cure is discovered in an old memory and in some leftovers from the refrigerator. I like mysterious and final arguments in the open, but this episode is a giant patchwork quilt that makes no sense.

    We like this more a case of the week, much weaker than usual. The story was loose interpretations very poor and lacking voltage. Saved very little of this vicious virus.

    The Best: The duo Walter / Astrid.

    The Worst: The rest.moreless
  • Different

    Ok, screw the xfiles. Everyone keeps saying another x-files, in real life x-files copied from another show. x-files wasn't the only alien show in history to air on tv. Watching this is no way like the xfiles, those of you that forgot you might want to go back and look at the whole series of xfiles to know what it was about. This show aint xfiles. Off that topic the show was good, I wonder a lot about Walter like at the end it's like he's a different person not acting all insane in all. A deadly disease theme played well in the episode even though I seen it so many time in other shows I don't scream blasphemy to fringe for doing a same genre from a different show.moreless
  • With each passing episode of Fringe, it becomes ever more apparent that the writers spend their weekends drinking beer and smoking funny cigarettes at each other's houses while watching hours upon hours of X-Files re-runs, mining them for creative ideas.moreless

    With each passing stand alone episode of Fringe, it becomes ever more apparent that the show's writing staff spend their weekends drinking beer and possibly smoking the ol' funny cigarettes at each other's houses while watching hours upon hours of X-Files re-runs, mining them for creative ideas. If last week's 'Johari Window' was a curious mis-match of 'Home' and 'Our Town' (look 'em up kids, they're both a million times better than the Fringe attempt was), then 'What Lies Below' is a glorious bastardisation of 'F. Emasculata', 'Ice' and probably more than a few others that don't immediately spring to mind right now. The latter episode in particular is the closest comparative: in it, Mulder and Scully travel to the Arctic where a geological team are bashing each other's brains in after having drilled down to the Earth's core and inadvertently unearthed a parasite that has a penchant for infecting humans and desperately looking for new hosts before killing the current one. These lovely creatures are believed to have been dormant in the ice for thousands upon thousands of years. Everyone, including Mulder and Scully, is quarantined and the episode is spent focusing on finding some form of solution while also worrying about the possibility that the protagonists may be infected. Hmm. Glen Morgan and James Wong, methinks you may be owed some royalties. Actually, scratch that, 'Ice' is just a rip-off of The Thing anyway. Oh well. Originality is a myth and all that.

    The crucial difference in 'What Lies Below', of course, is that one of our protagonists actually does become infected with the oh-so-deadly, super-misbehaving and remarkably intelligent virus, and then spends the better part of the episode stripped down to his Rab C. Nesbitt vest, throwing furniture at windows. Neither Mulder nor Scully ever sunk to that low, as far as I'm aware (although the lack of clothing is another matter...) Anyway, this would be fine if it allowed Joshua Jackson some room to maneouvre, or the opportunity to further explore the machinations of Peter's character, and his relationship with Olivia, when placed in dire peril. This is exactly what the aforementioned episode of The X Files does so well, as the focus is not on the intricacies of the virus/parasite plot but is instead on the interplay between the quarantined individuals, on the way that their relationships with one another break down when trust begins to dissipate. The essential concept on offer here gives plenty scope for this sort of thing but sadly, aside from a few choice glances and dramatic pauses between Olivia and Peter when he slips in the dead guy's blood, and some stock hysteria from the trapped office workers, the onus is squarely on the identification and obliteration of the virus. It's more than a little disappointing; arguably, the script would be better served by keeping Astrid and Walter in the background, with only the occasional glimpse into their work, and allowing Olivia and Peter's ordeal to take centre stage.

    Even more problematically, as with virtually all television writers, Jeff Vlaming seems to think that the best way to keep us all in suspense, to have us biting our fingernails as the story unfolds, is to threaten the life of one of the show's regular characters. Yes, because it isn't obvious that Joshua Jackson has a permanent contract until at least the end of the season, if not beyond, and that therefore, there is absolutely no way that he is ever in any danger of becoming a victim of the virus. Why not throw Astrid in there with Olivia? Infect her? That way, we might actually buy into the drama of the situation... hell, the actress would get a chance to showcase her talents too and maybe, just maybe, a little character development. But no; instead, Vlaming takes the obvious route and it's very difficult to buy into. It certainly doesn't help that the solution is magically hypothesised (the show's favourite word, that) by Walter in around ten seconds flat, when he suddenly makes the incredible logic leap from knowing nothing about the virus at all to understanding its inhernet nature after just a few short words with Astrid... just in time to save his son and prevent the evil, evil CDC from laying everyone in the place to waste. Phew! What a stroke of good luck, eh? How this sort of unforgivably lazy writing is allowed to make it to screen is frankly beyond me.

    So what good is there in 'What Lies Below'? Well, the production values are top notch as usual; the visualisation of the effects of the virus is particularly effective and genuinely unnerving, and the sequence in which the infected lady leaps to her death out of the seventeenth (or whatever) story window is superbly executed. John Noble gets a chance to shine again as he verbally lays waste to the CDC's head honcho, and puts in a beautifully fearful performance when he's testing his son for the virus. And, from the looks of the latest communicative misstep from Walter, it seems like we might be approaching the big revelation about Peter's parallel universe past... you know, sometime before the end of the season. Or it would be nice, at least.

    'What Lies Below' suffers considerably as a result of its premise. Effectively, this is a rip-off of a rip-off, owing far too much to The X Files' 'Ice' (which owes a great deal to The Thing, in turn), 'F. Emasculata' and countless other episodes of numerous science fiction shows for it to maintain the viewer's interest. We really have been here and done that so many times before that, in order for the episode to really entertain, Vlaming's script needs to contain something refreshing, a offer a new twist to the tale but sadly, it never comes. Instead, we are expected to buy into the possibility that Peter may die when it is glaringly obvious that it will never happen, and a boatload of opportunity for character development between he and Olivia is wasted in order to have Walter magically put all the pieces together in no time at all. This feels very much like Vlaming was struggling to come up with a concept and fell back on a standard without really thinking the logistics through. Come to think of it, didn't the guy write for The X Files back in its third season? Yeah actually, I think he did...moreless
  • Another stand-alone, another disappointment

    The sophomore slump for "Fringe" continues with yet another stand-alone episode. It now seems obvious that the writers are making up for the lack of balance with whatever small references to the overall story arc they can muster: in this case, Walter's slip about Peter's true nature. Certainly that played into Walter's personal desire to conquer the virus, but in terms of context, it was ephemeral at best.

    It's become a common criticism in my reviews this season, but I truly do not understand the logic behind breaking a format that was working so well in the latter half of the first season. The balance between serialized and episodic elements was nearly perfect during that stretch, and that approach seemed to be carrying into the second season. Now that momentum has been all but lost. Take the drop in the viewership into account, and it just seems like the producers are pretending that they have all the time in the world to explore the series' mythology.

    I simply don't understand it. As an audience member and fan of the show, I feel the spectre of premature cancellation looming over "Fringe", and wonder how the writers aren't feeling the same anxiety. Do they realize that they're on FOX, a network notorious for an itchy cancellation trigger finger? Or do they think that Abrams' industry cache is going to save them?

    Some critics will point to "Lost", and note that Abrams and his production staff have run into sophomore slumps in the past. Unfortunately, that was a different situation. Specific characters were brought into the show with a plan to use them for very specific functions within the narrative, and for various reasons, that didn't pan out. The end result was therefore something of a salvage operation, and reaction to that season varied depending on whether or not one noticed the seams. One way or another, it was a situation largely out of the writers' control.

    In this case, it's not a question of new characters failing to gel, or a story arc not panning out as intended. It's a conscious decision to set the larger story aside, in favor of a more episodic format. In that respect, it's entirely in the writers' control, and they are choosing to undermine the expectations they set up earlier in the season. Again and again, they astound me with what appears to be a lack of awareness.

    Had this episode been a strong entry, it would have mitigated the damage. But the episode was yet another in a string of disappointing chapters. This felt like a watered-down version of several recent zombie-esque productions, and as I've noted on several occasions, I'm thoroughly bored with zombies and their kith and kin. And there were hints and shades of the infamous "black oil virus" from "The X-Files", which I'm sure were all intentional.

    But at one point, the logic of the episode completely escaped me, and I spent the rest of the time waiting for some indication of how they would resolve the problem (and of course, they didn't even try). At one point, Walter and Astrid are testing people held in quarantine to determine if they are infected with the virus. They identify a whole bunch of people, but Peter figures out a way to defeat the test. Since the virus is driving people to leave the building so it can spread more effectively, defeating the test is the most effective means to that end.

    So when the guards at the door realize that Peter is infected, and that someone has defeated the test, why in the world would they still let anyone else that passed the test leave the building? Why wouldn't they force everyone back into the quarantine zone and declare the test invalid? Granted, Peter was ready to spew virus-laden blood as soon as he approached the threshold, but how could they be sure that all the infected would follow the same pattern? Considering that moments later, the decision to wipe out the infected was on the table, that loose containment method was awfully convenient.

    If there was one highlight, it was the ongoing evolution of the relationship between Walter and Astrid. I've often wondered about Astrid's character; for someone supposed so new to the wonderful world of "fringe science", she seems to have taken to it rather quickly and quietly. Her concern for Walter seems quite genuine. In fact, Astrid has become a vital member of the team and such an important part of Walter's stability, so often in the background, that I'm beginning to wonder if the writers have something truly nasty in mind. After all, we really know very little about Astrid.

    But now that Walter has slipped in a significant way, the writers have placed themselves in a precarious position. They can't let this subplot simmer for much longer. There are already too many plot threads on hold while the writers dawdle in the stand-alone sandbox. If the larger plot points don't come back into the limelight soon, the patience of the audience may come to a bitter end.moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (3)

  • QUOTES (5)

    • Science Center Worker: May I help you?
      Astrid: Yes, uh, I'm looking for someone who seems to have gotten lost.
      Science Center Worker: Okay, what school is he from?
      Astrid: He's not from any school. He's a man. His name is Dr. Walter Bishop.
      Science Center Worker: Hmm, I see. A special needs individual.
      Astrid: Heh, you have no idea.

    • Walter: When the Victoria, the last surviving ship, return to its harbor of departure after the first circumnavigation of the earth, only 18 of the original 237 men were on board.
      Small Child: What happened to them?
      Walter: They all died, young lady. Horrible and most likely painful death. You see, when you open new doors, there is a price to pay. Now imagine... tonight, you look under your bed, and, lo and behold, you find a monster! And you're immediately eaten. Now, if you hadn't looked for the monster, you wouldn't have found it and you'd still be happy in your beds, instead of being slowly digested in the stomach sack of the creature. But, with any luck, your sister or your brothers might have heard your screams, and your endeavor will serve as a valuable lesson to them.

    • Walter: Take me to your centrifuge.

    • Peter: I'm sorry.
      Olivia: You weren't yourself.
      Peter: It's lucky for me that you were.

    • Astrid: Walter. Um… inside… upstairs… when you said, "I can't let Peter die again…" what did you mean by that?
      Walter: Some things are meant to be left alone, Agent Farnsworth.

  • NOTES (2)

    • International Airdates:
      Latin America: March 9, 2010 on Warner Channel
      Australia: March 10, 2010 on GO!
      UK: March 16, 2010 on Sky1
      Germany: August 16, 2010 on ProSieben
      Poland: December 2, 2010 on TVN
      Finland: December 15, 2010 on MTV3
      Czech Republic: January 28, 2011 on Nova Cinema
      Slovakia: June 4, 2012 on Markiza

    • Blair Brown is credited but doesn't appear.