1.12 “The No Brainer” Review – The Good & The Bad

1.12 "The No Brainer" - The Good and The Bad - Review

Here’s the FringeBloggers review for episode 1.12 “The No Brainer”.

The Good

  • The “What’s That Noise?” opening. As usual Fringe delivers with the high concept hook. The subliminal messages and the cyber hand were way cool, and the whole thing reminds me of The Ring, amongst other pop-culture references.
  • Both Peter and Walter came out of the episode with a lot of credit. Peter was very over-protective towards his father but it’s endearing and understandable. Walter was very compassionate towards Jessica Warren, in a scene which stole many hearts. This episode did a subtle job of showing the growth in the father/son relationship, and it’s all thanks to Olivia. Seriously, isn’t she just the bestest FBI agent/relationship councillor/sister/auntie you ever did saw?
  • Joshua Jackson was very enjoyable to watch in this episode. His portrayal of the over-protective son/love interest was very believable. I’ll tell you why this is important for me; I wasn’t a Dawson’s Creek fan and I wasn’t blown away by his performance in the Pilot episode. But since then he’s gotten progressively better and I couldn’t imagine another actor in his role. Well, I probably could, but you know what I mean; dude is doing a fine job.
  • Using kitchen appliances to heighten tension. We saw it last week with the kettle on the stove. This week the old pots and pans got a chance to do their thing. Does this deserve a shout-out? Probably not, but it’s ‘a’ pattern damnit. Whoever said this episode had nothing to do with the pattern is obviously wrong. 😉
  • It was good seeing Peter’s resourcefulness. Last week we saw Peter call up some faceless person to help him tap the Loeb’s phone. In this episode we actually got to see one of Peter’s contacts. Whilst the scene wasn’t all that special, having Peter go off on his own devices to solve problems was yet another positive step forward for his character (and it didn’t involve Tess or the Mob, which was good). The magic coin trick was also cool – even though I didn’t realise that he had swapped the coin on my first viewing.

The Bad

  • The ‘computer virus” lack of a direct connection to the ‘main Pattern storyline’ diluted it’s appeal somewhat. I kept expecting Brian Dempsey to be a puppet for a much larger and powerful entity. That’s not to say someone wont get their hands on his work and re-use it to greater effect later on in the series, but for now that whole storyline seems more like and X-File than the Pattern that I’ve come to know and love. I don’t necessarily demand conspiracy/central plot in every episode, but at this stage of the season I’d like for the story to be taken forward.
  • I really like Beyonce, but “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on it)” isn’t one of her best efforts, nor did it suit the scene it was used in. Was it included for the American Idol viewers? I bet they got a shock when they saw the brain goo! Only joking, we love American Idol viewers 😀 Maybe the creators wanted an up-beat song with a ‘sisterhood’ appeal? But it doesn’t make sense. Ella is too young to have ‘a ring on it’. John Scott ‘liked it’ and he would have put a ring on Olivia, if it wasn’t for getting blown up and stuff. As for Rachel, okay, maybe it can apply to her seeing as her partner left her or whatever. I know it’s just a song, but it felt so out of place that they have me analysing it for a shred of meaning! Oh snap, perhaps ‘Put a Ring on it’ was a reference to The Ring, which was very similar to the computer virus’ subliminal messages?
  • Sanford Harris. The ‘character’ is just not resonating with me. I think that it’s important for a show like Fringe to have some characters who aren’t universally ‘popular’ (look at Ben or Jack in “Lost” for example), but what does Harris actually contribute? Why is he there? Why is he even breathing? Sorry if I’m being harsh but there’s something about the guy that’s just disconcerting, and I’m not even judging him about track record with women. He’s more like an Observer-Lite; half-bald, half-baked and watching Olivia’s every move like a demented hawk. I appreciate the fact that his introduction has enhanced the relationship between Broyles and Olivia whilst giving Olivia more conflict, but Harris seems very bland and unimportant, despite taking himself so damn seriously. Only Broyles is allowed to do that! I’m going to give him a chance because he’s only had two episodes to impress. Then again, so has the marvellous David Jones, who I’m already hoping will become a series regular.
  • Brian Dempsey. Here’s the thing, if the guy is so talented (which, clearly he is to be able to create such a programme), why did he spend all of his days plotting retribution against those who have wronged him? Why not move on and prove to the world that they were wrong to fire him from his job, by making millions from his genius programming skills? He could have set up his own company and bought an Island somewhere. Instead, he spends his days in the dungeon of doom killing people remotely? Fair enough, there are some twisted people in this world, but his reason for doing what he did seemed more unbelievable to me than many of the weird and wacky stuff that I’ve seen on the show.
  • Lack of overlap. Where’s Loeb (or is it “Mitch” now)? How’s Olivia coping with John Scott rattling around inside her head? Has Olivia been to the doctors to get more information on her spinaltap? What happened to the mobsters who are after Peter? Where’s Tess? Actually, scrap the last one, I just don’t care about Tess. Let’s pretend that she never happened! I know that “Fringe” isn’t as highly serialized as “Lost” (yet) but the odd reference or three to previous events would enhance the show for us regular viewers. The creators are being clever by not referencing many specific time-line dates, but unless this episode was like a month after the events of “Bound”, then I have to question the memory of the characters. Seriously, if someone spinaltapped me I’d be like a “question machine” for that whole month, not just one episode!
  • This position is usually reserved for Astrid. Whilst I’m very tempted to include her in this section for like the 12th episode running, I applaud her detective skills. She ratted Peter out – which wasn’t very nice, but at least she did ‘something’ other than fetch food and brush cows. She also revealed another computer skill that no-one knew about. OH COME ON!? These people have worked together for months now, how does Olivia not know everything that there is to know about Astrid? She’s great at connecting the pieces and using information to her advantage with the “Pattern”, so how does she not know Astrid’s mad computer skillz? Especially since so many people have double-crossed her during her short time on Pattern duty! Oh well, sorry Astrid, but it looks like you made the list after all. But hey, this is getting to be quite enjoyable now. I’m actually looking forward to Astrid’s little cameos. She’s like this cute little unappreciated bundle of joy. One day someone will appreciate her efforts. Hang in there Asteroid!
  • Last week Olivia was full of questions, indeed, she was described as a “question machine”. This week she was far too accepting of the fact that people were trying to murder her fam. I expected her to be more angry, y’know, like she was with “Mitch” when she punched him in the face after shooting him in the arm after killing his wife. It’s one thing Brian Demsey trying to kill Olivia, but this sick, twisted b*stard decided that a young kid was good enough! Why was Olivia so apathetic towards the guy? I guess this can be put down to her wonderful compassionate side, but her contempt for this guy was too understated for my liking. I mean, what did Ella ever do to anyone except lie about brushing her teeth?
  • No Nina. The creators have addressed the issue of having everything in the show link back to Massive Dynamic and their COO, Nina Sharp (although who knows where the larger arcs will lead). However, I am beginning to miss Nina and her enigmatic self! I love characters who are slightly crazy but clearly brilliant – she reminds me of Ben Linus in the way that she plays mind games with Olivia. Anyone who reminds me of Ben Linus is alright by me. Please can we have more Nina? We’ve only see her jovial and concerned sides so far, but I think there’s plenty of scope there to make her into a character with many, many hidden layers; brave, tragic, flawed, are just some of the possible character traits that are surely in her locker. She’s an onion, let’s peel her.


1.12 The Observer's appearance

The Observer, photoshopped or not, is always one of the highlights of my viewing experience. It’s debatable whether or not the events in this episode can be considered a “pattern-event”, but what cannot be debated is the fact that he was just a short distance away from Olivia’s home where the ‘computer virus’ was launching an attack on little Ella.

We come in peace?


Whether it was a ‘Pattern-event’ or a random occurrence, the ‘computer virus’ certainly continued the theme of fringe science attacks happening in close proximity to Olivia Dunham. This cannot be coincidence, there’s no such thing, right? Maybe these event happen in other cities too but we just don’t hear about them?

My personal rating for this episode is around the 7.5/10 mark. Not a classic, but an entertaining episode, despite there being more ‘bad’s’ than ‘good’s’ my list (the bar has been raised after all).


  1. Elliot says

    I loved it: breathtaking the whole way through. Joshua Jackson’s “overprotective son/love interest” tag is right on, and very well done. I especially love that these three characters are not pathetic (I lost interest in Lost quickly with all the tear stained focus on their screwed up pasts, and the nails-on-a-chalkboard love triangle mess). Peter, Olivia and Walter all have damage but they are going forward, making lives. They are adults! Very rare in TV these days.
    I don’t think every single event needs to be tied to the pattern to be interesting, any more than every character has to be ambiguous–it leaves breathing room, and gives creative room to the writers. Some of my favorite X-Files episodes had nothing do to with the alien conspiracy; The Postmodern Prometheus for example. Character development, lunacy, fun.

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    • says

      That’s a good point re: the “damage” that those three characters have. We see it in all three of them in different ways. As you say, they each continue moving forward, even in the face of more damage – as highlightd by Peter allowing Jessica to speak to Walter, and Walter showing such compassion when many in his situation would have hid.

      I agree that making less central “pattern” episodes gives the writers more space to plan and carefully build up the main characters and central threads over time. So far I can’t really complain (too much) about the more stand-alone episodes as they are still very good.

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  2. says

    I DID watch Dawson’s Creek, and I’ve always been a big fan of Joshua’s work so I had no doubt that the Peter Bishop role would be his quickly. I was convinced that this was a good role for him before this episode but this episode definitely solidified it.

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  3. Peanut says

    Why didn’t the grabby computer hand get Ella? Brian Dempsey just wanted to let Olivia know that he could get to her & her family? Why didn’t Olivia do something—shoot the computer or take the computer away from Ella, for example?

    Dempsey supposedly goes into trance & shoots himself—but if he was in a trance & his brain was liquefying, how did he manage to shoot himself?

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  4. Peanut says

    Broyles told Olivia that she could have anyone she wanted to work with her on the Fringe cases. I would think that Astrid, who was described as Olivia’s assistant, was handpicked by Olivia who should have been well aware of Asteroid’s qualifications (must be a failure of the photographic memory). Either that, or as someone else said, Asterix must have run over the FBI director’s dog & her punishment was being sent to Walter’s lab.

    Guess the car salesman must have sold Dempsey a real lemon—what was the connection between the two? I don’t think that the reason why Dempsey liquefied that guy was ever explained.

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