Welcome to the FB review of the special unaired episode of Fringe from season 1 – episode 1.21 Unearthed. In this review I present my honest opinions on both the good and bad aspects of the episode. I also take a look at the answers and unresolved mysteries, before sharing my thoughts on other aspects which may have been overlooked.
- Themes of faith and science, and how people on both sides reconcile with their beliefs when faced with the unexplained, resonated with me. So in that sense, I was intrigued by some of the episode’s subtext.
- Though this wasn’t her most enjoyable adventure, I liked watching Olivia grapple with faith and seeing how it related to her past. The tidbit that her mother was a woman of faith, and that Olivia didn’t necessarily believe it did her any good, was interesting and gave me a more rounded understanding of Olivia – particularly with the denial of her own ability after disabling the bomb in Ability. Her reaction makes a bit more sense now. The funny thing is, I think that Olivia has a lot more faith than she realises – perhaps not religious faith, but faith nonetheless. I really hope we get to explore that some more.
- The episode did a pretty good job of juggling the 3 main characters and giving each of them a worthwhile role to play in proceedings.
- Lisa was pretty convincing. At one point I thought she was going to turn into the Hulk.
- It was all a bit random. There was no real connection between Andrew Rusk and Lisa Donovan. I just found this aspect of the plot a bit disappointing because the chain of events lacked the poignancy (and/or explanation) needed to really make me buy into the story.
- The episode wasn’t nearly as polished as it could have been. It was clear that Unearthed went through a less intensive editing process than usual episodes – several scenes should have been left on the cutting room floor, and some scenes looked as though they were only put through one take. I found this distracting, but not overly unbearable as I knew that it was an unaired episode from season 1. I wonder whether casual viewers would have noticed?
- Mrs Donovan. I’m not quite sure what it was but I didn’t buy her character. Her motivations and reactions seemed a bit all over the place. She also didn’t seem very grateful that her daughter had been brought back from the dead – I was expecting a lot more emotion and amazement there.
- Lack of explanation and science. I’m not usually a stickler for scientific fact when watching Fringe (let’s face it, at least this show usually makes an effort to combine fantasy and plausibility), but there was a lack of explanation on several key elements. For example, I could have done with knowing more about the what caused Rusk’s radiation and the treatment he received, since it was this which set up the whole plot in the first place. I also felt that Rusk’s experimental drug was primed for a tie-in, or at least an allusion to Olivia’s own Cortexiphan treatments. But to top it off, we get a contrived resolution when Walter tells Mrs Donovan that Rusk’s consciousness has left her daughter forever..because, well, he thinks it has. WHAT!? He had no real reason to come to the conclusion that Rusk had ‘finished his business’, especially since he was wrong a few scenes earlier. It just seemed like a quick and convenient way to end the episode and get out of Dodge with a ribbon on top. And that for me is one of the show’s main weakness, but on a magnified level. Perhaps it would have come off better had there been a more satisfying explanation as to why Walter came to his conclusion. Of course, I realise that the writers were restricted for two reasons: 1. They wanted to give Walter a reason to rely on his faith (I liked that scene, by the way), and 2. they wanted to set-up end scene reveal that Rusk had simply found another host. So I understand their motivation, I just think the execution could have been better in this instance.
- In a similar vein, I thought it was a bit of a cop-out for Walter to gloss over Rusk’s shipmates, who he suggested were also at risk. I would have preferred Walter to not mention them, instead his claim that Rusk was the “exception and not the rule” was pretty weak and without verification.
- I didn’t buy that Jake Selleg would kill Rusk after a bar conversation with Teresa Rusk. Also strange was his justification that he went 7 years in the navy without killing a man. Sorry, dude, that’s not reason enough for killing a man. I get that they wanted to give him a good reason for murdering Rusk, but I felt that they could have come up with a better angle. As far as we know he was just some random guy who had a couple of beers with Mrs Rusk. I’m not defending Rusk in the slightest, but I think I would have bought it more had Selleg been a professional hitman (like Donald :P), a love interest, or someone more involved.
- A pretty meaningless episode (aside from the tidbit on Olivia’s mother and slight evidence of ‘Peter Powa’) which didn’t add to the mythology or the character journey one iota, and those elements are kinda why I’m invested Fringe.
- Why did Rusk’s consciousness jump into Lisa’s body? Why her? Was she the nearest available (i.e. deceased) host? Does it work on proximity?
- What would have happened to Rusk’s consciousness had it not found a host? Would it have just floated around in the ether until it did, or would it have gone to wife-beating hell? What does this say about the consciousness and the afterlife in the Fringeverse?
- Why did the radiation treatment (or the combination of the radiation and the treatment) cause Rusk’s consciousness to jump into another person in the first place? Speaking of which, what are the government doing in terms of researching this drug?
ANSWERS & REVEALS
- Peter speaks Russian, knows mostly swear words. Cool.
- Olivia’s mom was a woman of faith.
- Rusk was suffering from radiation poisoning and was being treated with a highly experimental radiation (inhibitor) drug when he was murdered. This combination caused his consciousness/memories – his energy, to somehow transfer into Lisa, thus jump-starting her back to life and becoming trapped inside her consciousness.
- Walter communicating with the elderly comatose woman was a cute scene and reinforced his previous ideas on the true nature of communication (The Arrival).
- I found it odd that Lisa saw Rusk in the mirror. We established that she wasn’t suffering from hallucinations, so other than for our thematic benefit there was no real reason why she’d see him standing beside her in the mirror. Had she seen him instead of her own reflection then I think it may have made more sense.
- What was the time period of the events in this episode? That girl not only suffered melded consciousness, but she was also cut open as the surgeons prepped her for organ donation. I find it hard to believe that she was back at school (as she claimed) if this episode only spanned a few days, which is what appeared to be the case.
- I love the fact that Peter can speak any language the writers need him to speak. I love it. Really.
- Once again we have an episode which reinforces the theme of memories, and the idea of two entities residing where there should be only one. This references other episodes such as Transformation; when Olivia struggles to flush John Scott’s memories from her consciousness; Dream Logic, with Dr. Nayak’s whole ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ drama; and Earthling, with the Shadow becoming one with the Russian cosmonaut. And of course, the memory aspect also mirrors Walter’s struggle with his memories, Olivia’s struggle with her memories and Peter’s struggle with his memories. Y’know, I think memories are a theme in this show.
- The episode seemed constructed, in part, to remind us that although Walter may be a scientist, he is very much on the edge of that field. He’s probably far closer to faith or supernatural driven belief systems than conventional science. I just hope they explore this idea more often as it makes him more relatable as a human being who, like most (many) of us, isn’t boxed in by a rigid singular outlook on the way of the world.
- Once Walter made the connection between Rusk’s energy/memories being responsible for Lisa’s condition, wouldn’t he naturally make the connection that her illness was also related to Rusk? It was slightly contrived that this should cause Walter to lose faith in his own convictions – obviously set up so that Olivia could make the connection. Which was important, I felt, because she seemed eager to find a logical answer to Lisa’s problem (as opposed to a completely faith based conclusion), even if that answer was within the confines of the mystical. I felt this correlated with Olivia’s rather cynical outlook on her own mother’s faith.
- A nice shout-out to the early season 1 theme of Walter and Peter having shared consciousness at some stage, came in the following conversation:
Peter: “Do you wanna know what I think, or what Walter would think?”
- Aww! Peter’s got himself a little girlfriend! To be honest, I’m not sure that was necessary – do the fans really need a heavy-handed approach to a possible Peter/Olivia hook-up? Thank goodness they didn’t have Olivia dwell on the matter, I would have stopped watching the show had she gotten jealous like she did with the R*chel thing.
- Peter gets yet another “gun” reference. That dude really has some firearm issues. I guess he was a weapons dealer, so maybe that explains it.
- Gene seemed to know that something was afoot when Lisa (AKA Rusk) was lulling Peter with the drink of water request. At least someone is on the ball! What made it worse (so to speak) was Walter just sitting there for 10 minutes as he let the realisation of Rusk still being present in Lisa’s mind sink in. A bit more urgency next time please Walter! Also, I’m not sure how Rusk managed to pull that trick off in the first place? I guess he’s quite the ventriloquist.
- I enjoyed the scene where Peter appealed to Lisa’s ‘better half’. That was a really nice moment, and it looked like they did something different with the way it was shot, although I can’t quite put my finger on it. Shame it was so short.
- Good ole’ Charlie! If he’s not saving the day, he’s being chucked into a furnace.
- For a split second I thought the end scene with the car crash was going to be a surprising play on Olivia’s ‘near miss’ in the season 1 finale. Alas, my hopes were short lived, and in retrospect inconceivable.
I found it really strange that Walter & Co. assumed that Rusk’s consciousness would just leave Lisa and that would be the end of the matter. That said, it’s interesting to wonder what underlying idea the writers are making on the human consciousness. On the one hand it seems that Walter expected Rusk’s consciousness to wither away and perhaps find peace somewhere. On the other hand we see that it actually finds another host. The former suggests some kind of afterlife and supports the popular idea that once a life has run its course, the energy from that person goes to another realm (some might call it heaven..or hell). The latter implies rebirth and even reincarnation, and the idea that our energy is constantly being renewed, giving life to others (or through others) – similar to the opening organ donation scene. Personally, I think it’s only a matter of time before the show explores this in more detail.
I often like to take a moment to look at the episode title and how it possibly relates to the episode. “Unearthed” works well enough with the themes of resurrection and rebirth, as well as the uncovering of Olivia’s back-story, with the painful memories of her mother. Mostly though, the title stands out as a marketing gimmick, to the fans who have been paying attention, highlighting the fact that this was an unearthed episode from season 1.
Finally, while this isn’t the most glowing review, for what it’s worth I’m glad that FOX aired it. They didn’t have to give us the special Monday airing, and they probably took a bit of a risk in doing so, what with all the people who now think Charlie’s aliiiiiive, and whatnot! It was still good to see some unseen Fringe, and so my views on this episode are honest, but also appreciative of the fact that Unearthed didn’t have some of the bells and whistles of a normal Fringe installment. Plus it was interesting to see just how much work actually goes into a ‘proper’ episode of the show before it hits the air.
Best Moment: Olivia talking about her mother / Peter appealing to Lisa’s suppressed consciousness.
Best Performer: Alice Kremelberg (why not, she did a decent enough job as Lisa).
If you liked Unearthed, you’ll like: Dream Logic, Earthling.
Episode Rating: 5/10