'Fringe' recap: In 'The Abducted,' who can take a child? The Candyman can.

The greatest themes in Fringe are The Missing Child and The Missing Father. Walter’s abduction of the alternate-universe Peter to replace his own dead son was such a profound violation of the universe(s) — a cataclysmic sin, to use a religious value that Fringe usually does not traffick in — that it caused both a massive and very specific rift, inter-dimensional and interpersonal.

To take just another quick example: In season one, before things became more complicated, Fringe was fundamentally about a son (Peter) who led a purposeless existence because of the absence of a father (the Walter committed to an asylum; the Walternate in another dimension).

This week’s Fringe elaborated on these themes and extended them to other key characters. The hour commenced with a fright: A little boy on the show’s Other Side, Max, eight years old, is afraid of noises in his bedroom. The pre-credit sequence played out initially as such scenes do in most TV shows and movies — Mom comes in and comforts him, kid settles down to sleep. But then an unnerving figure in a silver metallic mask enters the room and kidnaps the kid from his New Yonkers home.

Because of the “Peter Bishop Act of 1991,” every child-napping is treated as a possible Fringe Division investigation until proven to be a lesser emergency. Lincoln, Charlie, and Olivia are called to the scene, where it is determined that the kidnapper secretes sucrose through his skin. The next phrase was uttered with great dread: “The Candyman, he’s back.”

It turns out this Candyman is a serial kidnapper whose victims included Col. Broyles’ son, Christopher. He was held captive for two days, two years earlier. (Before, we’re told, Altivia joined Fringe Division.) Walternate meets with Broyles to tell him he can remove himself from this case if it’s too emotionally fraught for him — this is the bond these men share: the loss, however brief or long, of a son — but Broyles is resolute in tracking down the culprit.

(Help me out here: I saw the first, 1992 Candyman movie [released one year after the Peter Bishop Act in Fringe-time], but I’m not a big horror-movie buff. A show as self-conscious of its references as Fringe must have used this phrase knowing it would be compared to either the movie or the Clive Barker short story upon which it’s based, but I don’t know those sources well enough to make connections. Anyone care to add something regarding this?)

Broyles also uses this meeting with Walternate to ask when he’s going to get “our Olivia” back, because he wants her, and not the faking-it Olivia, so he can have the strongest team possible. Walternate tels him more than I would have, were I in his position — is there any reason for Col. Broyles to know that the scientists have made a “breakthrough” in O’s “brain chemistry,” which is to say isolating the Cortexiphan? — but in any case, Broyles is assured that he’ll get “his” Olivia back soon.

This plot permitted us to go home with Col. Broyles, where we met his wife and son. Christopher has been severely weakened by his abduction, made blind and worse because of experiments conducted upon him by the Candyman, which drained hormones from him, causing “massive cell degeneration.” The boy spends his days isolated, wrapped up in fantasy worlds that include listening to tapes of The Shadow, which in our universe was a pulp-magazine hero made into a popular 1930s radio show. Every episode began with the narrative exclamation, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” More pertinent to Fringe, the Shadow has the power to “cloud men’s minds” and in the resulting confusion, capture them. Just so, Walter’s, Olivia’s, and Peter’s minds have each been clouded in different ways at different times to prevent them from remembering or knowing key events in their lives.

As I said at the start, Fringe rarely grapples with religion, but in “Abducted” a key clue was a kind of chant or prayer intoned by the kidnapper, roughly: “From suffering comes redemption… Through the pitch-dark comes the cleansing fire; through the fire we shall find the spirit of new life.” It’s a variation on a standard notion of Christian trial and resurrection. The nature of these words leads Fringe Division to investigate religious organizations — Lincoln’s almost throwaway comment that whenever there’s an odd event, “a new church pops up” suggests that Over There is a more secular society, one that may regard religion as mere superstition; there is condescension in Lincoln’s tone, at the least. (Nonetheless, Col. Broyles says bluntly that he is “a man of faith,” perhaps a faith born from reuniting with his son.)

Olivia puts the clues together, overcoming Broyles initial resistence in re-interviewing Christopher, and sussing out that someone who’s hypoglycemic may secrete sugar. The team’s efforts lead them to a Rev. Marcus (who lost his wife in the “avian influenza epidemic” — they were hit harder by the bird flu than we were, Over There) and a Wyatt Toomy, who have figured out a way to “steal youth” by draining of vital fluids. This is a clear parallel to the terrible experimentation done on our side to Olivia and other children by Walter and William Bell in the Cortexiphan drug trials.

The case was solved, along with some solid action scenes — Broyles gets to shoot the silver-masked reverend dead — and Olivia’s cover is officially blown when Broyles overhears Max ask Olivia, “What’s FBI?” It was a verbal slip Olivia made in the heat of the moment of rescuing Max, the FBI having been disbanded more than a decade ago Over There.

I haven’t addressed yet the night’s big sub-plot: Olivia trying to get back to our world, and enlisting the help of the cabbie played by Andre Royo. I like the idea that this is the one guy Olivia feels she can trust, even if, as it turned out, his driving skills did not extend to boating when he agreed to transport her to Liberty Island. Their scenes enabled her to deliver one of the night’s most indelible lines — “I’m from a parallel universe” — with the info, quite wittily, not resulting in a huge reaction, because Royo’s Henry doesn’t know what the hell she’s talking about.

Olivia gets to the island, intent on entering the deprivation tank and transporting herself back home, but Walternate has his minions intercept her and she’s yanked from the tank… but not before appearing to a startled employee of the souvenir shop on our side, which led to the final, very cool scene of:

Peter in bed with Altivia, watching Casablanca. Peter got the umpteenth clue that this is not “his” Olivia when she guesses that Ronald Reagan, not Bogart, was the star of that film. He received a phone call from the gift-shop woman saying that before she disappeared, Olivia gave him this number and a message: “She’s trapped in the other universe.” Blam: The end.

I loved this episode for, as I said at the top, its careful layering and expansion of the series’ key themes, and for the way it’s setting us up for a truly superb, universe-shaking episode when Fringe returns Dec. 2.

Fringe benefits:

• Olivia notices in Max’s bedroom a copy of Burlap Bear Goes To The Woods, a kids book that her niece Ella also owns on our side.

• Lincoln brings Olivia a snack: “Red vines — they’re new!”

What did you think of this week’s Fringe?

Twitter: @kentucker

Comments (283 total) Add your comment
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  • tracy bluth

    GAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH I can not wait two weeks! Of course I wish Ourlivia could just come home and Holivia could disappear, but I doubt it’s going to end well. Great acting by everyone once again. It’s a shame this wonderful cast is so underrated.

    • Anonymous

      HOLIVIA! that’s what i call her too! and she’s finally been discovered! who knew it would be some random janitor at the statue of liberty gift shop that finally tipped of peter?

      • Seddie is meant to be

        FRINGE is incredible, this season is like last in that there is no wasted screen time, pure gold every second.

        This show along with Friday Night Lights, Tower Prep, iCarly, and Human Target are the best shows on tv

      • Bfleet

        You lost me after FNL. That is; however, quite an eclectic group of TV shows.

      • RCB

        Tower Prep’s pilot was good, but the following episodes were not. Stopped watching after Ep. 3.

      • chopinplayer

        loved last nights episode. Fringe & Human Target are the best shows on right now

      • ziggy

        LOL, Holivia! That’s so great.

      • Peter Bishop

        Watching FRINGE gives me the same breathless expression of “wow they did not just do that” just like LOST
        - this show is easily the best on network tv

        @seddie – Tower prep started out good, but the buffer episode was not that great, agree about FNL, iCarly is on the decline, I love Human Target – but why did they change the awesome theme song?, I would add Smallville to the list, this current season has been pretty good

      • erin

        OMG…it’s great to know that I’m not the only that calls her Holivia!!! that’s awesome. stupid peter…he’s supposed to be a super genius but needs a phone call from a stranger to realize one of the people that he’s closest to is a fraud.

    • Lunna

      LOL! Holivia!

      • Cibele

        As a hugh Bruins fan outside of New England, I’m thllired the more games they show nationally. I’ll put up with whomever they have announce just for a chance to watch the games. My brother-in-law gets NHL Center-Ice, but he hates the Bs, so I prefer not to watch with him. And yes, it was sweet having the Bruins win so he would shut up!

    • Gwen

      I like “Ourlivia” – great!

      • Leslie

        Me too! I see the Fringe fans are pretty creative. Not surprising as this show isn’t for chimps.

    • Casey

      Lol at Holivia. I always smile when I see her with Peter until my brain reminds me it’s not Olivia, and then I’m just angry at Fauxlivia/Altivia/Bolivia/whatever she’s called because of her deception. And I’m miffed at Peter being such an idiot. But hey, he knows now! I can’t wait until the next episode! I want to see Fauxlivia get her a-s-s kicked.

    • Kevin Eikenberry

      I was left speechless. This episode was amazing! I had the same reaction I used to have after watching the early episodes of House. Can’t wait for December 2nd! Maybe I can plunge myself into my magic tank and transport myself to the future? That way I can beat you all in watching the exciting upcoming episode? :)

    • Haruhi85

      Agreed Tracy Bluth. The episode and this season have been amazing. I hope this season finally gets some attention by critics and awards. Awesome show!

      • Patricia

        I’m doing a rewatch of seaosn 1, and in the episode where Olivia meets Nick Lane, “Bad Dreams”, Nick makes the comment that he did what he was told “wore the blacks and greys, blended in.” I never noticed that before! Olivia’s style choices were programmed by Walter and Bell! The color in her wardrobe, in my opinion, indicates that she actually is free of Jacksonville.

    • Rush

      Candyman: not a reference to the movie (which was about the boogey man appearing if you said his name three times while looking in a mirror). It’s because the kidnapper offered his victims candy while he held them captive.

      • Dicazi

        I think its because he sweated sugar and left it with his fingerprints.

    • Rush

      You mean, you won’t be busy next Thursday night?

    • Rup

      WHY TWO WEEKS!!??!! BAH!! Seriously though this episode was fan-freakin-tastic!! Though, I don’t agree with those that say fringe was slow in the first season ( i thought the first season was really cool and i was completely hooked by the third episode) I absolutely agree that this season is the best so far. I was really impatient with shape-shifter charlie, and couldnt wait for him to be discovered, but with olivia and altivia, i LOVED the way the story developed. Though i can’t wait for olivia to get home, i loved seeing the world over there, and feel an affection for their people. I couldnt help but think of Peter in last weeks episode saying that he has to figure out a way to save both worlds, because the way col. broyles’, lincoln’s,and charlie’s stories’ have been created, i cant look at them as the bad guys. Walternate…i feel less sympathetic towards, but that may be more because of the contrast of Walters eccentric but soft/caring personality versus Walternate’s cold veneer. Last point, although Peter seemed VERY unaware that something was up when Altivia said Reagan, and VERY in love when they were about to go to bed and VERY surprised when he got that phone call, im STILL hoping that Peter knew/highly suspected that something was very wrong/weird with altivia. Reason being, (even putting the fact that the whole altivia thing just seems like a betrayal to olivia aside) is that I can’t believe that Peter’s natural abilities/gift? at picking up human emotions and inconsistencies would be that hindered!

      • Peter Popper

        Peter’s little brain has been making it difficult for his big brain to put together the clues.

      • Dicazi

        Geniuses frequently have problems with emotions and dealing with other people.

  • S

    I thought Olivia would actually get back to our side permanently this week, but this certainly makes for an awesome episode coming up. The nuances of this show are so amazing, and it makes me so happy that there is a show on TV that really makes me think. I hope the ratings for this show keep going up so Fox doesn’t do something stupid like cancel it!

    • RCB

      So far, the comments here are all positive. I was reading the comments after the recap of The Event, and it was hilarious. The creators of The Event should start watching Fringe.

      • Rlangdon

        The Event can’t hold a candle to Fringe. Jensen must be jealous he’s not doing the recaps. Like “Lost”, Fringe is right up his alley— shape shifters, two universes, and plenty of Easter eggs. The best Sci Fi on TV.

      • Dicazi

        I watched the first 3 episodes of The Event and now I call it The (non)Event.

      • Deneph

        To be fair to the Event, when Fringe first started most people just wrote it off as an XFiles rip off. And Fringe did start off rather slowly. It wasn’t until the second season that it really took off and got exciting. I’m not that hooked on the Event yet but I enjoy it and hope that it will be given the time to dig in it’s heals and start running.

      • mk

        Agreed about Doc. Wish he was doing Fringe.

      • Joshua Morrow

        DOC! DOC! DOC! DOC!

      • Rick

        Fox has done something dumb- they are moving Fringe to Friday night.
        That’s a ratings dead zone where good shows go to die.

  • Lunna

    This episode was simply amazing! Great case, great character development, superb acting (the kid who played Broyles’ son was incredible, I believed every word he said), and an awesome cliffhanger ending. Fringe, this is why I love you.

    • tracy bluth

      That kid was amazing!

      • TvTroz

        That was some of the best acting by a kid actor that I have ever seen, anywhere. I was unexpectedly touched by his work and the way he conveyed loss, desperation and a kind of quiet resignation.

      • mk

        Thank you!!! I thought so too. He wasn’t “acting” he was being…and that is the best kind of acting. It doesn’t feel fake. Hope to see him again.

      • snee

        yup, that kid was excellent.

    • Angeleen

      I thought that kid was amazing too! I remember when he was talking to Olivia and put up a wall to her questioning and then instinctively touched the back of his neck…

  • Mek

    Fantastic episode, everything was so well paced. The last ten minutes had me on the edge of my seat. This is the most underrated series on television. People not watching don’t know what they’re missing, sadly.

  • Anjali

    What a terrific episode!!! The last 10 minutes have me wanting the next 13 days to go by ASAP!!!!!
    OMG!!! This show is brilliantly written, acted. Great cast – the boy who played Christopher was very very good! I was incredibly happy to see Andre Royo back, albeit for only a short time.

    • Lunna

      I agree. Christopher was amazing, but I kinda wanted to see more of Andre Royo.

      • Peter Popper

        Maybe we’ll see Andre on Our Side.

    • Keiwan

      IbXxff You’ve hit the ball out the park! Incredible!

  • Hannah

    For fans who have stuck with the show from the beginning, it is such an awesome pay-off to be watching this season. This episode was just another great addition to the season. And, that final scene??? HOLIVIA indeed!!! I can NOT wait for the next episode. And, I totally agree – people do not know what they are missing with this show!

    • tracy bluth

      I literally want to force all of my friends to watch it. That’s how awesome it is.

      • Aimee

        I forced my fiance to watch it. He’s now in love with the show. If we each can get a friend or loved one hooked, maybe Fringe will have a chance for a 4th season!

      • wendyshena

        I live in Hong Kong. I wish I could force more American to watch this awesome show

    • Duncan

      This season IS a reward to those of us that have been around since the beginning. This episode was so close to perfect.

    • Rick

      I think the writers finally decided where this show was going. Season one and most of two were “lost” on me. Love Season 3!

      • Dicazi

        I think they’ve know all along. Alot of the episodes we’ve thought were stand-alones are being referenced this season.

  • samara

    That kid playing Broyles son was incredible.

  • laurette

    In 5 years (whether the show is still running or not) people are going to discover this show on DVD and kick themselves for not watching it.

    • Anjali

      Amen!

    • Kevin Eikenberry

      Word!

    • Megan

      I agree, it’s one of those shows. For me , I discovered Battlestar Galactica in August, I finished it last month. I kicked myself for not watching it when it was on.

      • Fringe Freak

        Megan, you are so right about BSG! I just discovered it this past summer as well and I was truly crushed that I had dismissed it as just another SciFi snoozer (learned that lesson the hard way). It would be even worse if Fringe suffered the same fate! I absolutely LOVE the “Holivia” title! I want to kick Peter everytime they are together…he’s cheating on Ourlivia and it sucks but I have to agree with everyone, this has been the best season yet and looks to get even better Dec. 2!

      • yummycupcake

        @Fringe Freak: Well. BSG ended its run not because of poor ratings, which were pretty stellar. Ronald Moore didn’t want the show to last and wanted to end it so it wouldn’t drag out and be mediocre.

  • Mae

    This had one of the creepiest openings I’ve ever seen on TV. Something about the ablution in the sink had me really freaked out and I stayed that way until the kidnapping. Awesome episode!

    • marjowil

      I know! I could barely sit through it, but I knew Fringe would not disappoint!

    • JasonHomey

      Yes, and the fact that you knew the kid was right and that there was a monster in the closet.

  • graco

    This season’s Fringe best show on Television?

    • peg

      I can’t think of a better one. As has been said here before, it’s so gratifying to see this show get its legs under it and find its stride – and the superb cast is more than overdue some regognition, esp. John Noble.

      I watched the first season on and off – al tho I loved the characters and their chemistry together, it seemed like an Xfiles wannabe. I’m so glad they stuck with it and eveolved it into this serial format – it’s even more exciting than ‘Heroes’ was before it fell apart.
      2 weeks is TORture!!!

      • Leslie

        Yes, in the beginning it was too similar to the Xfiles but Wow! how it has evolved. Genius!

      • alexmom22

        Amen! John Noble is the most underrated actor in TV. How he can be so goofy/lovable and evil at the same time is amazing. Where is his Emmy?

    • Peter

      No, there are better shows. The best network show? That’s possible.

    • andy

      My top shows currently on TV (in order of fantasticness):

      1.) Mad Men
      2.) Fringe
      3.) Dexter
      4.) FNL
      5.) Modern Family
      6.) The Walking Dead
      7.) Smallville (followed it from the beginning)
      8.) Boardwalk Empire

      • Lila

        Not too shabby! Enjoy the list…

      • eh

        1 fringe
        2 dexter
        3 walking dead
        4 modern family
        5 sons of anarchy

      • Megan

        my list:
        Fringe
        The Vampire Diaries
        The Good Wife
        The Walking Dead
        Modern Family

      • Kathy

        Pretty solid! Mine would go:

        1. Fringe
        2. Mad Men
        3. Friday Night Lights
        4. Skins (BBC)
        5. Community
        6. Justified
        7. Walking Dead
        8. 30 Rock

        I also love How I Met Your Mother and Bones (although that’s gotten pretty mehh lately), but I wouldn’t actually argue them to be of the best quality.

      • Tajah

        Great list, but I would add Supernatural to this.

      • andy

        I forgot about Justified… add it to my list.

    • Rick

      Fringe is good. But i’ll take the dysfunctional group on Sons of Anarchy as my choice this year.

      • Kelly

        SOA and Fringe – two totally different shows, both fantastic (and tied for my favorite).

  • trish

    It was a thriller! Awesome episode with something for every viewer — old and new!

  • allie08

    ok, who else was jumping up and down when Peter FINALLY realized what is going on?!?!? Can’t we just skip Thanksgiving and go straight to the next episode? :)

  • laurette

    Can we talk about that amazing kid some more!!?

    • darclyte

      The kid was amazing. Did Ken get it wrong? I’m pretty sure that Broyles said that his son was taken 4 years ago, not 2 years ago as Ken wrote, and it’d been 4 years since he’d heard him laugh or seen him play with his sister. The last kidnapping was 2 years ago as they are every 2 years, but it was a different kid 2 years ago, and Christopher 4 years ago I believe.

      • Rachel

        Yes, it was 4 years.

    • marty

      I REALLY hope they bring Broyles son back! I agree he was amazing!!

  • Gwen

    I’m such a big fan of this show now that I can hardly remember before the first episode aired and my husband had to talk me into watching it with him because I didn’t think I’d like it! Boy, was I wrong!

  • Barb1

    Best show on tv. And they’re zipping through eps like a bullet. Usually these shows end up giving us too many red herrings, and never resolving anything. I LOVE this show!

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