The introduction of David Robert Jones during Fringe’s rookie season was a defining moment, as it super-charged the creatively struggling series with something it sorely needed: An electrifying force of antagonism, a character that could put a face on “The Pattern” of terrible weird science terrorism tearing the multiverse asunder. The mischievously malevolent biochemist fit the diabolical bill, and Jared Harris (now equally well-known to us for his work in Mad Men and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) rocked the juicy part written for him. Even though DRJ made only a few additional appearances after his debut (in an episode entitled, appropriately, “In Which We Meet Mr. Jones”), the remainder of season 1 benefited from the very idea of his threatening presence. His death – cleaved in half while crossing between worlds -- was both a signature moment and a major loss. Ever since, fans have hoped that the show could find a credibly incredible way to bring him back. Something like, say, a timeline reboot?
And so it went that Jones returned to the Fringe fold in full in last night’s episode, “Enemy Of My Enemy,” and at a moment in the life of the show when he was very much needed. While I wouldn’t say season 4 is struggling a la season 1, I do think the storytelling -- hindered by Fox’s scheduling strategy; slowed by so much set-up of the reboot construct as well as Peter's return and assimilation -- needed a kick in the ass. Mission mostly accomplished. While I found “Enemy…” to be one of the most entertaining episodes so far in this still-young season (we’re not even halfway through yet!), I’m still struggling to buy into the very thing that made DRJ’s return even possible: The reboot. Regardless, things are moving, and last night was much fun thanks to Harris, who was clearly having a cut-loose blast. To paraphrase a certain spacey rock star: “Ground control to Mr. Jones -- you’ve really made the grade.”
His reintroduction was chilling. Agents Bolivia and Blincoln – seeking the true mastermind behind the shapeshifter conspiracy plaguing both worlds -- raided a warehouse in the muddy Flatiron District of “over there” Manhatan and found the baddie waiting for them. Jones cut a creepy visage. Pale and wheezy, damaged, blood-tinted right eye, face flaking and pocked with scars – a functional wreck, banged and dinted from too much self-abusing teleportation. (But I did covet the man’s stylish peacoat.) He ignored the guns pointed in his direction and drifted toward a tube containing one of his shapeshifter creations, a former bookkeeper for an accounting firm. “Can you imagine anything more lifeless?” Jones asked. He clearly believed his biomechanical makeover had improved her life. She was special. We all want to be special. Don't we? The mad scientist admired his homemade Lady Frankenstein and rhapsodized: “I suppose this is what it feels like to have a child. To love, as a parent does.” He claimed he had made 47 of these things so far (did you buy the number?), and off a dramatic beat, Jones declared all of them to be “pahhhrfect.” Suddenly, the shapeshifter began to thrash as the water inside her oversized test-tube began to bubble. Her body wasted away into a ghoulish husk. Jones nearly wept, though yes, he had killed her. Why?! To prove he was a stone-cold bastard. “If I’m willing to do that to someone I love dearly,” he said, “imagine what I’ll do to people I don’t care about.” What Jones wanted was something only the agents’ bosses could provide, so he held out his wrists to be cuffed. “Take me to your leader,” he cracked, unable to suppress a wicked grin. Bolivia’s eyes bugged. Who the hell does this guy think he is?!?
Their leader, of course, was Colonel Broyles, now a mole in Jones’ employ. (A shapeshifter? Presumably, not confirmed.) At Fringe Division HQ in NYC (not Liberty Island, as I said last week), while being “interrogated” by his minion under the watchful eye of secretary of defense Walter(nate) Bishop, DRJ made his demands: He wanted a hard drive that belonged to another one of his mecha-morphs, the recently deceased Dr. Fayette, Walternate’s former chief science officer, and he wanted the disc in 12 minutes. Anything else? Jones thought about it, then oozed casual evil: “Ummm… I wouldn’t mind a cup of tea.” An amusing quip for any actor, milked for LOL brilliance by Jared Harris. It was all about the “ummm.” And the twinkle in his blood-stained Terminator-red eye. Hey: Do you think DRJ has augmented himself with shapeshifter tech, too?
NEXT: The Airborne Toxic Event.