Fringe Rewatch #1.14 - Ability

Tonight on the blog, we’ll be rewatching Ability, the fourteenth episode of the first season of Fringe. As we’ll note later in our review, this is a monumental episode for many reasons, apart from the very important one we mention over and over (and over again).

Just a brief rundown for those of you that may not watch Fringe as obsessively as yours truly:

Spoilers ahead!

When a newspaper vendor winds up dead of suffocation—from his own flesh growing over his ears, mouth, and nose—the Fringe team is called in, suspecting that the death may have to do with the disappearance of David Robert Jones from prison. Peter and Olivia trek deeper into the mystery of the group named ZFT, discovering a manifesto manuscript. Meanwhile, the manhunt for David Robert Jones is a surprisingly short one...because he turns himself in. His captivity, however, comes with strings (*rimshot!*): in order to prevent a bomb from going off and killing hundreds, Olivia must master a mind-game that Jones has set out for her.

For the record, this is one of the very few episodes that I spotted the Observer the first time through. Also, this episode contains a very light-hearted Olivia, with good reason. What did we think? Their (very brief) review is below.

mxpw: So you start.

Frea: Olivia in glasses. The end.

mxpw: That is all that really needs to be said about this episode. It's not like anything more important happened.

Frea: Not at all. We didn't introduce, if not the world's most memorable villain (he truly wasn't) annnnny major concepts or ideas or thoughts or even show-defining principles at all. This was just a run-of-the-mill episode. Dude gets a two dollar bill, ends up with a face full of skin. Fringe team investigates. The end.

mxpw: Now that's not entirely true, Frea. There was one memorable thing, other than Olivia in glasses.

mxpw: Gene got two different appearances.

mxpw: Truly mind blowing stuff.

Frea: Very true, Maximus. My bad.

Frea: I mean, Cortexiphan, that stuff's no big deal.

mxpw: That other stuff like Olivia discovering she has super powers or that Walter created a teleportation device or that Star Trek was used as a verb or that Harris was even more incompetent than usual or that I now want to get rid of my two dollar bills, are inconsequential.

Frea: Completely!

Frea: But, you know, if they did matter...

mxpw: Which they don't.

mxpw: But if they did...

Frea: Anna Torv has stated in an interview that this is probably her favorite episode, and I can see why. This, to me, is where the show really begins to swing around and gain focus. Unfortunately, by the time this had aired, I had temporarily abandoned ship for, uh, Chuckier climes, but looking back now, this episode is just so supremely important. And on top of that, it's just fun. Olivia seems lighter than usual, and she actually outright flirts with Peter in one scene, and the cinematography was just top notch.

Seriously, I can't help but love this shot.  So bleak and so colorful at the same time, and there's a scene between Olivia and Harris that's all silhouettes, and it's kind of amazing.
mxpw: And glasses. Yes.

mxpw: I can see why Anna Torv likes this episode, as it's really the episode that launches her storyline for pretty much the rest of the series. We start to find out about her childhood background and what was done with her. The multiverse storyline is introduced. Walter really starts having to face the consequences of his actions. It all starts to gel. The show struggled a bit to find itself before this episode, but I think it really helped to settle the show into a groove.

Frea: And Gene was there, yes.

Frea: The funny thing is that Walter isn't very present in this episode, at all. This is Olivia's show, through and through. Walter gets very important bits, but his screen time is minimal. Peter, tellingly, gets more screen time, as he's at the epicenter (timely word, no?) of the light-bomb, and his friend is the one that finds the ZFT for them (I just adore the scene in the book shop, by the way).
Olivia Dunham: our favorite smartass!

mxpw: Yeah, I think Markham is a good character and (highlight to see spoiler) he's like the only S1 haracter not from the main cast to make it through the series.

mxpw: But it was fun to see Olivia interact with him, especially with her being sarcastic.

mxpw: But really, this was just a very fun, very important episode in the series's history. If you were to only watch one episode from S1, this would probably be it.

Frea: Really? You'd recommend this one? And not Bad Dreams?

mxpw: Yeah, probably. Especially since I don't remember Bad Dreams. Heh.

Frea: Spoiler: Olivia. With a stripper.

mxpw: OH RIGHT.

mxpw: I would still recommend Ability. Spoiler:  Though it does suffer from a severe lack of Olivia making out with strippers. But you can't have everything.

Frea: I would recommend this one, too, though. Solid, well-written. David Robert Jones made me laugh several times, there was a healthy amount of tension and risk.

How great of a villain is David Robert Jones? He turns himself in, bluffs
Harris to get the parts to his own jamming device, gets into Olivia' s head,
AND makes her discover her superpowers all in one episode!  And if that's
not enough, HE FLEW OUT THE FREAKING WALL.  After eating
his hospital dinner.  Never say the dude isn't polite!
Frea: And hey, Olivia wore glasses.

Frea: Truly embracing the fact that she is a superhero? You can't prove otherwise.

mxpw: And really, that's all you need.

mxpw: You cannot. If she ever goes into a telephone booth, well, then the case is closed.

Frea: Amen. Any other thoughts?

mxpw: Anna Torv has really nice hair.

Frea: She really, really does.

Frea: Rating?

mxpw: I'll give it 9 Genes or 9 Olivia in Glasses.

Frea: I'm gonna top you, Maximus.

Frea: I give 9.5 Olivias in Glasses.

mxpw: Nice!

mxpw: Well deserved scores all around.

Don’t forget, the chat room opens at 7:30 CST tonight (August 24!) and we’ll all watch the episode together starting at 8! See you there!

Frea and Maximus


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Sorry, broken link in the comment I posted.. I thought that the new "?" trailer they've got up for Fringe is pretty fun and does a nice job setting up some interesting subtext for season 4. It's looking like a lot of fun, and with the current statements going around that Peter is going to be showing up sometime between end of episode 2 and 5, I'm more than a bit intrigued of where the meta-story is going next.
    And for those who HAVEN'T seen it... this (should be) the link I tried putting up before. http://youtu.be/IHH1WXYZAqw

  3. Nice review! This is one of my favorite episodes, but I had never made the connection between Olivia's powers and the glasses!!!

  4. Ayefah25.8.11

    Every time I see Jared Harris as a villain it still weirds me out, because my first impression of him was from Mad Men, where he plays...an accountant. (Same goes for frequent villain-player Marc Warren, whom I first saw playing an average schmoe on Doctor Who.) That said, Harris does do a great job as David Robert Jones. And yes, this episode was awesome.


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