Flight 627 could have gone better: it flew through an electrical storm, and the in-flight movie was Norbit. Then everybody's faces melted.
FBI agent Olivia Dunham is busy nailing one of her fellow agents, John Scott, and they both (separately) get called to the airport to investigate, where Denham butts heads with crusty director Phillip Broyles. He sends her and Scott on what at first glance appears to be a dead-end lead, but they find a storage locker with crazy chemicals and animal test subjects, and a suspicious dude who blows everything up, and Scott along with it.
It gets worse for Scott: he's been exposed to the chemicals that made up the pathogen (but not the pathogen itself , so he's not contagious and it's not going to kill him as quickly), so Dunham sets out to save him. She connects the symptoms to a long-discredited scientist, Dr. Walter Bishop, who's in a loony bin, and she can only get in to see him with the help of his estranged son, Peter, who's brilliant in his own way but constantly in trouble. She meets up with Peter in Iraq where he's negotiating shady deals, and she basically blackmails him into helping her.
Before too long, Dunham's sprung Dr. Bishop, set him back up in his old lab at Harvard, and then she takes a drug cocktail and gets in a water tank and mind-melds with Scott, because Dr. Bishop says some mumbo-jumbo. Apparently, he's extracted information from a corpse's brain, which can be done provided the person hasn't been dead longer than six hours. Because that would be ridiculous.
Having got the information she needs in the dream state with Scott, Dunham's suspect sketching is so amazing she finds the guy instantly -- he's a former employee at some huge high-tech corporation called Massive Dynamic that features a woman with a robot arm. They lead her to the suspect's place, and after a chase and the laughable threat of violence from Peter, the guy gives them a list of the chemicals in the storage locker so they can synthesize an antidote.
Impressed with the work she's done, Broyles wants Denham to join his shadowy team investigating all the weird shit that no one really knows about. The Y-Files! She turns him down, but then after it turns out her boyfriend Scott was involved in the plane's breakout in the first place, and he dies in her arms after she chases him down (and he cryptically asks her to think about why Broyles got her involved), she takes Broyles up on the offer.
And somewhere deep in the bowels of Massive Dynamic, the robot-armed woman, Nina Sharp, accepts delivery of the corpse of John Scott. She's pleased to find he's been dead only six hours. "Question him," she says.
A passenger jet soars through darkened skies lit sporadically by flashes of lightning in the surrounding clouds. The ride inside is getting bumpy, and the monitors in the seat-backs change from the flight-path map (showing a trans-Atlantic route) to an image of hands buckling a seatbelt backup. An old couple holds hands and looks concerned. A younger couple barely stop their conversation.
We focus on one fellow in particular who seems to be having a rough go of it. He's bent forward in his seat. After determining that he can't quite reach far enough to actually kiss his ass goodbye, he sits up, opens up a briefcase and scrambles for an insulin pen, his seatmate looking on with undisguised interest. Buddy jabs himself in the stomach, recaps the pen, and then sits back. "My friend, it is just an electrical storm," says his seatmate, who then offers him ... gum? Yay, my fear of flying is gone: I have gum! Suddenly, Insulin Man bolts from his seat and scrambles up the aisle, as the electrical storm starts scrambling the monitors and lights. They're flying through one of those Class 5 Dramatic Lighting storms! A stewardess unbuckles herself and chases after him, but he's gone completely batshit. She catches him, and he turns around, only his face is all melty and gross. Then he pukes all over her. This, you can imagine, does not go over well with the rest of the passengers, who, being modern-day plane travelers, are no strangers to mind-numbing horror.
But now everyone is screaming, and everyone's faces are hideously disfigured, like a ProActiv "before" picture, and a stewardess screams some words in German into the cockpit phone, and the co-pilot opens the door to see what the rhubarb is.
After a moment, the pilot flips the auto-pilot on and turns to see for himself, which is when the co-pilot turns back, his face dissolving, his lower jaw detaching itself from his face, his cheeks tearing. I have tried, since this aired, to shake that image, and I have found nothing that works.
Fringe! Words float on the screen, like "teleportation" and "dark matter" and "nanotechnology." These are the opening credits, not even long enough to accommodate a jaunty theme song. They're not quite as "minimalist" as Lost, but we'll see echoes of the Lost opening screen soon enough.
First, though, we're at some no-tell motel, and the sound of bouncing mattress springs lets us know what's going on. Inside one of the rooms, two ideal Aryan specimens are finishing up, with the woman smilingly saying they need to stop sneaking around like this, and he reminds her that the department is not a big fan of inter-office romance. She turns her back to him so they can spoon and says she thinks Charlie knows. "If he knew, then you would be transferred," he says, adding the idea that someone making a call as to whether they live in the same city is unacceptable to him.