Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fringe 2.05: "Dream Logic"

“At any given time there’s a good chance there’s about a half dozen psychotropic drugs in his system. So drinking? It’s not a good idea.”


Last Thursday’s episode of Fringe continued what seems to be a pattern this season of alternating mythology centered and stand alone episodes. Something freaky and gross happened, of course, but it doesn’t seem to have been at all related to the Other Side. Never fear, though, there was still some advancement of character arcs, and some of that advancement definitely has implications for the overall show mythology.

As the episode opens, Olivia is once again at Sam’s bowling alley. She’s having some trouble dealing with Charlie’s death, and Sam thinks he might be able to help. It’s interesting that Sam can do more than just cure the health problems caused by dimension jumping. Olivia needs his help to get over something very human and of our dimension- learning to function again after the death of a close friend.

Meanwhile, out in Seattle (yay for breaking out of the Mid-Atlantic and my general vicinity!), the weekly creepy and gross happening is…happening. A guy is walking around a fairly normal looking downtown office, when all of a sudden, the people around him look like the vampires from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. You know, with the face ridges and everything? Anyway, this rightfully freaks the guy out, and he starts getting violent. He attacks a few of his coworkers before his eyes start going crazy and he collapses.

Back in Massachusetts, the Bishops are moving into their new house. For some reason, Walter wants his bed set up downstairs instead of in his bedroom. Astrid walks into all this craziness with a loaf of bread for Walter and a new case file for Peter- the guy from Seattle. Peter tells Walter to pack his bags for Seattle, but Walter doesn’t seem pleased.

Predictably, Walter doesn’t last very long in Seattle. He accompanies Peter and Olivia and some local law enforcement to the hospital where the guy from that office has been sleeping for 16 hours. Peter and Olivia barely have time to talk to the guy before he starts seizing, his hair turns white, and he dies. Walter and the medical examiner determine the guy most likely died of extreme exhaustion, but everyone is confused about how that could have happened. Walter can’t bear to stay in Seattle anymore because the dampness of the Pacific Northwest reminds him of the time he spent locked up in St. Claire’s. That whole scene where Walter asks Peter if he can go home felt off to me. There’s extra exposition specifically spelling out that St. Claire’s is a mental institution, and the whole thing feels like it was ADR-ed. The camera is always on the reaction of the person listening, not the person speaking. I wonder what was originally in that scene and why it was covered over in such a sloppy manner.

The investigation continues in both Seattle and Boston. In Seattle, Olivia and Peter visit the widow of the guy from the office. Peter notices a number of books about sleep disorders in the living room. It turns out that the guy had issues with sleep walking, and he was seeing a doctor about it. In Massachusetts, Walter is gleefully beginning his autopsy with the help of Astrid and the poor sap of an agent who as assigned to escort him home. Walter discovers something strange (and pretty gross). There’s a microchip in the guy’s brain.

One of my favorite scenes in this episode is when Peter visits Olivia in her hotel room and they talk about the case. It’s nice to see them comfortable with each other. They’re both fighters by nature, so it’s a big deal that they’ve been able to let each other in to the extent that they have. Peter reveals that when he was a kid, he had horrible nightmares. Walter came up with a way to make it so Peter at least wouldn’t remember them anymore. Peter had to repeat a mantra to himself several times before going to sleep. This sort of sweet conversation ends abruptly when Olivia gets what must be a text, considering she never answers the phone, saying that there’s been another incident similar to what happened with the guy at the office.

There would actually be two more incidents in addition to the original guy at the office. One was a car/motorcycle collision, and the other was a chef (you know that was so they could get the extra scary shot of somebody wielding one of those huge chef’s knives). All three can be traced back to the same doctor, who, what do you know, has been experimenting with putting a chip inside people’s brains to help cure all manner of sleep disorders. Peter thinks that this whole system might actually be a front for mind control.

The FBI folks out in Seattle are scrambling. The doctor suspiciously can’t remember the names of all the patients who have a chip in their brains (damn, now I’m thinking of another Buffy reference…Spike, anyone?), and the computers and backup servers have all been conveniently wiped. Then the doctor’s assistant is found dead and the doctor receives a threatening note.

Walter comes up with an idea to test Peter’s theory that makes him happy, at least. He drugs the poor agent who escorted him home, and uses external means (ie no surgery) to put the chip in control of his brain. Walter hooks himself up to the other end of the rig. It turns out that the effect is the opposite of what is expected. Walter isn’t controlling poor agent’s mind. Walter is tripping out on poor agent’s dreams.

Peter, Olivia, and some FBI backup storm the doctor’s house. They see him tripping out on a dream just like Walter was. Apparently, the doctor was so addicted to dreams that he would use the mad scientist lair in his basement to put his patients in a dream like state. That’s when they’d go nuts and usually die. The person he happens to be using at the moment is a sea plane pilot who is trying to come in for a landing. Thankfully, Olivia shoots the computer system, and the mess is over. The doctor, however, doesn’t survive.

When she gets home, Olivia tries to see if Sam’s method for coping with Charlies death did any good. She took business cards from anyone she encountered wearing red, circled two letters on each card, and tried to rearrange them like an anagram. She comes up with “You’re gonna be fine,” the phrase Charlie said to her that got her through the day of her first FBI raid.

Although I generally, as a rule, prefer the mythology-heavy episodes of Fringe, this one wasn’t bad. I liked it better than the other true standalone episode of the season, to which I’ll refer as “the Lansdale episode.” “Dream Logic” was more of a psychological thriller while the Lansdale episode was more of a super lame creature feature you’d expect to see on Syfy, not FOX.

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