Monday, November 16, 2009

Fringe 2.07: "Of Human Action"

“Truthfully, I don’t really spend a lot of time thinking about what human brains would taste like.”


This episode of Fringe felt especially disturbing to me, and I would rather not have rewatched it, but see what I’m willing to do for you 1-3 people who read this? I went and watched the creepy creepiness again! My mom says this plot is a total ripoff of a classic Twilight Zone plot, and since I’ve only seen the occasional episode when my parents watch the Sci-Fi (now Syfy) Twilight Zone New Years marathon, I’ll defer to her expertise. I think I vaguely remember the episode she mentioned, about a kid who could control people’s minds and did horrible things to those around him. Oops! Spoiler alert!

The Fringe team investigates a gruesome multiple murder scene. Several police officers had surrounded a car, suspecting a kidnapping victim and his two kidnappers were inside. The two kidnappers stepped out of the car, which was located on the roof of what must have been a very large parking garage. The teenage supposed kidnapping victim was left in the back seat of the car. One of the kidnappers warns the police officers that they are in danger, and then gives one of them a stare. That police officer starts walking backwards, straight off the roof of the garage. He then directs his gaze to another police officer who shoots at least two officers before turning the gun on herself.

The kidnapping victim, fifteen-year-old Tyler Carson, is the son of a Massive Dynamic employee who works in their aerospace division, so the team starts their investigation by paying their good buddy Nina Sharp a visit. The thing I liked about this part of the episode is just how overwhelmed Walter is at seeing such a huge, state-of-the-art facility. He marvels over the fact that the video screen in the elevator told him there were 73 labs on site. He’s a bit wistful as well, because he and William Bell had always planned to start a company like Massive Dynamic together, and clearly Bell didn’t wait for Walter to be released from the mental institution.

Walter also clearly identifies with Tyler’s father. Mr. Carson mentions that Tyler’s mom died when Tyler was young, and Mr. Carson didn’t know what he would do if he lost Tyler too. I guess this is some more foreshadowing for an explanation to why Walter was visiting Peter’s grave in the season one finale. My personal theory (that is a pretty widely held theory, actually) is that Peter in our dimension died, and our Walter stole the Other Side’s Peter because he couldn’t deal with the loss.

I think the second altercation involving Tyler and his two kidnappers is bizarre enough that it should have suggested the true scenario playing out, but I’m gullible. The first time I watched this episode, I bought hook, line, and sinker that the kidnapper with the ponytail was behind all the death and mutilation. This time, Tyler says he’s hungry, so the trio ends up at a convenience store. Ponytailed kidnapper tells the cashier to give him all his money, and the cashier is kind of incredulous because ponytailed kidnapper doesn’t have a gun. A big, burly, bald guy tries to step in, which is a big mistake. He ends up being forced to pour a pot of boiling hot coffee on his head and throw himself through a glass window. The cashier doesn’t fare much better. He’s forced to electrocute himself by putting a key in a socket.

It turns out that the “kidnappers” are just every day, run-of-the-mill used car salesmen. Olivia and Broyles contemplate that they may actually be foreign spies, since “hiding in plain sight” in a mundane job like that is good cover. I personally think that having to make this many inferential leaps to figure out why these guys might be kidnappers should have been a big sign that all was not as it appeared.

After removing the brain from one of the police officers who died in the beginning of the episode, Walter’s got a theory. Mind control. He found hematomas on the brain, a sign of actual trauma. He believes the trauma was caused by conflicting neural impulses. What the police officer’s body wanted to do versus what the police officer’s mind wanted to do. Furthermore, Walter thinks sound is the most likely conduit for the mind control. He’s got a plan for how FBI agents can be protected when they try to rescue Tyler. He digs up Peter’s old Teddy bear that emits sounds that are supposed to remind a child of being in utero. He rigs up a system where the FBI agents will have noise canceling headphones that only pipe in the calming Teddy bear sounds.

There’s a big show-down when Mr. Carson is supposed to be delivering ransom money to the “kidnappers,” and what stood out to me about the secen was the excellent sound work. There were the bubbling liquid-like Teddy bear noises when Olivia had her headphones on, and regular noise if she didn’t have them on. It created a feeling of really being right there with Olivia as all the chaos was erupting. By the end of the showdown, there’s big trouble. Tyler is actually the person who has been using the mind control, and he’s got control of Peter. They’re speeding towards Maryland in Walter’s station wagon.

After talking to the “kidnappers,” it’s pretty obvious to the remaining members of the team what’s up, and they demand answers from Nina and Mr. Carson. It can’t just be coincidence that the son of a Massive Dynamic employee has a crazy ability like mind control. It turns out that Mr. Carson had been working on a hands-free fighter jet where the pilot could control the jet with his mind. The system involved pharmaceuticals that would enhance the pilot’s brain waves. Despite being distraught over Peter’s capture, Walter now thinks he knows what’s going on. The combination of puberty, ADD medication, and the experimental pharmaceuticals has given Tyler mind control abilities.

Hands-free fighter jet.

Things go from bad to worse pretty quickly. It turns out Tyler bought two one-way tickets to Costa Rica. Headquarters thinks this must mean he’s got a handler from another country, and they’re authorizing “all force be brought to bear” on Tyler and Peter. The team has to continue their investigation on their own, even though they’ve been ordered off the case, before it’s too late. Strangely, all it takes is a few encouraging words from Olivia and Nina to get Walter back in the game to come up with a way to shut down Tyler’s ability. I think it would have been more interesting to have a deeper exploration of how/if Walter can function without Peter there to translate his rambling and scientific jargon.

Astrid’s search of Tyler’s internet search history just happens to turn up instant clues about where Tyler is headed and his motivation for going on a mind control killing/mutilation spree. Tyler’s been looking up news articles of women who were in car accidents when he was a baby. And an article about his mom. Who is definitely alive and working as a rehab counselor.

Peter has the brilliant idea to take Tyler to a strip club so he’ll lighten up a bit, and Tyler conveniently fills us in with the rest of the details. Mr. Carson told Tyler that his mother had died in a car accident, and Tyler has discovered that his father has lied to him his whole life. Peter doesn’t realize it yet, but he could say the same thing himself. Mr. Carson reveals to Olivia that he told this lie because Tyler’s mom was a drug addict who ran out on them. He thought it would be easier if Tyler believed she was dead.

So it turns out that Tyler’s end game was to go find his mom in Maryland. There’s a tense moment when it seems like Tyler is going to have Peter hurt Tyler’s mom’s significant other, and yet another tense moment where Tyler does actually have Peter shoot Broyles, but eventually Walter is able to reset Tyler’s brain and Peter takes the opportunity to drive the car into a telephone pole, knocking Tyler unconscious. This episode has an extra mind-bendy ending, which we really haven’t had for a while on Fringe. Nina sends a message via old school, 1980s computer to Bell saying that his experiment did indeed prove mind control is possible, but since one of the Tylers (yes, there’s a whole lab of them) inadvisably went after his surrogate mother, the experiment was being suspended.

No comments:

Post a Comment