Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Fringe 2.12: "Johari Window"

“That’s clearly wrong. This boy bears no resemblance at all to a Sasquatch. Or a Yeti, for that matter.”


Overall, I thought “Johari Window” worked better than many of this season of Fringe’s stand-alone episodes. There was extensive character development, especially for Walter, and there was a terrifying situation for the Fringe team to deal with. The situation also illuminates a previously unknown chapter in Walter’s past, although I’d really like some sort of overall timeline to figure out how all the pieces we’ve learned about so far fit together. Walter was really the star of the show again in this episode. We got to see him at his worst and at his best.

So the teaser for this episode wasn’t quite the usual creepy/gross fare I’ve come to expect from Fringe, but it was still violent and disturbing. A state trooper is driving down a rural road and sees a young boy up ahead. The officer stops and offers the boy a ride to the police station. As the police car drives along, the appearance of the boy, whose name is Teddy, changes drastically. He kind of looks like a vampire from Buffy the Vampire Slayer with his “game face” on. The other troopers at the station are all very interested in Teddy- this isn’t the first time there have been sightings of people/creatures like Teddy. The trooper who found him files a report online, complete with a picture. The three troopers at the station debate what should be done with Teddy, but the discussion is really moot. Mostly because a man, disfigured like Teddy, comes into the station and brutally guns down the troopers before taking Teddy away.

Meanwhile in Boston, Walter is not doing so well following his abduction back in “Grey Matters.” While in the car at a grocery store parking lot, Peter exposits that this is the first time Walter has ventured outside the house since the incident. Walter still won’t even leave the car to join Peter in the store. Walter can’t stay in his funk for long, though- the Fringe team has a job to do. The Fringe team is headed to Edina, NY to investigate the shooting of the three state troopers thanks to the strange picture the one trooper uploaded before he was shot.

To say the Fringe team isn’t welcome in Edina would be an understatement. The local law enforcement is evasive underneath a skin of hospitality. The car Peter, Olivia, and Walter are in is run off the road late at night. Walter sleeps through the initial crash, Olivia is knocked unconscious, and Peter is left to scare off the driver of the other vehicle, who is shooting down the hill at their car. Later, the Fringe team finds out that their attacker later died from a bullet wound he sustained in the altercation.

Peter and Olivia discuss the incident, and Olivia tells Peter about how she didn’t sleep for two nights after she first killed someone in the line of duty. While the scene is incredibly sweet, I don’t quite believe that Peter hasn’t killed before. Throughout season 1, there were definitely hints that Peter had a pretty shady past. There are still references to it somewhat this season, such as Peter and Olivia’s trip to Baghdad, but Peter is characterized more as an opportunist than a former criminal. In season 1, what with the threatening phone calls he received and such, it seemed like he definitely interacted with some pretty unsavory characters on a regular basis.

Despite the trauma of the car crash, being in Edina seems to reinvigorate Walter. There’s a high-pitched hum that can be heard throughout the town, and it gives Walter the urge to keep singing a kind of random song over and over. Local law enforcement says the “Edina hum” comes from a nearby military base. Walter also finds a beautiful butterfly of a species that he didn’t think could be found in North America any longer.

Back in Boston, Walter is excited for Astrid to see the butterfly because he knows she loves butterflies. Since this was Fringe, I was expecting Astrid to scream when she opened the case holding the butterfly. She did scream, but it was at seeing the corpse of the guy Peter shot, not the butterfly. His head is horribly deformed. I wasn’t completely wrong about the butterfly, either. It’s actually a moth (and it has a rather tatty wing, at that), and Astrid for some reason hates moths. She hates moths so much that she’s convinced Walter must have been playing a practical joke on her. I thought that the moth fear was a bit random and contrived, but it did create some tension between Walter and Astrid.

Memories of a previous trip to Edina, pre-losing parts of his brain, I assume, start coming back to Walter. He and Astrid realize that the silly song he’s been singing must have some significance. It turns out that the first letter of each word in the song spell out the name of what I assume is Harvard’s law library. Astrid asks Walter, “What’s at the law school library?” That, my friends, is one of the silliest questions I’ve ever heard on television. What isn’t in a law library? The library at my own alma mater is four stories. Somehow, in the massive law library (I’m sure Harvard Law’s got a massive library- they’re Harvard, after all), Walter knows the right ventilation grate to remove to access his hiding spot. In the hiding spot is a box of really, really old Devil Dogs (kind of random, although Walter is excited about it) and a file on the experiments that were done in Edina. There are more disfigured people there than just Teddy and his family.

Once back in Edina, the team splits to take two different approaches to dealing with the situation. Olivia and Peter are looking for the man who might have been the man Peter killed. The tax records aren’t helpful, but local law enforcement says he lives on the edge of town. Walter and Astrid are going to take a more scientific approach, working with the memories of the experiments that are coming back to Walter.

Walter and Astrid take a drive in the car to test Walter’s newest theory. He thinks that the “Edina hum” is caused by a machine that is making disfigured people in the town appear normal. He himself was in Edina to work on a camouflage project for the military, and one of his friends continued the work long after Walter left. Walter has Astrid look at the moth in the jar, then take the jar over the Edina city line. Inside the city limits, the moth is once again the beautiful butterfly Walter first saw. When he tells Peter and Olivia the news, Peter tells Walter to go back to Boston and stay safe. He doesn’t pass that message along to Astrid. He wants to find the source of the Edina hum instead.

My favorite twist of the episode occurred when practically the whole town of Edina shows up at the Sheriff’s office to voice their fears over the FBI investigation. The Sheriff says he’s going to take care of the problem, same as he always takes care of such problems. With lots of guns. Teddy’s mom is the only voice of reason, but it’s not enough. It turns out that it’s not just Teddy’s family who is paranoid and reclusive and disfigured- it is indeed the entire town of Edina. It isn’t long before Peter and Olivia encounter the Sheriff and his crew, and a big gun fight ensues. Teddy’s mom, Rose, is the one to end it though. She kills the Sheriff just as the Sheriff is about to kill Peter and Olivia.

Walter and Astrid’s search for the camouflage machine leads them right back to Teddy. He’s the grandson of Walter’s old friend, and Rose is the friend’s daughter. Teddy lets Walter and Astrid in when Walter says he knew Teddy’s grandfather, but Teddy quickly second guesses his choice. Astrid keeps him occupied with a board game while Walter searches for the machine. Walter finds and disables the machine just as Rose arrives home. Rose tells Walter and Astrid the whole story. Her father’s first round of experiments caused all the disfigurement, and in his guilt, he built the machine to that if everyone in the town stayed within the city limits, they would look normal. The town chose to go along with his plan.

Besides having some memories return, Walter’s growth is really shown by the final scene of the episode, where he has to convince Broyles not to reveal what happened in Edina. Walter has seen that quality of life is more important than scientific progress, and he would rather the people of Edina continue to live the life that they chose.

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