Saturday, June 12, 2010

Fringe 2.21: "Northwest Passage"

“I know how it sounds, but believe me, if you can imagine it, it’s possible.”


In “Northwest Passage,” we finally got to see what Peter has been up to since he checked himself out of the hospital at the end of “The Man From the Other Side.” We actually also find out who that man from the Other Side is, too. The identity of “Mr. Secretary,” isn’t unexpected, although it’s still quite intriguing. I think what I liked most about this episode was the creepy atmosphere. I’ve never been to the Pacific Northwest, and the good people of Novo County, Washington may feel after this episode like I felt after the episode that took place in “Lansdale,” but the atmosphere really worked for me. It was misty, and it felt like anything could happen. The perfect place for a “Fringe” investigation.

As I’ve pretty much already mentioned, Peter has found his way to middle-of-nowhere Washington State. He’s at what looks like a local diner- it serves pie, at least. One of the waitresses at the restaurant is famous for her mix CDs. Yeah, lame, I know. Okay, maybe not quite as lame as if she was making mix tapes, but still lame. Anyway, Peter flirts with the waitress a bit, and she offers to make him a mix CD and drop it off at his motel room after her shift. Clearly, this can’t end well. The lame waitress goes out to the very dark parking lot to get in her car after her shift, and as anybody who has ever seen a horror movie knows, she won’t be having any fun with Peter that night. She gets her brain operated on while awake instead. Gotta love “Fringe” for bringing the creepy and gross.

Peter seems to have had quite the rough night as well, although compared to brain surgery, I suppose waking up in the lobby of a cheap backwoods motel isn’t so bad. He fell asleep waiting for the lame waitress to stop by. After a quick conversation with the guy behind the motel desk, Peter heads up to his room and receives a very strange phone call consisting mostly of garbled noises. He then heads back to the diner and is met with a crime scene. The two police officers at the scene are naturally suspicious of Peter, seeing as he’s an outsider and the waitress was supposed to meet up with him at the time that she died. Peter’s FBI credentials (and a quick phone call to Broyles) keeps him from being arrested, but the police officers still want to bring him in for questioning.

Peter gradually becomes convinced that whatever strange happenings are going on are somehow related to himself. He keeps thinking he sees Newton in a variety of locations, from the crowd around the diner crime scene to the middle of the Pacific Northwest forest. While Peter is stashed in the local police SUV, he hears on the scanner that the body of the lame waitress has been found. She’s had some sort of brain surgery performed, and of course that sets off alarm bells for Peter. Mathis and Ferguson, the police officers who want to question Peter, are on the case, and Peter asks Mathis to find out whether or not the waitress had part of her temporal lobe removed. Mathis is able to confirm that this is indeed the case, and Peter is convinced that Newton and company conducted the operation to find out exactly where Peter is and how to find him. As Peter explains it, the brain is the greatest recording device, and the waitress recorded details about him that she wasn’t even consciously aware of.

Peter ends up switching to a different low-rent motel, and getting a creepy phone call again just convinces him further that it’s really all about him. He gets a second phone call, but this one’s real. It’s Mathis saying that Ferguson went to investigate on his own and disappeared. It’s highly likely that whoever got to the waitress got to Ferguson as well. The chasing visions of Newton through the forest scene I mentioned earlier happens when Peter and Mathis go to the location Ferguson was supposed to be investigating when he disappeared. The whole situation ends in a bit of a standoff between Peter and Mathis until Mathis proves that she is who she says she is and not a shape shifter from the Other Side. Mathis is getting quite tired of Peter extrapolating the horrible things that could have happened to Ferguson- first there was the brain surgery, now he could be a shape shifter.

There’s a bit of a break in the case when a second victim (not counting Ferguson) is found. This victim has no connection whatsoever to Peter- he’s never, ever seen her. His paranoid delusion is starting to unravel. In his unraveling, we start to see just how similar he can be to his father. Not in the sense of Walter’s very real cognitive problems, but in Walter’s delight over experimentation. Peter realizes that he can use the brains of the two victims to zero in on the area where the surgery was most likely performed. Each brain should contain evidence of two adrenaline spikes, one when the person was first captured, and one when the person was killed. He can use the distance between the spikes to figure out the radius in which they have been moved. He needs a control tissue sample, though, and he’s only too happy to ask Mathis if she’ll be a donor.

Peter’s experiment and subsequent calculations lead him and Mathis to an abandoned dairy farm. A man lives in a trailer on the property, but the actual farm buildings are all closed. Peter and Mathis are about to leave the man to go about his business while they investigate the farm buildings when Peter notices the CD that the waitress burned for him on a shelf in the man’s trailer. Peter quickly realizes that this man is responsible for the recent grisly murders. Not Newton. After Peter and Mathis save Ferguson (he was clinging to life in one of the abandoned farm buildings), Peter tries to apologize for Mathis about going off the rails thinking this was all some conspiracy about him. Mathis says there’s no need to apologize- Peter saved Ferguson, and that’s enough for her.

Back in Boston, Walter is not coping well with Peter’s absence. One of my favorite scenes of the episode, and perhaps the entire series, is Walter in the grocery store trying to shop for himself. He painstakingly reads the ingredients on a box of toaster pastries and notices that they contain a known carcinogen. He throws a fit, accusing the grocery store of peddling “delicious, strawberry-flavored death,” and Olivia and Astrid have to pick him up from the police station and bring him home. I liked this scene because it was both funny and tragic at the same time, and it had an important message about the true cost of advances in “food science.”

Once Walter has calmed down from the grocery store incident, he gets an idea about how to find Peter. He wants to create a device that will locate Peter based on his Other Side “glimmer.” Just as Walter is having second thoughts about firing up the device, Olivia arrives at the lab to say she found Peter. I believe she guilted Broyles into giving up Peter’s location. She and Walter are going to hop a plane to Washington state immediately. They won’t get there fast enough, though. Peter’s visions of Newton weren’t really so crazy after all. Newton shows up in Peter’s latest hotel room, and he’s got a companion- the mysterious “Mister Secretary” from “The Man From the Other Side.” It’s Walternate, and he wants Peter to come “home.”

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