Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fringe 3.11: "Reciprocity"

“It’s a song lyric. Fauxlivia ruined U2 for all of us.”

I’m still not quite sure what to think about “Reciprocity,” even though I’m writing this about twelve hours after viewing the episode. It was definitely mythology focused. Even what could sort-of be construed as the mystery of the week was all about the mythology. I think the reason I’m unsure about this episode is because I don’t really like where they’re going with Peter. As Olivia herself says in this episode, Peter has an innate goodness- that and his fun exasperated banter with Walter is what makes him work as a character. I don’t like that the doomsday device is changing that. I mean, it’s pretty obvious that one potential way this story could go is that Peter is going to have to make a huge sacrifice, perhaps his life, to save both universes. I just wish the writers wouldn’t tear him down on the way there.

Showing just how mythology heavy this episode is going to be, the episode opens with the Fringe team arriving at what can only be described as a secret base. They’re all questioned by imposing-looking military types on the way in. Nina and a team from Massive Dynamic are doing the actual research, though. They’ve been trying to get Walternate’s doomsday device up and running. There’s just one not-so-minor problem. They can’t find a power source. This problem seems to be solved, however, when Peter starts to get a little too close to the device. Everything starts to shake violently, and the device begins to move and light up. It was kind of cheesy looking, actually. Although on a TV budget, and a Friday night TV budget at that, I guess I shouldn’t expect too much from the effects department. Oh, and in addition to all the shaking and the glowing, Peter’s nose starts to bleed.

This development naturally leads the Massive Dynamic folks to want to run some tests on Peter. Brandon hooks up some monitors to Peter, and it seems like he wants to put Peter in a machine that looks sort of like an MRI. He says something to Walter about wanting to measure Peter’s brain waves (I’m not science-y enough to really translate it accurately) to see if that’s what set off the device. Walter freaks out about the whole thing. Specifically, he’s worried about the radiation Peter will be exposed to during this test. Which I guess makes the machine more like a CT than an MRI. It’s not a whole lot of radiation, but Walter has always been super-paranoid about Peter’s health. Peter’s still determined to go through with it, and Nina provides a distraction for Walter. He asks Nina for help on Project: Regrow Brain because he thinks William Bell might have done some relevant research. Olivia also stops by before Peter’s test. She’s unusually friendly towards him- I guess they really did make some progress in the last episode- and she mentions that she tried to call him recently, but he didn’t answer.

Meanwhile, the event that really starts off this episode’s investigation is back to the creepy and gross we normally expect of “Fringe.” A man leaves a fancy urban building, perhaps for lunch break, and pauses for a second by a fish pond. He soon notices, to his horror, that all the fish are dead. To make matters worse, there’s a dead, seemingly human, body in the pond too. Olivia is called away from Massive Dynamic to meet Broyles about the dead guy and the fish (which sounds like the beginning of a really lame joke). This is a Fringe case because all the fish were killed by mercury poisoning. The dead guy was actually a shapeshifter. The shapeshifter’s data storage unit was removed, which takes a killer with knowledge about shapeshifters. Olivia and Broyles think there must be a mole somewhere among the Fringe or Massive Dynamic teams. When Peter hears about the mole situation, he seems unusually enthusiastic about ratting him or her out. He suggests that the FBI interview the doctor who was running the tests on him. The doctor is found all right. Dead. And shapeshifter-y.

The Fringe crew has decrypted the files on Alt-livia’s computer thanks to Peter coming up with good password suggestions (the password turned out to be a U2 lyric, to Walter’s chagrin), but there are thousands of pages of notes to go through. Broyles asks Astrid to take on the task of looking through the files for possible leads on the dead shapeshifter case. He also warns her to be discrete because of all the information about Peter and Alt-livia’s relationship that is likely contained in the notes. Since Peter and Olivia are on such shaky ground already, Broyles doesn’t want to rock the boat by exposing Olivia to too many details about what happened. Olivia’s not terribly happy about this arrangement. She feels that since she likely thinks the same way as Alt-livia, her insight could be useful.

In response to Walter’s request for William Bell’s brain-regrowing research, Nina gives Walter a choice between three serums. Only one of them is the serum Bell specifically made from Walter’s DNA. She says it will take Massive Dynamic some tiem to figure out which one is the right one. Walter doesn’t want to wait that long, so he just grabs one and snorts it. Unfortunately for Walter, he chose a serum that was made from chimp DNA. He’s convinced it won’t make any difference, but then he starts craving bananas and making odd noises. It’s a great comedic performance from John Noble, who is truly fearless. Despite beginning to take on some chimp behavior, Walter does make an important discovery. There is blood under one of the victim’s fingernails. This means that a human is killing the shapeshifters.

Olivia and Peter are still fairly awkward when they’re alone together, which I guess is to be expected, considering Peter cheated on Olivia with her doppelganger. Inexplicably, at one point in this episode, Olivia apologizes to Peter. She says that she’s been so caught up in what Alt-livia did to her that she hadn’t thought about how Alt-livia’s actions must have hurt Peter, too. She has a point, but she’s got a whole lot more grace about the situation than I would have. I still think it’s horrendous that Peter never recognized that he wasn’t sleeping with his Olivia. As Olivia herself recognized a few episodes ago, he should have seen something in her eyes. Peter, understandably, is quite happy that Olivia seems to be warming to him again, but he rushes off anyway.

Walter figures out that the blood he found is A negative. He mentions that he has A negative blood himself- it runs in his family. This little comment obviously turns out to be important later. The team then figures out that Brandon, who has been doing most of the interrogating, is the only Massive Dynamic employee who has the right blood type and access to Alt-livia files (which contain lists of names, some of which could be shapeshifters). There’s a very well done sequence where the confrontation and interrogation with Brandon (who turns out to be innocent, just like he insists he is) is intercut with Peter killing another shapeshifter from Alt-livia’s list. He has become quite sinister. I mean, Peter has a somewhat dark past- he used to be a con man after all- but this seems to be a new level of dark, even for him.

Peter had told Walter that he was going to Massive Dynamic for more testing, but the jig is up when Nina calls the Bishop house to schedule the testing that has not, in fact, taken place yet. Walter knows Peter was lying, so he starts snooping around Peter’s room. He finds the lists from Alt-livia’s files printed out on his desk with circled names. The circled names match the shapeshifters who have been killed. Meanwhile, Olivia finally convinces Astrid to let her look at Alt-livia’s files, and it pays off. She figures out a code based on her childhood nick name, Olive, which allows her to figure out which names on the list are shapeshifters. Her rather melancholy mood goes away with the victory, and she becomes quite happy, smiling as broadly as usually only Alt-livia smiles.

Peter is on another shaeshifter-killing mission, and this time the shapeshifter almost gets the best of him. There’s a knock-down-drag-out fight, and Peter isn’t holding up as well as he’d like. Peter is saved by Walter showing up and providing just enough of a distraction to give Peter time to kill the shapeshifter. Peter justifies what he has done by saying that the shapeshifters are human, even as Walter says in no uncertain terms that what Peter is doing is wrong. They leave the scene just as Olivia and her team arrive to find the dead shapeshifter and still no clues about who has been doing the killing.

Olivia makes a stop to the Bishop house to vent about how frustrated she is that all the shapeshifters are gone, and Peter doesn’t say a word about what he has done. Olivia also reveals to Peter that she read Alt-livia’s files and he shouldn’t be embarrassed. Alt-livia saw in him exactly what she saw in him. And this is where I want to glare daggers at Peter just like Walter is. After Olivia leaves, Walter tells Peter his theory about what happened. He thinks that coming in contact with the doomsday device has changed Peter. Specifically, he thinks it has weaponized Peter.

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