Sunday, March 4, 2012

Fringe 1.11: "Making Angels"

“There is no future. There is no past. Everything happens right now.”

“Making Angels” definitely had some good qualities overall, although, as I’ve said multiple times recently, I still miss original recipe “Fringe” and the Blue Universe characters very much. There were two really interesting things about this episode. One is that Amber Astrid got to meet her Red Universe doppelganger. These two Astrids are extremely different from each other, but they still manage to connect over a tragedy in Alt-Astrid’s life. The other thing I liked about this episode was that we learn a little bit more about the Observers. The Observers aren’t really the focus of this episode, but by the end, we know a bit about how they do what they do. Like “Forced Perspective,” this was much more case of the week than many episodes of Fringe have been for the past season or so. There is a definite strange case not connected to shapeshifters or parallel universes that the team must solve. At the same time, the case is definitely tied into the theme of predicting the future that seems to be driving this part of the season. Both this episode and the last have asked the question of what you should do when you know someone’s future.

The episode opens with a man at his doctor’s office getting some bad news. He has early stage melanoma. The good news is that this cancer at this stage is 95 percent treatable. The man is still understandably upset, but his doctor, who is an old friend, does his best to reassure him. We next see the man sitting on a bus stop bench. Another man, whose name we later learn is Neil, sits down next to him. Neil tells the man, essentially, that he’s the five percent. His cancer is not going to respond to treatment, and he is going to die a miserable death. The bus arrives, and when it pulls away, we see that Neil is gone and the other man is dead. He’s lying on the bus stop bench having bled from his eyes.

Meanwhile, in a quite unusual turn of events, Alt-Astrid has crossed over to Amber Universe. Alt-Broyles tells Alt-livia and Alt-Lincoln what has happened, and Alt-livia offers to pop over to Amber Universe to find Alt-Astrid on her own. Alt-Astrid has apparently had a very bad day, so Alt-livia thinks a really forceful response in trying to bring her back would be a bad idea. On our side of the bridge, Peter and Walter are at the lab working on the machine, and Peter is getting rather frustrated with Walter. Walter wants to take his third food break of the morning, and Peter wants to keep working. Walter says he prefers Lincoln because Lincoln doesn’t starve him. All of this rather amusing bickering is interrupted when Alt-Astrid arrives at the lab. Amber Astrid is extremely startled to see her doppelganger, which was a nice, normal reaction. It turns out Alt-Astrid’s father has died, and she couldn’t think of anywhere else to go for some comfort. While the Astrids are talking about this, Olivia gets a call about the bus stop case. Walter and Alt-Astrid are going to hang out at the lab while everyone else goes out to investigate.

Thanks to Astrid confirming that no hemorrhaging was happening from anywhere other than the eyes, Walter concludes that the cause of the man’s death was not a horrific disease like Ebola. You’d think if there was a real chance of Ebola, they would have been a bit more panicked. Haven’t they read The Hot Zone? That was one of my favorite books when I was in high school and almost led me to pursue virology instead of law and public policy. Anyway, since Ebola is ruled out, Walter speculates that an ancient poison called the Tears of Ra might be the culprit. According to legend, Egyptians gave the Tears of Ra to the pets of the deceased so the pets could travel with their master to the afterlife. Alt-Astrid notes how Walter is speaking through Astrid, almost like they’re one person, and she thinks that might be nice. An Observer looks on as the Fringe team finishes their investigation.

Alt-livia crosses over to Amber Universe to fetch Alt-Astrid, and she arrives at the Harvard lab to find everyone, including Alt-Astrid, busily working on the case. Alt-Astrid thinks this is a case of Deus ex Machina, or “hand of God,” because no one has ever seen this particular type of poison before, but somebody had to show the poisoner how to make it. Alt-livia sees how engaged Alt-Astrid is in the investigation and realizes they won’t be going home just yet. Alt-livia doesn’t realize how right she is. Elsewhere in town, a woman buys herself a bottle of gin, then has second thoughts and tries to throw the bottle out and walk away. Neil approaches her and tells her about how she’s going to ruin the lives of everyone she loves. Then he holds some sort of light thing up to her as he says there is no past or future only now. All I could think at that moment was “don’t blink,” because it seemed like he was trying to steal her future, all Weeping Angel-like.

Back at the lab, Alt-livia seems to be delighting in needling Walter. Walter is still very bitter over the fact that Alt-livia took Olivia’s place for several weeks and he didn’t know. Although without the whole Peter cheating on Olivia aspect of the mess in the Amber universe, I’m not really sure what Walter has to be so upset about. Anyway, Walter gives Alt-livia all her stuff back that she left behind, including a silver box. Walter continues to get grumpier and grumpier as Peter starts taking over most of the jobs with the investigation that Walter would usually do. Peter starting the autopsy is the final straw, and Walter takes over again. Walter and Alt-Astrid have a little chat about Walter’s feelings towards Peter, and Alt-Astrid wonders if it might be better if Walter just pretended Peter really was his son. Then he could be happy. Peter causes even more trouble as the two Olivias get a little catty over him.

We next see Logan Airport, where Neil is working as a TSA agent. He checks in a few passengers with no problems, but then with one particular passenger, he writes down the passenger’s name. Neil later finds that passenger in the parking garage (he missed his flight). He tells the passenger that he’s going to be paralyzed when he gets into a car accident due to driving while talking on his cell phone. He wants to put the passenger out of his misery, but the passenger manages to get away. Then he’s promptly hit by a car, and he’s paralyzed anyway, just like Neil said he would be. Olivia and Peter go to talk to the passenger in the hospital. He tells them all about how the attacker wanted to put him out of his misery, and this is sort of a break in the case.

At the lab, Alt-livia is continuing to torment Walter with gusto, but Alt-Astrid is still working on the case. She discovers a connection between the three known victims (including the two we’ve met). All three victims were screened by the same TSA agent (Neil, of course). This takes Peter and Olivia to Logan Airport. They see Neil, but he runs off, and the other TSA agents won’t let them pass through the checkpoint to follow him. This cracked me up. It amused me that the TSA could even manage to make the FBI miserable! Olivia and Peter then go to MIT to talk to a former co-worker of Neil’s. Apparently Neil used to be a math professor. He was something of a phenom as a graduate student and professor, but then he went to a lake house one summer and was never the same again. He became obsessed with an equation that, if solved, could supposedly flatten time and space. I think the writer of this episode must really love “Doctor Who,” because this reminded me of the episode “School Reunion,” where aliens are using children to solve some equation that will give them control of the universe. It turns out this lake house was on Reiden Lake, of course, which leads Peter to think that what is happening has a connection to the Observers. Peter and Olivia decide to go check it out.

At the lab, the Astrids take a quiet moment to talk about their fathers. Alt-Astrid wonders if her father would have loved her more if she was non-disabled. She feels like she couldn’t give him everything that Amber Astrid can give to her father. Meanwhile, Olivia and Peter are at Neil’s Reiden Lake house. Lots of equations are posted up on the walls, along with clippings of newspaper articles about Neil’s dad and brother having been killed in a car accident. There are also photos of saviors like Ghandi. We then see Neil elsewhere, in an apartment of some sort, along with his mother and a gun. He tells his mother that he knows she wishes his twin had been the one survive the car accident. He tells her he can see the future, and he starts mimicking her speech. Sticking with the “Doctor Who” theme, this reminded me of the episode “Midnight,” where an alien really freaks out a whole shuttle of people by mimicking speech. Olivia and Peter arrive at the apartment, Neil pulls the gun on them, and Olivia shoots him. Neil planned it out so he would die by a method other than suicide.

Now that the case is solved, it’s time for Alt-Astrid and Alt-livia to return to the Other Side. Alt-livia opens the silver box for Water. It turns out it was just filled with mints. Alt-livia gives Walter the mints, and Walter gives her a Twizzler in return. Astrid and Alt-Astrid have to have their goodbyes, too. Astrid tells Alt-Astrid that she isn’t especially close with her father. She says he’s a complicated man who doesn’t really show his emotion. Then we see Astrid go home, and her father cooks her dinner. They have a tender moment because Astrid realizes she could lose him at any time. Meanwhile, the Observers check out Neil’s apartment, and they find the time bender-type thing he had been using. It turns out it belongs to September. He lost it when he saved Peter long ago.

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