Tag Archives: John Noble

Review: Fringe, Season 2, Episode 7: Of Human Action

What at first seems to be a relatively simple corporate espionage kidnapping and extortion scheme turns out to be a brilliantly intricate tale of family deception. Paralleling the lie that Walter Bishop and his son are living, James Carson, a top Massive Dynamic scientist, has been telling his son an alternate version of the truth. And as the episode concludes, we find out that the truth that Tyler thought he had found out was not even close to the real truth — i.e. the Massive Dynamic truth.

Many, including myself, have understood from the beginning that while Fringe held a lot of potential, it had to get over a couple of initial hiccups to become awesome. Some have been dealt with, and others not. I seem to not be the only person very happy to see it blooming wider open with every episode (even if it seems to somewhat stall at times). In my opinion, “Of Human Action” demonstrates how far the show has already come, and gives me great hope for the end of this season.

The opening scene is very reminiscent of yet another X-Files episode, “Pusher” (season three, episode 17). Police officers drive, hellbent, to a parking lot, where three individuals are in a car: two adults and a teenager. The adults are forced outside of the car – and this is where things become a little “Pusher”-ish. One police officer starts walking backwards until he falls off the parking lot’s ledge, and another one shoots her fellow officers before turning the gun on herself.

But this is where the similarities end, for where “Pusher” was about an individual with a brain tumour who had acquired the ability to control others, the person to control other’s actions here is courtesy of none other than Massive Dynamics’ scientists. And once again, we realise that Nina Sharp is in on it, far more than she lets on.

I am now convinced that Nina Sharp is using everyone for her own agenda. While it seems that she is only doing it out of loyalty to William Bell, I’m certain she will end up betraying him, too, because while her own agenda is probably intricately linked to that of William Bell’s, it will somehow be different because of some fundamental yet seemingly small difference.

“Of Human Action” really was a great episode. The plot was advanced indirectly, a brilliant ploy making the experience all the more interesting. We don’t know how Peter will react when (if) he finds out he’s from the other world, but we have an idea of how Tyler reacted when he found out about what he thought were his real origins. We don’t know what her role is, but we do know that Nina Sharp is incredibly good at lying and manipulating, even to Broyles, with whom she is romantically involved. We also know that her connection with Bell, who is in the other dimension, isn’t solid; some sort of interference has occurred which makes the messages she sends him all the less certain to reach their destination.

The pacing of the action increased substantially from the previous rather slow ones, and the writers had more than one trick up their sleeves. The visuals were great — from the first shot from above of the police officer and Fringe Division looking down to the shot of Peter and Walter at Massive Dynamics, we were treated to both typical and atypical visuals. One particularly striking scene was that of the FBI agents moving in on the abandoned hangar. We were tuned into what the agents and Fringe Division could hear wearing the headphones, and it lent an air of tension and slight confusion to a scene which was otherwise visually simple.

This episode makes me wonder what else Massive Dynamics is up to, since their blatant lack of respect for human life is made all the more apparent in their creation and use of the Tylers. This particular storyline has great potential for more than one interesting ethical dilemma concerning the needs of the many versus the rights of the few. For example, the Tylers (brief X-Files flashback here – remember when Mulder walked into a room filled with clones in tanks?) had to be created to experiment if mind control would work so as to prepare our side for the imminent invasion promised a couple of episodes ago. Does it warrant such  horrific, lifelong experiments (and necessary lies)?

Of course this episode of Fringe wouldn’t be complete without a couple of Peter/Walter and Walter moments:

Peter: Walter, remember that conversation we had about personal space?
Walter: I’m bored.

Walter [briefing the FBI agents]: Do not remove them under any circumstances. If you do, you may die a gruesome and horrible death. Thank you for your attention, and have a nice day.

Walter: That was quick thinking. You proved to be more resourceful than I give you credit for.
Peter: Is that supposed to be some sort of compliment?

Walter: Don’t be ridiculous. You were abducted. Of course you need crepes.

Review: Fringe, Season 2, Episode 5: Dream Logic

I’m liking Fringe more and more. And no, it’s not a case of me trying to delude myself into making the task of reviewing it less tedious. Quite the contrary in fact — reviewing Fringe is becoming more and more fun.

Wouldn’t Walter be proud. I have to admit that, during the first minute or so of this particular episode, my jaw dropped open and I wasn’t really happy; for a moment, I seriously thought this episode was going to be a ripoff of an X-Files episode, “Folie à Deux.” The beginning of the story seemed quite similar, in that a man was seeing people around him at work as monsters, of which he had to kill the head monster. But then the story took a turn — and it was definitely not for the worse.

Fringe Division’s Olivia Dunham, Peter Bishop, and Walter Bishop are sent to Seattle to investigate a case involving a man who attacked his boss. You might think that not so abnormal, considering how many terrible bosses are out there, but no, it didn’t really have anything to do with that kind of boss killing. The poor man seemed to be having hallucinations that made him think that many people in the office were creatures with insect-like heads, and that his boss, a horned creature leader of sorts, was an evil he had to rid the world of.

Sound familiar, fellow X-philes?

But, like I said, that’s about all this episode had in common with “Folie à Deux.” During the subsequent autopsy of said man, Walter discovers a microchip embedded in his thalamus, the part of the brain which, among other things, controls sleeping patterns, including REM sleep during which dreams happen, and also controls motor activity.

While the potential to use such a device for mind control is great, and this was Walter Bishop’s initial theory, it soon comes to light that the doctor who pioneered this chip had developed an addiction to his subjects’ dreams. He would access his subject’s consciousness at various times of the day and download the dreams into his brain, causing a sort of high state akin to that achieved with hallucinogenic drugs.

The plot is delicately twisted a little more when we find out that the doctor has a double personality. The kind doctor who truly wants to help his sleepless in Seattle patients (oh, the joy of puns) and the Jekyll-ish personality who is addicted to dreams.

This is the part that gets a little bit muddy. Somehow, the kind doctor figures it out – and although his Jekyll-ish personality threatens him, he helps Olivia and Peter with their investigation. Then he sets a sort of trap for himself, leaving a threatening message on his own answering machine. Then he sets himself up for a huge dose of dreams from a particular subject, and died from an overdose.

This episode saw the return of Sam Weiss, who seems to have a knack for developing therapy techniques that seemingly make no sense yet get the job done. Olivia is having a hard time accepting Charlie’s death (then again, so am I), and so she turns back to Sam in the hope of being ‘fixed’ again. I really hope this becomes a reoccurring pattern, ensuring that Sam comes back again and again – and hopefully not only when Olivia needs fixing, but also when she needs a sympathetic ear.

I touched on the following topic a couple of times in past Fringe reviews, and would like to touch on it again to bring yet another perspective: ethics of medical research on human subjects. I think we can all agree that what Walter did to agent Cashner was wrong – funny, but wrong. But what about people like Rebecca, from last week’s episode, who were willing to have experiments done on them? Where do you draw the line, if the subject is willing to go very far? Let’s face it – if the subject is willing to go very far, we might get some amazing data that could help carry forward the medical establishment without the moral dilemma of doing something to the subject that might harm them, as subject accepts (or even embraces) the possibility of being harmed.

What if we were to consider the body as a temple to the soul, the interface of which creates the human being? Then the way we treat the body will be very different from the way we would treat it were we to consider it as simply a flesh and bone machine. With such a premise, treating the human body with respect becomes the aim of both researcher and the subject. While the question of how far the experiments can go before the human body is being disrespected still remains, with such a premise, a personal thing, it becomes one with standard much higher that currently exist.

And who knows? Trying to figure out how to answer a certain scientific question without disrespecting the human body might be challenging enough that a few, if not all the questions will be answered.

A great moment came at the very end. Peter has a nightmare, in which he, as a young boy, is sleeping in his bed, only to be awakened by his father. Little Peter asks his father if everything is okay, only to start screaming – at which point Peter wakes up (for real this time). Walter is watching him, looking distraught – he has heard Peter talking in his sleep, and most probably fears that the truth of what happened to him is emerging.

The question is this: Is Peter remembering a past he suppressed, or is the placement of this particular scene in this specific episode meant to hint that Peter’s dreams are also being stolen? And also, if this Walter stole the Peter from the alternate world, why hasn’t alternate Walter come to this world to fetch him back?

Note: As of January 2010, any review I write will be posted on Sahar’s Reviews; Sahar’s Blog will be reserved for random thoughts and musings instead.

Review: Fringe, Season 2, Episode 4: Momentum Deferred

It’s very satisfying to watch a show slowly grow into its full potential. Fringe’s first season was slow, and many stopped watching for various reasons. But for those of us who stuck by it, our patience is paying off, more and more so with each new episode of season two.

The title of this particular episode, “Momentum Deferred,” seems all the more apt as it seems that the momentum deferred from season one’s interesting yet slow start to season two’s increasingly faster pace. I previously complained about how Fringe episodes are so slow, that their time slot isn’t used as efficiently as it is with, say, Supernatural, but this complaint is fading with every passing week. Hopefully this trend will continue throughout the current season, and if it does, it bodes very well for season three.

“Momentum Deferred” starts with the hijacking of a truck carrying cryogenically frozen heads. It is soon determined that organic/mercury hybrids from Parallel Earth are looking for their leader, identifiable only by an omega symbol that seems to have been seared into the side of his head. Ouch.

There are a couple of obvious questions that come to mind. Who is this guy whose head is costing so many other heads to go to waste? We know he’s the leader of the Parallel Earth army. But is he human? Is he a shape-shifting organic/mercury hybrid? Or is he human only to be brought back to life with the use of the organic/mercury hybrid technology? Why was he beheaded, and, after he’s thawed out, what is his role going to be? Is he the one that will be featured in a showdown versus Olivia?

I’m starting to trust the show’s writers and producers, and so for now, remain satisfied with asking the questions, hoping they will be answered shortly.

However, there are a couple of interesting reflections that can be made regarding this particular plotline I’d like to share.

I know this is only a show and that they weren’t real, but the disrespect shown to the frozen heads really bothered me. I know it makes a (chilling) point about the characters, and I can’t help but wonder if there are people around us who would act with equal disregard towards a bunch of frozen heads, were they to stumble upon them one day.

The other question that comes to mind is this: should the heads be treated with respect because they served as a temple to the souls of the individuals they belonged to, or rather because they are the actual person? It becomes something of a philosophical, spiritual, and religious debate to determine what is a person: the sum of all his thoughts, which are contained within the matrix of the brain, or rather the sum of all his thoughts that are attributes of the soul which, interfaced with a body throughout the duration of the individual’s presence on earth, made for what we call a human being?

Continuing on the Several Lessons Of The Heads (a.k.a. SLOTH), I also found it interesting how the corporations that own and control the cryogenic laboratories refused to give out the names of those whose heads were stolen (I can’t believe I just typed that). I always find it interesting how, be it in a TV show, a movie or in real life, corporations put their own self-interest before that of people. Surely there is a way of giving out the list of client names to the agency investigating the crimes while ensuring that the privacy of both the clients with the missing heads as well as the corporations involved is respected. It galls me each and every time that corporate interests are put before human life and human dignity.

The above just had to be one of the oddest paragraphs I have ever written. Don’t judge me until you’ve watched this episode, okay? It’s really out there. Mulder would be proud.

A clearer understanding of the composition of the shape-shifters was kindly provided within the plot of the episode, saving us from further confusion while simultaneously shielding us from an uncool organic chemistry lesson. These mercury/organic hybrids are not your mother’s hybrids; they are even, dare I say, much cooler than the alien/human hybrids from The X-Files. Sorry, Chris Carter. It doesn’t mean The X-Files weren’t epic. They totally were. Except maybe for the last couple of seasons, and the second movie.

A deeper understanding into Olivia’s role in this whole mess is also kindly provided. We already knew Olivia was special, that she had a unique ability, and that she had been experimented on as a child by Walter Bishop and William Bell (woo-hoo, welcome back, Leonard Nimoy!). And now we find out that Bishop and Bell were looking for the strongest child in a bunch to become the guardian of the gate between the two parallel universes. Any wonder that Nina Sharp wanted her to work for Massive Dynamics?

Weird. Fringe seems to suddenly have become The X-Files meets Stargate.

One thing is certain: life isn’t getting any easier for Olivia this season. After fearing for her life at the hands of a mercenary organic/mercury hybrid, it suddenly is revealed (to her, at least) that Charlie isn’t quite Charlie anymore, and that to survive, she has to shoot him, her best friend and long time colleague. Broyles takes time off his busy Acting Secretive Schedule (a.k.a. ASS) to comfort her (somewhat) – but I think we can rest assured that this will haunt her for a long time.

All these events seem to be making a strong woman stronger, although we are also allowed glimpses into some of her most vulnerable moments. Her drinking the worms without the strawberries Walter was planning to sweeten them with was pretty intense, as evidence by Astrid’s disgusted facial expression. Which makes me wonder: did the worms trigger Olivia’s memories or was the flood of memories only a result of the unorthodox therapy Sam had her doing during the last couple of episodes?

Whatever the cause, the effect was unexpected and frightening; the way Olivia just spun and crashed to the ground after Peter rang the bell gave me a heart attack. Do you think she came back because of the shot of adrenaline Walter had Peter inject directly in her chest (ouch) or because of the bell that William Bell (ha ha) rang?

I’m still very ambivalent about Nina Sharp. While she is helping Olivia and it doesn’t seem that her intentions are bad, her position does make her a protector of Massive Dynamics’ interests. Who is to say that in the future, this won’t make her stab Olivia in the back? I’m certain she lied to her in the past, and during this episode, it was clear she lied to Olivia when she said she had never seen the omega symbol before. Which also makes me wonder how loyal to Bell she really is.

Speaking of which, yet more food for thought on the ethics of scientific experimentation was given to us in the form of Olivia and William Bell’s conversation, as well as the apology Walter Bishop gave to Rebecca.

While William Bell expresses regret at having hurt Olivia as well as others whom he and his partner experimented on, something tells that, were he given a chance to change his decisions, he wouldn’t. Just like in Supernatural and in The X-Files, a character’s good intentions pave his way directly to hell (be it figuratively or not). Is it really a case of not having any other choice if Earth is going to be saved? Could something else have been done but, blinded by his own opinions, Bell couldn’t fathom any of them as being as efficient as the path he chose to follow? We don’t know enough yet to be able to have a full on discussion about this — but, as the season continues, rest assured I will probably post a huge discussion about this topic.

On the other hand, we have Walter Bishop, who cried as he watched an old video of Olivia Dunham (an unwilling subject) being experimented on as a child, and who apologized to Rebecca (a very willing subject) for experimenting on her. Which begs the question: if a subject is willing, does it give the experimenter a green card to do what he wants?

One more question, and I promise to get on with another topic: what is the ethical as well as the spiritual and religious point of view on using drugs to achieve a spiritual awakening? Is it really an awakening if it is only reachable if the subject is hallucinating?

Peter deserves a bit of space here, and not only to question why he always has red-rimmed eyes. Does the guy get any sleep, or does Walter really snore that much? In any case, it was interesting and perhaps a little ironic that when he was younger, Peter was scared of falling asleep for fear of being replaced by a pod person. This happened after he watched the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

This was all the more interesting when Rebecca sees Peter glowing – although it’s still not clear if that was a glare from the sun, the drugs or an actual otherworldly glow. What was it Rebecca was going to tell Peter in the lab when the drugs kicked in? “I met you before, when you were a baby, I swear I saw…” You saw what, woman? Talk about bad timing. My mother was right — drugs are bad.

I can’t help but wonder if Peter is going to have his own Olivia moment, if some sort of trigger is going to unleash a flood of memories that will break him away from his father.

The last interesting Peter-related question is this: William Bell mentioned how difficult it was to send an organic, normal person from one parallel universe to the other. If so, how did Peter make it? Does he have a special ability, and his higher than normal intelligence is but one sign of it? Or did Walter figure out a safe way of sending people back and forth, which means that there is a way of fighting the organic mercury hybrids?

There were a couple of good Walter moments. From his excitement at experimenting with the black worms to trigger Olivia’s memory to his enthusiasm at seeing the body bleeding silver to the advice he gave Charlie who admitted to him that he couldn’t sleep: “A little cannabis before bedtime does wonders.”
Walter moments are just as precious as always. There was also Walter’s nervousness at seeing Rebecca again, which gave way for one of two great Walter/Peter moments in this episode: one where Peter is calming Walter down before Rebecca comes to the door to answer, and the second, when Peter gives Walter permission and money to go to Rebecca’s house.

But although that last bit was hilarious, it was also a little odd. While Peter is Walter’s guardian, it doesn’t mean that he’s his father. Walter’s newfound childlike view of the world makes it necessary for him to have a father figure… but still. It’s just still a little odd.

Or maybe it’s just me.

.

It’s very satisfying to watch a show slowly grow into its full potential. Fringe’s first season was slow, and many stopped watching for various reasons. But for those of us who stuck by it, our patience is paying off, more and more so with each new episode of season two.

The title of this particular episode, “Momentum Deferred,” seems all the more apt as it seems that the momentum deferred from season one’s interesting yet slow start to season two’s increasingly faster pace. I previously complained about how Fringe episodes are so slow, that their time slot isn’t used as efficiently as it is with, say, Supernatural, but this complaint is fading with every passing week. Hopefully this trend will continue throughout the current season, and if it does, it bodes very well for season three.

“Momentum Deferred” starts with the hijacking of a truck carrying cryogenically frozen heads. It is soon determined that organic/mercury hybrids from Parallel Earth are looking for their leader, identifiable only by an omega symbol that seems to have been seared into the side of his head. Ouch.

There are a couple of obvious questions that come to mind. Who is this guy whose head is costing so many other heads to go to waste? We know he’s the leader of the Parallel Earth army. But is he human? Is he a shape-shifting organic/mercury hybrid? Or is he human only to be brought back to life with the use of the organic/mercury hybrid technology? Why was he beheaded, and, after he’s thawed out, what is his role going to be? Is he the one that will be featured in a showdown versus Olivia?

I’m starting to trust the show’s writers and producers, and so for now, remain satisfied with asking the questions, hoping they will be answered shortly.

However, there are a couple of interesting reflections that can be made regarding this particular plotline I’d like to share.

I know this is only a show and that they weren’t real, but the disrespect shown to the frozen heads really bothered me. I know it makes a (chilling) point about the characters, and I can’t help but wonder if there are people around us who would act with equal disregard towards a bunch of frozen heads, were they to stumble upon them one day.

It’s very satisfying to watch a show slowly grow into its full potential. Fringe’s first season was slow, and many stopped watching for various reasons. But for those of us who stuck by it, our patience is paying off, more and more so with each new episode of season two.

The title of this particular episode, “Momentum Deferred,” seems all the more apt as it seems that the momentum deferred from season one’s interesting yet slow start to season two’s increasingly faster pace. I previously complained about how Fringe episodes are so slow, that their time slot isn’t used as efficiently as it is with, say, Supernatural, but this complaint is fading with every passing week. Hopefully this trend will continue throughout the current season, and if it does, it bodes very well for season three.

“Momentum Deferred” starts with the hijacking of a truck carrying cryogenically frozen heads. It is soon determined that organic/mercury hybrids from Parallel Earth are looking for their leader, identifiable only by an omega symbol that seems to have been seared into the side of his head. Ouch.

There are a couple of obvious questions that come to mind. Who is this guy whose head is costing so many other heads to go to waste? We know he’s the leader of the Parallel Earth army. But is he human? Is he a shape-shifting organic/mercury hybrid? Or is he human only to be brought back to life with the use of the organic/mercury hybrid technology? Why was he beheaded, and, after he’s thawed out, what is his role going to be? Is he the one that will be featured in a showdown versus Olivia?

I’m starting to trust the show’s writers and producers, and so for now, remain satisfied with asking the questions, hoping they will be answered shortly.

However, there are a couple of interesting reflections that can be made regarding this particular plotline I’d like to share.

I know this is only a show and that they weren’t real, but the disrespect shown to the frozen heads really bothered me. I know it makes a (chilling) point about the characters, and I can’t help but wonder if there are people around us who would act with equal disregard towards a bunch of frozen heads, were they to stumble upon them one day.


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