Fringe(S01E05): “Power Hungry”
The thing that sets Fringe apart from most mystery-of-the-week series is its stricter adherence to ongoing plots and a continued attention to building up a unique mythology for the show, centered mostly around the fictional mega-corporation, Massive Dynamic. However, this could be a weakness as well, if Fringe veered too far from its cases and sunk in too deep with conspiracy theories and gasp-worthy twists. This episode attempts to ease any fears of this scenario by presenting a Massive Dynamic free hour, but ends up falling into the old predictability trap I thought it had strayed from. That said, the case is interesting and the characters are still growing more likable every week, so all-in-all it’s another solid episode for any fans of the show, but probably not good enough to woo many new ones.
My biggest gripe at the moment, and one I felt had been assuaged by last week’s episode, is the too-formulaic setup of the standalone cases. The show is all about something called The Pattern–a string of mysterious and unexplainable phenomena happening all over the world–but there’s another very obvious pattern developing as well. This pattern goes as follows: An incident occurs, which Walter reveals could be based on old ideas he had studied, but that have been taken and perfected in the years since, and he then has a theory that Olivia pursues relentlessly until she reveals what she knows to her boss, who then reveals to her he’s known more than he let on all along and shares new, key information that advances the scenario into its final legs. Most episodes have contained some or all of these parts, and while it doesn’t make the value of the mysteries any less, it does take some of the fun out when you can see a blueprint of what’s to come without even trying.
The case this week is one that might have the Heroe’s writer’s jealous they lost all their creativity long ago, with a man whose brain has been altered so that he can cause electromagnetic disturbances. The whole kerfuffle gets started after this guy accidentally causes an elevator to plummet 20 some stories, killing everyone inside except himself. But he’s not a bad guy, just a guy with some semi-stalkerish tendencies who’s having a bad day and just happens to have powers he doesn’t understand and isn’t able to control. When he gets emotional, he doesn’t write angry poetry, but makes sparks fly and pacemakers die–which is how his own mother ends up dead. It’s nice to see the people Olivia and co. are chasing aren’t always plain bad guy, like the prostitute killer and this guy, but victims of ambitious, shadowy figures. One of those steps onto the scene tonight, performing inhumane tests to advance whatever agenda he has, and is clearly the one to direct any anger toward.
By far the best scene of the night came from Walter (no surprise) when, while Olivia and Peter are talking, he dances around in wool socks on carpet and then shimmy-shakes his way over and shocks his son. Priceless. Also, when he’s in the lab investigating the possibility of inputting a person’s audio-fingerprint in pigeons, who can then theoretically track down whomever that fingerprint belongs to, there’s a moment where he powers up his machines and electricity shoots out, and Walter stands in the background seeming more like Dr. Frankenstein than ever before. I’ve made the comparison already, but this almost seemed intentional.
The last intriguing aspect of the episode is the increased frequency in which Olivia is seeing her dead lover, John Scott. He appears to her three times in the hour, first in the mysterious power outage at her office, next by a vending machine, and finally at the end to lead her to his secret stash of personal files, including an engagement ring meant for Olivia’s finger. I had the explanation for his apperances figured out before it was given–that Olivia’s soak in that tank back in the pilot got his concious tangled up in hers–but it’s still a very cool concept. I had severe Alias flashbacks when John appeared to Olivia in the elevator of her office and told her that the truth will come out, and couldn’t help, but think of the unfilfillec potential of the “Truth takes time…” storyline between Sydney and her mother. Thankfully, the truth didn’t take much time and was at least mostly resolved by the hour’s end. I’m glad Agent Scott wasn’t just a simple bad guy and that his character is more interesting dead than he was alive. Fringe is proving it has a thing for characters with blurry motives and unclear alliances, but that really shouldn’t come as any surprise knowing the team behind it.
I do wish Anna Torv hadn’t wasted such a good opportunity to stretch her acting chops, though, and her reaction to finding the ring was almost non-existent. Her perpetual straight face must just be the character she’s trying to portray, but if that’s the case I wonder if I will ever fully warm to Oliva. I don’t know whether to blame Torv for her ability (having seen her in nothing else, I can’t make comparisons) or the character design. Maybe it’s a tad of both.
P.S. Fringe doesn’t dissapoint in the chase scene department either. It’s had one every episode so far, but this time it has two. One traditonal and one that you probably won’t see happen ever again, when Olivia and Peter chase a flock of pigeons across town, complete with dramatic chase scene music. It’s almost amusing how dramatic it is watching an SUV frantically following a group of birds.
P.P.S I also enjoyed the play on the title, with the literal power being eaten and spat out by our poor, unfortunate victim and then the power hungry scientist with devilish ambitions. A small, but nice touch.