Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fringe “The Road Not Taken” Things Heat Up

All photos from Fox
Things are really starting to heat up on Fringe (Fox) and in the case of this episode ‘The Road Not Taken” you could take that literally. And it must be hallucination week on Fox, because besides House having hallucinations (in the episode “Under My Skin”), now Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) is having some of her own.

But, before I talk about the episode, I have to relay one thing I just can’t get out of my mind with this show. It’s Astrid. It has been bugging me every week that she just looks so familiar, and that she reminds me of someone but I could never put my finger on it. I finally mentioned it to my husband the other day, and he says, “She looks like Victoria Principal when she was in the 1970s movie Earthquake.” I realized he was correct. Victoria had that funny afro-like wig in that movie, and Astrid looks just like her. Now every time I see Astrid, I laugh. I may never get that image out of my mind. I do really like Astrid though. She just very quietly goes about and does her work, and does it well.

OK, now about the episode. It opens with Agent Broyles (Lance Reddick) briefing his whole team on ZFT, the terrorist group responsible for several biological attacks, and whose manifesto lists their ideology is destruction by the advancement of technology and attempting to prepare for or provoke a war. But the question is – war with who?

Meanwhile, a woman, who got on a bus and then seemed to be getting hotter and hotter, demands to be let off, and soon after she gets off, she literally explodes into a fireball.
Back at the lab, Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) is paging through an old, typed copy of the manifesto, titled “Destruction Through Technological Progress” and when seeing a fault in the typing of the letter ‘y” he realizes the manifesto was typed on an old typewriter in the lab that belong to William Bell. When he tells this to Peter (Joshua Jackson), Peter asks him if he realizes he is saying that not only is Bell funding ZFT, but he also wrote the manifesto and is responsible for everything that is happening. But Walter disagrees, saying that William Bell would have never done the things that were stated in the manifesto. He believes there are pages missing. Walter adds that Bell wrote it in the lab and is convinced the original is still there somewhere. Astrid (Jasika Nicole) comes in and tells them that it is Olivia calling.

Next, we see the Fringe team at the scene of the badly charred body of the woman. Despite the fact that Olivia sees two burned bodies there, everyone else – Walter, Peter, and Agent Charlie Francis (Kirk Acevedo) see only one.

Back at headquarters, Nina Sharp (Blair Brown) pays a visit to Broyles, protesting their investigation of William Bell. She says he is not a terrorist. But Bell can’s say so in person as he it out of town.

Back at the lab, Walter wants to examine the charred remains with the electron microscope, but is told that Peter cannibalized it for some parts for a project of his own. This does not please Walter.

Olivia, meanwhile, goes to Broyles office and comments to him about him rearranging it. He looks at her oddly. He shows her the picture of the victims and she sees two of them again. Then, her vision returns to normal and it is clear that she was seeing things when she saw two bodies in the photo and seeing Broyles office furniture moved. But she doesn’t have much time to think about it, as Sanford Harris (Michael Gaston) storms in, giving them hell about checking into William Bell. He tells them to drop it and he storms out. Olivia asks Broyles if they are going to drop it, and he tells her to get more evidence.

Back at the lab, Walter is cutting up parts of the charred body, and hands Astrid what must be the woman’s teeth, as Astrid makes a comment about how the woman should have flossed more. She gets a quick hit on the dental records – the woman is Susan Pratt. Walter also thinks about using his Geiger counter to help find his manifesto – he likes the noise it makes – and is perturbed when Astrid tells him that Peter used parts from it for his project.

When Charlie and Olivia check out Susan's apartment, they find a $300,000 check from an Isaac Winters and that her bathroom is also heavily charred. But Peter has returned to the lab with various boxes of sugary cereals, but Walter is dismayed that Frankenberry is not one of them. Walter thought eating that cereal would jog his memory about the location of the original manifesto. When Olivia returns and tells them of what they found at Susan’s apartment, Walter thinks it could be pyrokinesis, a word, Peter says, that was coined by Stephen King in his book “Firestarter.” But Walter said King may have come up with the word, but pyrokinesis has been talked about for long before that and that it is not fictional. He suspects that Susan has this power and can’t control it, and stress could make her blow.

When Charlie gets an address for Isaac Winters, he and Olivia head over there, and when Olivia picks the lock to get in, they find his office looking like someone left in a hurry. She listens to the messages on his answering machine and there are several frantic messages from Susan on it, wondering what is happening to her. As they leave the building, Olivia momentarily sees the city in what looks like ruins. But Charlie snaps her back to reality.

Back at the lab, Olivia has told Walter and Peter of her hallucinations and Walter asks her if she is taking any hallucinogens. Of course she is not. Walter says she is not losing her mind, and explains she is having a sort of déjà vu that allows her to glimpse into various realities. She wonders if it’s from the drug Cortexaphan that she was given during Bells’ drug trials when she was a child. Walter is not sure, but thinks there are reasons for her visions.

Astrid, still working hard, finds another person that seems to match what happened to Susan and she found it on a web site run by Emmanuel Grayson. Olivia and Peter meet with him, and he speaks about William Bell and Massive Dynamic’s involvement. He says the dead man is one of Bell’s test subjects and thinks Bell is trying to activate these subjects. He adds that Bell is creating super soldiers. And then, when Grayson begins to use names from Star Trek, Peter thinks he is a little nutty in the head and makes the Mr. Spock hand sign and tells him to live long and prosper.

Elsewhere. Nina is on the phone with a prime minister and puts him on hold to take another call. She tells the caller not to do something.

Back at headquarters, while Olivia contemplates the parts of Grayson’s story that make sense, Harris comes in and gives Olivia a new assignment. It’s a psych exam. She is livid, and tells him she won't let him undermine her ability to do her job. He says it's a direct order.

A phone rings nearby, and the room changes. She is holding a file and she can see not one but two pictures of Susan Pratt in it. She asks Charlie about the Pratt case and he responds that half of Boston under lock down and s why she's worried about a pair of charred twins? When she gets back to reality, she realizes that Susan may have a twin. They check this out and it is true, she does have a twin named Nancy, and she lives in town. But when they try to get to her at the apartment, Isaac Winters has already been there and taken her. When Olivia gets to the apartment, it looks in disarray and the window glass is melted. Peter has an idea, and cuts out a round piece of the melted glass. He later brings the equipment from his “project” to the apartment that he originally created so Walter could restore his water-damaged records. Peter wanted to use it now to help translate the microscopic groves that the heat Nancy generated that melted the glass to reconstruct the sounds from when she was taken so they can find who kidnapped her. And he has success – they can hear the sounds of Nancy being kidnapped and a man talking. They can also hear the tones from the man’s phone as he dialed someone else, and Olivia’s cell phone is able to dial the number from those tones. It rings – and Harris answers the phone.

Later, Olivia and Charlie watch Harris go into a warehouse and they follow. They break the padlock and enter, guns drawn. Harris has entered a room that also has a another room with a glass window for observation, and Nancy is strapped to a table. Harris tells Isaac he is losing his patience and to get it done. Olivia has found another room with all kinds of photos of people involved in cases they have investigated – and her picture is also included. She hears a shot, and one of the agents is down. Olivia shoots back and incapacitates the shooter. She also finds Isaac and shoots him as well. She moves to get Nancy freed, but is dismayed when the door to the room is suddenly locked and she is stuck in there with Nancy, Harris looking on from the other side of the glass. Olivia shoots at him through the glass but it is bulletproof. Harris won't let Olivia out and says if Nancy can't control her fire she'll explode and solve two problems. Nancy is becoming overheated, and Harris calls someone and tells the person that she is active.

Olivia attempts to calm Nancy and tells her she can control it. Lucky for Olivia, Nancy puts her thoughts on Harris and her fire goes to him beyond the glass, engulfing him in flames. (I cheer.)

Afterwards, Peter and Walter are at dinner, and when Peter steps away to go to the restroom, Olivia comes in and asks Walter "What the hell did you people do to us?" She is very agitated. Walter says they meant no harm they were only trying to prepare them to become capable. He tells her ominously that something terrible is coming, but he doesn't know what. As he breaks down in tears, he tells her he can’t remember. Olivia leaves him, and Peter returns, wondering what has happened to Walter to cause him to be crying and be so distressed.

Elsewhere Nina rings Broyles' doorbell and when he answers she hands him a file. It has photos of The Observer, all taken in the last 24 hours. She says he knows what happened the last time he appeared so many times and they need to talk.

Back at the lab, while Walter is listening to one of his old records, he digs through his collection to find another and stumbles on the original manuscript of the manifesto. He hears the door open and he thinks its Astrid, so he says that he found it and it has all the original pages. He reads a line that says "Our children are our greatest resource. We must nurture them and protect them. We must prepare them so they can one day protect us." But when he turns around he sees The Observer who says "Hello Walter.” Walter quietly says hello and The Observer says “It's time to go." Walter asks "Is it time?” After looking around, somewhat sadly, Walter says, “I'll get my coat." The Observer walks out of the lab and Walter follows.

Meanwhile, Nina walks into an apartment lobby and gets into an elevator. When she gets off she's greeted by two masked men. One is holding a gun of sorts that looks like it has a silencer. He shoots her and Nina drop to the ground.

“Fringe” continues to build every week on the mystery surrounding Massive Dynamic, William Bell, and Olivia’s past. With each week, this show intrigues me more and I think this is one of the best shows on television – if not the best – this season. I continue to warm up more to Peter – Joshua Jackson – and I think that he and Walter have much more chemistry than he and Olivia. Of course, John Noble brings such life to the character of Walter that he can even make even a box of cereal look good.

I was glad to see Harris go up into a ball of flames. I tired of him long ago and have to admit that it seemed obvious that he was working for the other side.

If you haven’t started watching Fringe, it may be hard to pick up the show now as it is wrapping up the season, but hopefully Fox will re-run it in the summer. If they do, do not miss it. By the way, Fringe has been renewed for another season, so use the reruns as a time to get caught up. The mysteries can only get deeper.

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Clip from "Fringe - The Road Not Taken"

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