Friday, November 6, 2009

Fringe “Earthling” An Ashes to Ashes Mystery

Photos from Fox

The episode of Fringe (Fox) titled “Earthling” put the focus on Agent Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick) and gives the usually secretive mystery man a little back story. It seems that the case the Fringe team is called in to work on is a case that Broyles became so obsessed that it broke up his marriage. He got involved in these types of cases to keep his family safe, but Broyles admits that it actually drove his family away.

X-Files fans may recognize the near morphing of two X-Files storylines into one in “Earthling.” The first episode that comes to mind is the episode called “The Soft Light” where an experiment goes wrong and a scientist (played by Tony Shalhoub) is altered in a way that if his shadow touches someone, they turn to dust. The other X-Files episode was from their first season, “Space,” and was about an astronaut who, while in space, seems to have gained an alien presence in his body, one who seems to be sabotaging the space program. While there are many comparisons to X-Files, Fringe makes what seems like some of the same types of strange encounters seem fresh and new. I think a good part of that is the great cast of Fringe, specifically John Noble as the genius yet slightly mad scientist Walter Bishop.

In “Earthling,” random people are being killed by being turned into dust. We are shown a shadowy figure with the first killing, and when the body is discovered by the man’s wife, he begins to collapse into a pile of dust and ashes. This was an excellent special effect and I have to say that whoever created the bodies that were half formed and half ash did a fabulous job. And Walter (John Noble), upon examining the body, asks for a Dust Devil – lots of them. (He also gives us the tidbit of information that Peter used to draw genitalia on the Christmas reindeer decorations, and Peter give him that "too much information" look.) Broyles wants to know if they can find if the dead man spent any time in a hospital, as he’s seen this thing happen before. It was four years ago in Washington DC and five were dead.

Broyles takes Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) and Walter to a storage locker where he gives them information on his past case that included a strange chemical formula. He had received a call from an Eastern European man who said he'd tell them about the deaths if they could decode his formula. The scientists failed, but the killings later stopped. Olivia had found that the recent victim had visited Latchmere General the day before. Olivia and Broyles visit that hospital the next day, looking for an employee of Eastern European descent who also worked in Washington DC. Walter, meanwhile, is still working with the ash and finds it is not radioactive as it should be. He’s also working on the equation that Broyles had in his files.

Back at the hospital, the shadow seems to be on the loose, and we find he’s taken another person’s life when a fly lands on a patient and the slight pressure causes the patient to disintegrate into ash. The nurses saw no one in the room or the area. Olivia and Broyles find that there was a man who fits the description of an Eastern European who worked in DC, his name is Tomas Koslov (Ravil Isyanov), and he also didn't come in to work that day. They found a finger print, and also find electrical components, one with Cyrillic writing on it and later suspect this is a link to some sort of Russian fringe science.

While Broyles has his team working on the case, Broyles gets a call for a face to face with Senator Van Horne in DC, who tells him that the Russian government may be involved and that Koslov may have stolen something. But he also tells Boyles to back off the case. Of course, Broyles does not, and he tells Olivia to keep working on it but not put anything in writing. While they are talking on the phone, she sees the shadow image on the hospital surveillance camera. Walter suspects that Tomas may have stolen Russian technology that the Russians are trying to get back.

Later, Broyles gets a helpful, top secret file from the senator, who assumes that Broyles didn’t stop working in the case. It seems Koslov’s brother was a cosmonaut and has been in a coma since his return from space. We find that Koslov did not steal technology; he stole his brother, and inside his brother is an entity that he picked up while he was in space. The entity needs radiation to survive and of course there is plenty of that in hospitals. The first man in the episode was killed because he also had been flying in a plane the day before sitting in a window seat and received an extra dose of x-rays just from that activity.

Koslov drugs a nurse and gets his brother out of the hospital and into a hotel room, where he tries to contain the shadow being by charging his brother with electrical currents. It seems he needs more and more electricity in order to keep the shadow in, but that it is not enough. Broyles had left Koslov a voice mail message, and while Koslov returns Broyles' call (which is being traced), Broyles tells him that they know what is going on and they can help him. But when Koslov quits talking and the phone line remains open, viewers see that a fan lightly blowing on Koslov starts to blow away part of his face into dust.

Walter, meanwhile, is still working on the formula and goes home with Peter to recreate it using Tinker Toys. Looking at that physical representation, Walter comes to the conclusion that the entity, and Koslov's brother, have become one and are permanently linked and there is no way to get the entity out for good.

Going to the location of Koslov’s traced call, they find themselves at a motel and see the remains of Koslov. They also find his comatose brother in a van, and it seems the entity is out looking for more energy. While Walter thinks of a way to harm the body to draw the entity back in to it, they hear a child scream – it appears the entity is in her hotel room. Broyles takes matters into his own hands and shoots the cosmonaut in the head, causing the entity to disappear from the girl’s room. The girl looks like she’s been frozen in the ash form, but it seems she was literally scared stiff, telling her mother she saw a shadow man.

Later, the Russians take away the cosmonaut’s body in a lead case.

Broyles goes to visit his ex wife and tells her that he solved the case from 4 years ago, and when she invites him in to join her and her husband for dinner, he declines. But as Broyles returns to his car, a man calls to him, and says that Broyles has a real friend in Senator Van Horne. He also tells Broyles that when the CIA says to cease and desist, they mean it. He wants to make sure that Broyles isn't going to prepare any report. When Broyles asks what they did with the cosmonaut, the CIA man says they had no choice once the cosmonaut started breathing again, and points towards the night sky filled with stars.

Like the X-Files, not every episode of Fringe follows the core mystery behind what they call “the pattern”. That is a good thing because it gives the show the opportunity to branch into many more story lines than just trying to solve one mystery alone, which sometimes can trap a show. With every episode, I find myself watching not just for the cases, but also to see what Walter Bishop will say or do. While “Earthling” was a relatively tame episode, it did provide a bit of a back story for the usually stoic Broyles and made him seem more like a normal human being with normal feelings.

Fringe continues to be one of the few shows that I never want to miss and – this should make advertisers happy – I actually watch it live and DVR CSI instead. I’ve found that I can delay my CSI fix, but not my Fringe fix!

All Text Content (Recaps, Review, Commentary) © unless otherwise noted

Check out my blog home page for the latest information, at I Like To Watch TV, here.

No comments: