Friday, November 13, 2009

Fringe “Of Human Action” Pushes Peter Into Trouble

Photos from Fox

Fringe (Fox) “Of Human Action” had a character somewhat reminiscent of an X-Files episode “The Pusher” where Robert P. Modell was able to “push” people into doing things they didn’t want to do, like kill themselves. But this episode of Fringe had a slight twist: in this case, it was a teenage kid, Tyler Carson (Cameron Monaghan ) who had the ability to control the minds of others, and we find later the story is much more complex. In addition, Walter’s world gets rocked when Peter is sucked into a dangerous situation and Walter fears he will lose him. This was an excellent episode that not only featured a good case for the Fringe team, it also shows how desperately that Walter needs Peter in his life. Sadly, Peter does not know that, like Tyler’s father, his own father has been lying to him for almost his whole life.

When the episode begins, it seems Tyler has been kidnapped and that his abductors are causing others to kill themselves and others. The Fringe team - Agents Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) and Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick), along with Walter (John Noble) and Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) - visit Massive Dynamic. They confer with Nina Sharp (Blair Brown), and find that Tyler’s father Dr. Carson (Andrew Airlie) also works there in the aerospace division. They are told that Tyler’s mother is dead. By the way, when Walter arrives at Massive Dynamic, he is amazed at how massive it really is, seemingly envious of his former colleague William Bell’s company and accomplishments. He tells Peter that Bell introduced him to Peter’s mother.

The Fringe team works to disrupt and block the controlling brain waves from whom they think are Tyler’s captors by using the sound from an old teddy bear of Peter’s that emits a white noise. But when they think they have the men cornered, they find that it’s not the men who can control minds, it’s Tyler. And Peter finds out that the white noise doesn’t block his ability to control minds when Tyler is able to take control of Peter.

While Peter is forced to drive away with Tyler, the rest of the Fringe team works to track them down. Meanwhile, Tyler continues to force Peter to drive, having Peter speed up and drive dangerously, and then getting stopped by police. When Tyler “pushes” Peter to kill the police officer, Peter uses everything in his power to put down the gun and just knock the officer down instead.

Nina admits that Dr. Carson has been working with the pharmaceutical division on an aerospace guidance system, which allows a pilot to fly a plane by thought. The pilots are given a drug to help in this matter, and she adds that an employee's families are not allowed to be test subjects. Dr. Carson admits he took some samples home and Tyler could have gotten his hands on them. But, Carson doesn't understand how Tyler could use drugs meant to work with computers to control people. Upon hearing this, Walter gets very testy and explains that the brain is a computer and guesses that Tyler was on other medication. Carson admits Tyler was being medicated for ADD. Walter is livid, indicating this is the perfect cocktail for mind control drugs. I wonder, does Walter know this from experience?

But Olivia is not happy when Broyles tells her that Fringe is off the case because Tyler is now classified as national security threat. She is very concerned because she thinks this will mean Peter is in danger as he will be considered collateral damage. The real story here is Walter, who seems suddenly frozen with fear for Peter, and comments that he can’t lose him "again." Of course, we know what he means by that comment, as it’s been made clear in previous episodes that the real Peter is dead and the Peter we now see is a “replacement” from an alternate timeline. John Noble shows his mastery of acting as his worry seems very real. Both Olivia and Nina try to get Walter to come up with a solution without having Peter there to guide him.

Astrid (Jasika Nicole) is able to find searches on Tyler’s computer about women who died in car accidents in their 20s, and his most recent search was of a Renee Davis. Carson says that is his ex-wife and Tyler’s mom, and admits she is not dead, he just told Tyler that because Renee was an addict who used to disappear all the time and he didn’t want Tyler to know she abandoned him. But Tyler, now in a strip club with Peter, knows that his father lied to him and is heading off to get this mother and be a family again.

Meanwhile, Astrid and Walter, both wearing foil “tin hats” to protect themselves from Massive Dynamic reading their thoughts, believe that an electromagnetic pulse should be able to disorient Tyler long enough for them to get control. This scene gives credibility to "tinhats" everywhere, I am sure.

Tyler and Peter arrive at Renee’s (Jacqueline Ann Steuart) house, and she is shocked and somewhat uncomfortable upon seeing Tyler. Inside the house, when Tyler tells his mother he wants her to leave with him, her husband walks in and Tyler is not happy at this development. Broyles and Dunham are already outside the house, and when it looks like Walter and Astrid won’t get there right away, Broyles goes into the home. Peter, who was forced to hold a gun on Renee’s husband, now puts the gun on Broyles and shoots him in the arm, and then Peter and Tyler flee. When Walter and Astrid arrive, Olivia heads off to make chase, once Broyles tells her to go, despite his injury.

They manage to catch up to Peter and Tyler, and activate the pulse, disorienting Tyler and giving Peter the chance to run the car into a telephone pole, knocking Tyler out. Walter is happy that Peter is OK, and Tyler is OK but sedated, and being taken to a hospital.

Back at home, Walter wants to pamper Peter by making crepes, and says that Peter used to call them “creeps.” But a look on Peter’s face gave me the feeling that he doesn’t have any recall of that fact.

But the big secret is revealed when Nina types a note, on what looks like an old computer terminal, to William Bell, and indicates that “one of the Tylers” did show the ability for mind control, but there were unintended consequences in that he tried to reunite with his surrogate mother. We also see Dr. Carson flipping though a file folder which shows a few more Tylers with what look like different fathers. We also see what looks like the Tyler we knew being wheeled on a gurney into a room, unconscious, likely being put in for storage with what looks like many others. Nina writes that despite he unfortunate circumstances, they can consider the project a success.

While “Fringe” can be accused of using similar themes as the X-Files, they seem to take these stories and work them in very well to the Fringe team’s ongoing work with “the pattern.” It also keeps the connections to Walter’s past with Massive Dynamic, and William Bell. I feel badly for the show, though, that it is not in the best time slot for the series to succeed in the ratings, its Thursday time slot bumping up against ratings powerhouses CSI and Grey’s Anatomy. Hopefully, Fox will move the show to a better time slot that will allow it to grab more viewers. If it helps matters any, this is one show that I watch live, which should make advertisers happy. I can only hope that Fox will stick with this series, because it is really the best of its kind on television right now.

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