Friday, November 6, 2009

Ashes to ashes

Fringe - Season Two – “Earthling”

The Fringe Division investigates a case that has haunted Agent Broyles for four years when people turn up disintegrated into ash.

Olivia and the Bishop Boys take a back seat in this episode as a little light is shed on the usually closed Broyles (Lance Reddick). It turns out he investigated a similar series of ashen disintegrations and his single-mindedness in pursuing the case, and trying to protect the public, directly lead to his divorce. Another side of the stern Broyles is shown in the teaser as he is having lunch at a restaurant when a little boy a couple tables over starts “mirroring” Broyles’ every movement and gesture. Instead of dismissing the kid, Broyles, who is a father, starts playing with him. But of course Fringe business quickly breaks up the fun.

The “fringe monster” this week appears to be a big nod to the DC Comics’ character Negative Man, a member of the misfit superhero team the Doom Patrol. After pilot Larry Trainor is exposed to a radiation field high up in the atmosphere while testing a new jet, he is able to project from his body a shadow-like “negative energy” being with superpowers. He takes the name Negative Man. In this episode of Fringe, a Russian cosmonaut is exposed to some unknown element or substance while in space that bonds with him. It is able to project from the cosmonaut’s as a shadow-like being that must drain the natural radiation that human bodies possess. It’s the world’s first radiation vampire. Another slight parallel or nod was to The X-Files first season episode “Space” where an astronaut brings “something” back with him that kills others and torments him (if I remember correctly, they showed the “something” as a kind of project from the astronaut).

“Earthling” wasn’t a home run. I liked the comic’s connection, but that’s not enough to recommend this one show. I hate to say it but Broyles is not that interesting a character to anchor an episode. He’s great in a supporting role, often going to bat for Olivia and the Fringe team when they go too far (as Olivia points out to him). I think this episode wasn’t personal enough. Perhaps if they included flashbacks to Broyles and his wife and kids four years prior, showing his life then, it would have provided some contrast and truly focus on what he had lost.

Walter didn’t really have any fun one-liners or observations as in previous episodes. Here he had a puzzle to solve in the form of a complex chemical equation. A good Walter moment was when he realized a way to help him solve the equation was to use some old Tinker Toys (it’s not clear if the Tinker Toys were Peter’s or Walters!).

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