Welcome to the FB review of the Fringe season 2 episode 7 – “Of Human Action”. In this review I present my honest opinions on both the good and the bad aspects of the episode. I also take a look at the answers and unresolved mysteries, before sharing my thoughts on other aspects which may have been overlooked.
- A semi-serialized episode – happier medium. The wider story arc, though not a constant presence, was supplemented by a progressive story and intriguing plot developments. Where “Earthling” was mostly about the rather ‘gimmicky’ shadow, “Of Human Action” was mostly foreshadowing future stories whilst tying together past elements. Both episodes carried allusions, metaphors and parallels but 2.07 did so in a way that felt more relevant to the overall adventure. The return of the excellent Nina Sharp and Massive Dynamic also helped get us back on track.
- Pacing. Barring a few blips, the pacing was good. The story elements felt a lot tighter and my attention was held throughout.
- The set-up/The reveal: I saw it coming a mile off in terms of Tyler being the the kidnapper but I still enjoyed the way it played out. The Tyler clone reveal was really satisfying and added substance to a previous standalone episode “The Same Old Story”. Now if only “No Brainer” can be given similar treatment!
- Out of the Lab, Into Massive. I’ve often complained about Astrid’s lack of outings so I have to give credit where it’s due. Likewise, it was really interesting to see Walter visit Massive Dynamic for the first time. It’s going to be fantastic when ‘Bell and Bish’ finally meet after all these years. Speaking of which, one of the best moments in the episode came when Nina Sharp spoke to Walter – I liked their interaction as it was heartfelt and left a lot open for speculation, especially as Walter didn’t seem to recognise her.
- John Noble. He’s been restrained for much of this season due to the focus of the main story shifting to Peter, Olivia and Molebabies, but I felt he was back to something resembling his best in this episode. What I loved most was the diversity in his performance, from the laugh out loud sound-check - “as you listen you may feel a sense of deep sense of tranquility as if you had returned to your mothers womb..”, to his heartbreaking tale of how William Bell couldn’t wait for him. Walter’s grief at losing Peter ‘again’ was also another memorable moment.
- Blair Brown. I adore Nina Sharp – she’s just a fantastic character. I thought Blair Brown did a marvellous job with her in this episode. Her performance was more contained than usual, but this allowed room for interpretation – particularly regarding her relationship with Walter. Good to see her back. Please use her more often.
- The final scene. I love when they throw in something kookie and unexpected like a grainy VHS tape or a 1970’s computer that communicates with parallel worlds. It was right out of the “LOST” Season 2 props department and it was one of the most intriguing endings on Fringe to date – and that’s saying something.
- Olivia visits Massive Dynamic for the first time since
her alter-reality meeting with William Bellinitially approaching Nina about alter-reality meeting with William Bell and yet she mentions nothing of that event, nor does she show any hint of..anything, regarding her failed mission to find the shapeshifters leader. It’s just unnatural and unrealistic for to not follow up on something as important as that. Like I’ve said before, I can buy into parallel universes, but the lack of continuity displayed by some of our characters is just too unbelievable. I don’t necessarily expect an entire scene on this, but they could have Olivia ask Nina whether she’s had any luck contacting Bell, or something. Seriously, Massive Dynamic transported Olivia to another universe, she’d be full of questions. Also, if they want us to believe that the “war” is a serious deal then they can’t completely drop it for 3 episodes. (I know that the final scene might tie into Bell’s war strategy, but that’s not enough).
- Tyler. I thought the actor did a decent enough job, but the character could have done with more padding, which the episode didn’t afford.
- Broyles getting shot seemed a bit thrown in there. It was nice to see him out in the field (he’s a soldier, after all) and to have Olivia and Peter show concern for him, but did we ever believe that Broyles was in any serious danger? It’s just a waste of someone getting shot and yet more false tension. Also, why did Broyles taser Tyler instead of shooting him with a tranquilizer dart or something that would sedate him and relinquish his ability? I guess it’s just a storytelling contrivance.
- One of things that bugs me about the show is the way every case gets resolved by the 42nd minute. We see Peter and Walter give some half-baked explanation about how Tyler’s mind control powers ‘wore off’, and then it’s case closed and onto the next Fringe file! I don’t think a detailed analysis of Tyler’s condition is needed, but the off-screen resolutions just seem so convenient. I think my main problem is how a day in Fringe literally equals one episode, whereas in reality some of these cases would span multiple days and would carry over. More realism please!
- We know from episode 1.02 “The Same Old Story” that Massive Dynamic successfully developed clones (Christopher Penrose) – this episode was a continuation of that with the Penrose-Carson Experiments. Either Dr. Carson was working with Claus Penrose (we know that he’s still ‘out there’), or he continued his work once Clause escaped Peter’s ‘watchful’ eye.
- The season 1 finale told us that Nina communicates with William Bell electronically. Now we at least know one of the devices that she uses – a retro computer. However, Nina was unsure whether William was still receiving her messages – giving us an explanation as to why Bell passed on the message about the symbol on the shapeshifters leader through Olivia (“Momentum”).
- We know that there are at least 8 Tyler clones (probably many more) – each one was given a guardian (presumably a Massive Dynamic employee) – Dr. James Carson was the ‘father’ of Tyler #3. Nina suspended the Tyler experiments after this event, but considered the project a success. It’s likely that the cloning project is intended for the war with over there.
- How did Tyler’s mind control work? Did he alternate between his targets or could he control multiple people at the same time?
- What role did Nina play in Walter’s past, and why did she show so much empathy towards him?
- Why is Bell seemingly unable to send electronic messages back to Nina? How do you send messages to a parallel reality anyway – is a special type of energy needed (as per the electricity theme which runs through the show)? Does Bell have the same model at his end?
- Is the computer even from our reality? We already have a long trail of retro-looking technology which isn’t from over here – the Selectric-251 typewriter, the Observer’s eye-glasses, to name a few.
- Walter said he was bored at the beginning of the episode – interesting, perhaps hinting at more epic investigations to come to keep him interested. He also seemed all too familiar with the idea of mind control suggesting that it was something he and Bell had worked on. This could also tie into the mantra that Walter taught young Peter (“Dream Logic”) to make him forget his abduction/real world.
- I like the idea that Massive Dynamic was always the name that Walter and Bell planned to call their company. A company shaped in Bell’s image, but perhaps forged in Walter’s ideals? The way I see it, MD is just as much Walter’s as it is Bell’s. It was also interesting to see the first hint of resentment from Walter towards his former colleague.
- Although we’ve had several instances where Fringe Division and Massive Dynamic have worked together (More Than One, Momentum, Human Action), it’s clear that Nina is still keeping things from our team – whether or not this is a bad thing remains to be seen.
- I got a weird romantic, yet nurturing vibe between Nina and Walter upon their meeting. I can’t quite work out which one held the most meaning. I’m also wondering how Nina knowing Peter as a child (“The Cure”) fits in to this? Has Walter forgotten Nina, or is this more evidence that Nina is actually from over there, just like Peter?
- Tyler wanted to shoot Broyles in the head, Peter was able to “pull it off center a bit”. This seems to be another allusion to Peter’s ability. One question that I’ve had for a while is whether Peter’s ability is simply down to him being from another reality (i.e. his ability only works “over here”), or due to something Walter/Alter-Walter or perhaps Bellie did to him? I’m thinking that the latter would make more sense and add further complexity to his back-story (it’s been implied that Walter ran experiments on Peter after he abducted him).
- Broyles called Peter “one of the good guys”. Aww, is this a love-in or what?
- Is Peter’s mother dead? The episode certainly seemed to suggest as much. If we’re to use the Tyler/Rene story as an allusion it might suggest that Peter thinks she is dead, and that Walter is hiding more than one big secret from Peter. Watch this space.
- Bell introduced Walter to Peter’s mother. Interesting. Was Bell ever romantically involved with her (he knows her ‘code’)? Is Peter’s mother German or was she just visiting Berlin? Does this in any way tie into Flight 627 and David Jones’ incarceration in the Wissenschaft?
- I enjoyed Walter’s ‘Massive Dynamic can read our minds’ paranoia. The tin foil hat scene was a distraction, but a nice one. I also have question the point of having Astrid concur by saying that MD gives her the creeps. Is this the writers way of putting the death any ‘Astrid’s a mole’ theories, or is it building towards something else?
- How many times is poor Peter going to be kidnapped? Walter, John Mosley and now Tyler! Seriously Liv, I think he needs a gun after all.
- Peter’s seemingly throw-away line about “spies hiding out in plain sight (gathering information)” is probably not such a throw away line, especially with shapeshifters, couriers, Observers and Cortexiphan kids in the mix.
- I’ve often wondered how Walter gets away with butchering the bodies of victims brought to his lab – surely the families of these people wouldn’t appreciate such ‘thorough investigation’?
- If earlier Walter was bored, he soon found the rush of being on the front-line “exciting”. So much so that he wondered whether the FBI would give him a gun. I loved the look on Peter’s face – he was like: “If I don’t have a gun yet, you sure as hell aint getting one!”. We’ve previously remarked on Peter’s eagerness to have a gun this season, so it was nice to see this taken to a new level with Walter expressing his gun-toting desire. (oh, and Peter got his gun, yay for him).
- Peter asked an interesting question – “how far away do you have to be to control people?”. If MD are planning to use mind control clones in the coming war, that must be a real consideration as we’ve been told that very few ‘humans’ are able to cross the border.
- I take it Walter made Peter crepes after he abducted him? Perhaps it was original Peter’s favorite food – or was that whale-shaped pancakes? It’s been a while since I’ve seen the season 1 finale.
- Peter’s mother is definitely a sensitive subject – always has been. Walter telling Peter that she was “A strong woman” not only brings to light the possibility that she is dead (or brain damaged – or something of that nature), but it’s the first kind thing that we’ve heard him say about her. It was just a nice moment, and yet more growth for Walter.
For me, this episode boils down to Walter experiencing the ‘shoe being on the other foot’ – as they say. This season we’ve been told that what you put in, gets paid back in full (“Physics is a bitch”), so it’s only right that we add another saying: “What goes around, comes around”.
“he’s gone, I can’t find him anywhere”.
“how do I do this without Peter?”
Those are just a couple of the despairing moments when Walter found out what it must have been like for alter-Walter to have his son taken from him. Walter’s anger towards Dr. Carson for ‘being an improper parent’ was short sighted and hypocritical – and yet my sympathy was still with Walter throughout his ordeal. Perhaps it’s because I’m invested in Walter’s story, or because everyone deserves a second chance, or because what he did was understandable on some human level? Abduction is terrible, but is it quite so bad when you’re stealing from yourself? I guess that must have been Walter’s flawed logic when he made the choice to take Peter.
But to despise Walter is to ignore the flip side of his character. The loving father who is desperately trying to make up for lost time, and the broken man who suffers daily for his past transgressions. As has already been said, the pursuit of science carries risk and sacrifice. Perhaps Walter has paid his debt?
As for the episode title – “Of Human Action”, it’s another interesting one. It speaks to me on the level of taking responsibility for our decisions. In a world of computers and robots it’s often difficult to remember that our brain is also a machine – perhaps the first and most complex ever made. So pretty much everything revolves around human action. If we substitute the word “desire” for “action” it begins to make more sense as to how this relates not only to the contained ‘mind control’ case, but to the larger story, Walter’s decision to abduct Peter and the consequences thereof. As far as we know it was Walter’s choice (to take Peter) and he should be blamed for that. But the opposite of action is inaction, and I have to wonder whether taking Peter, on some level, was necessary? If not for some grand all-encompassing reason, then for Walter’s own survival – which could be just as important for over here than we currently realise.
Best Moment: Nina MSNing William Bell / Tyler clone factory.
Best Performer: John Noble
Episode Rating: 8.1/10