“Fringe”: Power Hungry

Posted by SH

What if one of those geeks from an ’80s movie grew up to have superpowers? That’s how much of this episode plays, as we follow a painfully awkward delivery boy who pines away for a receptionist he sees on his routes. He also — unbeknownst to him — has the power to control electricity, which leads to him often inadvertently breaking company equipment and — after seeing his object of affection flirt with another man — bringing an elevator with her in it crashing to the ground. To drive the ’80s feeling home, we’re subjected to an excruciatingly long excerpt of REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling.” It’s like, hey, I’m sitting here at home watching a cool show on TV and all of a sudden a county fair breaks out.

Sorry, was that mean? OK, then, state fair.

We know something’s going down at the office building after we catch a glimpse of The Observer getting off the elevator. While the delivery boy, Joseph, is riding the lift with his would-be girlfriend, she discovers his cell phone, which has pictures of her all over it. He gets so flustered that he causes a power surge that affects the whole building and kills everyone on the elevator but him.

Olivia is still sorting out her sighting of John when she takes the Bishop boys to investigate. Surprise, surprise, Walter says this sort of phenomenon reminds him of a government experiment he conducted in the old days that attempted to make human beings trackable by homing pigeons. Basically, it involved amping up the natural electromagnetic field found in every person to the level that the birds could detect it. Doesn’t seem a particularly useful experiment, but OK.

Meanwhile, poor Joseph loses his job and accidentally maims his ex-boss and fries his mom’s pacemaker. Before he gets too far, he’s captured by a mad-scientist-type named Jacob Fisher, who conducts illegal experiments on human beings. A few years back, he lured Joseph into being a guinea pig, promising him improved confidence. The time has come for Dr. Fisher to continue his experiment.

Walter uses a cassette tape (see, more ’80s stuff) found among Joseph’s personal effects to give his “scent” to the homing pigeons. Cassette tapes are magnetized, you see, so they contain Joseph’s electric signature on them. I understand it as a plot device, but still, it’s no reason to subject us to more stretches of REO.

Olivia and Peter follow the pigeons to Fisher’s lair, where Joseph has managed to escape on his own, finally managing to control his powers a bit. He runs an unmanned car into a thug and can make other things go boom. Olivia gives chase, but it is Peter who stops him with a surprise crowbar to the face. Yep, that’ll do it.

Fisher is caught, but not talking, and you get the idea we’ve just been introduced to a primary villain. More on that later.

Walter notices something amiss with Olivia and shocks her when he posits that she’s been seeing John. His theory is that when Olivia and John did their Altered States-style mind-meld in the pilot, that part of John’s conscience took residence with Olivia. (Question: What if he hadn’t died? Would there be two of his consciences lying around?) Olivia asks whether John will be leaving her soon, an answer Walter does not have.

Later, Olivia spots John walking down the street and follows him into an underground room that contains boxes and boxes of files that turn out to be John’s personal investigation into several Pattern-like cases. Mentioned prominently in them is Dr. Jacob Fisher.

This was certainly a less gruesome outing for Fringe than what’s come before. What is interesting is that most of the people they end up chasing are not perpetrators as much as victims. Some doctor has experimented on them, or they are the product of a different branch of fringe science. While that’s refreshing, it would be nice to spend some time with an out-and-out bad guy. Five episodes in, everything still feels pretty nebulous. I won’t say I’m antsy quite yet, but I sure do hope the truth is out there … eventually.