thoughts on pop culture

Fringe Season 1 Episode 20: There’s More Than One of Everything

I am thrilled that Fox has picked up Fringe for another season. If last night’s season finale had instead been the end of the series, it would have been cruel. We obviously have a long journey ahead of us, and I can’t wait.

The episode started with Massive Dynamic’s Nina Sharp being worked on at the hospital due to a gunshot wound. We find out that it’s David Robert Jones who’s responsible, and after some prodding, Nina reveals to Olivia and Phillip that Jones removed an extremely powerful power cell from her artificial arm. She also explains that it was William Bell who hid the power cell in her arm to begin with. Apparently Jones was once an up-and-coming employee at Massive Dynamic, but had a falling out with Bell.

Jones doesn’t waste any time putting the power cell to work. He finds a quiet street and uses the cell to power a device that opens up some kind of gateway to an alternate universe. The gateway is unstable though, and a most of a semi truck makes it through before the back end is sliced off, leaving a rather unique piece of wreckage. Once the FBI team arrives, we discover just how unique, when it is confirmed there is no record of any part of the truck being manufactured in our universe. 

While Olivia and her team are busy chasing down Jones, Walter and the Observer go off on a search of their own. The Observer escorts Walter to the shore, and to a beach house Walter spent a lot of time in many years ago. The Observer then explains he has already overstepped his bounds and can go no further. He hands Walter a silver dollar and asks if he remembers what he has to find. Walter does not remember, but goes toward the house alone anyway.

Back in the city, we see that Peter has truly come a long way from the first time we saw him–it is obvious that he truly cares for Walter, and we see Peter’s concern about the whereabouts and well-being of his father. Once Peter tracks him down to the beach house, a childhood memory of Peter’s helps Walter remember what he was supposed to look for. Some kind of strange telescope-like device that he and Bell used to use to connect to the other universe while tripping on LSD.

Ultimately we have a final showdown between Jones’s crew and Olivia’s. There is some serious ass-kicking, the opening of a pretty stable gateway between the two universes, and finally Peter uses the funny-looking telescope thing to close the portal just as Jones is passing through.  We end up with an awesome sliced in half version of Jones with a kind of “Are you kidding me?” look on his face.

I thought that was the big climax of the episode, but then Peter comes to the lab to find a note from Walter.

“Stepping out for a bit. Don’t worry about me son, I know where I’m going.”

Peter doesn’t seem worried, and we cut to Walter returning to the cemetery we’ve seen him at before. This time we get to see the tombstone he’s been crying over.  It’s Peter’s, and it says he was seven years old when he died. I actually had to pause the show for this complete “Holy fucking shit!” moment. So Walter’s Peter did drown, and somehow Walter brought the Peter from the other universe (with The Observer’s help?) back to raise as his own. This opens up a whole array of possibilities for the show that I hadn’t even considered.

Olivia then gets a call from Nina to schedule a meeting with Bell. Olivia goes to the destination and thinks she’s been stood up. As she gets on the elevator to leave the building, we see her skip between universes briefly, then the elevator door opens and she is greeted by name by a woman who leads her to an office. There’s a newspaper with the headline “Obamas set to move into new White House” lying on the desk. William Bell then enters. Olivia asks where they are and who he is. He introduces himself, but says the answer to her other question is more complicated. The camera backs out over Olivia’s shoulder and out of the office window–then backs out further to reveal that the meeting is taking place in one of the World Trade Center towers–END.

This took some massive balls, and quite frankly I’m thrilled someone has finally decided to slaughter the sacred cow of 9/11 on mainstream television. I can’t think of a more potent way to show the difference between two alternate versions of New York City than to use 9/11. I hope this is exactly the kind of bold storytelling we can expect when season two starts in the fall.

May 13, 2009 Posted by | Drama, Renewed, Science, Scifi, Season Finale, Technology, Television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Fringe Season 1 Episode 20: There’s More Than One of Everything

In Treatment Season 2 Week 4

This week brought us two great episodes, two okay episodes, and one that I felt just went through the motions. If it hasn’t been obvious based on my last couple posts, I’ve become very partial to both April and Oliver. I understand they are the two most sympathetic characters this season, so I guess liking them is a bit of an easy out–but I don’t care. My biggest surprise so far this year is Walter. Maybe it’s because I was excited about John Mahoney joining the cast, but I was expecting Walter to be a great character. This week I thought he fell flat. There’s still time to improve though, so I’m reserving final judgement for the time being.

Mia’s session was productive, but frustrating to watch. Immediately upon entering, she proceeds to force her way into the kitchen, violating the boundaries Paul has established. Then she take pleasure in describing her tawdry weekend in graphic detail, including both anonymous sexual partners. At first it seems she’s trying to make Paul jealous, but then we find out she’s just trying to convince herself how exciting her life is and how she can still “go on a spree” as if promiscuous sex is like buying designer shoes. The best moments of this session were the ones following Paul calling bullshit and saying Mia just likes to think she’s special, tying it to her relationship with her father. Just before the session ends, Mia has an honest moment and admits to Paul that she doesn’t want to be alone.

April arrived for her session early, looking worse than last week when she hadn’t slept in two days. Right away, she makes a point to give herself an out by saying her brother is going to call and she’ll have to leave early. She also tells Paul she never had the conversation with her mother from last week. Paul tells April directly that he doesn’t want to waste what little time they may have left due to her cancer. He pushes April to contact him when she’s feeling depressed–his scars from Sophie are still showing. After discussing her mother and brother, Paul broaches the topic of chemotherapy. Naturally this is when Daniel calls. After she makes a frenzied call on her brother’s behalf, April faints briefly. When she awakens, Paul launches into a lecture about how she simply cannot take over everything. This angers April and she tries to analyze Paul, but only ends up admitting all of her own fears about what the chemo would do to her and how she will eventually succumb to the cancer. Paul assures April that he won’t hate her for the pain she could cause him personally. After April talks to her mother on the phone, Paul presses her so he can understand what about his office gives her the strength to deal with things–see admits it’s him, so Paul offers to go with her to begin the chemotherapy process. As they left the office, I realized that Paul will blur the boundaries of the office when he feels it’s the best thing for the patient.

Oliver’s session this week broke my heart. I was angry that Bess took up so much of the session, especially since she made the classic mistake of thinking that last week’s session had solved all their problems. Once she left, Oliver came in and told Paul that he’s tired of being fat and he’s quit eating. Paul is visibly uncomfortable at hearing this, but doesn’t press the issue when Oliver says he doesn’t want to talk about it anymore. They discuss the adoption that Bess and Luke didn’t go through with, and Oliver expresses his concerns that he may be adopted as well. As they continue to discuss it though, Oliver says he actually wishes they would give him away too, so he could be with those who really want him. Luke isn’t there at the end of the session, so Paul asks if Oliver is hungry and invites him into the kitchen for a sandwich. Paul was once again breaking his rules for a patient who really needed it. It’s just plain sad that neither of Oliver’s parents has a clue about what’s troubling their son.

Before Walter’s session, Paul gets a call about his father’s condition getting worse and really lets his emotions out. None of those emotions make it to Walter’s session though, where Paul seems overly detached. After being forced to resign, Walter explains that the experience makes him feel like an old man.  I noticed that this was really the first time Walter has looked like an old man too, complete with Mr. Rogers sweater and a complete lack of the drive he’s had in the previous three weeks. Walter makes it very clear that he thinks retirement is equivalent to death, then explains to Paul that he blames himself for his brother’s death. Paul confronts Walter about this, and this time when Walter leaves the session in a hurry, it has nothing to do with work and everything to do with a desire to avoid facing his real problems.

After a rough deposition, a tense meal with Tammy, and an unsatisfying meeting with his daughter, Paul is running late for his session with Gina.  I’m amazed at the different Paul we see in these sessions. We seem him as the rock all week and with Gina he behaves like a child. He says he hates his life and admits to trying to use his patients to meet his needs. He also talks about Mia for the first time and comes across as a horny teenager. Gina notices and Paul quickly says he’s not in love with Mia and won’t be going down the Laura road again. After Tammy is brought up, there is a brief exchange about old flames that I’m pretty sure ended with Paul expressing regret for never having slept with Gina. I didn’t get long to dwell on this though, because Gina seized the opening to confront Paul about his daddy issues. In the end, that was enough to cause Paul to go see his father after the session, ending with a tearful apology to his unconscious father for placing all the blame on him.

Lead Actor in a Drama is probably the most competitive category in the Emmys, but I think Gabriel Byrne has a real good shot at taking the trophy this year. He has already shown incredible range this season, and I’m sure the best is yet to come. It may not be great for Paul, but the move to Brooklyn may be just what Byrne needed to fill his mantle.

May 3, 2009 Posted by | Drama, Television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on In Treatment Season 2 Week 4

Fringe Episode 18: Midnight

Tonight’s episode of Fringe wasn’t bad, altough I thought the ‘maneater’ storyline was a bit tired. In addition, the big reveal at the end of the episode just didn’t seem all that surprising to me. However, we got a slew of hilarious Walter-isms.

Walter’s obsession with discussions of food while examining dead bodies is something I find very amusing for some reason.  Tonight, when observing the exposed spinal column of the first victim, Walter told Peter it reminded him of shrimp cocktail.  As if that wasn’t enough, Walter also took the opportunity to let Peter know that shrimp didn’t really have big vein that people normally remove, it’s actually the intestinal tract.  Yummy.

Later, while examining another crime scene, Walter discovered a bottle of benzyl alcohol, which he quickly pointed out is normally used as a local anesthetic, although his preferred use is as a mouthwash.

The biggest laugh Walter gave me tonight though was his use of The Clapper during the scene in the lab when they figured out where to find their killer.

In addition to comic Walter, we did get a sincere moment when he posited that if we do have souls, then we must allow for the possibility that there is still time for redemption. I believe this is what inspired the video confession at the end of the show.

While not intentionally hilarious, Peter got a big laugh out of me when he was walking around the nightclub with his infrared camera. I thought he looked just like Egon Spengler walking around the New York Public Library.

The pleasant surprise of the night was Astrid, who is really starting to hold her own with the others after so many episodes as barely more than an extra. Her advice to Peter in the lab was classic, “When you finally meet a nice girl, I would avoid bring her home for as long as possible.” Adam Morgan did a great interview with Jasika Nicole, who plays Astrid, over at It’s definitely worth the read.  In fact, something she says near the end of the interview got me thinking tonight when Astrid covered for Walter’s fatal mistake in the lab.  Maybe she is just protecting him, but perhaps Astrid has some reason to lie for Walter that we just don’t know about yet.

April 28, 2009 Posted by | Drama, Science, Scifi, Television | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

In Treatment Season 2 Week 3

The unknown was a big part of what made the first season of In Treatment so good, so I’ve been a bit concerned that the second season would just give us the same basic characters again, just with different details.  The third week of this second season has started to fill in the lines of the new patients’ character sketches, and I’m happy to report that there is new ground ahead.

After week two, I was concerned that Mia was going to turn out to be just another patient in love with Paul.  But this week’s discussion about Laura, showed me exactly the opposite. As Mia described what she imagined Paul’s encounter with Laura to have been like, we can see that she is really describing the fantasy she had about Paul when she was 22. That small difference is what I think makes Mia a deeper character. The delight on her face when Paul played her old cassette betrayed her excitement about the possibility that Paul regrets passing up his opportunity with her. While she is mature enough to see how foolish her fantasy was, at the same time she is angry at her younger self for her lack of action. There is more conflict here than we ever got with Laura.

April is this season’s version of the Sophie, and Alison Pill has the biggest shoes to fill thanks to the unprecedented performance given by Mia Wasikowska last year. April is probably the least different of this season’s characters, but Pill’s portrayal is so genuine I’m not sure it matters.  The juxtaposition of total exhaustion and fiery destruction seemed like a preview of the range of emotions we can expect for the rest of the season. The most amazing thing is that it doesn’t seem like an act.

Bess and Luke would have been a boring version of Amy and Jake from season one if it weren’t for Oliver. Luke’s excuses and Bess’s passive-aggressive rants are just boring, but Oliver is something new. I mentioned before that my own experience as a child of divorce is a big part of the reason why I love this character. At this point, I can’t see anything wrong with Oliver. He just seems to be making himself neurotic by trying to please both of his parents. My heart broke when he fell asleep on Paul’s couch at the end of the episode, apparently Paul’s office is the only place where Oliver feels safe enough to rest.

If Mia is this season’s Laura, then Walter is the new Alex–and no, I don’t think Mia and Walter are going to fuck. Maybe it’s because I’m a lot more familiar with the corporate world than the military, but Walter is much more interesting to me. I think it’s pretty far-fetched to think a CEO would drop everything and travel around the world just to exert control over his crusading daughter, but I’m willing to suspend disbelief because of the interaction between Walter and Paul. Walter’s insistence on treating Paul like a servant will only go so far before Paul will lose his shit like he did with Alex. Part of me secretly hopes Walter will bring Paul an espresso machine.

Paul is also very different this year.  I’m not sure if it was one of his patients, his divorce, or maybe his sessions with Gina, but something has turned Paul into a man of action.  Last year he would have considered all the reasons in favor and against screwing his high school sweetheart, but here we are in week three and Tammy already spent the night. Surprisingly, Paul’s hour with Gina this week does not include any talk about Tammy, but focuses instead on Paul’s anger with his father. As he went on, I heard Paul express a lot of the same feelings that young Oliver is going through. That would certainly explain why Paul relates so well to Oliver. The closing moments of the session were interesting, with Gina saying very matter-of-factly that next week they would talk about Tammy.

April 27, 2009 Posted by | Drama, Television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on In Treatment Season 2 Week 3

Fringe Episode 17: Bad Dreams

After an ill-timed hiatus and a so-so return episode last week, Fringe is back on the tracks with this week’s Bad Dreams.

No need for a full recap here, though if you’re looking for that I would recommend a trip to for everything you didn’t know you wanted to know about the show.  Plus cool posts like this clip of The Observer at a Yankees game.

Overall, I think this was a return to the kind of episode that got me hooked on Fringe to begin with.  We had a real life-and-death mystery that was directly related to Olivia, and while we got some answers by the end of the episode, we were ultimately left wanting to know more.  The same thing happened with Walter this week–We got to see Walter get way too excited about the prospect of seeing Pippin on Broadway, and we also learned that he was directly involved with the experiments that were done on Olivia (Olive) as a child.

I understand that FOX decided to bench their best new show for two months so they could give us two hours of American Idol on Tuesdays, but I think it was a mistake.  I mean, at what point do you start to reduce the amount of time devoted to your flagging juggernaut in favor of an up and coming show with more promise than anything you’ve premiered since House in 2004?  At this point, I hope FOX doesn’t make a big mistake and cancel the show.  We’ll find out for sure when they host their upfronts on May 18, and I’m optimistic considering the list of shows with worse ratings that have already been renewed at FOX (Hell’s Kitchen, Family Guy, The Simpsons) and other networks (Heroes, Private Practice, The Office).  

Either way, I’m not too worried. If the show is cancelled, I think J.J. Abrams will find another way to reveal the truth of The Pattern to the fans.

April 25, 2009 Posted by | Science, Scifi, Technology, Television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments