"Earthling" (2.06)

"Earthling" is very complex and, in my opinion, at least, very difficult to follow. In classic J.J. style, this episode doesn't put anything right in front of you for you to see; instead, everything is miles away, and to get close enough to see, you have to walk. I still don't have a very clear understanding of what actually happened in this episode, but at this point, it's much clearer than it was when I first saw it. Including the time that I originally saw it aired on television, I have seen the episode twice at this point, and in addition, I listened to the latest episode of the Fringe Podcast, which, in a lot of ways, really helped. It was very cool to have the opportunity to hear them interview Jon Cassar, who directed this episode of Fringe and who also has directed episodes of 24 for six years, and some of what he said was really interesting, a lot of it, in fact. Please be aware that this entry will contain spoilers regarding this episode as well as Fringe in general.

Firstly, I would like to make a correction in regards to an error that I previously made in my entry for episode 2.05, “Dream Logic.” I speculated as to why Olivia's residence would appear to look so much different from her residence in the first season. I said that it looked like an apartment and that it looked like it may have been highly elevated based on the window view we see. However, what I was failing to realize, for one reason or another, is that the team was in Seattle and that her residence was therefore not a residence at all but instead a hotel room. I am only human, I suppose, and am therefore likely to make mistakes every now and then, even ones as seemingly careless as this one. Also, I wanted to point out that our “47” shout-out during that episode is during a lab scene, but I can't recall the precise moment at which it happened, just that we see a small yellow sign on a counter that randomly says “47” on it.

Also, something else that I wanted to point out that I failed to is that not too long before “Dream Logic” aired, I learned something really interesting in my Intro to Psychology class, and that is that science on the brink of one day very soon being able to project peoples' dreams onto a screen so that we could actually see and even potentially record dreams, since all dreams really are ultimately are images in our heads that are created using electricity, essentially the same way we see an image on a television screen. What's primarily interesting about that, however, is that I remember sitting in class at the time and thinking that that would be a really cool idea for
Fringe, and although that's not really quite what “Dream Logic” deals with, it's somewhat close to it, and I suppose that I therefore found it worth mentioning. We may one day soon see something on Fringe that is closer to that concept, because as has been said before by the producers of the show, the basis of the show is typically science that some people see as potential reality, science that could one day soon be nothing but reality, and expanding on it and taking it to the extreme, so you never know.

Anyway, allow me to get back to
this episode, episode 2.06, “Earthling.” I have to say that, unfortunately, this episode really disappointed me, and there are quite a few reasons for that, all of which I will get into. Firstly, I am getting really tired of the stand-alone format. I really fear that Fringe is heading in the direction that theX-Files did, having week after week of “monster-of-the-week” episodes with the occasional mythological episode that will blow you away. Of course, there are some people who consider certain episodes to be “stand-alone” episodes that I don't. For example, I recently read one blog in which someone was commenting on exactly what I am commenting on now (how there have so far been too many “stand-alone” episodes in the new season), and they listed 2.03, “Fracture,” as an example, and I apologize, but “Fracture” is not a stand-alone episode. The entire case (no pun intended) was heavily involved with the Observer(s), so I'm not quite sure why that person considers “Fracture” to be a “stand-alone” episode, but it most definitely is not.

Another reason why I do not like this episode is because we received a promise from the producers back in the first season that
Fringe would not be dealing with aliens, and isn't that more or less what this episode deals with? The cosmonaut brings back a foreign organism from space which has the capability of living inside of him, bonding to him molecularly, and then projecting itself without actually leaving the host's body. Not only does this annoy me since it is seemingly a broken promise, but additionally, I don't like seeing Fringe head in this direction. First of all, we need to get back to the mythology, and second of all, I do not want to be seeing aliens inFringe. I don't want to see the paranormal that cannot be explained; I want to see science fiction, and yes, there is a difference. Lastly, the Fringe Podcast recently interviewed Jasika Nicole, who, if you don't know, plays Astrid on the show, and she said that when she read the script for this episode, she thought that it was incredible, so I guess that built my expectations up a little to high, causing me to expect something that I didn't get.

There are a couple of aspects to this episode that I do like. Firstly, it was genuinely creepy; in fact, this was definitely one of the creepiest episodes of the entire series so far if not
the creepiest. Also, I love how we got more of a back story to Broyles. I don't remember what episode it was precisely, but I know that it was either “Midnight” (1.18) or “The Road Not Taken” (1.19). Anyway, we find out late in the first season that Broyles is divorced from his wife by his recommendation to Olivia of an attorney to help Rachel get through her divorce; now, we finally see that explored a bit further. We find out why Broyles and his wife split, so in some ways, I suppose that that does make this episode a little bit important. Anyway, this episode portrayed Broyles in a much different light, in opposition to the light we have been primarily seeing him in prior to this episode. We see Broyles as being somewhat robotic and very stoic. However, we see a much more humane side of him in this episode, such as the scene at the beginning of the episode when we see him playing a mimicking game with a small child, a game that results in the biggest and happiest smile that we've seen on his face during the entirety of the series thus far.

I think that this may be the very first Broyles-centric episode we have gotten so far. In fact, now that I think about it, Olivia, in this episode, seems like a supporting character, which is very odd. I am still incredibly frustrated, because I'd really like to see the “super-hearing” that we see in “Night of Desirable Objects” (2.02) explained. I am really hoping that that isn't going to be abandoned. The scene between she and Broyles was really heartbreaking, especially the quote that we get from him when he explains why the case is so important to him. He says that his wife left him because he became so obsessed with it, and he says, “I took this job to make this world a safer place for my family. Instead, I lost them.” One thing that I am wondering is who Patricia is. During the scene in which Broyles and Senator Van Horn are discussing Broyles' involvement in the case and how Van Horn thinks that he should hand it over to the CIA (which is somehow odd and therefore worth mentioning, since we also see this happen in episode 1.15, “Inner Child”), Broyles leaves but before he does so, he says to Van Horn, “Please give my regards to Patricia.” The only thought that comes to my mind is that Patricia is Van Horn's wife who he is still married to, and so, that was Broyles' way of saying, “Don't you forget that I sacrificed my marriage for this.”

Speaking of his marriage, I suppose that it was nice to have seen his wife, but honestly, not that it really matters or has any powerful bearing on the series, but even though she said that she was genuinely happy for him, I still detected a very strong scent of sarcasm, as if she was saying, “How wonderful of you to come all the way here to tell me that you solved the case that ended our marriage. Would you like a medal?” Of course, that is most likely extreme, but you surely get my point. She definitely came off as sarcastic to me, especially considering that look that she gave him before she closed the door. Of course, I guess that I shouldn't really say that she “gave” him the look, since his back was turned and he therefore didn't see it, but, again, you get my point. What was that look for, and what did it mean, I wonder? Again, I know that it doesn't really matter, but I am curious, and I'm just speculating about everything that this episode has to offer, since there isn't all that much, really. In addition, I really don't have any idea who the mysterious man at the end of the episode was, and that's not due to confusion; even Cassar said in the podcast that he is credited as “Mystery Man,” so none of us know, but what I am wondering is what he meant when he looked up at the sky. He was so mysteriously vague, and I suppose that they sent the cosmonaut back into space?

There were some really funny scenes during this episode, as there always are. For example, I really like the scene in which Walter is trying to solve the equation, and he therefore has an opera playing rather loudly, and there were two reasons why I really laughed at this scene. Firstly, it was great seeing Olivia and Broyles arrive only to see what they are most likely used to by know, especially Olivia, which is, as Peter articulated in an episode during the first season, “Bishop's House of Horrors.” Secondly, Walter's fit that he threw when the music was turned down was hilarious. John Noble is simply brilliant, and it was funny, because it's as if he was saying, “You can't expect me to work without the music!” I also find that to be really odd, because as I have said before, in the first comic book, when Walter first meets Bell, Walter is working quietly in his lab while Bell is working with very loud music playing, and Walter storms down the hallway demanding that it be turned down since he can't think with the music playing so loudly, and now, we see just the opposite. Have Walter and Bell's consciences possibly been intertwined somehow, in that there is a little bit of William Bell in Walter and vice versa?

Speaking of William Bell, I have recently discovered that Leonard Nimoy may not be returning to the show, and although I somewhat agree with his reasoning, I don't at all agree with his solution. He says that he can't see where Bell's character is going anywhere, and I agree that his character is being delivered very slowly and in very small bits. In fact, more or less, he has been used as nothing more than a mechanism to provide answers, and that is probably frustrating Nimoy. However, if your problem is that you don't think that your character is being developed in an efficient fashion, then how is leaving the show a good solution? The best solution, to me, seems to be to stay on the show to give the producers the opportunity to develop your character, because after all, how can they do that if you're not on the show anymore? I really hope that this is just politics or that he is going to change his mind, because we need Bell on the show, and we need answers not
from him but about him.

Another concept that this episode plays around with is obviously the possibility of foreign Fringe Science, specifically, in this episode, Russian Fringe Science. In this way, even though Cassar says that it was purely coincidental, this episode does have some similarities to
24, such as the foreign threat (and I mean the Russian, not the alien) and Broyles' meeting with the senator, just to name a few examples. It also simply has a very 24-feel to it, and I think that I would have felt that even if I didn't know beforehand that Cassar was directing it. It wasn't a terrible episode, but it wasn't by any means one of my absolute favorites either. I think that another reason that it may have disappointed me is because it is the first episode returning from the hiatus, and I don't feel fully satisfied. Anyway, I would like to talk more about some of the aforementioned topics that Cassar discusses in the podcast that I found interesting, but most of what he talks about is in regards to directing television shows and films, which obviously doesn't really pertain to this. Ultimately, I am going to give “Earthling” five and a half Dirt Devil vacuums, and be sure to tune in for the new episode this week called “Of Human Action,” an episode that I'm not feeling too great about since based on what I saw from the promo, it doesn't look very original, but then again, that's what I initially said about “Dream Logic” as well, and that ended up being a decent episode, so we'll see soon enough, I suppose. Until then, stay on the fringe.

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