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TV Review: Fringe – “Concentrate and Ask Again” Part I

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Amidst rumours of cancellation and a after a huge wave of panic amongst fans, Fringe delivered yet another fantastic episode; “Concentrate and Try Again” touched upon both the human drama at the heart of Fringe as well as upon the overarching plotline.

I loved this episode for many reasons. For one, I always love an episode featuring a CortexiKid other than our very own Olive.  How could I thus not love the only episode featuring a CortexiKid that doesn’t die? Perhaps the Fringe production team finally heard my pleas, and perhaps this means that someday, we can have another CortexiKid other than Olivia become a regular character in the show. Who knows?

The title itself is cute; “Concentrate and Try Again” is something Simon has to do a couple of times, and it is also one of the answers the Magic 8 Ball gives out. It also relates well to the “creepy factor” of the doll device used to deliver the toxin. I loved it, and the elevator ride from hell which happens halfway through the episode.

I also loved the fact that there seemed to be more of both Astrid and Brandon in this season. And I’m sure there is one fellow Fringie who is also quite happy to have more Brandonity in this season (**points at Lola**).

The Observer is at the gala fundraiser at the episode’s end, right before Olivia intercepts the last member of the killing trio. The glyphs in this episode spelled out HATCH. I can’t think of any eggs that are being hatched, but certainly, Walternate has a plot he is hatching, and Walter is trying to hatch one of his own. Could the show’s famous Easter eggs, typically spread throughout each episode, be hatching into something more?

This episode sees the return of Intrepus, i.e. Massive Dynamics’ main competitor. It makes me wonder as to Intrepus’ involvement in the overarching plot of the show; has the production team hidden more subtle clues as to such an involvement throughout the last three years, clues we all would have missed? And is this the famous ‘thing’ Pinkner mentioned was planted in the Season 2 finale, the thing he would have been surprised if anyone found? Is this what will be hatching in future episodes?

We also find out yet another one of Walter and Bell’s infamous project: something that would allow them to vaccinate people without their knowledge. I wouldn’t be surprised if such a project was intensely explored, especially in the context of the Eugenics movement in the 1950s.

Another recurrent theme involves Peter saving the day by being at the right place at the right time. In this episode, he happens to have been left alone in an upper-story room and thus hear an oddly-placed cell phone ring. Another seemingly recurrent theme suggests that “Bad Guys Running Away From the Good Guys Often End Hit by a Car”. Intriguing, isn’t it?

This episode also features a couple of great Walter moments, as well as another red slusho drinking moment, and a red liquorice eating moment. The first is, of course, is when Walter needs to be picked up because he’s in New Hampshire without money or gas. Will he ever learn?

Then there was this priceless exchange:

Walter: Why would anyone kill a scientist? What did we ever do?
Peter
: Really?

This exchange is very thought-provoking; if Walter, after all he’s done, wonders why anyone would ever want to kill a scientist, has he really learned anything at all in the last couple of years about ethics and morality?

Another amusing exchange, again with Peter, goes as follows:

Walter: I feel nauseated.
Peter
: Yeah, this is pretty disgusting, even by our standards.
Walter: I don’t mean that. I think I may have broken wind in my (hazmat) suit.

Just as Peter continues to assume the role of a father at times, Astrid continues to be a guardian:

Astrid: How many times are you going to test that, or that is that a way for you to break your diet?
Walter
: You think I enjoy eating this greasy food?

In yet another show of ingenuity, Bell’s safe turns out to be hidden in the most obvious yet hidden location: behind a holographic air vent, thus thumbing his nose at whomever is looking into stealing from him. Then again, perhaps Bell isn’t as certain of his creation as he wanted to be, if the message on the masking tape is to be taken seriously: “Stay out – this means YOU!” I wonder if there is a hidden anagram in this sentence.

Speaking of the safe, the code Nina enter is “052010*”, which is, of course, the same combination of numbers Walter uses to open the lock on the doors of the Jacksonville daycare in Season 2’s “Jacksonville”. This combination obviously means something; if you will recall, Walter shares, in “Jacksonville”, that “I always use the same combination… although I can’t remember the significance.”

The question of vigilante justice is a tough one to handle. On the one hand, fathers ache at the loss of many unborn children. On the other, a murder has occurred. While justice must be served, is it up to the individual to pursue it? In my opinion, a society governed by such laws, where individuals pursue their own brand of justice, would be a terribly scary place to live; what one perceives as normal could be perceived by another as a heinous crime that must be punished. It becomes evident, when one takes the time to reflect on the increasing diversity of the inhabitants of relatively small geographic areas, that through a process of consultation, they must come up with a system that will maintain justice.

However, there is the sad, hard fact that the justice system we currently have in place is corrupted. Even if everyone agreed on every single law that governs, say, Canada and the United States (which, of course, they don’t), the people that are meting out said justice can be swayed and often are. What should one do in these circumstances? I still think that vigilante justice should never be allowed, but pursuing justice, both by practicing it in one’s day-to-day life and raising awareness about the lack of justice in the system would be a much harder yet, in the long run, a much better option.

Think about this episode; while those who were behind the experiments that results in these families being shattered did, for the most, die, their spot is still available. That is to say, someone else now can step into the positions these powerful men previously occupied and continue acting in ways that are unacceptable. If instead awareness campaigns and demands for justice had been assiduously pursued, these men could have been punished and perhaps the system would have become a little better.

Then again, we wouldn’t have had another epic episode of Fringe, so who am I to complain?

Whatever the case, Astrid doesn’t have much ground when, at the beginning of the episode, she claims: “How come all the creeps go after the good guys?” Sometimes the creeps are not the bad people after all.

Speaking of creeps, he might have been totally adorable, but Simon’s ability to read people’s minds does make him a bit creepy to hang out with. Although I have to admit, I really wonder what it would be like to read someone else’s mind. Would it literally resemble having a voice you hear in your head, as if you are listening to them actually talk with their vocal chords, but without them using their vocal chords?

However it might present itself, having such a power or, in real life, an amazing talent gives a person big responsibility. If one’s purpose in this life is to advance both one’s own spiritual nature as well as advance human civilization, then said responsibility could become both a strength and a liability. It is a strength in that it can be used to get people’s attention (think of all the singers who have lent their amazing voices to various causes, such as the Young Artists for Haiti’s rendition of K’Naan’s “Waving Flag”); but in a world where fame seems to be the it thing, it can easily become a distraction to one’s true purpose in life.

In Simon’s case, accepting to go back to Boston to help prevent murders despite the pain it quite literally causes him is an example of self sacrifice for the benefit of the greater good. Then there is the interesting contrast of this amazing help with that of Simon causing Olivia pain by handing her that note. Could that be considered an abuse of his talent?

Speaking of Simon, as Peter asks, his sudden appearance makes me wonder how many more CortexiKids are going to come crawling out of the woodwork. Simon Philips is a product of the Worchester Cortexiphan trials, and his interaction with Olivia demonstrates yet again, as Walter puts it, the mystery of the way CortexiKids interact with each other.

What was most interesting to me about Olivia’s interaction with Simon was not the fact that he couldn’t read her mind, but rather how the simple act of Olivia putting her hand on Simons’ (in the hospital) calmed him down. I don’t know if it was an actual physical release of pain or if it was just the simple human touch that calmed Simon down – and I supposed we won’t ever figure that out – but it was an interesting moment.

Of course, what with the secrets Walter held in his mind, it comes to no surprise that he throws Simon out of the trials as soon as the child starts exhibiting his singular talent. What I found incredibly interesting is the thought that while many other CortexiKids, other than Olivia, grew into their abilities later in life despite receiving treatment early on, Simon developed his early on. Does that make him special, like Olivia? Could he become a potential ally, were Walter to work with him and help him control his ability? Maybe someone should dust off the box that Newton tested Olivia with in Season 1’s fourteenth episode, “Ability”.

This time, Simon is able to read Walter’s mind. I couldn’t quite make out what he heard though; somehow I think it would be quite interesting. We need to find someone who can manipulate sound and figure it out – drop me a line if you can, or if another Fringie posts something somewhere on the World Wide Web!

On a related and yet divergent note, I find it intriguing how Walter uses his quirky nature and his ‘crazy’ status to his benefit. I wonder if it’s a dual thing; on the one hand, he might delve into his insanity as a way to self-anesthetise because he can’t handle everything that is going on, and if on the other hand, he purposefully uses it to block other out. He really is like a child, trying to get away from ‘discipline’ by pretending to be a poor old insane man. One thing seems certain to me: Walter is probably a lot less ‘insane’ than he lets on.

I wonder if he has also started to physically suffer from the consequences of all the self-testing he has done over the years. Namely, why is Walter holding his right hand when standing by the lake, and why does it seem to be shaking? As far as I know, John Noble doesn’t suffer from Parkinson’s, which leads me to believe that was something thrown in on purpose. Has anyone else noticed anything?

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