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TV Review: Fringe – “Momentum Deferred”

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It’s very satisfying to watch a show slowly grow into its full potential. Fringe’s first season was slow, and many stopped watching for various reasons. But for those of us who stuck by it, our patience is paying off, more and more so with each new episode of season two.

The title of this particular episode, "Momentum Deferred," seems all the more apt as it seems that the momentum deferred from season one’s interesting yet slow start to season two’s increasingly faster pace. I previously complained about how Fringe episodes are so slow, that their time slot isn’t used as efficiently as it is with, say, Supernatural, but this complaint is fading with every passing week. Hopefully this trend will continue throughout the current season, and if it does, it bodes very well for season three.

"Momentum Deferred" starts with the hijacking of a truck carrying cryogenically frozen heads. It is soon determined that organic/mercury hybrids from Parallel Earth are looking for their leader, identifiable only by an omega symbol that seems to have been seared into the side of his head. Ouch.

There are a couple of obvious questions that come to mind. Who is this guy whose head is costing so many other heads to go to waste? We know he’s the leader of the Parallel Earth army. But is he human? Is he a shape-shifting organic/mercury hybrid? Or is he human only to be brought back to life with the use of the organic/mercury hybrid technology? Why was he beheaded, and, after he’s thawed out, what is his role going to be? Is he the one that will be featured in a showdown versus Olivia?

I’m starting to trust the show’s writers and producers, and so for now, remain satisfied with asking the questions, hoping they will be answered shortly.

However, there are a couple of interesting reflections that can be made regarding this particular plotline I’d like to share.

I know this is only a show and that they weren’t real, but the disrespect shown to the frozen heads really bothered me. I know it makes a (chilling) point about the characters, and I can’t help but wonder if there are people around us who would act with equal disregard towards a bunch of frozen heads, were they to stumble upon them one day.

The other question that comes to mind is this: should the heads be treated with respect because they served as a temple to the souls of the individuals they belonged to, or rather because they are the actual person? It becomes something of a philosophical, spiritual, and religious debate to determine what is a person: the sum of all his thoughts, which are contained within the matrix of the brain, or rather the sum of all his thoughts that are attributes of the soul which, interfaced with a body throughout the duration of the individual’s presence on earth, made for what we call a human being?

Continuing on the Several Lessons Of The Heads (a.k.a. SLOTH), I also found it interesting how the corporations that own and control the cryogenic laboratories refused to give out the names of those whose heads were stolen (I can’t believe I just typed that). I always find it interesting how, be it in a TV show, a movie or in real life, corporations put their own self-interest before that of people. Surely there is a way of giving out the list of client names to the agency investigating the crimes while ensuring that the privacy of both the clients with the missing heads as well as the corporations involved is respected. It galls me each and every time that corporate interests are put before human life and human dignity.

The above just had to be one of the oddest paragraphs I have ever written. Don’t judge me until you’ve watched this episode, okay? It’s really out there. Mulder would be proud.

A clearer understanding of the composition of the shape-shifters was kindly provided within the plot of the episode, saving us from further confusion while simultaneously shielding us from an uncool organic chemistry lesson. These mercury/organic hybrids are not your mother’s hybrids; they are even, dare I say, much cooler than the alien/human hybrids from The X-Files. Sorry, Chris Carter. It doesn’t mean The X-Files weren’t epic. They totally were. Except maybe for the last couple of seasons, and the second movie.

A deeper understanding into Olivia’s role in this whole mess is also kindly provided. We already knew Olivia was special, that she had a unique ability, and that she had been experimented on as a child by Walter Bishop and William Bell (woo-hoo, welcome back, Leonard Nimoy!). And now we find out that Bishop and Bell were looking for the strongest child in a bunch to become the guardian of the gate between the two parallel universes. Any wonder that Nina Sharp wanted her to work for Massive Dynamics?

Weird. Fringe seems to suddenly have become The X-Files meets Stargate.

One thing is certain: life isn’t getting any easier for Olivia this season. After fearing for her life at the hands of a mercenary organic/mercury hybrid, it suddenly is revealed (to her, at least) that Charlie isn’t quite Charlie anymore, and that to survive, she has to shoot him, her best friend and long time colleague. Broyles takes time off his busy Acting Secretive Schedule (a.k.a. ASS) to comfort her (somewhat) – but I think we can rest assured that this will haunt her for a long time.

All these events seem to be making a strong woman stronger, although we are also allowed glimpses into some of her most vulnerable moments. Her drinking the worms without the strawberries Walter was planning to sweeten them with was pretty intense, as evidence by Astrid’s disgusted facial expression. Which makes me wonder: did the worms trigger Olivia’s memories or was the flood of memories only a result of the unorthodox therapy Sam had her doing during the last couple of episodes?

Whatever the cause, the effect was unexpected and frightening; the way Olivia just spun and crashed to the ground after Peter rang the bell gave me a heart attack. Do you think she came back because of the shot of adrenaline Walter had Peter inject directly in her chest (ouch) or because of the bell that William Bell (ha ha) rang?

I’m still very ambivalent about Nina Sharp. While she is helping Olivia and it doesn’t seem that her intentions are bad, her position does make her a protector of Massive Dynamics’ interests. Who is to say that in the future, this won’t make her stab Olivia in the back? I’m certain she lied to her in the past, and during this episode, it was clear she lied to Olivia when she said she had never seen the omega symbol before. Which also makes me wonder how loyal to Bell she really is.

Speaking of which, yet more food for thought on the ethics of scientific experimentation was given to us in the form of Olivia and William Bell’s conversation, as well as the apology Walter Bishop gave to Rebecca.

While William Bell expresses regret at having hurt Olivia as well as others whom he and his partner experimented on, something tells that, were he given a chance to change his decisions, he wouldn’t. Just like in Supernatural and in The X-Files, a character’s good intentions pave his way directly to hell (be it figuratively or not). Is it really a case of not having any other choice if Earth is going to be saved? Could something else have been done but, blinded by his own opinions, Bell couldn’t fathom any of them as being as efficient as the path he chose to follow? We don’t know enough yet to be able to have a full on discussion about this — but, as the season continues, rest assured I will probably post a huge discussion about this topic.

On the other hand, we have Walter Bishop, who cried as he watched an old video of Olivia Dunham (an unwilling subject) being experimented on as a child, and who apologized to Rebecca (a very willing subject) for experimenting on her. Which begs the question: if a subject is willing, does it give the experimenter a green card to do what he wants?

One more question, and I promise to get on with another topic: what is the ethical as well as the spiritual and religious point of view on using drugs to achieve a spiritual awakening? Is it really an awakening if it is only reachable if the subject is hallucinating?

Peter deserves a bit of space here, and not only to question why he always has red-rimmed eyes. Does the guy get any sleep, or does Walter really snore that much? In any case, it was interesting and perhaps a little ironic that when he was younger, Peter was scared of falling asleep for fear of being replaced by a pod person. This happened after he watched the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

This was all the more interesting when Rebecca sees Peter glowing – although it’s still not clear if that was a glare from the sun, the drugs or an actual otherworldly glow. What was it Rebecca was going to tell Peter in the lab when the drugs kicked in? “I met you before, when you were a baby, I swear I saw…” You saw what, woman? Talk about bad timing. My mother was right — drugs are bad.

I can’t help but wonder if Peter is going to have his own Olivia moment, if some sort of trigger is going to unleash a flood of memories that will break him away from his father.

The last interesting Peter-related question is this: William Bell mentioned how difficult it was to send an organic, normal person from one parallel universe to the other. If so, how did Peter make it? Does he have a special ability, and his higher than normal intelligence is but one sign of it? Or did Walter figure out a safe way of sending people back and forth, which means that there is a way of fighting the organic mercury hybrids?

There were a couple of good Walter moments. From his excitement at experimenting with the black worms to trigger Olivia’s memory to his enthusiasm at seeing the body bleeding silver to the advice he gave Charlie who admitted to him that he couldn’t sleep: "A little cannabis before bedtime does wonders."

Walter moments are just as precious as always. There was also Walter’s nervousness at seeing Rebecca again, which gave way for one of two great Walter/Peter moments in this episode: one where Peter is calming Walter down before Rebecca comes to the door to answer, and the second, when Peter gives Walter permission and money to go to Rebecca’s house.

But although that last bit was hilarious, it was also a little odd. While Peter is Walter’s guardian, it doesn’t mean that he’s his father. Walter’s newfound childlike view of the world makes it necessary for him to have a father figure… but still. It’s just still a little odd.

Or maybe it’s just me.

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  • http://notesfromnancy.blogspot.com NancyGail

    I wonder if Rebecca is Peter’s mom….

  • http://saharsblog.wordpress.com Sahar

    I never thought of that. What makes you think that?

  • Justine

    I know it’s an old episode and review but reading it for the first time after I’ve read through your season 3 articles recently I must to say I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

    Which is a difference.

    I can sense and see definite proof of your writing getting more sophisticated, very intelligent, precise and “beautifully shaped”, if you can put it that way, but there is so much more joy in your style here. I think there is value in showing your enthusiasm for the episodes, even if they exude such grave air lately with the parallel universes and Doppelganger crisis, rather than surgically analyzing and contemplating every detail of the plot (I love doing that too, FRINGE is awesome for being a show that makes me do this!).

    This is simply my opinion, you may think otherwise, and I still adore how you and the folks at Fringe report show your appreciation for the show.