While this episode in itself was one of those Fringe episode that future fans of the show, in a hurry to find out what is going to happen at the end of Season 3, might be told to skip, I found it fascinating because of the oft mentioned storytelling prouesse of the production team.
The plot was simple enough: by fluke, a scientist discovers that he can make people fly by injecting them with a mixture of two of the world’s densest elements. Having a son who doesn’t have the use of his legs, he immediately realises how he can help him, and starts secretly testing on other paralysed individuals, using their emotional vulnerability at being in wheelchairs to get them to accept. Of course this leads to many deaths and, as the end of the episode, leads to a very disappointed son who realises that his father thinks of him as something that needs “fixing.”
The title of this episode is “Os”, which of course refers to one of the elements at the heart of the episode, i.e. osmium. The glyphs spell out EARTH; is this related to the osmium, or to something else? I don’t quite know. As for the Observer, he is standing amongst curious onlookers outside the Massachusetts Metal Depository.
One of the stars of this episode was Anna Torv, whose portrayal of the transformation, at the end of the episode, from Olivia to Bell, was rather amazing. But more on that later, as we focus on another star in the show was John Noble, whose portrayal of a mad scientist slowly coming apart at the seams is just as brilliant.
In very typical Walter fashion, our he turns once again to drugs to numb his pain. While is always gives way for some amazing moments, such as the one at the beginning of the episode where he is hanging out with the night security guard at Massive Dynamic and smoking marijuana, it also underlies part of what seems to me the increasingly quick progression of Walter into Walternate.
One of the reasons I loved the following exchange is because it underlies the fact that dissatisfaction and discontent are extremely dangerous:
Walter: This is wonderful, Kevin. You get to sit here all night looking at these monitors. What a magnificent job.
Kevin: CEO of Massive Dynamic isn’t that bad either. Must be nice, to have all that power.
Perhaps part of Walter’s dissatisfaction and discontent has to do with the fact that he knows that, despite being CEO of Massive Dynamic, he doesn’t really have real power.
The parallel between this plotline and what is going on in the world currently is very interesting. While the fabric between our universe and potential parallel ones is not tearing (well, as far as we know…), the fact remains that the world as we know it is slowly crumbling apart, as the institutions and patterns of society developed in the previous decades, centuries and even millennia have yet to catch up with the extraordinary developments of the last couple of decades.
One thing that happens is that individuals, empowered to believe in themselves, are arising to make a difference; but because they are either focused on only one of the two mouvements towards progress (i.e. the individual or society), or they are only treating the symptoms and not the disease (i.e. child labour instead of a lack of justice permeating the system), the effect of their contribution doesn’t seem to reflect the amount of time and effort they put into it. Either they become dissatisfied and discontent, and their increasing helplessness slowly grinds their contributions to society to a stop; either they become angry and start doing what they think will contribute to the betterment of society — whatever the cost might be.