Wednesday, 18 February 2009

TV Review: Fringe, Season 1, Episode 14: Ability

Fringe, Season 1, Episode 14: Ability

Neeedless to say, SPOILERS! ;o)

Friends of mine into the same type of US television as myself are only too aware that I have a certain...ambivalence to this series. It's paced in such a way that I normally fall asleep by the third act. Some might say it's age.

I can't work out if I like or dislike Anna Torv as a lead actress. She has seemed particularly sterile.

Whilst I was a fan of Alias, Lost, well, lost me after a season. I wanted to like Fringe and kept with it; the main draw being John Noble as the fascinating and funny Dr Walter Bishop.

I'm reviewing this particular episode because there's been a few turning points.

1) I now "get" Anna Torv's portrayal of Olivia
2) I now stay awake during the duration of the episodes
3) There's no more Fringe until April and episode 14 really ramps up the plot

Ability begins with a re-run of Mr Jones' escape from a German High Security prison. He does this through teleportation;a mode of transport normally relegated to Star Trek and it's spin-offs. The reality of teleportation in Fringe is alot different.

Walter Bishop explains the issues of teleportation and this is backed up by Mr Jones being released from a kind of decompression chamber for teleportees. It seems that matter disintegration and reintegration doesn't do the human body much good and Mr Jones is now suffering the side effects.

The show cuts to the typical weirdness that befalls an unsuspecting member of the public. This time a dodgy two-dollar note that causes a news vendor's orifices to close (all of them as Walter discovers). Sadly, this effect wasn't quite as creepy as it could have been; seeing the man's eyes nose and mouth close up.

Olivia questions prisoner, Mitch Loeb, but all that comes out of the interview is an obscure ‘what was written will come to pass’. Ho-hum, I thought as this line was uttered but, boy, does it make sense later.

After Walter examines the newspaper salesman and tells us very little, the episode surprises . Mr Jones turns himself in. He presents himself to the FBI stating that he will only talk to Agent Olivia Dunham. He requests a numbr of what seems like ordinary everyday items and Sanford Harris begrudgingly agrees. Harris is quite redundant in this episode and smacks of an attempt to emulate the X-Files plotting, by having a character that impedes the FBI splinter group process. Harris gets in the way of Dunham interviewing Jones and Olivia is understandbly upset.

Peter Bishop helps find a manuscript which is a kind of bible for Jones and his associates. This appears to be the driving force behind events in this episode and the preceeding 13.

After another death caused by the same toxin that affected the newspaper vendor, Agent Dunham is granted the interview. Jones creates a jamming device that ensures that they have privacy during what is a revelatory talk.

So through the Dunham/Jones interview we discover that there are two dimensions in the Fringe universe, where one is more technologically advanced. The pattern refers to the way travellers visit our dimension, causing unusual things to happen. Teh document that Peter discovered predicts that only one dimension can now exist. We then find that Olivia has been prepared at an early age to become a soldier to fight an inter-dimensional war. Seriously! She had been injected with a compound masquerading as a trial for youngsters. Jones talks about a test that will show her that she has this drug; Olivia doesn't believe him. It doesn't seem all that rational to her. As an added incentive to take the test, Jones threatens that a chemical bomb has been planted with the same substance that has killed the vendor and agent.

This test it transpires is to stop a set of lights in a grid with her mind. Olivia switches off (sorry for the pun!) to the very idea that she could accomplish this task and cheats. She proves (with deception) that she has passed the test and Jones is pleased. So he gives the FBI the bomb location. Great! Except that the only way to diffuse the bomb is by switching off the lights by her mind!

Despite actually stoping the bomb by using her mind, Olivia still believes she has been tricked. Olivia discovers that she probably did receive the compound as a child during trials in her home town.

If all this wasn't revelation enough, the writers save the best until last;

Astrid is making small talk with Walter, and compliments him on building a teleporter, even if it kills those it transports. His reply is chilling. “Kills you…it does something unthinkable… but it doesn’t kill you’.

Say what? Is this something to do with mutations again?

Olivia goes to visit Jones but finds a very large hole in the wall in his hospital room. Presumably, it does mutate the body, being teleported that is.

Lastly, alone, Walter finds a typewriter and types in the word `Ability’. It appears that the manuscript Peter discovered was written by Walter. So,we have a couple of months to wait before the story continues, just as it was getting exciting.

For me, the Walter-isms were what kept my interest. My favourite being early on in the series when Walter gets quite short with his son when Peter can't understand why he has to go out to a store to get aluminum foil. Angrily, Walter shouts at Peter for not taking a life threatening situation seriously. He then adds, sweetly, that if Peter sees some Root Beer could he buy him some as he hasn't had any for seventeen years.

in this episode after the events with her fiancee, Olivia appears a lot more animated and it looks good on Anna Torv. Previously ,I found her to be quite cold even when dealing wit hher sister. Whilst I don't always approve of soap elements in stories such as these (that always seemed out of place in the x-Files) I prefer the personal issues to be handled well. Olivia seems more comfortable now. How long that'll last remains to be seen.

Some Walter Bishop moments;

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