11/7/09

Fringe: Earthling


I like Olivia. I like Peter. I love Walter... This episode of Fringe is about Broils. The intimidating figure with a unearthly voice that was recognized in the first season as an antagonist is established in this episode as a real human being. A stand-up gentleman. Someone we can trust. Someone with a past. Someone we can know. An Earthling. When they find a man turned to dust, it brings to light an investigation that Broils had worked on 4 years before. Getting to know this guy is like trying to get a Buckingham Palace guard to smile.

This episode starts off like most Fringe episodes: with the death of the first victim. Directly after that, however, we start to break Broils down as a real person. And I love it! We watch as Broils sits in a fancy restaurant being imitated by a young boy. Every move Broils makes, the boy follows suit. And then Broils puts his menu in front of his face. The boy does the same. Broils peeks out from behind the menu... and smiles! This domineering, stone-faced figure that has haunted the dreams of voice-over actors since his appearance on LOST captures us with a simple show of teeth. The boy hides behind his menu again while Broils takes a call. When the boy looks back... Broils has disappeared, letting us know that we're not reinventing this character. He's still a stoic enigma. But there is a way in which we can relate to him. There is hope.

The rest of the episode moves along like your basic episode of Fringe. There is a mystery, Walter investigates it and ends up solving it. There is not a whole lot about this episode that connects to the rest of the series. At least not yet. The biggest reason for this episode is to get us to trust and relate to Broils. We dig into his past, we find that he had a family, we find out what makes him tick. This is not to say that the investigation is uninteresting. On the contrary, as disconnected as it is from the regular arcs, it's still a fascinating look into fringe science.

There's not much more to it, so if you're not into character development episodes, this won't be for you. But they wouldn't have made the episode if it wasn't important. At some point in the future we're going to have to trust Broils. We will need to be able to count on him as a real person. And this episode accomplishes that.