Fringe Season 2, Episode 6: "Earthling" - Recap

Welcome back Fringe-philes (that nickname still needs work). After a baseball enforced hiatus, we finally got back to wonderfully weird world of Fringe. This episode's freak-of-the-week had one of the cooler nefarious powers we've seen on the show, the ability to turn people into dust, while Broyles desire to solve the case reveals a little bit more about him - and gets him into some hot water.

Tonight's episode was nowhere near the series best but it was still nice to have the show back. Where else would we get the disturbingly beautiful shots of half-dissolved bodies and the threat of a "shadow man" from outer space? Nowhere else but in Fringe-land, baby. The show opened with a husband getting ready to surprise his wife for their anniversary with flowers, candles and a romantic dinner. Poor guy, he looked so happy. He naturally encounters a bizarre "shadow man" and gets turned into a pile of dust after his wife comes home and finds him. And that is where our trusty Fringe-division friends come in. Broyles explains this isn't the first time the FBI has needed a Dust Devil to clean up after a murder and shows Olivia and Peter his old case files that reveal a mysterious chemical formula. It also soon becomes obvious that Broyles has more than the usual interest in solving this case.

While I am all for the show digging deeper into the character of Broyles, I'm not sure this episode was all that successful in doing that. Lance Reddick is a more than capable actor (see: The Wire... aka the best series of all time) and I've been waiting for them to get into his character a little more but his connection to the case in this episode felt more like an afterthought than anything else. When Broyles explained to Olivia that him pursuing the case 4 years earlier was "the straw that broke the camel's back" in his marriage I was more than a little disappointed that that was his connection to the case. The "working man more dedicated to his job than his family" storyline is a fairly well worn-out TV trope but I decided not to spend too much energy worrying about it.

The first half of the episode was a little sluggishly paced for my tasted but once Senator Van Horn sent Broyles the file explaining the prime suspect's brother was a cosmonaut I knew we were going in the right direction. Walter soon discovers that the shadow is sucking radiation from its subjects; could it be the comatose cosmonaut? No, actually, it was a "thing" from space that had attached to the cosmonaut and was projecting itself outside of his body (Science!). I had read an interview with the creators of the show and they said that there would be absolutely no aliens whatsoever in Fringe (The X-Files comparisons would just be too overwhelming after that point I'm guessing), but lo and behold we have an "entity" from outer space behind the dustings. Now, is this breaking that promise the creators made? Or a sly subversion of it? To be honest, I would go with the latter. While the freak-of-the-week was plainly from outer space, it wasn't substantial enough, literally and figuratively, for me to feel that the integrity of the show, and the creators' vision, had been compromised in any way.

After the cosmonaut's brother failed to separate the shadow from his brother we learned that there was no way to disconnect them, only the cosmonaut's death would kill the shadow. Unfortunately, the brother learned this the hard way; by being "dusted." The team closes in on the location and tries to figure out a way to get the shadow back to the comatose cosmonaut before it can harm anyone else. As the shadow bears down on a close-by little girl she lets out a scream - and Broyles shoots the cosmonaut in the head! This is what separates Fringe from most shows. Where others would have found a way to save the cosmonaut, the little girl and a box of kittens nearby, Fringe goes and kills the guy. I couldn't ask for anything more.

My major problem with this episode was it was really lacking in personality. Olivia and Peter were largely ancillary without a whole lot to do, and while Walter got some good lines in here and there, I'm starting to grow weary of the show using him as a source of comedic relief. He can be, and often is, so much more than that; he just seems to be used as a joke machine in these self-contained episodes. What did you guys think? As a freak-of-the-week how did it rank? Post your thoughts below.

Random Thoughts

- My girlfriend: "Remember when they had that random agent for 2 episodes?" Oh Agent Jessup, I don't really care if you ever return.

- Sam Weiss was also missing this episode but so was Olivia for the most part.

- As much as I thought Broyles personal connection to the case was a bit forced that ending scene with his ex-wife was perfectly written and acted. I knew everything about how that marriage ended and what their relationship is like now from that scene alone.

- Did that final scene with that CIA agent feel weird to anyone else? Is that setting up a Broyles vs. CIA storyline? I couldn't tell.

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