Join us for our Fringe Summer re-watch, where we review every episode of Fringe during the summer hiatus. Comments are welcome as we dig into the connections made over three seasons.
This episode starts out swinging, and in that regard it reminds me of "Safe" from Season 1.
It looks like three cops from Queens are dealing with two kidnappers and their teen-aged victim. But "Of Human Action" is an episode about perspective(and that makes it foreshadowing of "Johari Window"), and if you walk away with anything from it, it should be that things are not always as they appear-a very good thing to keep in mind if you're caught up with 'Fringe' through episode 322. For at least the first 15 minutes of this episode, it seems that the men are the kidnappers, and the teen is the victim, not the other way around. The two actors who play the used car salesmen are well-casted, and even though they are well-dressed, there's a slightly sinister air about them.
It's not until Peter Bishop is unwillingly stopped dead in his tracks that we realize Tyler Carson is the mind control master, with his endless dispenser of medicine-in-a-Pez. Cameron Monaghan does a great job as Tyler Carson, a troubled youth desperately looking to reunite with his birth mother(more on that shortly). Tyler takes Peter hostage as his driver, dragging him along for the ride of his not-thought-through plan. At first Peter tries to fight the youth's control, to no avail. Then Peter tries to acquire information from him, like how far a distance Tyler can utiltize his mind control power. But Tyler's pretty sharp and refuses to give Peter any information.
Things get a little dicey when they get pulled over by a cop for speeding. Tyler almost looks like he's enjoying himself, as he makes the cop put his revolver on the Vista Cruiser's roof. Peter's hand is visibly shaking as Tyler makes him pick it up. In a very smart move, Peter yells to Tyler,"Do not force me to shoot this man." For some reason, Tyler changes his plan from having Peter kill the officer, to making Peter just knock him out. (Peter's words will come in handy when the poor man wakes up and alerts the authorities.)
I believe this is only the second case in which our Olivia Dunham is emotionally vested. The first, of course, was involving her lover, John Scott, in the pilot. Olivia seems off balance as soon as she realizes Peter is the crazy kid's hostage. You can hear it in her voice and see it in her body language.
Walter Bishop is also off balance as soon as he realizes Peter is gone from the crime scene.There's a beautiful scene where Olivia goes to Walter in a room at Massive Dynamic's New York headquarters, and tried to comfort him. Let me post that conversation:
Walter: I can't lose him again.
Olivia: Walter... I know you're worried. We all are. But we can get Peter back. We just need you to find a way to disable Tyler.
Walter: Peter always helps me. I don't know what to do. How do I do this without Peter? He always helps me.
Olivia: He helps me too. But you can do this.
Nina: Walter...I know you're scared. But you're the only one that can help him.
Walter: Maybe I could use an EMF scrambler to disrupt his beta wave transmissions.
Nina: Sounds like a good place to start.
It's very interesting to me how it is Nina Sharp here, who is able to get Walter to clam down and move into a thinking mode, and not Olivia. Will that be what happens in Season 4 when Peter's not there to help Walter?
Meanwhile, crazy kid is hungry and wants to look at girls, so he makes Peter take him into a strip joint for dinner. This is a very interesting scene, and makes me think of something Akiva Goldsman would write in. I noticed in the credits of this episode that he's listed as 'consulting producer.' There's alot of conversation and emotion going on at the dinner table of the two unlikely diners, as a scantily-clad body dances above the men. Peter tries to chip away at the kid's master plan by boldly needling him. Regarding his dad, Tyler tells Peter "He lied to me my entire life." Again, doesn't sound like much in Season 1, but if you've seen "The Man From The Other Side" this is true foreshadowing of what truths lie ahead for Peter Bishop.
Peter answers Tyler saying, "Let's not get dramatic." The youth continues to tell Peter further that his father told him his mother was dead. This could also be foreshadowing of Peter's alternate mother, Elizabeth, who we're told killed herself years ago after Peter went to Europe.
(What if Blue Verse Liz is not dead, interesting, yes?) Tyler tells Peter he found his birth certificate with his mom's name on it and tracked her down, and is going to see her. "She was never really dead at all."
Meanwhile, Walter has picked up his pace, and Olivia walks in on he and Astrid wearing aluminum foil hats in one of Massive Dynamic's labs. Olivia tells him nervously she hopes he has something better to stop Tyler with than what he's wearing. Walter tells her "I don't trust them here. I think they are trying to read my thoughts." And who knows, he could be correct. What don't they do? Astrid, who's also donning an aluminum foil chapeau, offers Walter mutual support. "Massive Dynamic gives me the creeps too." (That makes 3 of us.) Walter tries to explain to Olivia what the modified electromagnetic pulse(more foreshadowing of "Johari Window") will do. She doesn't get it, and Peter's not around. Fortunately, Astrid's getting better at Walterese and tells Liv "Where gonna crash his brain." And I'll tell ya, folks, I think that's what somebody's going to do to Peter in Season 4. To summarize, the writers have painstakingly painted some similarities between Tyler Carson and Peter Bishop in this episode. We learn toward the end that Tyler Carson is Tyler Carson #3, as in one of many "Tyler Carsons" in an experiment. Does that mean Peter Bishop is an experiment also?
Tyler and Peter get to Tyler's mother's house in Maryland, and of course she's very shocked to see him. Inside Tyler tells her he doesn't blame her for leaving, that he thinks his dad didn't want him to be with his mother. Renee Davies says, "Oh no, Tyler, it wassn't like that." My guess is that she donated her eggs to Massive Dynamic for money, but there is no proof of that.
They are interrupted by the arrival of Renee's husband, and Tyler gets mad, seeing this man as the reason for his mom's departure from his life. Tyler has Peter pick up his gun and point it at Renee's husband. Just then Broyles bursts in and tasers Tyler, but all it does is anger him. He has Peter move his gun hand and shoot Broyles, then Tyler again takes off in Walter's car with Peter as his hostage.
Minutes later, Olivia arrives, and joins Walter and Astrid in her car with Walter's contraption.
Conveniently Walter spots the Vista Crusier and Liv's practically screaming for Walter to get close enough to use his machine. Peter sees Tyler momentarily out of it, and crashes the poor station wagon into a pole. Walter is bending over Peter, passed out on the ground, as he regains consciousness, telling him "You always prove to be more resourceful than I give you credit for." More foreshadowing, perhaps?
Peter looks in Olivia's direction, and all she does is nod toward him. For as crazy worried as Olivia was about Peter in this episode, I found that simple nod a bit understated.
The second to last scene is the Bishop men in their Cambridge home. Peter gets off the phone with Olivia and Walter guesses he was correct that the mind control stopped when the Pezes left Tyler's system. Walter asks Peter how many crepes he wants. A bandaged and subdued Peter tells him he's not hungry and doesn't need any crepes. Walter replies" You were abducted. Of course you need crepes!" which is one of my favorite Season 1 Walterisms. Then for possibly the third time this episode, Walter brings up Peter's mother again. "Whenever your mother made them you called them 'creeps'...drove her batty. She was a strong woman, your mother."
In response, Peter swallows hard, which we've come to know means he's upset by Walter's words.
In "The Dreamscape" the timely death of Georges Morales makes you think Nina Sharp is a dark, controlling character with secrets. The last scene of "Of Human Action," cinches it.
Nina Sharp is typing a note to William Bell on an old computer, and it's the content that makes the hairs on your neck stand up:
"William, I don't know if you've been receiving these messages, but I continue to hope. I wanted to update you on the status of the Penrose-Carson experiments. One of the Tylers did, in fact, display a rather dramatic ability for mind control. But before we became aware of his ability, there were some unintended consequences. Among them, he was able to locate records of his surrogate mother, and, unfortunately, made a misguided attempt to reunite with her. In light of this, I am suspending the experiments indefinitely. You were right -- mind control is possible, given the right conditions. So despite the unfortunate circumstances, we can consider the project a success. As always, I hope this finds you in good health. Warmest Regards, Nina."
Wow, remind me to not completely trust Nina Sharp ever again! Penrose, you will remember was the doctor from 102, "The Same Old Story," who adopted the age-generated experiment guy as his son, and helped him acquire people's pituitaries to stay alive. If you remember, Christopher Penrose told Olivia someone paid Penrose-we must assume to keep those experiments going. Now we know it was Massive Dynamic who Dr. Penrose worked for.
Questions That Arise From "Of Human Action"
As Peter and Olivia try to figure out how the used car salesman fit into the kidnapping, Peter says "Maybe they're hiding out in plain sight?" Is that foreshadowing of what "Peter" will do in Season 4? On the same subject, this is the second episode to have car salesmen in it(they were also in "The No-Brainer." Of the car sales profession, Peter says, "There's certainly nothing more mundane than being a used car saleman." Will they bring Peter back as one in Season 4?
The only person under Tyler Carson #3's mind control who was able to alter it in any way was Peter. Is that because he's from another unvierse, or is it because he is a "mutant" of some kind as Walter hinted in "Night Of Desirable Objects?"
Why did Peter drive the Vista Cruiser into the tree? On the surface it seems he did it to stop Tyler Carson from using his mind control, but is there another reason? Is it possible Peter knew he wouldn't die?
So Tyler Carson numbers 3, 4, and 5 are being kept alive(or animated) at Massive Dynamic Headquarters. How many Tyler Carson's were made? And what happened to the others?
If Peter Bishop Never Existed
Who would have pushed Nina Sharp to reveal more information to the feds?
Who would have streamlined the informational session with the SWAT team guys and given Walter the microphone to talk with them?
Would Olivia have become Tyler Carson #3's next kidnappig victim? If so, would she have survived the ordeal? Is this then the 4th example of "Give him the keys, and save the girl" in this series? By Peter's being kidnapped to become Tyler's driver, did he save Olivia's life?
If Peter didn't exist, would Phillip Broyles have died?