This week, our assignment was to watch the two episodes “Earthling” and “Of Human Action” from Season Two of Fringe. (You can read the Television Without Pity Recaps here and here, while the AV Club has their recaps of the episodes here and here. The post dedicated to the Season Two season premiere episode is here and the subsequent bookclub posts are here and here.)

As always, here are the ground rules: nothing that we have seen so far is considered a spoiler, anything that we have not yet seen should be considered a spoiler. Crazy nutbar speculation is *NOT* a spoiler, but confirming or denying said confirmation would be.

Here’s my idea for spoilers: please rot13 them. That’s a simple encryption that will allow the folks who want to avoid spoilers to avoid them and allow the people who want to argue them to argue them. We good? We good! Everybody who has seen the finale, see you after the cut!

A couple of weeks ago, we watched our Fringe team fail to stop the shapeshifters from the alternate universe from collecting the frozen head that William Bell told Olivia that should *NOT* fall into the hands of the shapeshifters from the alternate universe.

This week’s episodes aren’t about that. Neither one, really.

As such, it makes me not particularly inclined to go through minute by minute because, let’s face it, these shows aren’t the shows that contain the storyline that made me say “Hey, you! We need to watch this show together!” You deserve the high notes, though.

The opening of Earthling had me remember the spinal fluid vampire from last season… until I realized that the guy lying on the phone to his significant other was lying to her about not being able to do anything for their anniversary. So it was kind of nice to realize that he wasn’t humping around. Until, of course, I realized that he was going to be dead.

Broyles playing in the restaurant was a sweet moment. I mean, I knew that the show said that he had kids, but I never *KNEW* that he had kids until he was playing peekaboo with his menu. That was a nice touch… as was Broyles talking at the scene, asking question that were surprisingly specific as to what the guy may have been doing over the last duration. It showed us that he used to do Fringy stuff himself rather than telling us that he did.

Having the dusty remains contain ZERO radioactivity (as opposed to the seven rads that you have and the eight that I have) gave a nice little pseudosciency touch. I may be torn about whether I want to buy a shadowy figure turning a man into his component parts… but tell me that the component parts will have *ALL* of their radioactivity drained? Okay, I’m in.

The “stop me before I kill again” kinda killer is a fairly decent trope for a cop show. You’ve got the cops working against the clock… and the clock gets nudged back from time to time by the killer (but he can only nudge it back so far…) and that creates a nice little oppressive sense of urgency on the part of the audience. This can be kicked up a notch (BAM!) by having Broyles called for a private outdoor meeting with a Senator who tells him that this is no longer a Fringe issue but an FBI one because the Russians are interested in this too. Ah, the Russians. I miss the heck out of them, I tell you what. It was nice to see Walter thinking the same thoughts. (Maybe I should be troubled that he was thinking the same thing, actually…)

Broyles talking about how this particular case was the one that caused his divorce was a nice surprise (even if storyline economy demanded such a thing)… and then solving the case (against orders, may I add) was a nice piece of closure with the lovely capstone of Broyles telling his ex-wife that that thing that ruined their marriage has been solved. Bittersweet.

There was some alpha male posturing between the CIA goons and Broyles but the show felt like it didn’t have its heart in it. I mean, as sub-plots go, is a CIA vs. FBI Fringe division fight really what we want to see?

Not when there are shapeshifting robots from another universe, we don’t!

Which brings us to our next episode which also does not have the shapeshifters. HOWEVER… in doing research, I find myself feeling vaguely less uncharitable because, apparently, this episode was written with certain instructions. The suits at Fox called the writers up and said “we’re doing something for The Simpsons. Can you put a bunch of Simpsons tribute stuff in your episode?” As such, we see stuff like a Homer Pez dispenser and we see the giant floating letters “Springfield” (without any state mentioned). I’m surprised we didn’t see someone say “don’t have a cow” in front of Gene.

Anyway, the show opens with two seedy looking dudes being chased by the cops. The dudes have a kid in the back seat. The cops pull them over, the dudes get out of the car, the cops mention that the hostage looks okay, the dudes growl that they don’t know what they’re dealing with… and the cops all kill themselves. Moments later, when our Fine Fringe Folks finger the foundational factor of fascination, we all know what’s up.

Let’s call it here: the two dudes are the hostages, the kid is the hostage taker. Rod Sterling would have sent this back and asked for a less obvious twist. What makes this episode interesting is that the kid is part of a major experiment on the part of Massive Dynamic (as in the kid is one of several Tylers, but the first who displayed psychic abilities)… and we see Nina send William Bell an email through what looks like a vax terminal (we’ve reached the point where vax is, effectively, steampunk). The interesting part is that Nina isn’t sure that William gets these messages but, heck, she sends them regularly.

The kid being the hypnotizer isn’t a surprise, one of the members of our team getting kidnapped isn’t a surprise, the fact that it’s Peter isn’t a surprise, the fact that they end up in a, ahem, Gentlemen’s Club Appropriate For Prime Time isn’t a surprise, we don’t even have a HOLY CRAP IT’S THE OBSERVER moment to surprise us. He could have been in the Gentleman’s Club. Handing out two dollar bills and disappointed that the steak isn’t very spicy.

Alas, it’s not to be. What’s so frustrating about this episode is that it would have fit in *PERFECTLY* smack dab in the middle of Season One. Heck, it *MIGHT* have fit in perfectly in the first 4 episodes of this season… but having this episode play after the one where the Shapeshifters steal the head that William Bell warned Olivia about (and, indeed, was the reason he dragged her over into the other universe in the first place) but before we see what the shapeshifters are up to?

It feels like an episode that you could skip entirely without missing anything important.

Thank goodness we get back to some really interesting meta-stuff next week… not the shapeshifters, sadly, but an episode devoted to the observers. (I think that that’s the episode that got me to really, really like them and to look forward to the stuff that involved them.) After that we get YET ANOTHER monster of the week thing (if I forget to warn you to not eat during the show: DO NOT EAT DURING THIS SHOW). However, after that, we finally learn the name of the guy that we got so much buildup for. But we’ll get to that then.

In the meantime, I’m sorry I’m cranky but these two episodes bugged me.

So… what thinks did you thunk?


Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to


  1. Yes, I am annoyed that we have to freak of the weeks and are not advancing the shapeshifter plots.

    The only things that I do like about both of these is that in the first one we see a little more into Broyles personality and his life. We got this with Charlie and then he was killed a little later. Precedence is not good for Broyles. I also liked the addition of the CIA, if this leads somewhere. I do wonder about our Fringe people struggling against of organisations and it woudl be a little interesting to see that play out, but I would rather see shapeshifters at this point.

    The second episodes redeeming quality was the end were we find out this is a MD experiment. I like that MD has its own agenda still that does not include Fringe and it reminds us of Bell in the other dimension. Here’s hoping we will see shapeshifters in the next one.

  2. I think this is one aspect where watching them in a marathon really makes a difference. I watched 6 other episodes the day I watched these 2, so they weren’t AUGH GET TO THE POINT, they were a welcome breath of something else in between the main storyline bits…

    I admit to tuning out for large swaths of Of Human Action though. Done before, done before.

    • I am trying to stay on track and not get ahead and that does leave me wondering. I liked Human Action better than Earthling. I think the main reason is Walter’s reaction to seenig the company Bell built AND how similar the problem for the scientist and his son seemed. I do wonder if that was part of the plan by MD to throw Walter off the real scent or if that was all true, but the reason for the son was easily avoided by Walter paying too much attention to the similarities.

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