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'Fringe': Inside Massive Dynamic

November 13, 2009 |  1:32 am

207_ofhumanaction_0006 Massive Dynamic. It’s almost like another character in the “Fringe” universe. Or universes. Massive Dynamic has always been a source of secrets and conjecture. Olivia said herself about Massive Dynamic that all her cases “lead back here.” Though not so much lately. Massive Dynamic had only played a part in one episode so far this season. Until Thursday night.

It all starts when the Fringe Division is brought in to investigate a hostage situation in which four police officers appeared to die by means of mind control. Tyler, the perceived hostage, was the son of a scientist at Massive Dynamic. I say perceived hostage because he turns out to be (twist) the kidnapper and then (twist) a Massive Dynamic experiment. I didn’t bother to warn you about spoilers because neither is really a surprise twist and knowing doesn’t spoil the episode (though why would you be reading this before watching the episode anyway?).

Apparently, Massive Dynamic’s brainwave-enhancing drugs mixed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder medication and a pubescent boy’s hormones leads to mind control. I’m sure that’s great news to pubescent boys with ADHD, but it’s bad news for everyone else. As soon as he gets mind-control powers, Tyler goes off to find his birth mother. Of course. That’s exactly what any other 15-year-old boy would do if he gained the ability to control other people. At least there was the added realism of him and Peter stopping by a strip club on the way. That’s more like what I’d imagine that kid would do. Though I’m unsure of how safe it was for Peter to get steak and fries at a strip club. Hope Walter can whip up a cure for the side effects to that.

Since the case involves Massive Dynamic, it gives Fringe Division an excuse to set up camp within the globe-spanning corporation, and it allows Walter his first visit. That was quite the treat. Walter walking around in awe of the building and its 70+ floors of laboratories. Everything William Bell built after Walter went into the mental hospital. It would have been cool to see Walter running wild with the research capabilities of Massive Dynamic, but he quickly comes to suspect the company and even fear that it is trying to record his thoughts. Normally, I’d play that off as drug-induced paranoia, but with Massive Dynamic, Walter may just be right.

In the most impressive sequence of the episode, Olivia and the rest of Fringe Division organize a swap between the kidnappers and Tyler’s Massive Dynamic father. All the FBI agents are equipped with white noise headsets to prevent the mind control, and during the exchange, we the audience hear the white noise. Plus there’s a cool explosion and a car kicking up dirt at the screen. All in all, it was pretty sweet.

That’s the point where we learn that Tyler is the one with the mind-control powers and not the scary used car salesman. From there, Tyler takes Peter and continues his journey to find his mother. We start to get some glimpses into the young man’s mind. How his father lied to him all his life and he didn’t mean to do some of the things he did. But all I could think was that this kid killed like seven or eight people. He got a guy to walk off the top level of a parking structure, he made another pour scalding hot coffee on himself, and he forced another to stick a key in an electrical socket. Messed up by drugs or not, that kid is kind of psycho. When Olivia said at the end of the episode that he wouldn’t be doing any time, I couldn’t believe it. Sure he was just getting wheeled away into some Massive Dynamic storage facility, but they still should have lied and said he was doing some jail time. He killed four cops. He deserves at least some fictional punishment.

In the end we learn that Tyler Carson is but one of several Tylers that Massive Dynamic created. This comes by way of Nina Sharp’s Doogie Howser-type messages to Bell in the alternate reality. Nina informs Bell of their progress even though she doesn’t know if he’s receiving any of the e-mails she sends. Maybe if she upgraded from that Apple IIe she’s using to a Macbook Pro, she’d have an easier time Facebook messengering her boss.

"Simpsons" scavenger hunt -- If you weren’t aware, in honor of the Simpson’s 20th anniversary, references to the famous yellow family have been hidden in several of Fox's shows. I caught two in “Fringe.” First was the Homer Pez dispenser in which Tyler appeared to be storing his mind-control drugs. Second was the town in which Tyler’s mother lived: Springfield. Most likely Springfield, Pa. Though they didn’t put the state at the end of the name when it appeared in the sky, which in itself is another Simpsons reference. Nice work.

Astrid action -- Astrid was all over Thursday night’s episode. She actually got out of the lab! Can you imagine? Not only out of the lab, but kicking some butt outside of the lab. She drove in a high-speed chase, and just as dangerous, she searched through the Internet history of a teenage boy. (Yeah, he was looking up info on his mom, but I’m sure there were some other sites on there.) Though my favorite Astrid moment of the night was her wearing the tin foil helmet with Walter because Massive Dynamics “creeped her out.” That’s so Astrid.

Spot the Observer -- OK, now the makers of “Fringe” are just being jerks. Do you want to know where the Observer was hiding in this episode? In the opening when NYPD cruisers are whipping around corners to get into the parking structure, old Baldy is standing behind a car in the shadow of a bush. Seriously? I couldn’t even see him on my 32” television. If it wasn’t for FringeTelevision.com, I would have never found him. After last week, I was all pumped about my Observer-catching skills. At least next week, it seems like he’ll be easy to spot. It looks like an Observer-centric episode. At least that part of my post will be easy.

-- Andrew Hanson

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Photo: Olivia (Anna Torv), left, and Walter (John Noble) investigate a kidnapping that rapidly escalates into a hostage situation. Credit: Fox Television

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