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'Fringe': The Edina Hum

January 15, 2010 | 10:54 am

211_ecl_0130 Brand new “Fringe.” Actually new new, too. Not like Monday’s throwback to Season One. Charlie Francis is dead, Astrid has her new haircut, and everything looks vaguely Canadian. This is definitely Season Two.

Like Monday’s “Unearthed,” “Johari Window” is a standalone episode. No new update on the shape-shifting soldiers from another dimension. They must be off interpreting the information they got from Walter when they reunited him with the missing chunks of his brain. The only connections to the greater “Fringe” storyline were Walter’s fear of running into “him” (presumably Newton, head man of the shape-shifting soldiers) and the obligatory vague reference to Peter’s past when Walter talked about keeping a dark secret.

Nope, this week’s craziness kicks off when a state trooper (with the biggest set of chompers this side of Gary Busey) picks up a kid walking along the road just outside Edina, N.Y. The trooper doesn’t get five minutes into his drive and his speech about how the kid’s family misses him when his passenger changes from a normal looking kid to Rocky from the movie “Mask.”

The trooper barely gets him back to his station when two more deformed people show up, shoot everyone, and take the boy away, but not before a report and picture is uploaded to the state directory, drawing the attention of Olivia and the rest of the Fringe team.

The team heads to Edina to investigate, but only find more mysteries -- like the Edina Hum, a constant background noise the town sheriff blames on a military base’s giant turbines. “Fringe” has done some cool things with sound this season, most notably in “Of Human Action” when it had a whole action scene drowned out with white noise headphones. I love how the Edina Hum remained in the background of every scene within the town.

Turns out the government was working on a new type of camouflage involving electromagnetic pulses (after years of “Fringe,” “X-Files,” and comic books, I’m ready to accept that the government tried just about everything in the '50s). The pulse had some unforeseen side effects, like mutating all the townspeople of Edina. Edward Cobb, the man who came up with the experiments, stuck around to finish the technology to disguise the Edinans, which also creates the Hum.

Normally, I’m pretty good with the science behind “Fringe,” but I got a little lost with this one. I understand how vision is an interpretation of electromagnetic waves, but how does the pulse make crazy freaks look like normal people? And wouldn’t it effect how everyone looks in the Edina City limits?

But Walter is smarter than me. He manages to figure out what’s going on (though he does have the advantage of having consulted on the project), and while Peter and Olivia are fighting off the small-town freaks, he and Astrid find the machine and shut it down. In the end, he convinces Agent Broyles to let the people of Edina turn it back on and live in peace once the state troopers' killers have gotten their comeuppance. They roll out of town, watched by the same kid who was trying to run away. Poor kid. Forever feeling stuck in his small town. Guess the team really didn’t fix anything.

One last thing I have to mention. There was a little character moment between Peter and Olivia where they talk about how the job changes them. Olivia says she ran into an old friend, and when she explained what she does, he stared at her like she was a freak. How much did she tell this guy? Think she mentioned that she crossed over into an alternate reality? Or shut a bomb off with her brain? How about having her dead boyfriend’s memories stuck in her head? If so, I think looking at her like a freak might be the normal reaction.

Agent for a Day – The world isn’t the same without Charlie Francis. He was so good at supplying much-needed investigation exposition. At the beginning of the season, we got Agent Amy Jessup to fill that role, but she seems to have gotten other assignments (wonder if she’s ever coming back). This week it was Agent Frug. You’ll have to thank IMdB for the name. I think it was said maybe once the whole episode. He was there to give the Fringe team important information, but like most of the “Fringe” bad guys, I’m sure he’ll never be seen again.

Astrid Action – Astrid was all over the place this week. She started off in her normal position as sounding board for Walter in the lab, but before you knew it, she was driving him around, spotting antennas and playing Operation. We also learned that Astrid loves butterflies and hates moths. Astrid’s role has grown significantly this season. Almost to the point where I don’t need to point out her participation each week. Almost.

Spot the Observer – With the help of the Internet, I was able to track the Observer down to the background of the mob of Edinans that gathered to talk to the sheriff. There’s no way I would have caught him on my own. Maybe he put on a little weight over the holidays and isn’t all that eager to get in front of the camera right away. I know how that can be.

-- Andrew Hanson


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Photo:  Joshua Jackson, left, John Noble and Anna Torv. Credit: Fox Television