FRINGE 1.08 "The Equation"
As if in response to our constant complaining about the 'Fringe' formula, the show's creators offered us something different for this episode. Our wish to get a better understanding of who is actually pulling the strings has gone unanswered yet again, but this episode did offer something for viewers to sink their teeth in. Well, at least that is how I felt.
This episode was light on the disturbing science experiment of the week side. Instead of the typical gruesome killing before the credits, we see a young prodigy named Ben kidnapped by a mysterious, petite woman named Joanne Ostler. Ostler is able to steal Ben away from his father, by pretending to have a stalled car, and hypnotizing Ben's father with flashing lights found under her car's hood.
Ben's father is not the first person who Ostler has hypnotized and Ben is not the first person she has kidnapped. Other's have been hypnotized, kidnapped and then returned by Ostler, and each of her victims have happened to be academics of some sort. Ben is the exception, since he is child.
When Olivia questions Ben's father, she learns why Ben is in the same league as the highly intelligent adults that Ostler has kidnapped. Ben's origin story includes a car accident that killed his mother and put him in a coma. When Ben finally woke up, he was able to play an advanced piano piece and he has been obsessed with this song ever since the accident.
We cut to Ostler, who is trying to get Ben to come up with the last piece of the song he has been working on. We never learn how Ostler is able to do this, but she uses the ghost of Ben's mother to encourage him to work harder on the song. Is it possible to plant the ghost of a close relative in a person's mind, just by hypnotizing them with flashing lights? That is still unclear at this point. Hopefully in a future episode there will be an explanation as to how Ostler was able to get into the minds of her kidnapped victims.
Walter makes the connection between Ben's circumstances and a fellow patient, Dashel Kim, that he was friends with, while still in the mental institution. Kim was also kidnapped by Ostler. A while after he was returned, he murdered his wife, and scribbled a mathematical equation all over the wall, using her blood. Showing shades of his father's brilliance, Peter matches the formula Dashel scribbled on the wall of the crime scene, to the notes in Ben's song.
In a moment of "Oh no, they are going in that direction" Peter dazzles Olivia with his piano playing ability. While Peter plays the notes from Ben's song, Olivia stares at him, all googily eyed. It is only matter of time, most likely in the season finale, until these two hook up. Peter wows Olivia a second time, when he is able to figure out the alias that Ostler is now using.
Walter eventually volunteers to go back into the mental institution to question Dashel. Dashel refuses to answer his questions, causing Walter to become extremely agitated. The head of the institution steps in and sedates Walter, taking him into custody. Peter frees his father, but not before Walter gets one clue. Dashel tells him that the experience with the Ostler was actually an illusion, with "A dungeon and a red castle." Olivia takes this description, and the information she has dug up on the alias that Ostler has been using, and finds out where the serial kidnapper is holding Ben.
What makes this episode juicier than others, are the concepts that get thrown around. It is clear by this point in the show, that everything is connected. Ben and Dashel were both obsessed with the same set of numbers, yet in different forms. This suggests that individuals can be connected to each other, subconsciously, though they may never have interacted on a conscious level. That is a very interesting concept, in itself, and provokes alot of philosophical discussion.
We still don't know what the numbers in the equation will be used for, but Agent Loeb (the secret bad guy from the previous episode) knows. After Ostler gives Loeb the formula, he uses it in an experiment involving an apple and a microwave looking device. When the experiment is a success (Ostler says "it works!') Loeb shoots Ostler in the chest. By connecting this story with the Loeb story from the previous episode, we are finally getting a glimpse at the players involved with the pattern. Though, what they are planning to do, I have no freaking clue.
As someone who has a relative that has been institutionalized, I was both impressed with the authenticity of the mental institution that Walter stayed in and extremely interested in the deconstruction of Walter's mental state. In the moments when Walter was back in the institution and started having visions of himself, I was thoroughly creeped out. The hallucinations delivered the same kind of chills when the castaways from 'Lost' first started having visions.
If the show can deliver this type of heady, character building episode, along with the evil experiment of the week type episode, and then tie it all together, with a mythology heavy finale, I think in the long run, we might not feel as guilty for putting in the time to watch it all play out.