Fringe delivers this season’s version of the infamous ‘episode 19’, where out-of-the-box formal and narrative techniques are thrown into the mix. This year it comes by way of Walter’s (John Noble) acid trip resulting in a few excellent sequences, but it’s still a rather diluted ‘episode 19’ offering than we’ve seen in seasons past.
Let’s bitch it out…
Although it wasn’t nearly as shocking or inventive as we’ve seen in episode 19s of seasons past, the absolutely delightful Monty Python animation sequence alone is almost enough to classify “Black Blotter” as one of the series’ best. Fortunately, there were other noteworthy moments throughout the episode that help it to justify that title.
First off, we get quite a bit of narrative progression as the episode ties up a few dangling threads from previous episode, most notably, what went down in ‘Through The Looking Glass And What Walter Found There’. Well, kinda-sorta ties up. We learn that a still unseen Donald did indeed take the child observer ‘Michael’ (now played by Rowan Longworth) out of the pocket dimension and put him in the care of two burgeoning resistance fighters, Richard and Carolyn (played wonderfully by Tom Butler and Maria Marlow). What I found confusing was learning that Michael has been with the couple for around 20 years (never aging), which means that Donald must have retrieved him from the pocket universe very soon after Walter had dropped him in it. The non-aging would have totally made sense in the pocket dimension, but now that Michael is in “our world” it means another mystery has been added to the fold.
I was also scratching my head as to why Michael needed to be hidden in the pocket universe in the first place if he was just going spend 20 years in “real time” vs. the “super slow” time of the other dimension. Regardless, the kid and his surrogate parents know that he’s gotta join the fringers in order to save the world. The result is an absolutely touching goodbye between Michael, Richard and Carolyn. I was surprised that I was so emotionally invested considering we’d spent all of five minutes with the surrogate family since their introduction. Chalk it up to excellent direction, opting to show us the goodbye scene devoid of dialogue, allowing us instead to feel the visceral emotion of slow motion facial expressions and gestures. A picture really is worth a thousand words.
I couldn’t help but compare this moment to an earlier scene in which Peter (Joshua Jackson) expresses his love and gratitude to Olivia (Anna Torv) in a spare moment in the woods. As much as I love these two actors, I found it difficult to connect to this moment, perhaps because of the all-too-swift nature of Peter’s recovery from the Observer tech. Like cinephilactic mentioned in his recap last week, the simplicity of removing the tech and the subsequent “everything’s pretty much rainbows aside from the occasional headache” doesn’t sit well with me. I wanted to see more residual consequences of Peter’s action, and ultimately it just seemed too perfectly tied up for my liking. That being said, I am somewhat pleased by the fact that Olivia and Peter have reconciled, even if we have had more emotionally genuine scenes between these two in earlier episodes (most notably when the two are on the phone in “An Origin Story“)
Let’s return to Walter’s acid hallucinations, since they are, quite frankly, the episode’s best moments (i.e. the conversation with Shaun Smyth’s Anil over the VCR and right behind him, as well as the Emerald City, the Butler, and the Nina tableau). From the fake-out in the taxicab to the bonfire of his old notebook, I loved the progression of Walter’s battle against becoming “the Walter that was”. It provided more insight as to why Walter was so insistent on having Nina (Blair Brown) re-lobotomize him a few episodes ago. I feel as though I can better understand Walter’s fear by exploring it through the depths of his subconscious. I especially loved how we were shown a montage of season two’s “Peter” as Walter comes down from his acid trip with sequences projected exquisitely over the walls of the Harvard lab. Thanks to some excellent camera work, the images flow over Walter’s sorrowful face, instantly conveying the sheer weight of his fear of succumbing to the old Walter.
It was a clever narrative device to bring back Carla (Jenni Blong) and a young Nina to play off one another as Walter’s conscience. Though I would have liked to see more of young Nina to counterbalance Carla, we likely get a heavier dose of the former lab assistant because, as she repeatedly asserted, Walter’s been ‘Evil/God Complex Walter’ longer than he’s been ‘Loveable Lobotomized Walter’. I fear these beautiful, melancholic scenes with Walter are preparing us for the only way he’s able to escape the threat of his former self: death. Let’s hope I’m wrong on that theory.
- We finally get the cameo of Sam Weiss (Kevin Corrigan) that I was waiting for. Although it was just a quick glimpse of his license (and a body), I appreciated that he was able to contribute to the final season in some capacity. Now if we can just get Lincoln (Seth Gabel) to come back…
- As Ryan McGee very eloquently articulated over on his review, I too, wondered about how the “Peter” events factored into the timeline reboot. As much as I loved the beauty of the scene, it wasn’t clear how these pieces fit into this Walter’s consciousness. I didn’t think rebooted Walter had the same memories as S2 Walter. Are we to assume that this Walter is going through much the same process as Olivia did when she started to remember Peter last season? It’s unclear and again raised wishes that this final season was focusing more on tying up the themes presented throughout the series rather than focusing on this “save the world/Observer” plotline.
- It’s nice to see Astrid (Jasika Nicole) back in the action as an integral team member rather than waiting in the lab. I was pretty excited when she grabbed that gun underneath her bed, even though she didn’t end up using it. Now, if only we could get Broyles (Lance Reddick) back into the picture…
What did you think Fringers? Did this episode measure up to previous episode 19s? How are you feeling about the Peter/Olivia reconciliation? Do you think Walter will end up getting re-lobotomized, or can he conquer the Walter that was on his own? Sound off in our comments section below.
Fringe airs Fridays at 9pm EST on FOX. Looks like next week Nina will meet child Observer Michael