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'Fringe': Walter’s brain

December 11, 2009 | 11:55 am

Walter's brain There it goes. The last new episode of “Fringe” for 2009. Now “Fringe” will go on its holiday break and come back in mid-January. This will give “Fringe” time to go back home, stay in its parents’ house and hang out with old high school friends. But what an episode to go out on.

The frozen-headed leader of the shape-shifting soldiers from another dimension is back, and he’s cutting out pieces of mental patients’ brains, making them sane again. Unfortunately, he nearly gets caught, forcing him to leave one poor guy with his top down (literally), and pulls the classic bad guy blunder of looking over his shoulder as he leaves the scene of the crime, so his face is caught on tape.

Bad news for him, but good news for Olivia. She’s been going through the files of all the heads stolen from the cryogenics labs by the shape shifters, and she can put a name to our newest bad guy: Thomas Jerome Newton. It’s also good news for me, because having to write “the frozen-headed leader of the shape-shifting soldiers from another dimension” every time would lead to a very long Show Tracker.

Olivia snaps into high gear trying to catch Newton, but I had to wonder about it. The main reason Olivia is so intent on getting Newton is because William Bell told her to. Bell isn’t quite the most reliable source. We’re not even sure whether he is one of the good guys yet, and Newton has been running around curing insane people and being very polite about it from the sound of it. Though one of Newton’s shape-shifting soldiers from another dimension did kill/replace Charlie Francis, so that’s good enough reason to take him down.

Walter quickly deduces that Newton is removing chunks of brain matter from these patients. Brain matter that shouldn’t have been there. He explains that keeping pieces of human brain alive outside the skull is nearly impossible (as much as he’s tried). Apparently someone found the solution by storing those pieces inside a living person’s brain. The only drawbacks being the storing brain can’t process the new memories, driving that person crazy, and, of course, someone’s missing pieces of his brain.

Who’s missing these pieces of brain? Well, Newton is trying to open a door to the other dimension, and we know only one person who has invented a way to do that: Walter. That’s right, pieces of Walter’s brain have been removed and stored in random people. How’s that for crazy fringe science?

Newton gathers all the pieces and kidnaps Walter to reconnect them. He can’t just stick the missing parts back in, but he can reconnect Walter with his missing gray matter electronically. With the help of the sensory stimulation of dragging Walter back to his old house. This leads to probably the coolest moment of the season so far (if not the series): a glimpse at Walter with all his faculties. John Noble's portrayal of Walter Bishop has always been amazing, but just how much he conveys by changes in posture and expression after the machine takes effect is incredible.

But nothing that good can last too long. Newton gets the information he needs and flees, leaving Walter to watch the removed pieces of his brain die. Olivia manages to kill two of Netwon’s shape-shifting soldiers, but he escapes by making her choose between capturing him and saving Walter’s life (thank goodness, I don’t know whether I could stand another “Fringe” baddie dying too quickly).

In the end, the “Fringe” team did end up with some gains. Like Broyles told Olivia, now they have a face and a name to put to their enemy. Now they just need to stop Newton before he can use the information from Walter to build his door to the other dimension. I’m guessing it’ll be a long process, lasting until the end of the season, give or take.

The audience got a little treat as well. Walter flashes back to his memory of when the pieces of his brain were removed. The mysterious doctor who preformed the surgery was none other than William “Leonard Nimoy” Bell. Bell promised that he would hide the brain chunks somewhere only he knew, which raises the question of how Newton found them. Guess we’ll have to wait until 2010 to find out.

Dispatches from the other side: Our knowledge of the alternative world, or Deja Vuniverse as I like to call it, is pretty patchy at best. We know it still has its twin towers, its White House had to be rebuilt, and it has a nice orange tinge. Tonight we got a few more details about “over there.” Apparently the area around Walter’s old home has been consumed by “the blight.” Trees and grass are dead. Wonder what could have caused that.

Astrid action: Hmm. I’m starting to worry about Agent Farnsworth. In the last couple of weeks, she has ventured out of the lab, which I’ve encouraged from the start. Only the results … well, they haven’t been the best. Last week, she managed to lose Walter and lead home several members of the Triad (not the Yazuka as commenters reminded me last week). This week, Astrid left a drugged-up Walter at home for the shape shifters to kidnap. Hope this doesn’t spoil going out for her. She’ll manage a quiet trip one of these days.

Spot the Observer: Call me crazy, but I thought I saw him across the street when Peter rushed into the bathroom where the shape shifters ditched Walter’s tracking chip. Even with HDTV, I’m having problems catching baldy. Hopefully I’ll do better in 2010.

-- Andrew Hanson

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Photo: Walter (John Noble) gets a glimpse of the past. Credit: Fox Television.

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