OK, forgive me, but I’m going to spend the entirety of this post raving about how great “Fringe” was tonight.
Right out of the gate, you knew this episode was something special. Not only did the notorious floating location marker tell us we were back in 1985, it changed from its regular stainless steel to a more '80’s geek sci-fi font (if you can name the font in the comments below, you get +3 to your nerd attributes). This level of detail took what could have been a good episode and turned it into probably the best hour of “Fringe” so far.
In that opening scene, we watch a 25 years younger Walter Bishop pitch for funding to a dark room full of generals. He passes around a cellphone and explains how he copied it from an alternate universe. He even takes the generals to the roof to peek through his magic looking glass at the Déjà Vuniverse as a zeppelin docks at the Empire State Building. I’m sure Walter got a fat government check so fast, he probably thought he was a failing bank (political humor!).
And then the opening credits rolled, '80’s style. Anyone who can honestly say they didn’t love that credit sequence needs to have their remote control revoked. You don’t really love television.
Previously on “Fringe,” Olivia discovered what every viewer had guessed a year ago: Peter is from the alternate universe. So tonight, Walter stops by to explain exactly what happened. For the past season and a half, we’ve gotten snippets and clues. Heard stories. Now we get to see them played out and see how it differs from what I know.
Back in 1985, Walter had his funky mirror that allowed him to play voyeur to his double, who he names Walternate (I can’t believe his assistant didn’t think that was funny). Both universes’ Peters are sick, struck by a fatal genetic disorder. Walternate diligently works on a cure, and Walter watches him. Walternate does have access to more advanced technology, but come on, Walter, try to look busy.
Our Peter dies in his father’s arms and is mourned by a blond (Walter’s assistant Carla Warren), a brunette (his mother Elizabeth), and a red-head (Nina Sharp). After the funeral, Walter and Elizabeth speculate on whether or not Peter had a good life and if he knew he was loved. It was a beautiful monologue delivered by John Noble. Then Walter shows his wife the alternate Peter alive and well, trying to ease both their grief.
Drunken, depressed Walter continues to watch Walternate work on a cure, but when he finds it, he is momentarily distracted by the Observer observing. Only our Walter knows it worked.
So that’s why Walter crossed to the other side. He didn’t go planning on kidnapping Peternate. He wanted to cure him and leave him with his family. That might be the biggest reveal of the episode. I’d always assumed that Walter’s trip between worlds was an act of desperate grief, not a rescue.
What happens next is the birth of the show we watch and love. Walter crosses over. Dr. Warren brings Nina to stop him, but she only ends up with an arm wavering between dimensions, which William Bell will later build her cybernetic prosthetic to replace.
Walter’s cure breaks in travel, forcing him to snag Peternate and bring him back to our reality to cure. Walter’s every intention was to return the boy to his real parents once saved from death’s door, but once he had his son in his arms and with his mother, Walter knew that wasn’t going to happen. He couldn’t give up Peter again.
We have seven more episodes left in the second season of “Fringe,” and I couldn’t be more excited. If “Fringe” can stay anywhere close to the quality of “Peter,” it’s going to be a fun ride.
Astrid Action – Nope. No Astrid action this week. Instead, we get Dr. Carla Warren, her 1985, blond equivalent. Man, Astrid better up her game when she gets back. Dr. Warren’s got some big shoes and bigger degrees. She may have seemed like scientific arm candy in the beginning, but she proved herself by the end. Dr. Warren was the final voice of reason, reminding Walter that opening a wormhole would rupture the fabric of reality. “Forever ruin both universes.” Man, that was good.
Spot the Observer – Apparently, everything that goes wrong went wrong because Walternate spotted the Observer. The Observer, or should I say September (which is how our special bald watchman is now referred to in the cast list), just wanted a front row seat for the big discovery.
Possibly the best scene in tonight’s episode of great scenes was September meeting up with the other Observers to confess his mistake. August and December walking out of “Back to the Future,” which in the Déjà Vuniverse apparently stuck with original star Eric Stoltz, and discussing its “interesting theories.” They’re Observers. Makes sense they’d watch movies. And have Slusho.
Then in the end, we get to see Walter’s first interaction with the Observer. As it was described way back in “The Arrival” early on in season one. Even though I knew exactly how that scene played out, I still tensed up when the ice cracked.
How loud can I yell this – “Peter” is exactly what “Fringe” needs to be. Beyond the fact that it contained some of the best writing in the series and an incredible performance by John Noble, “Fringe” truly separated itself from its brethren “X-Files” and “Lost” by showing the audience what exactly happened. “Fringe” teased, then followed through. I know the instinct must be “if we show them everything, we won’t have anything else to show,” but cast that aside, “Fringe.” Showing me just made me want to see more. Was Bell secretly prodding Walter to open the door even though they knew the possible consequences? How did the Bishops explain a child who was supposed to be dead and buried? Why is the Déjà Vuniverse so much more advanced than our universe?
I want to watch more “Fringe.” Now.
-- Andrew Hanson
PHOTO: John Noble as Walter Bishop and Orla Bradly as Elizabeth Bishop. FOX Television