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'Fringe': Do-over

April 16, 2010 |  6:55 am

217_whitetulip_1773 The best part about time travel, whether it be via a tricked out DeLorean, a frozen donkey wheel or a series of implants, is that you get to reuse footage. Why not? Save a little time, a little money. Just bounce back to a time you’ve already seen, run through a slightly different angle and, bingo, you have twice as much show as when you started. 

Thursday night, “Fringe” took a break from jumping back and forth between realities to jump back and forth in time. It all started in a commuter train where Buckaroo Banzai appeared from out of nowhere and zapped all the power from any electronic device or living cell a person happened to have with him or her at the time. Then he simply slipped off the train and left an unfortunate pickpocket to discover the mess left behind.

When you have a train load of bizarre deaths, there’s only one call to make, and that’s to the Fringe Division.

Walter got his summons while writing a letter. The letter. We only saw the last line, but it wasn't hard to guess its contents. He wanted to write down all his thoughts about Peter being from the alternate reality so he wouldn’t stumble over them while telling Peter. Though, two weeks ago, he explained it in great clarity to Olivia. Complete with retro graphics.

Olivia, Walter and Peter arrived on the scene, but everything was a little off. Walter can’t look Peter in the eye, but more than that, his initial hypothesis seemed kind of tame. A collective heart attack? I expect more from Dr. Bishop. How about some brain worms? Death by smell? At least Walter took time to check the victims’ underwear. That’s strange enough to register as classic Walter.

With uncharacteristic speed and accuracy, the Fringe Division managed to track the man who caused this horrific event right away. Barely two commercial breaks in, and they’re raiding the house of Alistair Peck, MIT professor and insane genius. Peck has been studying up on quantum mechanics and stitching devices under his skin in order to make himself a sort of RoboTimeCop. 

Peck activated his personal temporal field and, blam, he’s back on that train, and the whole show was reset: Walter is back writing his letter, they arrive on the scene to investigate, and Walter drops his ever-so-important letter all over again. The one big difference this time around was that Peck spoke to the unfortunate pickpocket and touched the railing, leaving a wonderful fingerprint.

This time, the Fringe Division has the fingerprint, and it leads them to Peck. This is an episode about time travel. There’s no space for red herrings. The second time around, they pick up the additional tidbit that Peck’s fiancee died in a car crash. Suddenly, Peck’s time travel experiments make perfect sense, and Walter finds himself a kindred spirit.

When they track Peck to his MIT lab, Walter volunteers to go in alone. To talk with Peck about inventing entirely new sciences in order to save loved ones. Walter goes so far as to confess to stealing Peter from the Deja Vuniverse and that he’s waiting for a white tulip as a sign from God that it is the right time to tell Peter. 

Walter’s words aren’t enough, and as the SWAT team bursts in to stop Peck, he sends himself back in time again and ends up right where he wanted to be. Well, when he wanted to be. The day of his fiancee’s accident. Peck rushes into town so he can climb into the passenger seat to perish with the love of his life, fundamentally wiping out everything that took place in the episode. Which would have been really annoying. Who wants to watch a full hour of television only to have it all removed from the space-time continuum? 

Before he died, Peck left an envelope with his best friend to be mailed to Walter the day he originally would have investigated the train. Great timing. Would have been even better timing if it arrived 20 minutes earlier, before Walter burned the letter he wrote. 

Inside the envelope was a letter written by Doc Brown in 1885 with instructions on how to find the time machine in the old caves by the cemetery. Wait. No. Wrong letter from a time traveler. Peck’s letter contained a drawing of a white tulip. With the timeline changed, Walter would never know who Peck was. Instead he gets a clear sign, seemingly from God, that it is time to tell Peter the truth.

I’ve been saying it for a while. Glad to know the Almighty wants it to happen too.

Astrid action – Astrid (or Astro, as Walter referred to her) didn’t get much screen time this week. She made the most of it. All the time she’s spent in the lab with Walter is having its effect. They’re even starting to talk the same. She better watch herself, or she’ll end up making toffee at 4 a.m.

Spot the Observer – I didn’t get to watch “Fringe” on my big, beautiful plasma TV, but even if I did, I doubt I would have caught the Observer in this week’s episode. Thanks to the Internet, I learned that he was standing in the background during the car crash. That has to be one of the toughest Observer spottings yet. I know they like to have him pop up while we’re distracted, but during a car accident? That’s just not fair.

-- Andrew Hanson


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Photo: Walter (John Noble) investigates an unsettling incident on a commuter train. Credit: Fox Television