This was my favorite episode of Fringe. EVER. (so far).
It was probably good enough to make up for all the shitty episodes this season. Good enough that i’ll be buying the set, just so I can study this episode in more detail.
Walter encounters a peer.
Walter is a crazed genius who can move between dimensions, but here we see him meet a mad scientist who is able to move through time. they trade notes, lament their similar family-loss sob stories (which drove them each to their mad science speciality), and in the end they argue over the nature of god/science.
And, arguably, they both turn out to be right.
You don’t have to know the history of Fringe to appreciate. It can be enjoyed stand-alone, and I’d recommend watching it right now. Just go here
i thought this entire episode was pretty awesome for almost every reason. obviously there was very little peter and olivia (bleh. I find Olivia inscrutable/code, and can’t get past peter’s baby faced actor always-trying-to-be-tough). They didn’t crap on the audience’s intelligence with some blatently retarded science. They worked in the tiresome (never ending?) subplot about Peter being from another dimension in a way that complemented the main storyline (an undelivered letter). (tangent: this peter-abduction subplot was established at the end of season one, yet they’ve been dancing around it throughout season two – as if the audience doesn’t get it? or maybe they want us to attack our television’s screaming “just tell him he’s from another dimension already, you fucking assholes!” maybe it’s some new form of entertainment where you want to kill the entertainers?)
Despite these general gripes, probably the most enjoyable aspect of this installment was the way in which this episode moved through different narrative styles:
-an interesting opening scene hook, which leaves a kid trapped on a subway car full of dead people and blown out electricity.
-our heroes work the crime scene and try to track down the protagonist who caused these deaths. They find that he calmly walked to a nearby cafe and had an hour long breakfast.
– like se7en, the protagonist walks up to the heroes and asks them not to mess with his stuff. when they pull guns, he says he murdered no one because, they aren’t dead. then vanishes.
-we then repeat the pre-credits opening scene/hook. I thought this was particularly brilliant.
xfiles nailed down a formula of having a “pre-credits creep-out crime” which serves to explain why our episode is taking place. this episode of Fringe turned that formula on it’s head by repeating these events – after our heroes have taken control of the episode’s narrative. (and ultimately, it turns out these scenes never happened at all. The guy was correct in saying he had murdered no one.)
-then I thought the the whole show might just be 4 or 5 repeats of the opening 10 to 20 minutes, because this guy can never be caught. Maybe this will be an arty-episode that is less about our heroes’ perspective of the events and more about this protagonist’s outsider lessons, as he repeats everything groundhog-day-style events. Perhaps rinse and repeating until he manages to avoid killing those people. You could base a whole show around a guy like this. he could keep slipping further and further backwards in time, encountering the cops who are tracking him at earlier and earlier points in their lives. nom.
there’s also a hint that small portions of the events miiiiight play out differently. Like walter almost letting his confession letter get to his son. Just as I was thinking they might have small events play out differently to suggesting something about the nature of time/fate/karma …
but then the show started skipping past the events we’ve seen to get to new business. they changed the show again.
– we now see Peter Weller adjusting cronenburg-ian New-Flesh/metal which runs throughout his body, while gary numan’s “are friends electric” plays. brilliant. super hip, methinks.
Plus, this idea that he vibrates the molecules of his own body faster than light so as to acheive a novel form of time travel is WAY SMARTER than almost every stupid fringe science gimmick the show has thrown at us so far.
this scene was kind of the “doesn’t need to be here, but it so strange and hip that it fleshes out the rest of the show.” it’s like the show is taking a breather from the plot to just let enjoy the spectacle and style.
but instead of Olivia talking to her lame sister, or some crap like that, it’s the villian being way cooler than you thought possible.
I found this moment kind of overwhelming.
– Then we have the bad guy trapped, and snipers ready to kill him. it has become a “Hostage Negotiator” scene, where a good guy will talk the bad guy out of doing something bad. or vanishing again. because he’s completely surrounded.
Except it quickly turns into something else. Walter unplugs his mic, and decides to help the bad guy. two mad scientist’s recognizing themselves in each other. It becomes something that the normal ethical world isn’t ready to deal with, but we as the audience are allowed to view. fly on the wall style.
All this played out with subtle intensity by two excellent actors.
Walter corrects the guy’s time travel problems, to prove himself. Then explains why he should never use this knowledge. Explains how his own meddling with the world, for love, has ruined his life. Just when he’s laid down inarguable points, he admits that his experiences have led him to a tenuous belief in something bigger than himself. He’s decided that “a white tulip” is the sign from god that he seeks, to let him know that he’s on the right path.
and now the bad guy sees his opportunity to retort. he makes a brief impatient argument that there is no god, only science. and everything we mistake for god is actually science. and then the swat team bursts in, and the bad guy disappears.
– cut to 10 years earlier. the bad guy shows up in a field. no one dies. he was telling the truth about none of the murders happening (they were related to his appearance in a populated area, when exiting time travel).
he runs up and jumps in the car with his wife. Has just long enough to say “i love you” before they’re both killed.
i feel the implication here is that Walter got through to him. That Weller decided he’d rather die with his wife than go on without her – and rather than try to fight the universe to unnaturally keep her from her fate. He also shows that he doesn’t care about preserving his tech for anyone else to use. a mad science who ultimately gives up on the science for piece of mind.
– cut to to ten years later. Walter gets a letter in the mail from some scientist he’s never met. apparently it was in the guy’s pocket when he and his wifer were killed by a car. It was postdated to remain unopened – until this specific point in time. and all it has inside, for Walter, is a drawing of a white tulip.
it’s definitely what I wish the one-off stories would aspire to more often. Probably one of the better time travel stories i’ve witnessed in years.
* also, sidenote: it was clear to me that weller is the only choice to play william gibson someday, in some sort of biopic movie, about awesome people who are also awesome.