Review: The Firefly ~ Fringe Television - Fan Site for the FOX TV Series Fringe

Review: The Firefly

      Email Post       1/23/2011 12:43:00 AM      


Roscoe: “Are you sure you don’t know what I’m supposed to do for you?”
Walter: “No idea.”

What a delightful episode. I had been a bit worried that Fringe would start to lose its shine now that Bolivia is back in her Bearth. (See what I did there?) But this episode managed to neatly balance on the fine line between mystery of the week and high-powered mythology.

Our mystery…well, at first I didn’t realize it was a mystery. I was just goin’ along with the Observer’s actions and enjoying the first good episode of TV in a long while. But this episode, with delightful subtlety and Christopher Lloyd, managed to resolve a tension I had forgotten about: the Observer’s meddling influence in our universe and its repercussions for our heroes and humanity at large. And it all hinged, like some kind of science fiction Agatha Christie novel, on the tried-and-true mystery technique of putting a vital clue (the inhaler) in plain sight and letting us forget about it.

The Observer set himself two tasks: to test Walter (to see if he would give up his son), and to manipulate events so that Walter would be willing to give up his son—to manipulate events, in other words, so that Walter would pass the test. Over the course of the episode, Walter began to realize the persistent, deeply personal consequences of his actions: not the bombastic insanity of Earth-2’s and Walternate’s anger, but one father’s grief. As Walter gradually pieced together that, in bringing Peter back, he had induced a firefly-effect chain reaction that lead to the death of Roscoe Joyce’s son, he began to understand that he cannot control all events, because sometimes the universe must maintain its own control.

Walter’s willingness to accept the universe’s order is a long time coming. He has fought so diligently against ceding control that the Observer had to manipulate a chain of events to create both a catastrophe (the car accident) and a new frame of mind for Walter. Fascinatingly, he still had to intercede to make the catastrophe truly feel catastrophic: Walter only knew that the line about the keys and the girl was important because the Observer had mentioned it. Otherwise, he would not have realized that it was a watershed moment; because he did, he was spurred into adapting his own philosophy to take course-correction into account.

Of course, course correction and the butterfly (or firefly) effect work both ways. Peter’s return may have led to the death of Roscoe’s son, but Walter had no way of knowing that would happen. It could have been that, if Walter hadn’t brought Peter back, the Cold War would have ended in scorched earth. (Or something.) There are consequences to everything, and we can never know what they are. Whether or not we have free will, we don’t have the foreknowledge to see our will in the universal context, to know which consequences are supposed to happen and which aren’t. The Observers, however, can see those consequences, because they have a bird’s eye view of time. They can see it all at once, zooming in on specific moments at will. (The difference between our heroes’ perspective and the Observers’ is like the difference between us watching the episodes, and the point of view we have when they’re done, or when the series is complete.)

In other news: how cool was Christopher Lloyd? And how great is John Noble? It’s so easy for me to forget that he’s acting, but when I remind myself that he is not, in fact, Walter, I’m astonished by the incredible rapport he develops with each individual actor that he works with, from Kelly Astrid Jasika Nichols to this week’s guest star. Bravo to the writers, too, for showing us paternal grief that differs from Walter’s: Roscoe said that when his son died, nothing seemed to matter. For Walter, when Peter died, nothing seemed to matter except Peter.

Hmm. Wild:

• Bed-head Peter: “You’re just talking to an astral projection of me.”
Walter: “You’re just saying that to see if I’m high.”

• Peter: “The book wasn’t meant for her. It was meant for the Olivia Dunham that I’ve spent that last couple of years of my life with. Because I wanted you to read it. You’re the person I wanted to share it with.” Did anyone else tear up?

• The Observer caught bullets. Awesome!

• Dr. Jacoby from Washington State is Walter’s friend. Best shout-out ever.

• The Observer walked into the lab right as Walter was about to drink the Milk of Wisdom. Hmmm…

• I suspect the magic air gun and the Milk of Wisdom might have consequences down the line.

• What do you make of the Observer’s line that it must be difficult to be a father? Is he just referring to Walter and Roscoe, or someone else?

Four out of un-four-seen consequences.


(Like what you've read? Check out my reviews of Chuck and The Vampire Diaries, as well as past Fringe reviews, at billiedoux.com)

12 Comments:

Ron E. said...

This episode felt a little off to me. I'm worried that as the Observers take on a bigger role in the show that they will become a form of bald deus ex machina. They're almost starting to remind me of the head characters from BSG.

runpaceyrun said...

I loved The Firefly. Bravo to the writers for providing even more depth to our main characters with this storyline. Christopher Lloyd was fantastic! John Noble, was just simply OUTSTANDING! When he has to portray the frail, broken and damaged side of Walter...he simply breaks my heart. He really is an awesome actor. Olivia and Peter's awkwardness also tug at the heartstrings...and the inclusion of Peters favourite book really shone a light on their current relationship. (Ive actually ordered the book to read myself). The Observers 'course correction' and testing of Walter was a great addition to the over arcing storyline. September was really kick-ass in this episode! I have watched this episode 4 times already and am about to watch it again! I loved it!

Anonymous said...

Loved the episode... hated the pomade hair!

kashmirkong said...

The Observer’s line that it must be difficult to be a father?

I bet Peter got Fauxlivia pregnant.

Anonymous said...

Anybody remember "Reverend Jim" from the TV show 'Taxi'. That was Chris Lloyd's first big break... and nearly the same character that he played in this.... (duhhhh.... dain bramaged). Anon

Anonymous said...

The Twin Peaks glasses from Dr. Jacobi where a nice easteregg. I just watched Twin Peaks 2 weeks ago and really laughed when Walther mentioned where he got the Red-Blue glasses :-)

Anonymous said...

I caught the line about it being hard to be a father. I think kashmirkong is right, Fauxlivia must be pregnant. Which would add a twist. The other side might not need Peter. Or, our Olivia might be really jealous if she found out (don't know how she would, but...) and then become even more disconnected from Peter...

Heavens said...

Fauxlivia ain't pregnant at all, The observer was just referring to what Walter and Joyce have been through as fathers, it'll be really lame if they made Peter a father, like some silly soap-opera love triangle.

Anonymous said...

ALERT!
William Bell is coming back.

Lenard Nimoy let the news out on "TWITTER" and is reported on syfy.com

Matthew from the Finge

Anonymous said...

I caught the significance of saying it must be difficult being a father to Peter watching the second time around. FRAK. Altivia has so been knocked up. I wonder if Peter himself is wondering why the observer said that to HIM? I really don't want anything else, at least not so soon, to come between Olivia and Peter. They were making such good progress this episode but if she finds out that he got Altivia pregnant? : (

Anonymous said...

I think that if Fauxlivia IS preggers, that there should be consideration of the horrible physical taxation of inter-dimensional shifting taken into effect on a newly formed embryo. other than that, awesome episode, Lloyd was stellar and Noble is always a treat to watch.

dharmagal said...

Nonononononononooooooo I refuse to believe that he got Fauxlivia pregnant.....but it seems the most plausible answer......maybe he was talking about in the futurefuture, that he just gets OUR Olivia pregnant? Maybe? *sulks in a corner*

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