“I never meant to harm you.”
Whereas last week’s episode left me—but not everyone—rather cold, this ostensible case-of-the-week was absolutely delightful. The difference? Although Olivia and Walter thought they were on the trail of a traditional fringy unsub, they were really pursuing their own destiny. That makes for good television, doesn’t it?
Knowing that Peter must arrive soon, in one way or another, still didn’t decrease the tension around Walter’s possible re-instatement in the hospital. Unless Peter’s return re-sets all reality (which seems just like piling a paradox on top of a paradox), Walter’s uncertain mental condition is still up for grabs, no matter what happens with his son. The return to the hospital is a huge potential event, but it’s not out-of-the-blue: Walter’s madness, unchecked by domestic matters (what Wilkie Collins calls “home-dependence and home-control” in one of his novels—such a fabulous line) causes instability just as much as Peter’s energy-shifting hijinks did. Walter even called Astrid, “Claire”: obviously, a slip that showed how much he was thinking of St. Claire’s, but also an indication that he thinks of Astrid as his new minder.
The will-they-or-won’t-they-commit-him tension was made more complicated by the evident revisions to some of the events that we’ve seen in past episodes, but which Olivia, Astrid, and Walter evidently didn’t experience in quite the same way. Olivia remembers the Cortexiphan trials, but Astrid didn’t know much about them, and Olivia doesn’t seem to have met other Cortexikids before. Nonetheless, Olivia’s connection with her fellow research subjects is still strong, and she was able to help Cameron James/Mark Little control his powers just as she has done for others.
And we can’t ignore the delightful and troubling ups and downs of Walter’s first foray out of the lab in so many years. Root beer floats, a rant reminiscent of strawberry-flavored death, and technology outpacing utility were all perfect character moments for both Walter and Olivia, as someone who cares and is concerned. How much does Olivia think of Walter’s madness as her own failure, or something out of her control?
Olivia’s variable sense of responsibility—I suspect she tends to feel bad for many things that are out of her control given her high level of empathy—also came into play in the magneto-temporal disturbances. She wondered if she was causing them, and in a way she was: Peter was trying to communicate with her in a cloud of blue (blue!) light that was, let’s be honest, not Fringe’s best special effect. Was Cameron James’s name a reference to the causality loops in the Terminator franchise, a hint at the paradoxical nature of Peter’s disappearance and his return? An allusion to time-travel? I expected Peter to come back naked, which he did. And as Summer Glau, which he did not.
Speaking of confusing plots: Olivia reminded Walter of his assertion that none of the children retained their powers for more than 24 hours. But she implied to Astrid that she had the ability to slip into the other reality as a result of the trials. And then she told Cameron James that she hadn’t had any side-effects from the experiments, although obviously her empathy helped her understand that the Peter-cloud didn’t mean her any harm. Did anyone else find that confusing? Am I reading too much into her discussion with Astrid?
Regardless, what matters most is that Walter’s past as a mad scientist, Olivia’s past as a research subject, and their present detective abilities worked to their benefit: Cameron James’s powers helped woosh Peter back to his firm place in reality, if not to his place in our heroes’ hearts. I can’t wait to see what sort of chaos this causes, especially in light of Lincoln Lee’s place on the team, (was he recovered from last week’s adventures this week?), Walter’s madness…oh, and that other missing piece: Walternate.
This episode also raised some hefty emotional questions: How will re-gaining Peter after thinking he was dead all this time affect Walter? How much will his guilt over past actions and his growing awareness, thanks to Cameron James, of just how much those actions can affect both universes and individual people, break him or help restore him to sanity?
This Is Not Massive Dynamic’s Concern:
• Walter: “An idea I got from the fight scene in the Matrix.”
• Was anyone else thinking of “6:02 AM” in the opening scene? As well as, of course, “Subject 9.”
• James: “You ever had raisin toast?”
• A fair amount of red lights, eh?
• Fun meta-moment: Walter watching Olivia explain the trials to Astrid, on a TV screen. In that scene, both Walter and we are watching exposition we already knew.
• So, Nina Sharp had a maternal role in young Olivia’s life? Weird.
Three and a half out of four bodily fluids, seminal stains, and phlegm.
(Josie Kafka is sometimes late with reviews. Amazingly, this is her only flaw. Want more perfection? Check out her reviews of the Vampire Diaries and Game of Thrones on billiedoux.com.)