Every day until the next episode airs on Fringe Friday, December 7th, I will post a review of an episode I believe is most important to the series, and a commentary on why I believe it is so.
If I was asked the most important episodes of Fringe, I would definitely include 310, "The Firefly." It is the 4th episode to include more than just a passing glance of an Observer. In fact, it's safe to say that "The Firefly" is Observer-centric(or more specifically, September-centric).
If you've watched "The Firefly" in chronological order during the Season 3 airings only, you will need to go back and watch this episode again after having viewed all the way through 322. Why? Like most of the Season 3 episodes of Fringe, they make more sense if you rewatch them after you've seen the complete season set. Do you remember that word "gestault" in school? It means, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and I think that definitely applies to the Season 3 set of Fringe, and "The Firefly" in particular.
Seeing A Ghost
A frail resident of a nursing home, Roscoe Joyce,(who also happens to be the keyboardist of Walter Bishop's favorite band, Violet Sedan Chair) is seen on the surveillance camera one night talking to an unknown young man. The workers ask Mr. Joyce who he was talking to, and he tells them "Bobby," who was his teen-aged son who died 25 years ago in 1985.(Hm, just the mention of 1985 should set alarm bells off in your head!) When an outside security camera produces a photo of Bobby and September, The Observer, word gets to the FBI and Broyles.
Broyles and the Fringe team go to the nursing home to investigate. Walter is the first one to recognize Joyce's name, and like a groupie he quickly introduces himself as a "tremendous fan."
It's fun to see Walter excited about something other than food. Olivia sees that Walter's stuck in the moment and takes over, beginning the questioning. Peter leans over and asks Broyles if he's ever heard of Violet Sedan Chair(which was mentioned at least twice before in the series). Broyles says 'no' and Peter explains he's their keyboardist, and that Walter regards him as a hero "up there with Einstein and Tesla."
Olivia asks Mr. Joyce about his visitor the night before. Below is Roscoe's answer:
Roscoe Joyce: I don't remember talking to him. But I remember he was here. It's a curse, not... remembering a miracle. It was a miracle -- seeing him again. Can you imagine what that's like?
Hm, can you say foreshadowing? Roscoe Joyce has barely said anything and already I see parallels between him and our Walter. Two creative fathers who lost their sons in the same year. And of course Walter answers right away with "Yes, I can," which is fun because Roscoe does not know what we know about Walter's kidnapping of Over There Peter.
Olivia tries to get Mr. Joyce refocused, like she does all the time with Walter, but the workers tell her it's time for his physical therapy. As they lead Roscoe away Broyles hints that he's not ready to believe in ghosts, and it's no surprise that our favorite father and son team lead us right into some of the most important dialogue of the episode:
WALTER: Bobby wasn't a ghost. The Observer doesn't experience time like we do. If we can accept that he can travel from the past to the present and back to the past again, then it's not inconceivable that he could bring others with him. We'll have to try and help Mister Joyce remember what his son said to him. I'll need to take him back to my lab.
Peter asks the big question:
PETER: But why would The Observer drag a dead man twenty-five years through time just to talk with his father?
WALTER: I don't know. But every time The Observer shows up, it has something to do with you. And every time, it's something bad.
Walter does have a point, doesn't he? Hold that thought.
September Doesn't Just Observe Anymore
One thing I really like about this episode is the parallels to "August" from Season 2.
In "August," August The Observer changed things by getting physical and abducting Christine.
In "The Firefly" September gets physical to try to restore order to both universes. Interestingly he begins the process by saving the life of a jewelry store employee during a viscious robbery.
She goes into status asthmaticus(a life-threatening asthma attack) and can't reach her inhaler since she's tied up. After throwing one robber through a window without touching him and catching 2 of another robber's bullets(such a cool special effect!) and throwing him through a glass display case, he gently goes to the "girl" and retrieves her inhaler from her purse.
September pulls the duct tape of her mouth and lets her use the inhaler. When she's able to speak the first thing she says is "Thank you." I think it's very interesting that he didn't touch her in anyway, and never untied her hands. September leaves the store, pocketing the woman's inhaler, which also seems quite odd the first time you view this.
Also, as events after the jewelry store robbery unfurl, September steals a pick-up truck and sideswipes the passenger side of the police car. The same girl is sitting in the backseat. This sets off another potentially-fatal round of asthma for the poor woman, but she does not have her inhaler.
Not conicidentally, Olivia and Peter are in the SUV and witness the accident. They both jump out of their damaged vehicle. Olivia chases after September, who's run off, and Peter goes to help the wheezing woman. He looks through her purse and tells her her inhaler is not in it. The woman tells Peter the bald man took it.
Suddenly, Walter shows up in the Vista Cruiser and goes worriedly to Peter, who he was talking to on the cell phone at the time of the collision. Peter tells Walter an ambulance is on the way and turns to leave.
The Second Time September And Walter Chat
The Fringe team takes Mr. Joyce back to the Walter's Lab to try to figure out what Bobby said to him. A bit later, Walter recruits Astrid to go to the store for the ingredients to make strawberry milkshakes for he and Roscoe-two men who have lost parts of their memories for different resasons. Right after she leaves, September enters. Walter leaves Roscoe unsupervised (which seems pretty sloppy) and he and September take a walk on the Harvard campus.
September starts out with small talk, observing the fall/autumn beauty, but Walter is very worried and gets aggressive, grabbing September's arm:
WALTER: We had a deal. Please... don't take him from me. The drawing. Peter in the device. You know the future. Tell me how I can save my son from dying.
September delivers words that impact the entire series of Fringe:
SEPTEMBER: There are things that I know. But there are things that I do not. Various possible futures are happening simultaneously. I can tell you all of them, but I cannot tell you which one of them will come to pass. Because every action causes ripples, consequences both obvious and... unforeseen. For instance... after I pulled you and Peter from the icy lake, later that summer, Peter caught a firefly. I could not have known he would do that or that because he did a young girl three miles away would not. And so later that night, she would continue looking, trying to find another one. I could not have known that when she did not come home, her father would go out looking for her, driving in the rain, so that when the traffic light turned red, his truck skidded through the intersection at Harvard Yard, killing a pedestrian.
WALTER: Did that happen?
SEPTEMBER:You and I have interfered with the natural course of events. We have upset the balance in ways I could not have predicted. Which is why now I need your help.
SEPTEMBER: When the time comes, give him the keys and save the girl.
Walter doesn't understand, and neither do we in that moment. Walter's cell rings and as he gets engrossed in conversation with Peter, he notices that September has vanished, as usual.
Walter is still quite aggitated. Peter tells him about the robbery, that "his friend" is fighting crimes now. Peter mentioned the robbers tied up the girl that works in the store. Walter insists he must speak with her, that Peter must bring her to him. Peter agrees but says it will take awhile. They were on their way to the lab when September crashed into them, setting the chain reaction further into motion. And yes, episode 303, "The Plateau" and Milo Stanfield's incredible chain reaction starting with a pen, set September's events up in 310, that he claim started with a firefly, as noted above in his conversation with Walter.
If you've been reading the Fringe Summer Rewatch posts and comments, you've noticed that I've pointed out other examples of giving Peter the keys and saving the girl, Olivia Dunham.
The only one I can think of right now is in "Midnight," episode 118. Peter asks to drive Olivia's SUV so he can play with the siren, and that results in him saving her life by further tranquilizing Mrs. Boone. You have to wonder if Alistair Peck had had Arlette's keys, if maybe he could have saved her life.
Hypnotizing Roscoe Joyce
Walter tells Astrid and Peter that he will use hypnosis to get Roscoe to remember what his son told tim. Wearing very cool shades(one lens is red and the other blue, to represent the red and blue 'verse?) that I am told were in the old show "Twin Peaks" he works Joyce into a transe using a piano. And what is the first thing Roscoe Joyce plays? Notes from the chorus of my favorite Violet Sedan Chair song "Last Man In Space," from the album "Seven Suns," the one that Jeff Pinkner told us earlier this year via conference call "a couple hundred" are available for real in independent music stores around the US. Another nice parallel to Walter, who has a piano brought into the lab in episode 103, "The Ghost Network," to help him concentrate.
Walter gets Roscoe under and he tells Walter that his son, Bobby, told him that he would meet Walter and that he should help him, but he doesn't know how.
After the Walter/September talk I noted above, Walter returns to the lab and Roscoe tells him he remembers the last conversation he had with Bobby before he died:
ROSCOE: We were on tour, and he called to tell me about a strange dream he'd just had. He dreamt a bald man in a dark suit, took him to see me. I was an old man living in a nursing home. Dreaming about something that happens... twenty-five years later.
WALTER: I don't think it was a dream at all. I think... the man in the suit took your son through time. And it was only just last night that you caught up to the other end of the visit.
Whoa! Is your head hurting yet? Wait there's more conversation you need to read:
ROSCOE:We were playing a show that night, a club in Harvard Yard. Bobby... was on his way to the show. I remember looking outside and seeing how hard it was raining. I remember getting a call from the police. They told me... he stepped onto the crosswalk... when a truck...
WALTER: ...skidded through the traffic light.
And voila! We come full circle, and understand now that because Walter stole AlternatePeter from Over There and he caught a firefly on a particular rainy night, that this poor man Roscoe Jones lost his son. It sets us up symbolically for all kinds of "if, then" logic statements that will come to fruition in Season 4 due to the absence of Peter Bishop.
When it's time for Walter and Roscoe to say goodbye to each other, Roscoe says this to Walter:
ROSCOE:"I forgot what my son felt like, what he smelled like. How it felt to be around him. But now I remember. Nobody is supposed to have a second chance like that."
It's Roscoe talking here, but if you've watched through 322 you can imagine it could just as easily be Walter talking about Peter sometime in the future.
Roscoe asks Walter what all his equipment is for. Walter tells him he's lost parts of his brain, and that in order to get them back he has to rejuvenate his brain and has designed a brainmapping agent that he has placed into a bottle of milk to bond, and to hide the taste.
Peter's Strange Second Meeting With September
After Walter gives him the keys to the Vista Cruiser Peter takes off to help Olivia catch September. At one point they lose him and split up to cover more area in their search. Peter spots him climbing onto a rooftop and follows him. September stands in front of a large mural, and I remember staring at the screen save of this (posted at the top of my commentary) for days afterwards. There's the silouette of a mother and baby in front of a greenishblue set of graffiti, a man by himself in the middle in front of yellow graffiti, and what looks like a young girl by herself in front of red graffiti.
Peter starts asking September questions. As in episode 104, "The Arrival," September does not reply. He only says, "It must be very difficult." Peter says "What?" September adds "Being a father." Peter just stares at him and for the second time in the series September shoots Peter in the chest with his special gun. Olivia eventually catches up with Peter and checks his pulse. But September gets away. I got the sense after the first airing of this episode, that September meant that Peter was going to be a father.
Back To The Milk
Olivia and a banged up Peter return to the lab after chasing September. Aparently Peter refused medical help. They are talking when he pulls a bottle of antiinflammatory pills from his pocket and opens the refidgerator. We watch in horror as he grabs Walter's milk bottle and takes a drink from it. Immediatelty, he falls to the ground and has a grand mal seizure. Olivia calls Walter on the phone to ask for help, as Walter is still at Roscoe's nursing home. He tells her what to do, it takes longer because he's alphabetized the bottle of magnesium sulfate and placed it in the fridge. Olivia prepares the antidote and injects it into Peter's leg. Peter stops seizing.
Walter's Explanation For The Chain Of Events
Back at their house in Cambridge, Walter makes soup for Peter who's prostrate on the sofa and says:
WALTER:My serum was flawed. It would have killed me if I'd taken it. You only lived 'cause you're young and healthy. And I suspect... that's what this was all about.
PETER: You lost me, Walter.
WALTER: I think... The Observer saved my life. When he gave you a knock on the head so you'd take some aspirin and wash it down with the milk so you'd ingest the serum instead of me.
PETER: I think if that's all he wanted, there must have been an easier way.
And aren't you thinkinig the same thing by now?
September And December Discuss Walter
The episode ends with September and December standing outside the Bishop house.
September tells December he feared his experiment would fail, but December says he was right, that Walter has changed.
DECEMBER: He was willing to let his son die.
SEPTEMBER:Yes. And now we know. When the time comes... he will be willing to do it again.
And isn't that a lovely piece of foreshadowing of 322?
If You Meet The Buddah On The Road, Kill Him
At the beginning of this episode, Olivia gets a delivery, which turns out to be this book.
Inside is a note that reads "Olivia...because you asked....Peter." Our Liv gets upset because by looking at the shipping date she realizes he bought this for FauxLivia.
Olivia takes it with her to the nursing home and tries to return it to Peter, but their conversation is interrupted by the case.
While Walter preps Roscoe to be hypnotized, Peter tries his best to explain that he bought the book for "the Olivia Dunham I've spent the last few years of my live with. You're the person I wanted to share it with." Olivia is overcome with loss and says she feels like Rip Van Winkle.
She tells him the book is a reminder of all the conversations they didn't have et cetera. It is another bittersweet P/O moment that is interrupted, this time by Astrid who thinks they should come watch Walter get information out of Roscoe. You can tell Peter is very upset, as it takes him awhile to join the others.
Right before Peter drinks Walter's milk. Olivia tries again, pulling the book out. She asks him why it is his favorite book. Peter's reply:
"Because it talks about not depending on other people for answers. That you can only find the answers inside yourself. Which... given our current situation, is kind of amusing if you think about it."
I tried to read this book, but it is very dense and has very small print.
If you have read this book, please share your comments with us below.
Unanswered Questions That Arise From "The Firefly"
- The miracle that happened to Roscoe Joyce, will something similar happen to Walter in the future of the show?
- But why would The Observer drag a dead man twenty-five years through time just to talk with his father? I think we're going to find out eventaully, don't you?
- Why did Bobby Roscoe have that precognitive dream about September, 25 years ago on the night he died?
- As Peter suggested, weren't there easier ways for Walter to be saved?
- Walter thinks September set up the chain reaction to keep him from drinking the tainted milk and dying. Do you agree that was September's purpose?
- Why were September's only words to Peter "It must be very difficult to be a father? We know it was foreshadowing of FauxLiv's birthing Peter's son, but why did September say it, and why that moment?
- September "shot" Peter in the chest to knock him out in 104 and now 310. Why those 2 moments? Did he do more than just knock him out? Since we know September can move through time did he move Peter through time on those 2 occsassions?
- The firefly explanation is intrguing. Will we learn alot more about the fallout of Walter's decision in 1985 in the next season?
- Will there be more examples of the "Give him the keys and save the girl" metaphor in Season 4?
- If Peter Bishop never existed the "Firefly" chain of events probably would not have occurred. Does that mean Roscoe would never have lost his son, Bobby?
So far on the most important episodes list we have the pilot that sets everything up, an introductory episode about September, an episode in which we learn there are infinite, alternate universes, an episode about a controlling scientist who knows how to cross universes, an episode about what if you could go back in time and change something, and an episode that seems to point to things that could occur in the future of this series.
"The Firefly" to me is like an expansion on "White Tulip" in that we learn there are consequences for going back in time and changing something. "The Firefly" points toward this concept as it applies to both Walter and September. Remember, September told Walter they "both interfered with the natural course of events," and the series will play out because of these actions. If you are reading this after having seen up to and including episode 5.07, you realize that everything that happens in Fringe after episode 3.10 is the result of September's plan set into motion. "The Plateau" pointed to this on a minor scale but in "The Firefly" the lesson is presented to us loudly and clearly. The Observers can greatly affect time. We see in Season 5 that they went back in time to work with better air quality and adapted conditions to suit their needs before the consequences of greater carbon diolxide levels destroyed our planet in the future. What else will The Observers do in the series to affect time? We shall soon see.