The set-up: Walter is babysitting Olivia's niece Ella, because Rachel her mother is away and Olivia wants to keep looking for Peter. Walter, stoned out of his mind on "Brown Betty," some super-weed concoction, tells Ella a story, with some good payoffs for our appreciation of the characters in real Fringe.
The set-up of the story: Olivia is a private-eye, and Rachel (not her sister in this story) hires her to find Peter. Olivia interviews Walter in this story (so note, we have now three Walters in Fringe: Walter in real Fringe, alternate Walter or Walternate in the alternate reality, and now Walter in Walter's story). Walter in his story tells Olivia that he put Rachel up to hire Olivia, because Walter wants her to find Peter, who has stolen Walter's artificial heart. (Ah hah! Just as Walter feels on some level Peter did in the real Fringe).
There's singing - most powerfully by Astrid, I thought - in Walter's story, but the piece de la resistance was easily Olivia's song to Peter, who's on the verge of death, after a savage attack by the Eternal Bald Observer team (always good to see them in action), known as "Watchers" in this story. The song's "For Once in My Life," best known in Stevie Wonder's up-tempo hit version, but much better, I've always thought, by Tony Bennett as a slow, heart-tugging, ballad of love declaration. Olivia sings it the slow way. And this tells us what I have already thought for most of two years: Olivia and Peter love each other, not plain and simple, but truly.
The other beautiful, instructive part of tonight's story within a story revolves around how Walter wants to end it. In the musical story, Peter and Olivia come to see him, but Peter won't give Walter the heart, because he's done so much damage in the world. Peter leaves and Walter accepts his fate. This, to play a little Freud, is Walter punishing himself in his story as just desert for the wrong he has done - he's expiating his guilt.
But Ella, as severe a critic of Walter as some reviewers who don't care for Fringe, but with much more intelligence, creativity, and style, comes up a better ending: Peter looks in Walter's eyes, and sees there is still much good in him, and splits the artificial heart in two, so both Walter and Peter can live. After all, as Peter observes, the heart is magical.
Walter in real Fringe likes Ella's ending much better than his. I agree.
Should be some fun and profundity ahead in the three concluding episodes of this season.
See also Top Notch Return of Fringe Second Season ... Fringe 2.2 and The Mole People ... Fringe 2.3 and the Human Body as Bomb ... Fringe 2.4 Unfolds and Takes Wing ... Fringe 2.5: Peter in Alternate Reality and Wi-Fi for the Mind ... A Different Stripe of Fringe in 2.6 ... The Kid Who Changed Minds in Fringe 2.7 ... Fringe 2.8: The Eternal Bald Observers ... Fringe 2.9: Walter's Journey ... Fringe 2.10: Walter's Brain, Harry Potter, and Flowers for Algernon ... New Fringe on Monday Night: In Alternate Universe? ... Fringe 2.12: Classic Science Fiction Chiante ... Fringe 2.13: "I Can't Let Peter Die Again" ... Fringe 2.14: Walter's Health, Books, and Father ... Fringe 2.15: I'll Take 'Manhatan' ... Fringe 2.16: Peter's Story ... Fringe 2.17: Will Olivia Tell Peter? ... Fringe 2.18: Strangeness on a Train ... Fringe 2.19: Two Plus Infinity
See also reviews of Season One Fringe Begins ... Fringe 2 and 3: The Anthology Tightrope ... 4: The Eternal Bald Observer ... 7: A Bullet Can Scramble a Dead Brain's Transmission ... 8. Heroic Walter and Apple Through Steel ... 9. Razor-Tipped Butterflies of the Mind ... 10. Shattered Pieces Come Together Through Space and Times ... 11. A Traitor, a Crimimal, and a Lunatic ... 12, 13, 14: Fringe and Teleportation ... 15: Fringe is Back with Feral Child, Pheromones, and Bald Men ... 17. Fringe in New York, with Oliva as Her Suspect ... 18. Heroes and Villains across Fringe ... Stephen King, Arthur C. Clarke, and Star Trek in Penultimate Fringe ... Fringe Alternate Reality Finale: Science Fiction At Its Best
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