Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fringe 3.10: The Return of the Eternal Bald Observers

The Eternal Bald Observers returned to Fringe last night - as Fringe returned on a new night - in an episode (3.10) which was about as tip-top a time travel story as ever you'll find on television.

First, I call these Bald Observers "Eternal" because they have been a staple of science fiction since at least the 1950s (I'm sure you can think of some examples).  On Fringe, they not only observe, but in the case of one EBO, they attempt to correct for mistakes which their own messing with timelines in the past created.   The main EBO helped Walter take young alternate Peter over here from the other side, and we see at one of the unintended consequences in 3.10.

Roscoe Joyce's son was struck and killed by a car on a rainy night near Harvard Yard in 1985.  Joyce, just so you know, was/is a keyboardist and a genius right "up there with Einstein and Tesla," as Peter says about Walter's appreciation of Joyce (and you gotta love Walter's putting Tesla in the same league as Einstein).   Joyce, also just so you know - though you almost certainly likely do - is played by Christopher Lloyd, of Back to the Future, which of course is also about time travel, in another nice touch.   And Lloyd is as slyly delighted as ever:  his character calls Astrid "Kelly," continuing the series' mangling of Astrid's name routine.

Which gets us back to Fringe, where our main EBO brings Joyce's son Bobby to see and talk to Joyce as Joyce currently languishes in a nursing home, now an old man.   This sets in motion the EBO's plan - to see if Walter might under some extreme circumstance be willing to sacrifice Peter for some greater good.   Old Joyce's report of seeing his son gets Walter and the gang pulled into the case.  Walter soon realizes that the EBO pulled Bobby Joyce through time, so he could talk to his old father, which would in turn attract Walter's interest and involvement.

Before the EBO's work for the day is over, he'll save a young woman only to put her jeopardy,  all to see what Walter will do when torn between helping the woman and keeping Peter safe.  Walter elects to "save the girl" - the EBO's words, Fringe's wink at "save the cheerleader" - and the EBO and his associate (an older Eternal Bald Observer) believe they have learned something about Walter: he doesn't always put Peter's well-being absolutely first.

Maybe, but bear in mind that this test was not all that absolute - after all, Walter wasn't sending Peter to his certain death by saving the girl.  I'd say there's still no telling what Walter would do if Peter's life was directly at stake - and, I'd put my money on Walter saving his son.

I'm not that sure about how quickly our Olivia and Peter will get back together, though they certainly should.  Last night's episode had some good exchanges between them.   I think Olivia's just beginning now to understand and forgive Peter - though he doesn't really need forgiveness.  Olivia from the other side was even more like our Olivia than a twin, and our Peter's coming from the other side would make him less sensitive than anyone from our side to the differences in anyone from the other side.

Meanwhile, we and Walter have been given an excellent example of the butterfly effect, or big unintended consequences from little actions in time travel.  Young Peter on our side after Walter brought him here 25 years ago catches a firefly.   This leads to a little girl down the road staying out longer, because Peter caught the firefly that she would have captured had Peter not been here.  The girl not coming back home gets her father to go out in the rain to look for her.  And - his was the car that accidentally killed Joyce's son.  A bitter lesson for Walter, a fascinating lesson for us - and, come to think of it, really a case of a big action (Walter bringing Peter here) leading to a little action (Peter captures firefly) and in turn to a big unexpected result (Joyce's son is killed) - which is what all time travel is, too, since any time travel is by definition a huge action.

Fine ingredients - the science fiction and human relationships - for the continuing superb story that is Fringe this season.

See also Fringe 3.1: The Other Olivia ... Fringe 3.2: Bad Olivia and Peter ... Fringe 3.3: Our/Their Olivia on the Other Side ... Fringe 3.5: Back from Hiatus, Back from the Amber ... Fringe 3.7: Two Universes Still Nearing Collision ... Fringe 3.8: Long Voyages Home

See also reviews of Season 2: 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 ... Fringe the Noir Musical ... Fringe 2.21: Bring on the Alternates ... Fringe 2.22:  Tin Soldiers and Nixon Coming ... Fringe Season 2 Finale: The Switch

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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