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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fringe 8: Heroic Walter and Apple Through Steel

Walter is the most original character on Fringe - as I've noted before, there's never quite been a mad scientist like him - and last night's Episode 8 was mostly about Walter. That's why it was so good, and, for my money, the best episode of the season so far.

The story went well beyond Walter's crackpot quirks, and even beyond his usual relationship with Peter, which last night's episode helped develop.

The science fiction came, in part, from hypnotic lights, which Walter quickly figures out. But the other part is an unfinished equation, which is a lot tougher to crack. The bad guys kidnap a boy whose musical-mathematical notations may complete the equation. An inmate of Walter's in his former prison may also have the answer - or, at least, knowledge of where the boy is being held. Walter, understandably, does not want to set foot in the prison ever again - but, to help save the boy, Walter does.

We thus see Walter more genuine and heroic than ever before. He also is a pretty good interrogator, and eventually gets some information out the inmate.

But not before Walter and Peter run afoul of the warden, chillingly played by William Sadler. I've admired his performance as a top-tier villain since Die Hard 2, and Sadler didn't disappoint last night. Neither did John Noble, who continues to bring just the right mix of genius, insanity, and compassion to his complex role.

I wasn't 100% clear who exactly was behind the kidnapping, and needing to complete the formula, and why - or even what exactly the formula did (it looked as if it allowed the bad guy to put his hand through the back of a closed safe, and take out out an apple he had earlier put in the normal way). But that's part of Fringe's charm, and I'm assuming we'll find out more...

See also Fringe Begins ... Fringe 2 and 3: The Anthology Tightrope ... 4: The Eternal Bald Observer ... 7: A Bullet Can Scramble a Dead Brain's Transmission

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ducky01 said...

Again, I find myself in complete agreement with you in regard to Walter Bishop. The warden at the psych prison gave me definite pause - I have a feeling that a great deal of Walter's initial "insanity" may have something to do with this fellow and his methods of treatment for the patients there. His close questioning of the other patient in regard to them changing his medication makes me think that all is not exactly AMA approved in that facility. Walter has more layers than a coed wears during the winter in Alaska, and we seem to peel off a little more with each episode. This is the kind of character development that I most enjoy. And, of course, it's a J.J. Abrams gig, so he's leaving us with lots of unanswered questions (as he did in "Lost"), but I hope the writers keep up the tight writing and are able to keep us in suspense without frustrating us enough to make us tune out. I shall have to watch this episode again, but, alas, will have to wait for reruns, as I stupidly forgot to record last night.

Shake'n'bake said...

Fox on Demand plays the last few episodes of all their shows free online.


Fringe has been adding the new episode the next day so I've caught most of the episodes that way.

Dr. Mabuse said...

I quite agree - even if one wasn't a science fiction fan, the episode was worth watching purely for the human side. Walter had to do something quite unusual for him - reach out to someone else and try to find a way to make contact. Usually, he's the one everyone else is trying to reach, from his retreat behind his work or his memories. This time, he was the one baffled and trying to coax an uncooperative mind into communicating with him, and we could see how hard it was. He didn't think he'd succeeded, but it was touching to see him trying to calm and soothe Kim at the end of their balcony scene - really caring about someone other than himself, even though he was fearful because he was back in the asylum, and was already experiencing some mental breakdown himself.

John Noble was so good in this episode - his best performance yet, because he could use a range of reactions and emotions. When the interview with Kim went wrong, and the whole room erupted in chaos, the look on his face when the orderlies came over and gave HIM the sedative - absolute shock and horor at the betrayal! And you could see the immediate effect on him of being back in the asylum - his hand started shaking again, as it did when we first saw him there.

And the Peter/Walter relationship seemed to take another step forward, too. Peter was so gentle when Walter asked him if he sounds as deranged as Kim, just looking at him with those big sympathetic eyes. And the way Peter all but threatened the warden with retribution if they try to get Walter back in their clutches - I believed him, and I think this will form part of a future episode, where Peter has to "save" Walter from being walled up alive in there again. Three months earlier, he wouldn't have cared, but now he does.

Paul Levinson said...

Great, thoughtful posts, Ducky and Dr. Mabuse.

And, thanks, Shake, for the link to the episodes.

Brendan said...

This was the best episode of Fringe although I loved the implications of the woman's head exploding a few episodes ago.

Was it that man's glove or was it the metal/safe that allowed him to get the apple? It's no surprise that they used an apple, since it has tons of religious and scientific meaning. Didn't they also mention Newton at some point during the episode? I think it has something to do with people discovering things on their own and not stealing the knowledge from someone else(s mind). Great Walter episode, as always.

As much as I love Lost... Alias was JJ Abrams' best, unless Fringe can change my mind.