Monday, February 1, 2010

Fringe 2.14: "The Bishop Revival"

“Nonsense! Purple never goes out of style!”


“The Bishop Revival,” while certainly providing some tasty Bishop family backstory, wasn’t as emotionally affecting as last week’s episode, “What Lies Below.” I think it’s another example of how when Walter is personally in peril, it’s not as big a deal as when Peter is in peril, because how Walter reacts to Peter in peril isn’t exactly reciprocated when Walter is in peril. That’s for good reason, really. Walter went through the unthinkable losing this universe’s Peter when Peter was just a small boy, and Walter found a way to bring some form of Peter back at great personal stake. Peter, on the other hand, spent most of his life resenting his father and has only just started to develop a healthy relationship with him. There’s a reason Peter still calls him “Walter” and not “Dad.”

The case of the week begins at a Jewish wedding, which is an important detail considering the history of the horrible things that happen and the person making them happen. The atmosphere is normal enough pre-wedding buzz, and then things start to go wrong. First, the groom starts getting a little antsy. He has trouble breathing, and he rushes for his inhaler. In the room where the ceremony is to take place, the guests have gathered. The groom’s grandmother starts to appear agitated. She sees a strange man standing in the back of the room. He has blond hair and appears to have stepped out of another time. She steps out into the aisle, starts to yell at him, and collapses. A number of other wedding guests begin to collapse soon after.

Peter and Walter’s arrival on the scene amused me greatly. Walter’s enthusiastic about going to a wedding, and he’s gleefully recalling his own wedding many years ago. He mentions that he saved his wedding suit, and he hopes Peter wears it one day…when he marries Olivia. I must say that I love the fact that Walter is a Peter/Olivia shipper. He adorably nudges Peter into complimenting Olivia’s outfit, and then it’s on with the case.

We learn some interesting things in the early investigation. Everyone who died of asphyxiation was related to the freaked-out grandmother, who just happens to have been a holocaust survivor. The team also discovers one well-used cinnamon scented candle among the many jasmine scented candles the bride chose for the wedding. Finally, the groom comes stumbling out of a back room. His inhaler had been keeping him alive, but it’s empty now, and he collapses to the floor just like the rest of his family.

Everything about this case seems to evoke a Nazi connection. The grandmother being a holocaust survivor, Walter blabbering on about the types of experiments the Nazi’s conducted- all of it. Specifically, Walter has a hunch that what was going on at the wedding was an experiment. The mix of people who attend a typical wedding makes it the perfect environment for such an endeavor. Leave it to Walter to think of a wedding as the perfect place to find scientific test subjects! Walter ominously states that scientists always conduct their experiments multiple times to confirm the results.

Walter’s hunch is quite right. The strange man next shows up at a coffee shop, requesting a cup of hot tea with the water very, very hot. The toxin he brews needs a heat source to disperse and wreak its havoc. He makes some ominous comments to a mother and daughter, then he sets off the toxin. When the Fringe team arrives on the scene, Walter figures out that this iteration of the toxin was programmed to kill everyone with brown eyes. The strange man looks on as the FBI conducts the investigation. He asks a police officer on crowd control if the man he sees is Dr. Bishop, and the police officer confirms it. The man replies, “He looks just like his father.”

Thanks to a mass spectrometer, Walter now has a pretty good computer model of what the toxin looks like. In addition to the poisonous stuff and the part of the molecule that is programmed to target specific traits, there’s also a “signature”- the inert call sign of the chemist who developed it. Walter thinks the signature looks like a stylized “s,” but Olivia and Peter think it looks like a seahorse. This immediately sets off a light bulb for Walter. His own father, another scientific genius, was nicknamed “The Seahorse” for his swimming ability. Walter reveals that his father was actually a Nazi scientist, albeit one who smuggled German scientific secrets to the United States when he could. The elder Dr. Bishop smuggled his secrets by writing them on the pages of German novels. These novels were among Walter’s prized possessions, and Walter hopes the contents could help fight the toxin. There’s just one little problem. Peter, in the throes of financial crisis and a fit of rage at his father, sold all the books ten years ago.

In a much different emotional place than he was in ten years ago, Peter tries to track down his father’s books. He and Olivia start their search at the used bookstore where Peter sold them. The shopkeeper, after giving Olivia some good-natured grief for hanging around Peter, says that he sold the books about a year ago, and he supplies a name. This lead is sort of a dead-end. Peter and Olivia do indeed find the books, but not in the possession of a racist mad scientist. The man who bought the books is a very odd artist who bases all his art around Nazi imagery. One of Walter’s books has been turned into a collage portrait of Hitler. Some of the books are still intact.

The most fascinating thing about this detour about the books, beyond the rather shocking reveal of Bishop family history, is Walter’s reaction. He is irate, which is fairly unusual for post-St. Claire’s Walter. I think most of his anger comes from feeling like he’s been betrayed by Peter, a person for whom he has given up quite a lot. Although his time at St. Claire’s certainly softened him, Walter still seems unable to understand why people might have found him difficult to get along with.

The team has more luck with the investigation when they trace buyers of a rare chemical used in the toxin. One of the recent local buyers has a residential address- a red flag for nefarious purposes in the world of Fringe. This residence is indeed the right place. Olivia discovers a mad scientist’s lab to rival Walter’s in the basement. Unfortunately for Walter, the strange man left a brew of toxin on the burner, and it’s specifically programmed to affect Walter. The man broke into the Bishop house and stole Walter’s sweater to create it. Luckily, Olivia realizes quickly what’s going on, and Walter is hauled out of the basement just in time.

After a little more snooping around the lab, the team figures out the man’s next target- the annual conference of the World Tolerance Initiative. The man is indeed already at the conference, dressed as a cater waiter and carrying toxin hidden inside those Sterno containers that are used to heat up chafing dishes. Peter, Olivia, and a team of agents are quickly on the scene. Peter and Olivia scour the venue, looking for anything that could be used to heat up the toxin. Peter figures it out just as a cater waiter is about to light the chafing dishes. Meanwhile, Walter had been working on his own plan to avenge the perversion of his father’s work. He brewed up a toxin specifically designed for the man who has been behind all this mess. He and Astrid rush to the convention center. Right after Peter discovers the source of the toxin, the crowd hears pained gasps. The mysterious man has collapsed. With a scream of “BISHOP!” he asphyxiates.

There are a ton of moral questions that are raised by Walter’s actions, but the show, unfortunately, doesn’t really dwell on them. Broyles decides not to press charges against Walter due to the unique situation. The team still wonders how, if he didn’t purchase the novels with the elder Dr. Bishop’s notes, the mysterious man cooked up the toxin. The answer is revealed when Peter returns Walter’s books and Walter show’s him a photograph that was tucked in-between some of the pages. Standing behind Walter’s father in the photo is the mysterious man. Which really just raises even more questions than it answers, but such is television.

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