Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fringe 2.18: "White Tulip"

“I’m sorry you have to go through this again.”

-Alistair Peck

“White Tulip” was a fun time travel episode of “Fringe.” Since my favorite episode of television ever, “The Constant,” is also a time travel story, comparisons are inevitable. While this was a better episode of “Fringe” than many, it still doesn’t measure up to the likes of “The Constant.” I think the difference is the emotional connection. While “Fringe” is much better with its character work than many genre shows on network television currently, there was one significant difference between this time travel story and “The Constant.” In “The Constant,” it’s Desmond, a character we’ve gotten to know for two seasons, who is traveling through time. It’s also his relationship with Penny, which we’ve already become invested in, that’s in play. In “White Tulip,” the time traveler is a case of the week character, as is his fiancé.

The episode opens with the typical “Fringe” creepy and gross teaser. A man suddenly appears on a regional rail car full of passengers. At the train station, a young man who looks more like something out of a Dickens novel than an actual panhandler (note to “Fringe” producers, any panhandler who came across a metal cup would have sold that baby for scrap metal long ago) is begging for change. Anyway, the mysterious man disembarks the train and walks right by the panhander. The panhandler walks up into the train car, hoping for more money. Instead, he gets shut inside the car with a dozen dead bodies.

Walter is struggling. He’s trying to write a letter to Peter that perfectly explains the whole “You’re from the Other Side” thing, and he’s so distracted that he doesn’t even pick up the phone when Peter calls to say they have a new case. Peter knows Walter’s been down in the dumps over something, and he hoped a case involving a train would cheer him up. The train is a rather mysterious crime scene. All the lights in the car are out, and Peter also notices that everybody’s cell phone is dead. This discovery distracts Peter so he doesn’t find Walter’s letter, which Walter left on the ground hoping Peter would discover it. Walter has to quick snatch it back from some nosy FBI agents.

Back at the lab, Walter makes an interesting discovery. These unlucky passengers didn’t have simultaneous heart attacks. The mitochondria in their bodies were completely drained of energy just like the lights and the cell phone batteries. The suspect has been spotted on surveillance cameras, and Olivia and Peter end up going to a café the suspect patronized right after killing a dozen people. He sounds like such a nice guy. Conveniently, the suspect used a credit card at the café, so the FBI now has a name. Alistair Peck. The FBI raids his house, and a certificate tells the team that Peck used to work at MIT. Walter also notices equations everywhere- really high level stuff possibly relating to time travel. Those suspicions are confirmed when Peck arrives at the home, “Faraday mesh” implanted in his arm, and vanishes in a shimmer of light.

The timeline is then reset to Peck arriving on the train car, and many of the events we saw already happen again, with some noticeable changes. Peck briefly spoke to the panhandler, for instance. The way the FBI team finds Peck is a bit different, too. Prints from the train car are traced to a NASA employment file. The file, naturally, includes Peck’s address. At Peck’s home, they see evidence of a woman in his life, and again they see the certificate that clues them into his work at MIT. They also see some devices used for machining metal parts. Peck himself is in a workshop in a separate building busy machining said parts. He later implants them in his body. It’s gross, and it’s “Fringe.” What else can I say. Peter and Olivia go to MIT where they talk to one of Peck’s former co-workers. She says that the woman was Peck’s fiancé, and her name was Arlette. She says Peck left MIT about a year ago, but he gave her some papers to proofread.

The papers are a foreign language to Peter and Olivia, of course, but they rightfully figure Walter will understand them. It’s all about time travel, yet again. Walter theorizes that with the type of time travel Peck was using, arriving at your destination sucks up a ton of energy. That’s why everything in the train car, including the people, was completely sucked dry. The reason for Peck’s time travel adventures is soon clear. Astrid figures out that Arlette died in a car accident ten months ago.

Arlette’s cell phone is still in service, and the signal is often found near MIT. The team speculates that Peck must have a lab at MIT like Walter has at Harvard, and a big raid on the lab is quickly organized. Walter, who has firsthand knowledge about what it’s like to try to use fringe science to deal with grief (or get out of dealing with it), wants to try to talk to Peck and get him to stop time traveling voluntarily. The conversation seems to be going well. Peck says that for his final time jump, he planned to jump to an open field so more people would not be killed. He and Alette had gotten into a big argument, and if he had stayed in the car with her instead of going to that field (a hot air balloon caught his attention), things would have been different. Walter disables his wire to tell Peck a secret. He feels like taking Peter from the other side was an affront to God, and he’s been seeking God’s forgiveness. He wants God to give him a specific sign, a white tulip, to show he has been forgiven. That’s the end of the conversation, though. Because Walter disabled his wire, Broyles sent in a full tactical team, and Peck time jumped himself out of there in a hury.

Peck jumps back to his house and kills six more people in the process. The cops swarm on the location pretty quickly. With one more time jump, Peck is finally where he wants to be- in that field ten months in the past. In a very artistically shot scene that uses very muted sound, he runs to his fiancé’s car and tells her he loves her just in time for the car to be T-boned by a pickup truck, killing both of them. The timeline reset once again, Peck’s MIT colleague is about to mail a letter. This is a letter Peck asked her to mail to Walter on this particular date. Walter has just finished writing his letter to Peter. He thinks better of it and tosses the letter in the fireplace. Peter tells Walter that if something is bothering him, they can talk about it. Walter says that everything is fine now. When peter leaves the room, Walter hears mail being dumped through the mail slot. In the pile is the envelope from Peck, and inside the envelope is a drawing of a white tulip.

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