Monday, December 31, 2012

Fringe 5.09: "Black Blotter"

“That Walter would think nothing of going off on his own to New York right now. He'd share all his secrets with the Observers, demonstrate his unequaled brilliance. A man of your staggering intellect and vision would be recognized by the Observers, valued, revered even.”

I had been hoping that “Black Blotter” would be haunting and beautiful like the similarly named after a pharmaceutical “Brown Betty” in season 2. Instead, it was by far the most “Lost”-like of any episode of “Fringe” I can recall. I mean, seriously, there was an expedition into the woods, a mysterious signal, and a skeleton in a vehicle. How much more “Lost” can you get? That being said, the episode still had its own, unique “Fringe” flavor. I thought this was most evident at the height of Walter’s acid trip, where the episode goes full-on Terry Gilliam/Monty Python animation homage for a good minute or so. That kind of reminded me more of season 3’s off the wall animation-heavy episode “Lysergic Acid Diethylamide,” which I guess is appropriate considering Walter’s drug of choice in this episode. While this episode didn’t affect me emotionally in the same way “Brown Betty” did, I think I enjoyed this episode more than other episodes this season, because we were back to the creative team taking more fun, wacky creative risks.

The episode opens at the lab, where Astrid is asleep. She wakes up thanks to a strange noise, which turns out to be the radio Olivia grabbed from the pocket universe a few episodes ago. She goes out into the main room in the lab to find out that Walter has been tripping. Meanwhile, in another room, Peter and Olivia aren’t having an easy tie sleeping, either. Peter’s been getting headaches ever since he performed impromptu surgery on himself to remove the Observer tech from his brain (big surprise, right?). Olivia is trying to comfort him a bit when Astrid knocks on the door and asks Peter and Olivia to come out and see Walter and hear the radio. The radio appears to be broadcasting some sort of mysterious signal.

It turns out Walter dropped acid in an effort to remember the grand plan for defeating the Observers. While this is a noble purpose, the rest of the team isn’t too thrilled with what Walter has done. They’re even less thrilled when he tells them that Nina has agreed to remove the Walternate parts of his brain once the Observers have been defeated. There’s not much the team can do about any of this, though, so they press onward. Olivia and Peter, with Aneil’s help, are going to try an triangulate the source of the signal that has come through on the mysterious radio. This is important because they think that the signal might be coming from Walter’s old associate (per the videos), Donald. Walter’s tripping too much to be of help. He’s seeing visions of faeries and his old lab assistant who died in a fire way back when.

Olivia and Peter don’t have much trouble finding what they think is the source of the signal out in the middle of the woods. They encounter a scene of past devastation, and this is when the episode starts to be a whole lot like “Lost.” There are long-dead skeletons of Observers and Loyalists lying about. Inside a vehicle, there’s also one particularly interesting skeleton. It happens to belong to none other than Sam Weiss, Olivia’s old mentor. It appears he died trying to defend the signal from the Observers. Only what Olivia and Peter have found here isn’t the actual source of the signal. It’s just a relay station. So all that traipsing about through the woods didn’t get them very far. Also very much like “Lost.”

We next have a scene where a significant portion takes place inside Walter’s head. His former lab assistant is trying to goad Walter into going to the Observers and telling them everything he knows. A vision of a younger Nina also gets in on the act too, although I think she’s meant to be the angel to the lab assistant’s devil. The lab assistant leads Walter to a compartment under the floor, in which is a journal that basically chronicles Walter’s entire life’s work. When we next see Walter, he thinks he’s in a cab in Manhattan, in front of an Oberver precinct. He’s about to tell everything he knows to the Observers, and the lab assistant is trying to convince him that the evil version of himself is the true him. It turns out, though, that Walter is actually in the old car with the rest of the team, and they’re approaching a place called Thimble Island. This appears to be the actual source of the signal that has been broadcasting on their radio. The team successfully rents a boat, but as they’re trying to leave for the island, a bunch of Loyalists try to stop them and there’s a bit of a shootout. It kind of reminded me of the timeskipping outrigger shootout early in “Lost” season 5. Only without the confusion over who is shooting whom.

The team approaches the one house on Thimble Island. The signal is emanating from inside it. They’re met on the front porch by a guy with a gun who seems very wary of visitors. Then, out of the house comes the Observer child from a few episodes back. There’s a woman at this house, too. The guy with the gun asks the team for a password, but nobody has a clue what he’s talking about. Furthermore, the transmission was encrypted and they haven’t been able to decrypt it. All of a sudden, Walter goes on a trip in the form of a Terry Gilliam/Monty Python-style animation sequence. When he comes back to his senses, Walter says “black umbrella,” and that just happens to be the password. The guy puts down his gun, and they’re allowed in. I did definitely appreciate the care that went into the Gilliam homage and thought it was much more “Fringe” at its creative zenith than anything else we’ve seen lately.

We then get a sort-of touching scene where the Observer kid (who hasn’t aged a day in twenty some odd years, by the way) has to say goodbye to his adoptive parents so he can go off and save the world with the Fringe team. Back at the lab, Olivia tries to make nice and be motherly by making the Observer kid some hot cocoa, but he still won’t say a word. In another room, Walter has an extended sequence where he basically remembers how much of an ass he was to his old lab assistant. Not wanting to return to the person he was, Walter then tries to burn his life’s work journal. He’s still seeing visions of his former lab assistant and a younger Nina, though, so all is not really well. The lab assistant taunts Walter by saying that burning the journal won’t do any good – he’ll still revert to being evil. Nina, however, tells Walter that he needs to keep fighting. Walter himself just looks conflicted and confused.

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