by Brian Holcomb
This week's "pulp-sci-fi-musical-noir" Fringe could've been a 12 car pile-up on the interstate freeway. Lets be honest, most viewers don't come back to this show week after week for some meta-fiction a'la Dennis Potter's The Singing Detective or William Goldman's The Princess Bride. So who knows if writers and showrunnners Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman were smoking the same "Brown Betty" that Walter indulges in at the beginning of this episode or if they just wanted to prove that they have more to offer than machines and monsters.
In either case, they were just the right amount of clever to pull it off without drowning in pretension. Like I assumed last week, there's almost no advance in terms of plotting: Peter is missing in the beginning of the episode and he is still missing at the end. In the middle however, he is involved in some wonderful noir intrigue involving glass hearts and an evil wheelchair bound Willy Wonka.
The excuse for this narrative exercise begins with a heartbroken Walter Bishop (John Noble) who has taken refuge in a particularly strong hydroponic weed he affectionately calls "Brown Betty". Olivia arrives with Ella (Lily Pilblad) and asks he and Astrid (Jasika Nicole) to watch her while she searches for Peter. When Ella insists on hearing a story, Walter delivers a meta-fantasy that blends the fantasy world of the series with one inspired by his mother's love for the novels of Chandler and Hammett. So what we get is not classic noir so much as yet another parallel dimension version of the characters, themes, and plotlines. What's particularly clever about it is that it takes place in a timeless "story world" in which odd looking cellphones co-exist with period cars and clothing and where laptop computers present web pages that look like old time newspapers. Basically, the story fulfills whatever idea pops into Walter's head and since he's clearly been thinking about Peter, the story within the story echoes this in the form of a private eye adventure. TO READ THE REST OF THIS GO TO SHADOWLOCKED.COM