The final two episodes of “Fringe” should be incredible. Flat out awesome. Unfortunately, we’re not talking about the final two episodes of “Fringe,” but rather its antepenultimate episode. That allows me to use big words like “antepenultimate,” which is fun and all. But the episode itself was less so. For those that thought “Brown Betty” was the show spinning its wheels, they must have found tonight’s episode even more infuriating. In essence, the episode was one long fake-out designed to give Peter food for thought before the cliffhanger turned his world upside down.
[Full recap of Thursday's (May 6) "Fringe" after the break...]
Tonight’s episode played out like a combination of “The X-Files” and “The Fugitive,” with a now nomadic Peter winding his way through America. Running away from his past without any particular place to go, he finds himself in a diner in Noyo County, Washington. He still has Boston on his mind, as evidenced by his selection of pecan pie (the last thing he offered to make with Walter). Krista Manning works in this diner: the kind of impossibly adorable waitress that makes mix CD’s for customers based on their aura. Reminds me of every trip to IHOP, personally: a bottomless cup of coffee and the latest Kings of Leon to listen to on the way home.
A mysterious call to his hotel room (sounding like the static heard in “The Man from The Other Side”) pricks up Peter’s Spidey senses. And when Krista ends up missing (with Newton mysteriously appearing on the scene), Peter decides to stop running and start hunting. He pairs up with two local law enforcement officials, one of whom is played by Martha Plimpton and one of whom is not. Plimpton plays Officer Mathis, who more than likely watches “The X-Files” when not on-duty. She wants to believe…except when it’s staring her straight in the face.
Peter’s convinced that Krista’s disappearance (and the subsequent disappearance of Mathis’ partner Ferguson) is tied into Newton’s phonecalls to Peter, a way to triangulate his location for…some unknown purpose. In Newton, Peter sees answers. So rather than allow Mathis to call the FBI and help, he suggests they work together to trap Newton. Peter’s reasons are both plausible (if the FBI descend, Newton could split) and personal (he doesn’t exactly want to be found, and makes Broyles promise to keep his location private from Walter.) When Ferguson goes missing, Mathis sees Peter as her only hope for finding her partner in crime and in bed.
But his attempts to be the Mulder to Mathis’ Scully don’t quite have the effects he intended. Talk of temporal lobe removal and shapeshifting call Peter’s sanity into question, and his lack of sleep doesn’t help things, either. Further complicating things are Newton’s newfound ability to seemingly appear and disappear as he chooses, thanks to his unnamed associate who has a cellphone that can apparently phase them in and out of sight. (Does the iPhone have an app for that?) Furthermore, a third victim appears, seemingly having no connection to Peter at all. Like The Beastie Boys, he thinks he’s losing his mind this time. This time? He’s losing his mind. And you can’t front on that.
Meanwhile, in Boston, Walter’s losing his mind completely: the house is unkempt, there’s no food in the fridge, and he’s shouting to the high heavens about, “Delicious, strawberry-flavored death!” in supermarkets. The man who was labeling everything in his lab last week is now a frumpled mess, worried that Peter’s absence will mean an inevitable trip back to the mental hospital. (His fear isn’t entirely unjustified: Broyles’ non-answer to Olivia on this matter is an answer in and of itself.)
Walter eventually realizes that he could find Peter by creating a device to measure the “shimmer” emanating objects from the other side, in essence creating a Peter radar. But at the last minute, he subverts the experiment, which Astrid immediately recognizes. (She is all sorts of awesome, taking care of Walter and intuitively knowing him better than he knows himself at this point.) For Walter, finding Peter and still not being forgiven is worse than never finding him at all. But after Olivia arrives with knowledge of Peter’s whereabouts, Walter steels up to visit him anyways.
Too bad he’s too late. The case in Washington wasn’t the work of Newton, but merely a deranged owner of an abandoned dairy farm. He just wanted to be “close to them,” which is pretty much Psycho Killer 101, along with the jars full of organs from past victims as well. Before departing, Mathis offers Peter advice that might come in handy in a few episodes in the form of an anecdote: she became a cop to avenge the murder of her family, but found a home instead of revenge in the police force. Interesting advice, in that immediately after Newton gets the drop on Peter and introduces him to “The Secretary.” That man? The Walternate, of course: the man that walked across the bridge, the man from the other side, now here to take his son home. And, in the process, possibly end all life in this universe.
A few bullets from tonight’s episode:
I sort of scoffed at this line by Mathis: “You’re looking for meaning in things that have no meaning.” How very meta. Am I watching “Lost” again? Isn’t this Thursday, not Tuesday?
I would definitely watch a show in which Peter Bishop went from town to town, solving bizarre mysteries with the background of an impending apocalypse hanging over each week. But I’m pretty sure that “Supernatural” already is running with this idea. Still, I like the idea of “Droppin’ Mad Science,” which is the title I just gave this Peter Bishop anthology-series. Make it so, FOX. Make it so.
That Bazooka Joe comic (with its “You Can’t Get There From Here!” punchline) was a little too anvilicious for my tastes, but then again, this entire episode was an exercise in reteaching Peter Bishop the value of unusual families in unusual times.
I can’t wait to find out what the Walternate is Secretary of, exactly. Defense? Science? Interdimensional Buttkicking? Does “Secretary” even mean the same thing over there as it does here? Can’t wait to find out.
Another shout-out from “The Man From The Other Side,” in addition to the pecan pie: Peter’s cartography skills getting another workout in triangulating the possible location for the medical facility used to extract body parts from his victims. With the tendencies in shows to rely on Magical Technology to solve problems (both literally magical and the type of magic employed by “24” where people can whip up programs on the fly with ease), it’s nice to see a low-tech solution to problems employed.
I realize that these shows have budgets, but they couldn’t have picked a better song for that mix CD? I would have put The Doors’ “Break on Through” as Track 1. Guess the rights to that were too expensive.
After the masterful build-up after its long hiatus, culminating with Peter’s realization of his true origin, “Fringe” has largely stood in place over the last two weeks. Last week’s noir-themed mindscape was a fun (albeit late in the game) diversion, but this week’s episode really felt like padding before the final push. The misdirections involving Newton didn’t feel clever so much as manipulative, with the entire point simply to bounce him around until the final, “shocking” reveal. Given that the identity of The Secretary wasn’t that hard to guess, I suppose only that he appeared tonight could be classified as a surprise. Charles Dickens once wrote a tale about two cities. “Fringe” is writing a tale about two fathers. I’m on board for what’s to come, but it’s taken us a little longer than I expected to actually get there.
What did you make of Peter’s Pacific detour: necessary to set the stage or simply a waste of time? Is Peter’s importance defined by his two fathers, or by something intrinsic within himself? What songs would you have put on Peter’s CD? Leave your thoughts below!