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Fringe: Grey Matters

“We didn’t get any answers.”

Those are Olivia’s words to Broyles, and they felt like a shout-out to some of the fan frustration about the lack of solid answers to the many mysteries of Fringe. But as Broyles said, we did get some answers, although maybe not the ones we wanted. We also got some ret-conning, which we neither needed nor wanted. Well, I didn’t, anyway.

Walter didn’t go crazy after a tragic lab accident; he went crazy after William Bell (aka Dr. Simon Paris, a name that seems like it should mean something) removed his memories of The Door to Elsewhere from his head. With his consent. And with some nebulous back-up plan.

I’m not sure how I feel about this: on the one hand, it’s interesting. On the other hand, the PTB are piling on the questions—as they promise us answers, they give us more confusion. I had forgotten about many of the elements that this episode touched on: the existence of The Door, for instance, and its location in the beach cabin. I’m usually not forgetful about TV shows, so I’m not really sure what’s going on here. (Maybe I’ve had those memories removed along with the knowledge of where I left my favorite pair of sunglasses.) It appears that Walter told the alterna-villain about The Door, but we didn’t get to see it—I guess it took place during the commercials. Pity for us, good news for the writers: future plots are practically going to write themselves.

But this episode really excelled at something else: Joshua Jackson knocked it out of the park this week, and John Noble was as awesome as ever. The conversation between Peter and Walter by the MRI machine was extremely touching, and Peter’s many emotions throughout the episode felt very honest to me. I think his acting has improved by leaps and bounds over the past year and a half, and I am officially impressed.

And those are some of the answers that we did get: no matter what’s going on with this end-of-the-world, biblical-proportions Apocalypse, Peter, Walter, Olivia, and Astrid have each other. Especially now that they’re operating so independently of the FBI, their closeness is only increasing. Peter is as attached to Walter as Walter is to him, and even Olivia chose her Fringe-family over nabbing the bad guy. Astrid and Walter have been becoming more and more friendly, even if she did leave him alone in a moment of truly absurd stupidity.

The irony of Walter’s situation was astonishingly painful: he envied the formerly-crazy people for the remarkable speed of their recovery, only to find out that what made them crazy was his brain, and what made them well (taking it out) was exactly what made him crazy.

Those tiny pieces of brain give us our Theme of the Week: the things we’ve lost, the chance to get them back, and the Joni Mitchell realization that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. Olivia decided that, for this week at least, she wanted to keep her family more than she wanted to get answers. And I’m cool with that. For now.

The Good:

• Mr. Slater was played by Jeff Perry, one of my favorite character actors. Interestingly, he plays Meredith Grey’s dad (Mr. Grey) on Grey’s Anatomy. Maybe that’s why this week’s episode title is spelled British-style?

• Walter: “Oh, I wasn’t trying to make you feel guilty, son. Just an observation.” I think Walter and my mom have some of the same strategies for making the holidays extra-special.

• Walter: “Are you referring to the theft of the frozen heads?” It sounds like a lost Sherlock Holmes story.

• Anna Torv’s hair was looser, and the look suits her.

• Walter: “I don’t do Valium nearly enough. Fifty milligrams, please.”

• Olivia: “You so much as twitch, and you won’t have a head left to re-freeze.”

The Bad:

• Bad guys spend so much money on hi-tech see-through lab equipment—why can’t they invest in some Kleig lights to make their lairs a little less gloomy?

• Astrid left an OD-ing, easily confused man alone in a large house. Astrid, what were you thinking? (Yes, this is worth mentioning twice.)

• That GPS chip sure didn’t last long.

Mother Nature’s Disturbing Sense of Humor, or The Department of How to Make Impossible Things Possible:

• Arithromania: obsession with numbers. It’s our new word of the day.

• Walter has tried to keep human brains alive for an extended period, but sadly had little success. Have any of you seen the Steve Martin movie The Man with Two Brains?

• Host minds, motorcycles, car engines…weirdest metaphor ever.

• The Otherworld is a Wasteland? Is Walter the Fisher King, or is William Bell? And is Peter, Perceval?

• Brains and memories just don’t work like that. Right?

Fringe is going on a brief winter hiatus. I’ll post the return date on my profile when I know it.

Four out of four Frozen Heads.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)


  1. If they are looking for someone to open a door between universes, have they tried contacting Dawn Summers? I undersatnd that she is currently working as a nurse in New Jersy.

  2. As far as the name of Dr. Paris, after Star Trek ended, Leonard Nimoy joined Mission Impossible and played a character named Paris. I have no idea if this was a shoutout to that, or just a name the show came up with.

  3. walter was already mad when the memories were removed though. Bell visited to take the memories. or am i missing something? :/

  4. I liked this one. (but seriously, why bother with setting up the gps on the former ep??)

    I don't think it was really a retcon, Walter's madness always struck me as odd.

    We were told Walter was sent to St. Claire's because of the accident in his lab, but we don't know how mad he really was back then. Any talk about parallel universes or one of his experiments in his trials could probably be enough to send him there.

    Btw, there's probably more to this "accident". This man could open a door between two different universes (along with making major breakthroughs in all areas of (pseudo-)cience). A lab explosion doesn't just happen. Either it was not an accident or he must be trying to do some really big stuff.

    Anyway, I thought it was already implied some of the treatments he received made him worse, so this revelation at least explains the 'weird coincidence' of him knowing just enough to help the investigation, but not having the answers.

  5. Wonderful episode. And as you said, Josie, Joshua Jackson is knocking it out of the park. There is a lot of role reversal, Peter as father and Walter as child. Their relationship is bizarre but so oddly sweet.

  6. Great episode (Astrid's extreme stupidity notwithstanding). Horrifying and fascinating and exciting, all at once. Love Sebastian Roche! I particularly loved the poignancy of Walter briefly hoping that, after all this time, his madness could be simply cured like Mr. Slater's. Of course, I'm glad he wasn't. Olivia is right. Walter as a madman seems to be a much better man.

    I agree with Anon and Cesar that this didn't strike me as a retcon. Walter was apparently in St. Claire's for 17 years, but those other victims were only nuts for 14 years. Based on what we saw here, I don't think those pieces of Walter's brain could have survived for 3 years outside of another brain. So it seems that Bell did this to him *after* he went crazy and was already committed.

    I guess I really like the long game, because for the moment, I'm fine with getting a new helping of questions with each answer. I kind of love the confusion surrounding Bell's role in all this. Did the shapeshifters just
    happen to discover how to find the hidden knowledge about the door? Or did Bell send the shapeshifters after that info, while simultaneously siccing Olivia on them? Is he trying to stop a war or create one?


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