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Fringe: The Bishop Revival

“All of Hitler’s dreams in one little toxin.”

I love a good Nazi thriller as much as the next person. Valkyrie was a great movie. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was even better. I even liked the Angel episode “Why We Fight,” and didn’t hate that FlashForward episode with the old Nazi guy. But this episode didn’t work for me at all. Here’s why.

It took the Fringe Division an awfully long time to realize that the Master Race was the goal of a toxin that could be modified to kill people based on a specific genetic profile. I pretty much figured that out at the wedding massacre. In fact, this episode telegraphed most of the reveals early one: the Hilter-hairstyle and old-fashioned wire-rims on the guy at the wedding clued me in to Nazis right away.

Many episodes have dealt with Walter’s past sins being visited upon the present Fringe Division. Bringing Walter’s dad into the mix felt like a Cousin Oliver-style family connection. I feel like the writer’s room conversation must have gone something like this: We need a Bishop to have been a Nazi double-agent! Why? Because family connections add to the suspense! How? Because they just do! Really? It’s a standalone—just roll with it!

The mini-plot of Walter’s old books was both impossible (really, they tracked down used and re-sold books in an afternoon?) and a dead-end. It gave Walter and Peter a chance to butt heads, and Walter’s anger towards Peter was interesting. But the whole scenario suffered from too much explanation: Peter spelled out his motivations and regrets to Olivia, and Walter just had to say that family means more to him than anything. Family is, of course, our Theme of the Week.

This episode didn’t trust us to figure anything out on our own: in fact, it assumed that we were just mindless automata who stare at screens in dark rooms. Everything was explained, including the Key Character Insights ™. It’s impossible for me not to compare this to Supernatural, my new favorite show: on SPN, the writers trust the actors to convey information without making them state it out loud. Doing so makes the whole thing feel vibrant and messy and alive and real.

I know I’ve been awfully down on Fringe lately, and I’m not the only one. The ratings aren’t doing great—although they’re not awful—and interviewers have begun to ask Abrams, Orci, Kutzman, and Pinker about whether or not the Season Two finale would work as a series-ender. I am really excited about what I’ve heard about the next episode, as well as the season finale. But these standalones really do vary in quality, and this one in particular felt very half-baked and heavy-handed.

The Good:

• Walter: “Purple never goes out of style.”

• Walter is a Peter/Olivia shipper.

• Walter: “Tall people, short people, fat people, skinny people.” One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish. And now you have a glimpse into how my brain works.

The Bad:

• Peter: “Anaphylactic shock. Maybe they’re all having a reaction to something they ate or drank.” What an awkward bit of exposition, about something most people have probably heard of. Actually, this episode was full of awkward exposition.

• Peter: “What are you telling me? That my grandfather was a Nazi?” Even though Gramps was a good Nazi, working for the Americans, Peter took this news with very little angst.

• Po-mo Artist: “Showing history’s tyrants as regular schmucks.” This made me think of the Wallace Stevens poem "Burghers of Petty Death."

• The mother of the groom at the wedding: she survived the Holocaust, only to be killed by a Nazi on a happy day. And she knew who he was. That’s impossibly tragic.

Fascinating, But Not a Likely Possibility:

• Do chemists really “sign” their work? That’s cool.

• Using great works of literature to smuggle out state secrets was a plot-point on Alias.

• If I bought a book at a used bookstore, and the clerk asked me for my full name and address to keep track of what I’d purchased, I’d run out of that store like a conspiracy theorist on meth.

• Peter: “It must be something hot. A candle, a coffee urn.” I wish I went to conferences glam enough that the coffee was actually hot.

One out of four Cousin Olivers.

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


  1. For all the reasons you mentioned, Josie, I didn't care for this episode either, though I'm not sure it's fair to hold it to the same standards as Valkyrie, which gets much of its gravitas from being based on real events (and taking place during the war).

    Incidentally, did anyone notice Peter (or more likely Joshua Jackson) giving the finger to either Walter or crew members behind the camera when he was getting out of the car at the beginning of the episode? The hand that's holding onto the top of the car has its middle finger quite deliberately raised. Josh Jackson's odd smile at that moment is a bit telling as well. I wonder what the story is behind that, and how it got passed the sensors.

  2. Dimitri, I missed it entirely. To be honest, I spent a lot of this episode playing with my cat.

  3. I've just watched this and this episode was a jumping the shark episode for me. Terrible episode, I would say 'easily the worst so far' but there was that deformity ep which was still somehow worse.

    Every episode the main characters are in peril but brush it off 2 seconds later.

  4. Dimitri, I don't believe Jackson's giving anyone the finger in that scene; he has a curled up handkerchief in his hand when reaching for the top of the car door frame, and I think that's what's seen pointing upwards. :)

    Yes, I realize it's silly to respond to a comment a year after the fact, but I've just found this blog. I'm having an enjoyable time reading the old "Fringe" reviews, thanks!

  5. I agree it wasn't a great episode, and I also knew the entire plot from the opening wedding scene. But I liked what Walter did at the conference with the target toxin. It actually got to me.

  6. When Walter got targeted by the toxin at the end and Peter didn't, I expected the episode to end with Peter questioning why he didn't share Walter's genetics. I'm still not sure if this was intentionally put in to tie in with Peter's other-dimensionliness, or if the writers just dropped the ball on this on this opportunity.


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