Home Featured TV Shows All TV Shows Movie Reviews Book Reviews Articles Frequently Asked Questions About Us

Fringe: Northwest Passage

“It’s a long road to ‘I don’t know yet.’”

Please indulge me while I get a little ‘meta.’ This was basically an X-Files episode: a standalone in which our hero played G-man with local law enforcement in a rainy locale as they were forced to deal with the inexplicable. There were even some de rigueur autopsy scenes. The solution to the local mystery wound up being sadly explicable, but we got something more: in the procedural homage, Peter got a glimpse of real answers, and finally found what he didn’t know he was looking for.

The Theme of the Week is journeying. Peter asked his GPS for instructions to Mars. There were lots of bridges. Noyo County seems to be one big truck stop. The title—well, I think I’ve made my point. More importantly, Fringe journeyed through—and beyond—the procedural this week, and I’m starting to suspect that we might be able to finally get past those mid-season stand-alones that we find so unsatisfying: this felt like a eulogy to their charm (may they go gently into that good night). The local mystery was, ultimately, a no-go. And that was the point: the bigger mysteries are, well, bigger.

We, and Peter, thought that Newton was behind it all. He kept popping up in strange places, and those phone calls were extremely weird. But whatever his level of involvement (and I suspect it might be a bit more than Sheriff Mathis was willing to acknowledge), Newton’s end-game was bigger than just removed frontal lobes. He has been opening cracks into our universe to find a bridge for Mr. Secretary, aka Walternate. This was not a huge surprise, although Walternate’s appearance in Peter’s motel room was a shocking ending. If only Newton’s activities were more interesting, I would have been more invested in wondering who the previously-mentioned Mr. Secretary was. But the rules of economy of character pretty much dictated that it be either Walternate or William Bell.

Walternate’s super-slick look contrasted quite a bit with Walter’s breakdown. Our Walter really isn’t doing that well. (Although I am highly sympathetic to grocery-store meltdowns.) He’s stuck in his grief, and can’t journey past it. Maybe a showdown with Walternate will break him; maybe it will make him stronger. He’s certainly showing his grief a lot more, but different people deal with grief in different ways. Just look at how Peter's handling his.

As touching as Walter’s grief continues to be, I would have been happy with Peter and Martha Plimpton for the whole episode. There’s no particular reason this story should have worked as well as it did—as I said, it’s basically an X-Files, complete with philosophical musings at the end. But Peter’s exhausted paranoia, and his willingness to help despite that exhaustion, felt just as real as any acting that we’ve seen from John Noble. And Martha Plimpton nailed the role of a tough cookie who is forced to trust someone who should seem untrustworthy, because she’s willing to take even emotional risks (not to mention physical ones) to save her partner and lover.

Just two episodes to go—or one big one, depending on how you’re counting. I’m excited. Fringe has really been on a roll. A roll of awesome.

The Good:

• Peter: “My area of expertise is: weird.”

• Ferguson: “You read your books about Roswell and UFOs and whacked-out conspiracy theories. I think you want to believe.”

• Walter: “This supermarket is trying to kill us!”

• Walter: “Delicious, strawberry-flavored death.”

• Peter: “I needed to see that your blood was still red.”

• Sister of Gwen: “We’d talked about her coming over last night to color my hair.” That was funny, because her hair was a pretty obnoxious shade of orange.

• Walter: “The hadron super-collider is less complicated than that infernal dishwasher.”

I Believe in the Unknown:

Northwest Passage is an old movie (with Spencer Tracy) and TV show about the French-Indian War. It’s also the illusive passage from one place to another—specifically, the Pacific to the Atlantic oceans. Thematically, it means much more than that.

• Peter: “You think they can’t make a couple of calls disappear? I can do that. People have been doing that since the seventies.” Really?

• The thing with the adrenal glands and the map.

• The glimmer-trace can be used to find other objects from Over There. Surely, there’s a point to that mini-plot?

• This episode was scored, in part, by Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, one of my favorite guitarists.

Four out of four Delicious, Strawberry-flavored Toaster Pastries of Death.

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


  1. Thought Martha Plimpton's character was fantastic in this episode.
    Great dialogue and believable actions/reactions to what was going on. Excellent acting too.
    Shame we'll probably never see Sheriff Mathis again.

  2. Hey Ive just been catching up on Fringe and have been loving reading all the reviews after each episode.

    I never saw this as an X files episode but more an homage to Twin Peaks. Similar tone, murders, and pie.

    This episode just happened to take place in the same area as Twin Peaks and im sure its no coincidence that the original name for the show before it became Peaks was Northwest Passage

  3. Starscream, you're in for some awesome episodes soon. Unplug the phone, skip work, big bucket of cheeze puffs awesome.

  4. I kept thinking it was an X-Files episode, too. Again, really good. It's like the show finally dialed it up to eleven and now they're keeping it there.

  5. I liked how elements of this story ended up not being related to the mytharc at all, and yet we were still left wondering exactly how much was "all in Peter's head." Surprisingly strong stand-alone. Of course, it is hard to go wrong when you cast Martha Plimpton in a guest-starring role.


We love comments! We moderate because of spam and trolls, but don't let that stop you! It’s never too late to comment on an old show, but please don’t spoil future episodes for newbies.