FRINGE Recap: ‘Black Blotter’
December 15, 2012 by Marisa Roffman
I…don’t even know where to start with Friday’s episode of FRINGE.
I suppose that’s a good thing, really. Right now my brain is everywhere and nowhere and very much still in the immediate “WTF did I just see?” phase, so my thoughts are incredibly jumbled. Which given what the heck we saw in “Black Blotter” feels fairly appropriate.
Previously, FRINGE showrunner J.H. Wyman had teased that “episode 9 is more along the lines of what we did in the 19 spot. It’s off the beaten track, but it also has significant reveals,” so I had been expecting something slightly out of the norm. And with the promos showing Walter tripping — and imagining a fairy — I figured there would be quirk. That being said, it’s possible “Black Blotter” was the farthest out there the show has actually gone…because we got to experience Walter’s drugged out brain, thanks to his impatience over being unable to remember key elements to the plot.
The main guide to the madness was Carla Warren, Walter’s lab assistant who died in 1991 (which was what led to his institutionalization), who spent much of the hour taunting her former boss about him being unable to remember what was essential and the fact that he was doomed to turn back into the man that he once was. While tripping, Walter was led to a journal of his old work, “went” to the Observer precinct, and saw countless surreal things and, oh, yeah, was transported into an animation sequence that was so unreal, I almost wish there had been a camera on my face to capture the “WHAT AM I SEEING ON MY TELEVISION SCREEN RIGHT NOW?!?” look. Walter Bishop, I will miss you so much.
Elsewhere, after Donald’s radio turned on, Peter and Olivia spent most of the episode tracking down the signal, eventually finding the origin spot — where a couple was taking care of the wee Observer (whom his parents had named “Michael”) who had vanished from the pocket universe. Our team was prompted for a password in order to gain the couple’s trust, and Walter realized his drugged out state had reminded him of what the code was: “black umbrella.” The couple, knowing what was in store for the boy they had raised for 20 years, said goodbye to their son and let him go off to fulfill his destiny.
Back at the lab, Peter and Olivia took care of the wee Observer, and Olivia asked him if he remembered her. He nodded his head, and Peter wondered how that was possible since their meeting with him happened in another timeline. Olivia explained it away as Observers experiencing time differently, but…I’m wondering if that was foreshadowing.
But, for me, what made the episode was the final Walter scene. He sat, broken, on the floor of his lab as memories washed over him. In a beautifully executed scene, we watched as 2036!Walter observed as 1986!Walter said goodbye to his son, crossed over, was lectured by Carla, and then lost his son again. The scenes played out in front of Walter’s face and it felt like one of the most beautifully handled scenes the show has done so far. Walter opted to burn his journal, and while Carla mocked him, the Nina who had popped up on occasion for this journey seemed to think he should keep fighting.
The depressingly romantic exchange of the night:
Peter: You amaze me. After everything I put you through, I did the very thing I promised you I wouldn’t do: I left you again. I’m more than a little embarrassed, you know.
Olivia: Peter, you don’t have to say anything.
Peter: I do. I don’t deserve you. I’m just so lucky. I’m so incredibly lucky to have you.
And while that was romantic, it also made me really sad. Was Peter wrong to put the tech in his body? Heck yes. But they’re also a team, a partnership. Heck, they are married and were raising a kid together pre-ambering…I would hope Peter no longer felt like he wasn’t worthy of Olivia. (And the same for her.) They’ve been through the trenches together, they’ve each had their ups and down moments and it shouldn’t be an issue of “deserving” anymore.
Other thoughts, theories, etc.
- No, seriously, who the heck is Donald? At this point, I feel like it can’t be anyone we don’t already know, and several potential candidates seem to have been crossed out…
- RIP Sam Weiss. I think. (Never forget, “Don’t trust Sam Weiss.”)
- Should we take Walter not knowing Sam at face value or is it possible his drug haze made him confused?
- Seeing those “Peter” scenes reminded me we’ll probably never really get into the backstory of original timeline Nina and Walter. (Which makes sense given the limited time.) Sad, though.
- FRINGE has never been (nor never should be) about purely kicking butt, but it’s nice to see our team win one every once and awhile.
- This may be absolutely overanalyzing things, but I found it fascinating Carla was dressed in white, a color typically deemed “innocent,” whereas Nina was in black, a color typically deemed more dark/evil…and yet their influences were the opposite of that. Carla was bringing out the worst in him, pushing him to discover the things that could be harmful and destructive, and yet Nina was encouraging him to ignore that and was a cheerleader of sorts. Possible it was just a random costume decision?
- FRINGE may be the best show currently on TV using the flashback trope. Between the Peter flashes that preceded him taking out the Observer tech last week to Walter flashing back to “Peter,” they show has woven them in beautifully.
- John Noble (Walter) remains incredible.
- So far, there seems to be no lasting impact to Peter’s time as an Observer…
- Within the first 5 minutes of the episode, I was once again so impressed with how much the show respects its audience. Bringing Carla back was a fantastic nod to the show and its history (after all, her death was first brought up in the pilot episode), and instead of them hitting you over the head with it (and ruining the surprise for those who didn’t see the promos), they trusted you’d know enough about her to get by.
- On that note, here’s where the episode got tricky for me: one of the things that FRINGE has always done best is dig into its own mythology and bring up things you wouldn’t expect/recontextualize what you already know. But that game is considerably less fun right now (at least for me) because we’re not playing with a full deck. We know what Peter and Olivia know. (For the most part, because there were still several years pre-ambering we missed.) We know what transpired before Walter crossed over to get this timeline’s Peter and we know what happened since Peter returned and the bits and pieces we’ve found out about those years since then. Everything else is questionable. It’s hard to tap into the emotions we should feel based on a timeline we don’t even know for certain is real. (And no, the argument that everything happened the same, it just happened without Peter — we’ve seen the differences, both big and small. Olivia killer her stepfather in this timeline. William Bell and David Robert Jones were still alive. Who knows what else has been undone?)
- The wee Observer/Michael’s father’s speech about his “son” being “meant for something great” and that he was important…Walter foreshadowing?
- I loved that we only heard music as the wee Observer said goodbye to his “parents.”
And in case you want to watch that trippy animated sequence again, enjoy…
Enough from me…what did you think of “Black Blotter”?
Filed under Fringe Recap