Fringe 5.09 Review – Black Blotter
Hurdy, Gurdy, Pusher Man Goes A Wandering
Walter to Carla Warren - “I wanted to cry for you. But I’m different now.”
Pusher Man Lyrics -
I went to my pad
And I crashed on my bed
I kept taking that snuff
Until it blew my head
It was really gunpowder
I a flash in the pan
I a charcoaled cinder
God damn the pusher man
As a nod to previous seasons where the nineteenth episode were always something outside the lines, even for Fringe, Episode 9 was given that honor in this shortened final season. Less ambitious this time, no doubt due to a decreased budget, Walter’s discovery of an excellent batch of LSD – Black Blotter – still made for a compelling, inner mind episode.
|Walter And Company Go A Wandering.|
What the episode lacked in resources it made up for in creativity as the Black Blotter acid trip allowed us to get inside Walter’s head and see the demons he is wrestling with. Threads from previous episodes spanning the series were also called back into play such as Walter’s fear expressed earlier with Nina that love is not enough to overcome all obstacles.
How well the idea of the struggle between Walter and the, ‘Walter That Was,’ worked for you hinges on whether you feel you know both versions of Walter. I have seen complaints that because the show has played with alternate timelines and realities that in this version we have never seen the, ‘Walter That Was.’
This is not an issue for me because of several factors. The timeline divergence did not take place until September allowed Peter to drown. So all the events prior to that contain the same history from the first three seasons where the, ‘Walter That Was,’ existed. We have had confirmation of this, this season from Nina and now in this episode where we learn that Carla Warren’s fate was also the same.
|Ill Advised Tinkering|
Reducing it further and taking the timeline/reality situations out of it, Fringe has shown that the core of these characters remains unchanged no matter where or when they existed. So while the deck of character cards can be shuffled up and a few of them end up being dropped or replaced with others; these characters are essentially the same. In the spectrum of things that the show has asked us to suspend our disbelief, this is certainly not at the top of my list. Quite the opposite. Such a concept is appealing and yes it is also dramatically convenient. But it is a convenience I accept with no qualms.
The alternative is to draw an arbitrary line and say we have not seen the, ‘Walter That Was,’ in this reality and therefore I cannot empathize with Walter’s current situation. This is an arbitrary stance when viewed against the themes that the show has established over the course of its run.
Episode ‘Patterns’: Add your own in the comments:
- Walter tripping in the lab telling Astrid she has beautiful hair
- Peter still having trouble sleeping – nice Peter/Olivia moment – I have everything I need right here
- Walter tripping on Black Blotter hears opera, sees Tinkerbell and his former lab assistant who died in the lab fire – Carla Warren
- Walter haunted by ‘Walter That Was,’ takes acid hit to try and remember what the plan is
- Tinkerbell and psychedelic flame with ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’ playing underneath it
- Nina/Walter 1985 Portal scene complete with Red/BlueVerse Tinkerbells
- Walter watching conversation between Peter, Olivia, Astrid, & Anil taking place behind him on the TV in front of him videotape style
- Walter playing Hot/Cold game with Carla Warren in the lab
- Carla Warren in the white – Walter’s dark side vs Nina in the dark – Walter’s good side
- Peter and Olivia continue to reconnect in the woods
- Resistance/Loyalist/Observer firefight in the woods near the radio signal
- the Resistance fighter is Sam Weiss – Astrid and Walter don’t know him
- Can’t is not part of the, ‘Walter That Was,’ vocabulary
- Walter’s book of inventions
- matter displacement machine – the ultimate can opener
- Black Umbrella mentioned in cab scene while, ‘Pusher Man,’ plays underneath
- Walter sees Oz castle in the distance on the island
- even Fringe can’t resist a shootout sequence
- couple – Richard/Caroline – have been keeping Observer boy Michael – safe at Donald’s request for 20 years
- Walter ‘Loves To Go A Wandering’ Terry Gilliam Monty Python style with Gene and glyphs – seahorse, frog, and Toto, fights Walter That Was and gets the password – Black Umbrella
- Walter’s shy/proud smile as Tinkerbell applauds his success at remembering password
- powerful parallel scene done with no dialogue as Richard and Caroline saying goodbye to Michael as Peter and Olivia – and Walter and Astrid – empathize
- Michael remembers Olivia from the other timeline
- Walter flashbacks to the times when he was the Walter That Was
- Walter ‘burns the book’ but to no avail, the knowledge remains
- Carla’s haunting last words – ‘You’ve been Him longer than you’ve been You.’
Walter’s desperate attempt to recover his memories about the plan is a disaster. At the end of this episode, he seemingly has remembered nothing of it. Instead he has unleashed all his other memories and accentuated his fears about becoming the, ‘Walter That Was.’
Beyond the Carla Warren callback, this episode called across other timelines to give us moments where Sam Weiss – perhaps still a bowling alley manager – died as a Resistance Fighter. It also gave us the Observer Boy – named Michael and more. For Michael remembers Olivia across timelines. The handing off of Michael by the island couple – Richard and Caroline – made for one of those powerful moments that Fringe crafts so beautifully. No words were needed or used but the poignancy was palpable as was the empathy coming from the Fringe team members – especially Olivia and Peter.
|Quantum Connections – Spooky Entanglement At A Distance|
It is most gratifying to see the show to acknowledge these different realities and not ignore them. The show has not shied away from making reality references throughout this season. They are an integral part of the show’s DNA and like the character arcs, it would be great to see some form of closure through further explanation given to them. Chances are all these realities will play a part in the conclusion of the series. There is a possibility of an end run around the conflicts in place by doing a reality reset but I have faith in the showrunners that they will not do so. Quite the opposite. I believe they will use those concepts to craft a superior ending to the series.
In the superb sequence using the Terry Gilliam animation style, Walter was able to face the, ‘Walter That Was,’ in order to retrieve the knowledge that gives him the password. How will Walter handle this moment that must be coming when the climax of the season arrives?