"The Equation" (1.08)

Before I begin, I would like to warn those who have not seen Fringe not to read any further, since this blog entry does contain spoilers. I recall the Fringe Podcast referring to this episode, before it even aired, as “elegant,” and I definitely agree with that, ultimately having to give it eight red castles. It's incredibly creepy, but at the same time, there is indeed something “elegant” about it, especially with the beautiful piano piece that Ben can't finish. I love how until the very ending of the episode, the episode appears to be a “stand-alone,” but the ending, in its very short few minutes, makes the episode a mytharc episode, and I love episodes like that, episodes that seem to be “stand-alone” until the ending, when an epic revelation makes the episode a mytharc episode. I also love the green-green-green-red sequencing of the lights, something that seems to have a connection with the Observers, even though I can't see how this story has anything to do with the Observers, minus the fact that September obviously observes it. I love how an idea is introduced to which is later alluded, referring to the way that Ben sits in the corner of the room, obviously confused and full of fear, just like Olivia sits in the corner of the room inside of the Jacksonville Daycare Center after starting a fire. At the time, that obviously was not on our minds since we were not aware of that until later in the season, not until episode “Bad Dreams” (1.17), when Walter reviews the videotape, but I still definitely think that it is an intentional tie-in.


During a scene in this episode, Peter asks Walter, “The U.S. Government had you working on mind control?” to which Walter says, “Not the U.S. Government,” another clue that Walter was involved with the U.S. Army, something that is confirmed in “Peter” (2.15), and speaking of Walter, I love how he, throughout the first part of the episode, is frequently seen reciting Christmas Carols in an effort to help him remember where he first heard mention of the green and red lights. This is something that we see frequently throughout the show, Walter trying to use music to jumpstart his memory, and speaking of that, Walter walks through the lab singing “Jingle Bells” when Olivia walks in and says, “Hey, what the hell is he doing?” which is classic comic relief, something that, on Fringe, almost always, if not always, involves Walter, such as another scene in this episode when Walter says of Dashiell Kim, “I tried to help him solve [the equation], and he came at me with a plastic spork!” something that he finds vehemently funny. Also something that makes me laugh every time is the scene during which Walter wants to test the lights on Peter, and Peter asks him, “What do you want me to do?” and Walter says, “Just stare at the lights.” After doing just that for a few seconds, Peter suddenly realizes that he has a pair of scissors in his hand and that the sleeves of his shirt have been cut off. Peter, of course, immediately looks at Walter and says, “Did you do this to me?” and Walter responds, “You did.” I always laugh so hard at this scene. I love the look of utter confusion on Peter's face when he awakens from the hypnosis.

For one of the first times during the season, Peter shows a great deal of vehement concern for Walter. He strongly protests when Olivia suggests allowing Walter to return to St. Claire's so that he can get answers from Dashiell Kim, and this is clearly because he is concerned. He says, “You want to send my already mentally unstable father back to the institution that made him that way,” and he says it more as a statement than he does a question, as if to demonstrate the sheer ridiculousness of what she is suggesting. This not only shows that he really cares for Walter but also shows that he blames the institution for Walter's problems,not Walter. When Walter stands up for himself by saying that despite the fact that he'd “rather not,” he will go back to St. Claire's since Ben's life is on the line, the look on his face during the car ride there clearly shows that he is scared and nervous, and I feel so sorry for him when I watch this. What I find really odd about the scene when Walter, Peter and Olivia arrive at the institution is that a shot is shown of the pilot episode, the shot of which Walter is first seen after shaving. I don't really understand why this is done; perhaps, it is just a cheap tactic so that a new shot didn't need to be taken, or maybe, probably more likely, the shot is just shown to mirror a return, that the institution is a familiar place for Walter. I love how Peter calmly tells him that “when you get out, we'll be right here,” once again demonstrating that he cares about Walter.

The scene at the institution in which Walter first attempts to talk to Kim about where he was taken after being hypnotized by the green-green-green-red sequence, which was presented to him via a Christmas Tree, totally reminds me of the scene in LOST when Hurley visits Leonard Simms to try to get him to remember the significance of the numbers. When I first saw the episode on television, that is immediately what crossed my mind. I love how Kim is eating butterscotch pudding, which is a direct tie-in to the pilot episode, when Walter thinks that it's Monday and therefore complains, because the institution serves a “dreadful” butterscotch pudding on Mondays. Indeed, the butterscotch pudding that Kim is eating during this scene looks incredibly “dreadful,” definitely not something that I would want to eat. Anyway, Peter comes to Walter's defense once again when he tells Sumner, the director, that “after some of the things I've seen in the last three months, Walter strikes me as being one of the sanest people I know,” and I love this line. It's like he is telling Sumner that Sumner has no idea what kind of activity in which Walter has taken part, that Walter has been a functioning citizen involved in incredibly important matters, matters that have exposed Peter to crazy people and crazy situations that have caused Peter to reevaluate what he once thought of Walter.

Now, what is probably the most pressing question of this episode is who or what it is that Walter sees in his room at the institution. I mean, obviously, he sees himself, but is this merely a hallucination, or does he see Walternate? This scene, with the music and Walter singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” is very creepy (as is the scene during which Ben's mother begins to fall apart in front of his eyes, something that is both incredibly creepy and incredibly disturbing), and I think that it is a prime example of how when Fringe aims to convey a particular emotion to you, it hits the target dead-on, one of the show's most prominent strengths. Anyway, though, I think that what Walter sees is more likely Walternate, because he sees himself again before once again urging Kim to tell him where he was taken, and when he does urge Kim, he says, “There's a little boy out there. He's in trouble. We're his only hope.” After having seen “Peter” (2.15) I am sure that seeing Walternate reminded him of Peter, and this motivated him to do what he could to save Ben, just like he did for Peter. Of course, this could go the other way around, too. Perhaps, Ben reminded him of Peter, which made him feel guilty about what he did, therefore causing hallucinations, hallucinations that reminded him that on the Other Side, there is a Walter that is suffering from the loss of his son, and just as a side note, Joseph Slater from episode “Grey Matters” (2.10) reminds me of Kim. Slator had a story to tell, but no one believed him because of his mental instability, and the same is true of Kim; no one believed his ridiculous story of a dungeon in a red castle, even though, more or less, it was true.

I love Peter's line, “I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, because you may think you know what he's [Walter] capable of, but you have no idea what I'm capable of,” which is directed toward Sumner. Like I keep reiterating, Peter really comes to Walter's defense in this episode, displaying an incredible amount of care and concern for him, which is the start of the close relationship that we see between them during season two. There is a very touching moment between them in this episode when Walter is still under the impression that Kim was spewing off nonsense when he was talking about a dungeon in a red castle, and he therefore says to Peter, “Son, is that what it's like to talk to me?” It's pretty heartbreaking, because it only goes to show that Walter still has a great deal of civilization remaining inside of him, because he can see insanity outside of himself, and that scares him. He can't stand seeing it and realizing that he may have behaved that way at one point, something that is also seen in “Grey Matters” when he sees Slater and voices the exact same concern, which is that he can only imagine how he must have presented himself while at St. Claire's. It's really sad, and that is part of the reason why Walter is my favorite character. Out of all of the Fringe characters, I think that he conveys the most emotion to the viewer.

I also love the fight scene between Olivia and Joanne Ostler. It's epic, as most fight scenes involving Olivia are. I have noticed, though, that for some reason, it seems like Olivia puts on an even better show when she is up against men than she does when she is up against women, which doesn't make much to sense to me. It may be something that I have discussed before, but I just find it worth mentioning, because there has to be a reason for it, even though I don't have one to offer. I also love the conversation that Peter and Walter have near the end of the episode. First, Walter says to Peter, “This place is filthy. Did you have a party while I was gone?” and I have to laugh at this, mainly at the image of Peter throwing a party at their residence during season one. Then, though, Peter says to Walter, “What you did by going back into that place was very, very brave Walter,” and all that I have to say about that is that it really reminds me of how Peter tells Walter that it was brave to stand up for the people of Edina, New York at the end of “Johari Window” (2.11). What I don't understand about this episode, though, is why Ben suddenly had the equation in his head after the accident. Was it planted in his head, and if so, how? Also, why does Loeb kill Ostler? Does he perhaps feel that she knows too much, or maybe that she has used up all of her indispensability? These are all questions that, for me, remain unanswered. Anyway, until next time, stay on the fringe.

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