"Grey Matters" (2.10)

Grey Matters” is a major step-up from the previous episode, “Snakehead,” and I give it eight and a half chicken wings. If nothing else, this episode certainly does give us a lot to think about during this lengthy holiday hiatus. Speaking of the hiatus, I have heard both good news and bad news from the Fringe Podcast. The bad news is that Fringe will not be returning January 7th like it was supposed to return. Instead, it will be returning one week later on January 14th (even though there will be a surprise on January 11th, which I will discuss later). As you probably already know, this season is scheduled to contain twenty-two episodes, and at this point, the schedule was set up perfectly in order to fit those twenty-two episodes. With this week-long delay, it will not be possible to fit all twenty-two episodes into the season. That sounds like bad news, but this is where the good news comes into play. The season finale will air on Thursday, May 13 and will be two hours long, and a two-hour finale is definitely good news to me. Anyway, as I always advise, do not read any further if you have never seen Fringe but would like to, since it will contain spoilers.

The opening scene of this episode is both vehemently gory and disturbing. Slater seems almost as if he is hypnotized, and despite the fact that the back of his head is completely open, he remains very calm, and this is really what makes the scene so disturbing. When the nurse comes to the door and sees him in the state in which he is, all he does is calmly say, “Help me.” I do kind of like Newton, since he kind of reminds me of Jones. Don't get me wrong, however; I still really miss Jones, and Newton will not be replacing him any time soon. Hopefully, this season doesn't do the same as the first season did and kill Newton off at the end. I am still hopeful for the day that Jones will return via alter-Jones, and hopefully that is something that will happen eventually, because Jones was such a cool villain, and it's disappointing that he was killed off so quickly with so many questions unanswered.

The scene in which Dr. West is explaining Slater's background to Olivia annoys me, because a good deal of it is nothing more than exposition. She tells Olivia that Slater has been a patient for fourteen years and that he has been diagnosed with Acute Paranoid Schizophrenia. Olivia then says, “His file says that he suffered from delusions, false memories and severe emotional swings,” which West confirms. Those are basically the symptoms of Acute Paranoid Schizophrenia, and Olivia probably knows that. It seems like she should, anyway. However, it's quite obvious that the line was dropped into the script so that viewers would know exactly what it is, just in case there was anyone who didn't, which I'm sure there was. It was helpful but hokey, and I hated it.

Something odd that I would like to point out is Walter's apparent lack of nerves in the mental institution in this episode. In episode 2.05, “Dream Logic,” he is so bothered by being in the hospital in Seattle, which isn't even a mental institution. In this episode, though, he isn't anywhere near as disturbed as he is in “Dream Logic,” and this
is a mental institution. I'm not going to say that he is not shaken up at all, because it is quite obvious that, as it reminds him of his time at St. Claire's, it does. This is especially obvious during the scene in which he insists on seeing Slater when he was insane, and they therefore review a videotape. You can tell from the look on his face that it crushes him as he wonders whether or not he was ever that bad or possibly knows of a time in which he was and is being reminded of it. Walter is definitely a character for which to feel a great deal of sympathy in this episode.

During the scene in which Peter and Olivia are talking to Deborah Crampton, I thought for sure that when she said that it was only one number with which she was obsessed, she was going to say “47.” I was actually very surprised when she said that the number with which she was obsessed is 28, because that would have been a perfect time to throw it in, but perhaps they felt as if that would have been
tooblunt. Anyway, I love how during the scene in which Walter is explaining how he had once tried to convert brain tissue from one organism to another but failed to do so, he just happens to have a brain lying around his lab. Of course, I really wouldn't put that past him. When he and Peter got his car in episode 1.02, “The Same Old Story,” they found a hand in a glass jar, so it's probably not that far-fetched when it's Walter who is the topic of discussion.

So, from the ending of the episode, we know that William Bell is Dr. Paris, but this just leads to more questions, which is so typical of J.J. Did he have anything to do with Walter being questioned in the comic book series? In the sixth and final comic book, Walter is repeatedly visited by someone while he is at St. Claire's. That someone is trying to extract information from him regarding the time at which Walter and Peter were saved by September. Most likely, he was trying to extract information from him regarding the night that Peter died and Walter therefore opened a door between universes and “kidnapped” alter-Peter, which is what Newton does in this episode, but did Bell have anything to do with Walter being questioned during his time at St. Claire's? Is Bell a good guy, a bad guy, or is it merely a matter of perspective? If he put Walter's brain tissue somewhere where only he would find it, as he told Walter, then how did Newton find it?

The scene between Walter and Peter when Walter is about to have an MRI done is very touching. The two of them are getting so close, and as I keep saying, as touching as that is, it also very heartbreaking, because sooner rather than later, Peter is going to find out about his past, and I have no idea whatsoever how he is going to react to that. He is obviously going to be incredibly angry, and that will be his reaction, but what I mean to say is that I have no idea what action he will take. Will he simply be angry for a few weeks or possibly even months and then eventually learn to forgive Walter, knowing that he only did it because he couldn't stand his son not being with him and alive, or will he want to quit the team? I have read some talk that even goes as far as to suggest that he will in fact switch sides and start fighting for the bad guys, but I am not inclined to agree with this; I think that that's a bit ridiculous. His sense of right and wrong wouldn't logically change because of that. Anyway, Peter feels very guilty for never having visited him while he was at St. Claire's, and as I said, this is both touching and heartbreaking to see.

As for Walter's abduction, I knew that the tracking chip that he implanted at the end of the previous episode, “Snakehead,” would come into play in this episode, most especially when I saw the preview for this episode. It seemed like an easy way out, however, which is why I was not surprised when Peter and Olivia discover that the chip had been taken out. I feel so sorry for Walter, as I often do during this episode, when he is shown the photograph of the coffin and therefore begins crying, since he is reminded of Peter's death. I also have to wonder if the “girl in the red dress” being named Sydney is a shout-out to
Alias. I am absolutely certain that it is, but I am unsure of whether or not it was referring to the same Sydney. I cannot recall where Sydney was born or where she was raised. For a good part of her childhood, she was raised by Arvin and Emily Sloane, but I can't recall if that was in Cambridge or not. If so, then this is an obvious tie-in, but I think that it is a shout-out either way.

As for Walter's memory loss, Darrell from the
Fringe Podcast was, more or less, right. During the first season of the show, he proposed that perhaps Walter's obsessions with food are his mind's way of “trying to recreate a moment in time to help him remember,” as Peter puts it, and he was right about that. A good example comes right from this episode, when he wakes up from having been poisoned by the neurotoxin and says that he has a sudden craving for chicken wings. Speaking of this scene, Peter was definitely about to cry when he was pleading for him to wake up, saying, “Walter, can you hear me?” You know, it would definitely be a twist if by the time Peter finds out about what Walter did, he will have been too close to him to really hold too much against him. I mean, he really is at the point where he cares deeply for him. During the scene in which Olivia tells Newton to go to hell, I thought for sure that she was going to shoot him, but, obviously, since she doesn't, it didn't last long, but that definitely would have been disastrous. Once again a very cool villain would have been dismissed, and Walter would have been dead.

I have previously touched upon the ending of the episode rather briefly, but I have to wonder whether it is a flashback or a memory that we see. Is that information being given solely to us, or does Walter suddenly remember that? I have, of course, already discussed William Bell's intentions, which are immensely unclear, and sadly, they may never
be clear, because Nimoy signed for three episodes, and this was his third episode, so it's possible that we may never even see Bell again unless it is in a flashback with a younger actor portraying him, which I suppose could still be effective. Anyway, I have good news for my fellow fringies, very good news, in fact. Fringe will not be returning on January 14th but instead January 11th with the previously unaired episode “Unearthed.” The episode is an episode that was cut from the first season and is intended to give Fringe a boost in preparation for its upcoming spring hiatus. Most likely, it is this episode here,http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQ_WbL49OqE, since this is all footage that we have not seen, and most likely, it takes place between episodes 1.18 and 1.19, since we never heard anything more regarding Rachel's battle for custody of Ella. Also, the initial promo advertising the show's return from the spring hiatus said that the return would initiate the final seven episodes of the season, and we only had six. I am really looking forward to this, and then, three days later, on January 14th, the second season returns with episode 2.11, "Edina City Limits." Until then, stay on the fringe.

"Snakehead" (2.09)

I honestly think that I may have enjoyed “Night of Desirable Objects” more than I enjoyed this one. Hands down, this episode is one of the absolute worst episodes of the series thus far. It doesn't get any more than six assaulted Astrids from me, and the only reason why it even gets that is because there is a great deal of character development between Walter and Astrid in this episode, and I think that that ultimately does help move the story along but in this case, only just a tad bit. I watched an interview today with Josh Jackson in which he reveals that the story involving Walter's betrayal will most likely not be revealed until near the end of the season (and he mentions Olivia's betrayal, as well, which totally stumped me, because I don't understand how Olivia betrayed Peter), but the point is that they seem to be taking the easy way out. If their plan is to span the story out to the end of the season, then having so many “stand-alone” episodes such as “Night of Desirable Objects,” “Dream Logic,” “Earthling” and “Snakehead” make that relatively easy to do, especially when a majority of the episode doesn't do much for the overall agenda. Anyway, this is all material that this entry will cover, but if you have never seen Fringe but would like to see it, then, please don't read any further, since this entry will contain spoilers.

In episode 2.02, “Night of Desirable Objects,” there is at least the back-story involving Olivia's return to this reality. This episode, however, bears only the aforementioned development between Walter and Astrid. Jasika Nicole said in her interview with the
Fringe Podcast that in an upcoming episode, there would indeed be development between the two of them, and I definitely think that it is safe to assume that this is the episode to which she was referring. Like I said, apart from their development, this episode doesn't really have much to offer. I do like seeing Walter coming out of his shell, striving for independence and for the ability to make up time that he lost during the seventeen years that he was in St. Claire's. I have been saying for quite some time now that it is interesting to see how Walter and Peter often switch roles, whereas Walter becomes the child, and Peter becomes the father, and obviously, Walter is well aware of this. Usually, even the “stand-alone” episodes have really good endings, and this one really doesn't. I do think that it is very cool of Walter to implant a tracking chip in his neck so that Peter and Olivia know where he is, and I see that as Walter's way of trying to show Peter that he can be trusted. Most likely, this chip will come in handy in the next episode, but I won't say any more than that.

That last scene is incredibly heartbreaking to watch, though, because Walter says to Peter, “I've been out of the institution for a year now, and I've just begun my journey back towards being whole.” I think that a very major part of what Walter is talking about here is the fact that he is finally getting Peter back in his life. Peter is finally beginning to warm up to Walter, and their relationship is escalating to places that it has never been before. However, soon enough, Peter is going to discover the truth, and when that happens, only time will tell how angry he is going to be. I would imagine that there will be a sudden split in their relationship. If I lived in
Fringe's world, I honestly could not possibly imagine how I'd feel if my father told me that he kidnapped me from an alternate reality and has been lying to me ever since, not only about that but also (most likely) about my mother being dead. I think that my primary sense of betrayal would come from the fact that I'd feel completely out of place, like I wouldn't belong. Seeing Peter learn the truth is something that is going to be very difficult to watch.

I do have to give this episode credit for having such a massive gross-out factor. I don't think that
Fringe has ever made me want to throw up like this episode does. One of the first lines in this episode between Olivia and Peter really does help sum it up. Olivia asks Peter when he arrives at the scene whether or not he has eaten, and when he tells her that he has, she says, “Well, that's unfortunate.” I think that that line was thrown in there as a way of speaking to viewers as well, not just Peter, because it was indeed incredibly unfortunate that I had eaten prior to watching this episode. I did not throw up, but I certainly felt like it. One observation that I did make in regards to this episode, by the way, is that this is the fourth time (of which I can recall) that Fringe has dealt with some sort of worm-like parasite. The first time is in episode 1.07, “In Which We Meet Mr. Jones,” when the large worm-like parasite attaches itself to Loeb's heart. The second time is in episode 1.11, “Bound,” when victims are killed by incredibly large, slug-like creatures which they cough up. The third time is in episode 1.16, “Unleashed,” when Charlie is impregnated by the chimera and therefore has little worm-like creatures growing inside of him. “Snakehead” is therefore the fourth time we have seen this theme recur in the series.

Speaking of the title of the episode, “Snakehead,” I was in complete confusion as to why the episode is titled as it is, so I did some quick research. According to Fringepedia, “Snakehead is a term for organized criminal gangs in Southeast China that smuggle people (human trafficking) to wealthier Western countries.” At first, I couldn't understand it, because my initial reaction when I found out what this episode is titled was that I thought that it was going to deal with snakes, but obviously, as we now know, it has absolutely nothing to do with snakes, so that makes a lot of sense now. Something that still confuses me about this episode, however, is how the immigrants on the boat are being used. What I
do understand is that immigrants are being given pills that they are told will help them with seasickness, when in reality, it is being used to infect them with the worm. Therefore, when the immigrants dock, the worms are removed (which, in the process, kills the immigrants) and used to aid people who have immune deficiency disorders. However, was Matt's mother fully aware of what she was doing? Did she understand that what she was doing involved killing so many people but figured that saving her son was worth it? Also, how does the Triad retrieve the worms? How does Lan, for example, know to go to Ping-On Street at the beginning of the episode? I know that Olivia says to Broyles at one point that they are too late and that the second shipment of immigrants have already been taken, but what about Lan and the second man that we see visit Ming Che? How come they find their own way to Ming Che seemingly without being taken?

Another observation that I would like to make, even though this one is not nearly as constructive as the one I previously made pertaining to worm-like parasites seemingly being a recurring theme in the series, is that the noise that the creatures make uncannily remind me of the noise that the mandrakes make in
Harry Potter. It is a similar shrill, an incredibly high-pitched screaming noise. Like I said, that really is not helpful at all but instead merely a random observation that I want to make. I have to laugh at Walter, as I do quite often, when he has that mischievous look on his face after pointing out that the worms most likely have a narcotic effect. It's easy to see, merely from that look, that he is seriously considering it, that he would like to try, and of course, Astrid is fully aware of this, which is why she says to him, “Walter, you are not smoking this thing.” As I said, what is funny is that he probably would. Speaking of Walter, I have to ask why it is that he never seems to have any money on him. Doesn't the FBI pay him for all that he does? My guess is that since Peter is a “civilian consultant,” he gets paid, but it seems to me as if Walter should be being paid as well. After all, I don't think that a lot of what they accomplish would be possible without his lab work.

Speaking of Walter, by the way, he has quite a few incredibly touching moments in this episode, one of which I have previously mentioned (pertaining to his statement at the end of the episode, saying that he is finally beginning to feel complete). I feel so sorry for him when he is trying to reach Peter but can't remember his number and then sits on the bench waiting for the bus even though he has used all of his change on the pay phone, crying to the Chinese woman who feels sorry for him, therefore taking him home with her. I have also mentioned the development that we see between Walter and Astrid. For example, Walter is incredibly worried and concerned when he discovers that Astrid has been followed back to the lab by the Triad (therefore singing the same song that he sings in 1.16, “Unleashed,” when he is in the sewer trying to locate the chimera, this time singing it when he is outside of the shop, in the car, both worrying about Astrid and Peter, since Peter has entered the shop unattended), and when he sees her, he says, “Oh, dear God,” apologizes to her for leaving her when they were together in town and then hugs her. Like I said, Jasika does say in that interview that the two of them would have some touching moments in the near future, and this had to have been the episode that she has in mind. Walter really does seem to care for Astrid, and it's getting to the point where it seems as if he doesn't really forget her name nearly as often anymore.

We see further character development from Peter and Olivia as well. It has been discussed amongst the
Fringe community whether or not Peter is a Cortexiphan child, and the clues continue to pile up. Most frequently, he dressed in blacks and grays, just like Olivia. Also, in episode 2.07, “Of Human Action,” he is able to successfully maneuver Tyler's mind control abilities and shift his aim toward Broyles' arm instead of his head, which, to me, suggests advanced intellectual ability. After all, is it any coincidence that he has an IQ of 190 (which, by the way, is off the charts as far as what is considered genius, typically 140 and above)? In this episode, we see advanced observation skills from him, something that we typically see from Olivia. When he and Olivia are speaking to Elizabeth Jarvis, Matt's mother, he notices the atypical amount of bottles of hand sanitizer around the house and also notices the hermetically sealed windows, and instead of merely throwing that to the side and figuring that it isn't important at all, he factors it into the equation and discusses it with Walter, a fellow genius. In other words, if Peter had not accompanied Olivia to the Jarvis home, the case most likely would not have progressed so quickly.

We also see some development, as I said, from Olivia. As I have said before, a recurring theme that we consistently see in
Fringe is Olivia's communication skills with children. She is incredibly good with children, especially her niece, Ella, and it seems as if whenever a case involves a child in one way or another, she is especially sensitive. At the end of the episode, she brings Mei Lin's daughter her butterfly toy that she loses (which she somehow knows belongs to her), and this brings utter joy to both the child and her parents. Previously, we have seen the bond that she shares with the Child (presumably an Observer) in episode 1.15, “Inner Child.” As I have said before, I am pretty sure that eventually in the series, Olivia will be a mother, either by becoming pregnant herself (something that is possibly hinted toward in episode 1.02, “The Same Old Story”) or by having to raise Ella. Speaking of the Lin family, however, if Peter could understand Mei Lin during the scene near the beginning of the episode when the team first speaks to her, then why do they need an additional translator? That is something that crossed my mind as soon as I saw that he could both understand and speak to her. Anyway, perhaps I am being a bit too harsh when I talk about how much I really didn't like this episode. I'm not a fan of the episodes that have very little mythology, and this one has practically none, only character development (which, don't get me wrong, is good). I did enjoy it more my second time watching it than my first, but I am really looking forward to the next episode, episode 2.10, “Grey Matters,” in which we will most definitely be returning to the mythology. Until then, stay on the fringe.