Fringe - "Brown Betty" (2.19)

Before I begin discussing this episode of Fringe, please note that this entry will contain spoilers, so if you haven't seen this episode yet, please don't read any further. Admittedly, I wasn't very happy when I first heard news that Fringe would soon be seeing a musical episode (I found out shortly before "Peter" premiered on April 1st), but when I then discovered that it wouldn't actually be taking place in the Fringe world, that it would take place inside Walter's mind, I became less of a skeptic. I'm still not completely crazy with the idea, but it did have its benefits, and I think that it was pulled off well. I just wish, like most Cortexi-Fans seem to wish, that it had taken place earlier in the season, not now at such a crucial point in the season. I would, however, rather have this than have an episode be cut from the season and then shown during season 3, and I'm sure that everyone reading this knows exactly to what I'm referring (let's hope that we never see such a disaster again). My main disappointment, though, is that it doesn't live up to what it could have been. I do tend to like musicals (Sweeney Todd, The Phantom of the Opera and Repo! The Genetic Opera are all amazing), so this could have been beyond epic, but it falls short because there was a lot of undeserved hype beforehand with which the episode doesn't meet. For example, it was advertised as a musical, and there are only a handful of songs, all of which are no longer than two minutes (most only fifteen to twenty seconds). Plus, Blair Brown said that Nina would be singing a song to Olivia, so we were trashed in regards to that. Overall, I give the episode eight and a half stolen hearts.

Having this episode so close to the season is a win/lose situation, though. Its negative effect, as already mentioned, is that it sort of deviates away from the mythology at a point in the season that it couldn't be any more inappropriate. Although the mythology is frequently hinted at throughout the episode, the whole scenario doesn't really happen anywhere besides Walter's mind, so it does little to nothing to move the story forward. At the same time, however, we get the opportunity to get inside Walter's mind at a time that couldn't possibly be any better. The episode opens with Walter smoking a concoction that he calls Brown Betty, and it's interesting to see him organizing the lab because in "The Man from the Other Side" (2.18), he organizes the house. He must, for some reason, like to organize when his mind is in disarray. Maybe it's because it's something over which he has control. He says in "The Man from the Other Side" that an organized house is a sign of an organized mind, so this is very likely, and as I'm sure most Cortexi-Fans would agree, I am really hoping to see more scenes between Walter and Ella because they are just great together. I love how Walter calls her Stella, and Ella is simply adorable. "All you've done is eat my snacks and talk about weird stuff," she says to Walter, "and everything makes you laugh." Well, that certainly makes
me laugh. Ella also asks Walter if he ever told Peter stories when Peter was a child, and this is so sad because the look on Walter's face clearly demonstrates heartbreak. Walter says that he didn't because he was always too busy with his work, but am I the only one who gets the impression that he is talking about Walternate when he says this?

It is also adorable that Ella calls Walter Uncle Walter, but I don't see the logic behind it. Usually, when a child affectionately calls someone his or her uncle, it is because the man is a very close friend of one or both of the parents, but Walter barely knows Rachel and vice versa, but I'm not going to tear this apart because regardless, it
is adorable. We get a little bit of insight into Walter's mother but not much. I don't think that we know what her name was, but this episode tells us that she loved to tell stories and that she loved musicals, so it was nice to learn a little bit about Walter's mother. I am really hoping that at some point in the future, we see a flashback episode, much like "Peter" (2.15), that allows us to see Walter as a child and what his experience as a child was like. I am also hoping that we see the same in regards to Olivia. I had two realizations during my second viewing of this episode that are both in relation to Walter, by the way, and also both in relation to "Head over Heels" by Tears for Fears, the song that he sings near the beginning of the episode (causing a priceless expression on Ella's face and Astrid's comment that she can't even begin to wonder what they must have done to him in school). The first is that the song features a line that reads, "Don't take my heart," so there is definitely a connection to the episode in that sense. The second is that the song was originally released in 1985, the same year that Peter died. It is therefore very likely that that is why Walter plays that song and sings along to it; he makes a mental connection to Peter of which he may not even be aware. Anyway, I'll now move this into discussion of the story that Walter tells Ella. As I said, there isn't a great deal that moves the story forward. However, there is still a great deal to talk about, since there is a lot of hinting at the mythology as well as symbolism and metaphors.

The first thought that crosses my mind is why Walter makes Rachel love Peter? What purpose does this serve? Surely, he is well aware that there isn't much going on between the two of them, so, even though I know that his story is a fairytale, I am left to wonder why he makes Rachel love Peter. Ella even protests and says that her mother doesn't love Peter, and as Walter says, things are not always as they seem. Anyway, I also noticed that a lot of the characters are dressed like Observers, which I guess kind of supports the theory that since the Observers don't have a good sense of decades due to the wide spectrum of time which they observe, their attire is a bit outdated. Speaking of the Observers, why, in Walter's story, are they called the Watchers instead of the Observers? During the scene near the end of the episode when the Observers storm the house and attack Olivia and Peter, I can't tell exactly how many of them there are, but I am left to wonder whether or not there are twelve. If there are, though, I didn't see the Child, which, unless Walter is not aware that the Child is an Observer and therefore simply imagines twelve bald men, would rule the Child being an Observer out. However, I think that either not all twelve of them are in that scene, or Walter just imagines that they are all men because I remain convinced that the Child
is an Observer. Additionally, why does Walter make the Observers work for Nina, and more importantly, why does he make the Observers and Nina the enemy? Does he know something that no one else does?

Something else that has me thinking quite a bit is how Walter makes Bell and Nina a romantic item. Why does he do this? Are or were the two of them a romantic couple? If they were once, then chances are very good that Walter would be aware of this. It doesn't seem very likely to me that Walter would just add this detail into the story for no apparent reason, even
in his intoxicated state. Ella most likely hasn't even heard of either Nina or Bell prior to this story, so it doesn't seem likely to me that it was simply intended to be comic, although it is. Speaking of Bell, Astrid tells Olivia that "in the past few years, no one has seen him. No press conferences, no public appearances. It's like he just disappeared off the face of the earth." What's funny about that is that he technically did, and this is the connection that Walter is most likely making in his head. Again, as mentioned, there is a lot of symbolism and use of metaphors in this episode. For example, Walter says that someone came into his room and stole his glass heart while he was asleep. I find this to be very interesting because Walter went into Peter's bedroom and stole him the night that he took him from the Other Side, so, again, he is most likely making these connections in his head. "You think Peter Bishop stole your heart?" Olivia asks Walter in the story. He responds by saying, "They disappeared at the same time," and this is true. The both of them lost their hearts when Peter discovered the truth.

Then, of course, in the story, Peter says to Olivia, "Is that what he told you, that I stole
his heart?" He then proceeds to tell her that Walter is actually the one who stole Peter's heart, and I think that the symbolism here is rather obvious. He tells Olivia that Walter "steals children's dreams, and he replaces them with nightmares," which is, of course, a reflection of the Cortexiphan trials, and the map that Peter laid out really reminds me of the Pattern, a map, by the way, which is made up of 147 pins. It's likely that this was on Walter's mind, since he knows that stealing Peter from the Other Side is what started the Pattern. Peter tells Olivia that he "was born with [the heart], and I was willing to give it to Walter because of all the good he's done, at least until I learned the truth." It's quite obvious why Walter includes this line into the story, obvious what Walter has on his mind in regards to "the truth." "Walter Bishop isn't responsible for all the goodness in the world," Peter continues, "but he is responsible for so much evil." I find this line to be interesting because it is very similar to what Olivia says about her stepfather in episode 1.06, "The Cure" ("I know that, rationally, he's not responsible for all the bad things in the world, but he is responsible for some of them"). Olivia ends up fixing Peter's broken heart, which is most likely foreshadowing a great deal, since it will most likely be she who mends his broken heart, figuratively. "It must be nice to know who you are," Peter says, "to know your place in the world." Right now, that's most likely exactly how Peter feels, like he doesn't belong here.

Like that of
The Fringe Podcast, my opinion is that Blair Brown is not very convincing in the Noir role, and that is a bit disappointing. Her hair and her costume don't come off as forties-esque, and I am also very disappointed because, as previously mentioned, Brown said that Nina would be singing a song to Olivia, which does not happen at all, not once, throughout the episode. I, even though I knew that it was not really happening, was going crazy when Olivia is put into the crate and then thrown into the water because drowning in a very small, confined space has to be a terrible way to die. That's incredibly scary. Anyway, after Olivia and Peter come to the conclusion that Nina does not have the heart, that Walter does, Olivia mentions the Beacon to Walter (which comes through the wall before Peter realizes that the Observers are there for his heart), saying that he brought Nina's Watchers to his side. This could potentially confirm a few things for us. First, it could potentially confirm that the Beacon does indeed have something to do with the Other Side. Secondly, it could confirm that the Observers are working for Nina (and that, perhaps, that is who September is talking to at the end of the episode when he says that Walter seems to have forgotten his warning). Thirdly, it could confirm that Walter has something to do with the existence of the Observers, or at least their presence, all of which are incredibly interesting.

I literally laughed out loud when we see Massive Dynamic as a very old-fashioned, bland building which is basically the complete opposite of what it really is, at least on the outside. "What do they do?" Olivia asks Broyles in the story. Broyles replies by saying, "The question is, what
don't they do?" This is a nice little tie-in to the Massive Dynamic slogan ("What do we do? What don't we do?"). Also, Walter tells Ella that Detective Dunham first had to hire her assistant, Esther Figglesworth. The look on Astrid's face is utterly priceless, and I love how Walter finds it funny. In the story, when Esther is applying for a job at the mental institution, she says to the employer, "Mental patients probably need tons of patience and love, too." I have two comments to make in regards to this line. The first comment is that it is adorable, and I love how she giggles after she says that "mental patients probably need tons of patience," obviously very proud of her pun. The second comment is that it is a very ironic tie-in because in the story, she struggles to try to convince this employer that she is fit for the job, when, in reality, babysitting a mentally unstable man pretty much is her job. I love how Esther tells the employer that her boss, Olivia, only calls when it's important or when she's lost because that is pretty much the truth. Olivia really only talks to Astrid when she needs her, and I'm glad that Walter seems to have noticed this, and Brandon (played by Ryan McDonald, by the way) is, as always, hilarious.

Near the end of the episode, in the story, Walter says to Peter, "Peter, I never meant to hurt anyone. I can change; you'll see." I love this part because it is, again, clearly representative of what is really bothering Walter, which is that he's afraid that Peter will never forgive him. This is made evident by the fact that in Walter's ending of the story, Peter walks away and tells Walter that it is too late, and after Ella tells Walter
her ending of the story, which involves Peter breaking the glass heart into two pieces and sharing it with Walter (which is, once again, rather obvious symbolism), the look on Walter's face conveys pure heartbreak because he is scared to death that, contrary to Ella's ending of the story, Peter will not share his heart, that he will never forgive him and will move on. I like Ella's ending better, too, especially since it ends with Olivia and Peter sharing a dance, something that we may not see in reality for quite a while, due to the current issue at hand. I think that there are two main reasons why we get this episode now, when the season is almost over. The first reason is that, like I said, there couldn't be a better time to get inside Walter's mind, and the second reason is that I have reason to believe that the season finale is going to shake us in ways that we can't possibly even imagine, that it's going to be violently tragic, so this brief comic relief, this calm before the storm, might have planned well in advance to prepare us for the darkness that is on its way, a darkness with which we will have to live until September.

Lastly, I would like to briefly touch upon the singing. As I said, for what was supposed to be a musical episode, I don't think that there is anywhere near enough of it, and that is incredibly disappointing. However, I am, for the most part, very impressed with the very small amount that we do get. John Noble sings the chorus of "Head over Heels" as well as a reprise of "The Candy Man" near the end of the episode, and he doesn't impress me at all. Like
The Fringe Podcast says, though, it is likely that Noble was instructed to do a poor job. Both Lance Reddick (who sings a small portion of Traffic's "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" while playing piano) and Jasika Nicole (who sings a very small portion of "I Hope I Get It" from the Broadway musical A Chorus Line) really impress me. I was very surprised to have discovered that Reddick actually is a professional jazz musician and has an album. I am especially impressed with Jasika, though, who, for those of you who don't know, landed her spot on Fringe as a result of her decision to go to New York to become a Broadway star, so her talent doesn't really surprise me. The Singing Corpses in Walter's lab (who sing "The Candy Man") are very good, and Anna Torv (who sings "For Once in My Life," originally released by Stevie Wonder in 1968 but covered by many musicians) isn't too bad. She isn't terrible, but she isn't fantastic, either, and her Australian accent sometimes unintentionally peeks its head out. It is a very appropriate song, since it totally tells Olivia's romantic story.

I like how the costumes, the hairstyles and the cameras used at the crime scene are all forties-esque, but there are cell phones, computers and modern cars, as well, but I would like to have seen more of Astrid's initial reaction to knowing that Peter is from the Other Side. As previously stated, I also would have appreciated more singing, and I would have appreciated that promised song that Nina sings to Olivia. I don't know if Brown said that to throw us off or if it was cut, but it's frustrating either way because I was
really looking forward to that. If you don't want to know anything about the next episode or the season finale, then thanks a lot for reading, and may you stay on the fringe. Otherwise, I'll clue you in on predictions regarding this upcoming episode, titled "Northwest Passage" (2.20). The episode will return to the main canon, thankfully, and the search for Peter will continue as Peter teams up with a police officer to try to find Newton. Meanwhile, Walter struggles with the possibility that he will have to return to St. Claire's. My prediction is that Peter wants to try to find Newton so that he can understand who he is, and once he does get a grip on who he is, he will return to the Other Side where he will think that he belongs, and this will be why Walter and Olivia cross over to the Other Side in the finale, to try to find him and bring him back. This is all speculation, of course, but that's what I think is going to happen. In the meantime, though, stay on the fringe.

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