“Black Blotter” took the audience on more than a few trips into the boondocks of Fringe’s far-out world, none more entertaining than Walter Bishop’s epic LSD-induced hallucination, which I think could make for a pretty intense attraction at the Fringe theme park that really, really needs to be built. Walter Bishop’s Wild Ride would be a ghost train journey into the mind of the mad scientist, populated with animatronic green (absinthe) fairies, lab coated femme fatales and acid-serving waiters in tuxes. The wintry, wiggy narrative would begin in the Harvard lab, wind through a damp forest filled with creepy interactive set pieces (you, too, can rifle through the wallet of a desiccated Sam Weiss inside an old RV!) and a virtual Emerald City on Thimble Island occupied by threshold guardians, and end back where it started, in the Black Lodge of Walter’s workshop, with a terrifying encounter with your own customized malevolent doppelgänger. Look, I didn’t say it would be a fun ride. (But there will be gonzo Monty Python cartoons. Better?)
I liked this episode very much. I only wish I hadn’t experienced the hour through the grog of an intense head cold… although I will admit that my medicine head might have actually enhanced the enjoyment of this particular, peculiar outing. (If you wish to give it a try, stop by my house and I will sneeze on you.)* That said, I make no promises for factual accuracy in the recapping to follow. (But is that so unusual?)
The story’s call to adventure wasn’t another Master Plan videotape extracted from amber. It was the one-track transistor radio that the team brought back from the pocket dimension in “Through The Looking Glass and What Walter Found There.” In the final moments of that odd and not entirely successful outing, Walter activated the device and mounted it atop his cabinet of scavenger hunt treasures. He then reclined and listened to David Bowie sing “The Man Who Sold The World” while sweating the prospect of once again becoming The Walter That Was, the proud and foolish egghead Shiva-Oppenheimer, savior-destroyer of worlds.
Both loose ends – the radio and Walter’s internal crisis – were addressed in “Black Blotter.” The receiver suddenly came to life. Contact! But who was broadcasting? And why? Peter and Olivia – quickly, tenderly reconnecting after the former’s Observer daze (“I’m more than a little embarrassed,” he told Liv, whom he affirmed as his love and grounding) – trekked into the Connecticut woods on a chilly day to track the source of the short wave signal. Instead, they found an amplifier that was boosting the frequency. The antennae was mounted in a tree, located near the remains of a firefight waged decades earlier. Examining the evidence (and the skeletons), Peter and Olivia concluded that the battle’s participants included Observers, Loyalists and old friend Sam Weiss (last seen in Season Three) – except he was only an old friend to Peter and Olivia, as they’re the only characters currently on the show who can recall the timeline that existed prior to the Season Four reboot. It was jarring to hear them speak of The Fringe That Was. I kinda got the feeling that the storytelling this year has wanted us to forget that the reboot thing ever happened. The conspicuous reminder of a world informed by similar yet separate and fractured strands of continuity could be an indication that the show’s schizoid history is important to the endgame. Or maybe Fringe just wanted to tie off the loose end of Sam Weiss before it shut down forever. So if you were among the millions wondering what happened to Olivia’s bowling alley Yoda in this timeline, well, now you know. THEORY! What if we’re headed toward a time travel twist (as we’ve been speculating for most of the season) that will take us back in time 20 years, and we’ll get an adventure in which we’ll see this firefight between Weiss and the Observers and Loyalists take place?
*Never stop by my house.
NEXT: Old Black Blotter, Keep On Rollin’