“Welcome To Westfield” was the game-changer that Fringe fans have been waiting for – the “Happily Ever After” that brought long-awaited relief to a season of sometimes-frustrating “Sideways” world storytelling. It was also a gift to the show’s shipper fans, an early Valentine’s Day bouquet that can be summed up in the one word that concluded the episode, voiced by Peter Bishop with a tone of both shock and recognition: “Olivia.” Not just any Olivia. Certainly not Rebootlandia’s Olivia. Peter’s Olivia. Forget about fixing the doomsday machine salvation machine magical electromagnetic waffle iron to boomtube back to original recipe history. Time to recalibrate Walter’s reality-warping whatchamacallit into an alarm clock that can awaken a universe full of fuzzyheaded sleepwalkers like a quantum rooster call or a stiff Cinnabon-flavored morning cocktail. Or something like that. Whatever. That’s tomorrow. Today: “Olivia.” Mersh. And we begin.
I am convinced that the ridiculous over-emphasis on Walter’s quirky food fixations of late has been all about setting us up for a defining moment that may not have happened if not for the mad scientist’s hankering for a piece of rhubarb pie. I’d like to think Fringe was winking at us with its choice in pastries: “Rhubarb” is Hollywood jargon for those dramatic moments when a stunning development spurs a large group of people to excitedly murmur amongst themselves. Example: The hubbub of hubbah-hubbah-hubbah that rippled through Fringe Nation (and my Twitter feed) during Olivia’s blue light special dream sex with Peter in the opening sequence, and again at the end with Olivia’s smooch and Peter’s proverbial Whoa! Fringe knew these beats would get us talking. Did they give them to us because they’ve been listening to conflicted blogger board grumblegrumblegrumble about the season? I know the producers pay attention to us, bless ’em, but I also believe they know their story better than we do.
But I am seriously digressing: The road to Peter’s “Olivia” via Walter’s quirky dessert cravings began with (as so many game-changing events do these days) a suspicious plane crash. The cause: A peculiar burst of electromagnetic energy. Apparently, some guy in an underground bunker forgot to input a numeric code at the proper time… oh, wait. Wrong show. Like Olivia, I’m suffering from flashes of another life. (In my defense, last night’s episode poked repeatedly at our collective geek memory, evoking everything from The Twilight Zone to Close Encounters of the Third Kind to The X-Files to The Walking Dead to Stephen King.) Broyles and Olivia and Astrid raced to the scene of the catastrophe, and were soon joined by the Bishop boys: Walter – surging with confidence, desirous of camaraderie, eager to shore up his place in the unit, all because of Peter’s presence and influence – decided he wanted to tackle this assignment personally, not from the safety and security of the lab, via the remote viewing proxy of Astrid. Walter sized up the situation, ordered Astrid to organize and execute some tedious, time consuming CSI-ing of the Atlantic 554 crash site, then proposed to Peter and Olivia they wait out of the work by heading into nearby Westfield. “Just down the road,” Walter whispered conspiratorially, like a schoolboy trying to convince his pals to play hooky with him, “I saw a sign for a place that served delicious homemade rhubarb pie. Who’s hungry?” Damn, it was a fun to watch the three of them Fringe-ing in the field again. (No offense to Broyles and Astrid and Lincoln Lee, MIA for the second consecutive ep.)
Westfield, Vermont. Population: 584 and dropping like flies. The kind of backwater burgh that goes ghost town dark at night, save for the all-hours diner. “Come in out of the cold,” said the man behind the counter, The Shirelles’ “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” on the jukebox. Immediately, my mind hyperlinked to the season premiere, and the diner scene between the Observers, set to the psychedelic chill of “California Dreaming.” Later in the episode, in Olivia’s
love shack apartment, we’d hear Jeff Tweedy singing the warmer, equally dreamy “California Stars.” The subtext I heard: The winter of your reboot discontent is beginning to thaw. Olivia wasn’t getting cell reception, so she excused herself to use the pay-phone up the street. Peter needed to take a whiz, so he excused himself to use the head. That left Walter all alone with the seemingly friendly counter man, whose beady slowly, creepily became battlefields for a pair of duplicate, competing irises. He also wasn’t right in the noggin. One moment, the dude was digging Walter’s quirky cheese and offering him free pie. The next moment, he was referring to a not-present waitress named June and acting like he had never taken Walter’s order and accusing him of stealing food just like that bastard Cliff. Huh? Cliff?! Walter’s internal monologue: Either he’s crazy or I’m crazy. Waitaminute – I already am crazy! There is clearly something wrong with this man!
NEXT: Hawk-Snarl, Fringe Style!