Fringe returned from its winter hiatus this past Friday, winning its time slot with nearly 5 million viewers and kicking off 2011 with one helluva episode guest-starring none other than Doc Brown himself, the inimitable Christopher Lloyd. It is great to see one of the few sci-fi shows on network TV performing well and continuing to set the writing/acting bar very high indeed.
Fringe has steadily impressed me, a notorious television snob, since it debuted in 2008. It has thankfully deviated from the freak-of-the-week X-Files vibe and morphed into one of the most original shows on television. Unique elements include Walter’s boundary-pushing inventions (don’t forget his recipe for the perfect strawberry milkshake), the fun little ways Over There differs from Over Here, the badass room with the typewriter, the red vs. blue color dichotomy (Walter’s glasses this week, hello!), the glyph code every commercial break, and the appearance of The Observer in every episode (whether he has lines or not) have allowed Fringe to create a mythos of its own. This week’s episode, “The Firefly,”showcased everything that is intriguing and fun about the show while furthering the mythology and giving fans something to talk about.
In addition to Christopher Lloyd’s turn as the aging front man of the band “Violet Sedan Chair” (trippy and fabulous band name, no?) and musical idol of Walter’s, “The Firefly” offered up a distinctive spin on chaos theory, the oft-employed every-tiny-action-has-an-impact plot device as it ensnared our beloved Walter, the heart and soul of the show. For the Fringe equivalent of the butterfly effect (“a butterfly beats its wings in Brazil and causes a tornado in Texas” – Philip Merilees, 1972), The Observer explains that Walter’s choice to steal the Peter from the Over There set off numerous reactions, one of which included Peter catching a firefly one night that would have been caught by a nearby girl, who stayed out late looking for another firefly, which caused her father to go looking for her, run a red light, not see Lloyd’s son step into a crosswalk, and fatally hit him. The repercussions of his actions dawning upon Walter was masterfully played by John Noble, who deserves a damn Emmy already. While the science drives the plot, it is the acting and writing that makes us love Walter, Peter, and Olivia so much. At its core, Fringe is about the emotional ties that bind, which leads me to the next order of business: yelling at the writers for making me have a heart attack after Peter swallowed that milk and started to convulse. For the love of Red Vines & fudgesicles, don’t do that to me!!! I love that boy too much! Good thing Walter managed to recall the intricacies of his alphabetizing system or Peter would be conducting experiments in that big lab in the sky.
After all that gushing, I can’t let this post go up without a criticism to keep the Fringe team on their toes. Olivia, you’ve sucked since returning from Over There. I get that you suffered a trauma, but get over yourself. It was six weeks, not six years, and Peter still hearts you. Go out, have a spa day, treat yourself to some attractive shoes for once, and then call Peter up for a date. Your perma-frown and emo book-returning this episode did not do anyone any favors. You know I say these things because I love you and want you to be happy.
And because this episode is called ‘The Firefly’ and because this is just so shiny and awesome: