Throughout its four and a bit seasons so far, Fringe has had its fair share of weird and wacky episodes. So that makes it less surprising that it would be on any other show that ‘Black Blotter’ is a particularly weird episode, in which Walter drops the titular type of LSD and starts hallucinating in ways that remind him of the man he used to be.
Walter Bishop is of course a scientist whose ideas and methods got so out of hand that he had pieces of his brain removed in order to stop him from making some of those ideas a reality, and now that he’s had those pieces put back in, he’s very worried that he’ll again become that man and lose everyone close to him. After dropping the black blotter, he starts to hallucinate, seeing his former lab assistant, who died during a fire in the laboratory, who is encouraging him to become that man once again, a man who would be revered and welcomed by the Observers to their side.
While Walter’s tripping, Astrid, Olivia and Peter are working on finding the origin of a signal that has started to be transmitted from the radio they found in the pocket universe (during ‘Through The Looking Glass And What Walter Found There’). The transmission is encoded, and with Walter out of commission, instead of trying to crack it, Olivia and Peter travel to what they believe is the source of the transmission, hoping to find Donald and get one step closer to piecing together the plan to stop the Observers. But their first trip sees them find what looks like the end result of a last stand; there are long decayed bodies of Observers scattered around, and they also find what they believe is the skeleton of Donald and that of Sam Weiss (Kevin Corrigan), the man who had previously helped Olivia and was an ancestor of the ‘First People’.
Walter’s hallucinations are becoming more vivid, and he sees himself outside an Observers headquarters, seemingly ready to turn himself in. But in reality he has travelled with Astrid to meet Olivia and Peter as they move on to the real origin of the signal. After a confrontation with some loyalists, they find the signal’s origin and ask a man living there about Donald and the Observer child. The child is there, but the man doesn’t trust them, wanting to know what the password is, as someone receiving the signal should have been able to decipher it.
It’s here where the show gets particularly weird, as Walter (who appears to be trying to remember the password) goes on a little trip. That little trip is him in a Terry Gilliam-style animation (complete with Monty Python stamping foot) on a mini-adventure which ultimately results in him remembering the password. It’s almost a ‘jump the shark’ moment for the show, something completely ridiculous that nearly took me out of the episode entirely. Walter’s hallucinations to that point had been odd, naturally, but made sense, as his fears of becoming the man he once was are played out in those hallucinations. Thankfully it doesn’t last long enough to ruin the episode, and Walter does remember the password, allowing them all into the man’s house where they learn that he and his wife have been looking after the Observer child, who hasn’t aged or spoken since he arrived, knowing that one day someone would come for him.
So with the Observer child with them, it seems that the Fringe team have taken a significant step towards putting the plan to stop the Observers into action. But Walter is still struggling and is living out memories of his creation of a portal into the alternate universe that he took Peter from. He remembers his wife, Nina and the lab assistant all warning him against crossing over, but that he believed he was the only God in the laboratory. He burns a book he found containing all of his ideas, but then sees another version of himself and the book has gone. Did he really burn it or has he given it to someone, or left it somewhere, that will jeopardise their plans?
I’m not really sure what to make of this episode, as there seems to be a crossover point between Walter’s hallucinations and reality, where what he is imagining that he sees is playing a part in masking what he’s really doing. If that’s the case, who now has his notebook and will that be significant as the series comes to an end? It seems increasingly likely that the final two episodes of the show (which will air on the same night as a two-hour finale) will be where the plan comes into action, meaning that the next two episodes will most likely be of a similar vein, with the Fringe team looking for more components of the plan, rather than actually putting it into action.
I find that slightly disappointing (if it happens of course), as I’ve been expecting more from this final season. It hasn’t been boring and I am enjoying it, but I am becoming slightly tired of each episode sending the team off on little missions instead of having more drama and danger. There has been some of that, with the death of Etta and Peter using the Observer tech, but more of it would make the season more exciting as it reaches its conclusion. I still have faith in the writers ending the show in a satisfying way; it’s just taking a long time to get there, even in a shortened season.