Fringe is becoming ever more adroit at blending its mythology with its paranormal cases. This week’s episode, called “White Tulip,” began with guest star Peter Weller entering a train car and then leaving it with its riders dead, “drained of energy.” Walter and Peter Bishop are called to the scene along with Olivia and Broyles. But Walter is distracted — he’s not making his typically quick analyses of the show’s usual, pre-credits, weird-fringe-science event. He’s rattled with guilt over still not having told Peter that this son of his is, as he’ll later phrase it, “a son that wasn’t mine.” (We saw him writing a letter to Peter explaining everything.)
Fringe risked sentimentality by having its non-mythology case become a romantic tragedy. Weller, as MIT scientist Alistair Peck, had lost his fiancee in a car accident some time ago. He thereafter used his scientific gifts to figure out how to move in time, with the hope of going back far enough to prevent the accident. The parallel with Walter was underscored heavily. He knows that when you mess with the universe, a world of pain can result.
The hour had two terrific elements. One was the way Fringe had us watch nearly-entire scenes repeated when Dr. Peck jumped back in time. (“I’m having deja vu,” said a clueless Olivia.) The other was the tense, intimate conversation Walter and Peck had, two men of science grappling with spiritual doubt and belief. Walter confessed things to Peck that he said he’d never confided to anyone. The part we heard most clearly was that Walter now believes God has been punishing him ever since he took the alt-Peter, and that he’s been “waiting for a sign of forgiveness.”
That would be the white tulip of the episode-title. And he received that sign in a way that was both predictable and still quite moving. And in a way that moves the mythology along, since now Walter, by the agreement he struck with God, is now forgiven and free to confess to Peter, right?
This was one of those episodes that consign Olivia to a primarily just-the-facts-sir, FBI-agent role, and such hours usually feel a little off. But this week, moving Olivia a bit over to the side made sense. Besides, it made room for a superbly understated performance by Peter Weller, whose gaunt eloquence was used to great effect.
Oh, and next week: the return of shape-shifters!
Did you watch Fringe this week? What did you think?