Friday, December 11, 2009

Fringe “Grey Matters” The Truth Is In There

Photos from Fox

Fringe (Fox) “Grey Matters” provided a key piece of information about Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble), offering an explanation for his apparent mental instability. Fringe continues to amaze me in its ability to offer complex and very deep storylines that are actually easy to follow. It also offers plenty of new information to keep the story going while teasing viewers with more questions. John Noble again proves his excellence as an actor, when, in one scene his face completely transforms and becomes the Walter Bishop that existed before his mental problems surfaced - someone who looked more evil, cold, and calculating than the childlike Walter of the present.

The Fringe team is called to investigate when a paranoid schizophrenic man has unscheduled and un-requested brain surgery. His surgeons abruptly fled, leaving his brain exposed and his mental illness cured. The man had been fixated on a girl in a red dress across the street – although there is no girl in a red dress across the street. After the surgery, his fixation is gone and he is completely normal. Walter, however, while watching the video of the man while in his abnormal state, seems to get a little worried upon hearing of the girl in the red dress across the street. Things take a weird turn when, while watching the security camera video of the strange men entering the room, Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) recognizes the face of one of them. Well, actually she recognizes the head - it’s Thomas Jerome Newton (Sebastian Roché), whose head she last saw in a frozen, dead state. Olivia later tells Agent Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick) that William Bell told her about someone trying to use Newton to open the doors between worlds, which could have cataclysmic results.

Things get weirder when Astrid (Jasika Nicole) makes a connection with a Dr. Paris which leads them to two more reports of mental patients being cured suddenly. Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) finds a scar on the head of a female patient fixated on the number 28 who was suddenly cured, and later he and Olivia find a man, fixated on the actor Sydney Greenstreet, who was similarly cured. When Walter finds that all three patients had been given a drug used only for organ transplants, he realizes that Newton had stored someone else’s human brain tissue in these patients’ brains, and had just removed them, which also removed each patient’s mental problems.

Things get even twistier when Peter realizes that the brain parts in question belong to Walter, when he finds similar scarring on Walter’s brain, and has it confirmed by an MRI. Walter asks for a high dose of valium while he undergoes the MRI, making him more than mellow. When Astrid takes him home, he says he is going to be sick, and sends her off to get some music from his lab which always calms him. It is at this point that Peter and Olivia realize that Newton wants to put the brain parts back in Walter in order to restore Walter’s memories of how to create this door between worlds. But by the time they alert Astrid, it is too late, Newton already has him. Making matters worse, the GPS tracker that Walter put in himself so Peter could always find him leads the team on a wild goose chase when they find the tracker has been removed and left in public restroom.

Meanwhile, Newton and his team have the brain pieces stored and hooked up to Walter in a manner that they hope to re-connect it to Walter’s brain and recover the memories. Showing the great skill of John Noble, when these brain parts reconnect, Walter’s face completely changes and suddenly he looks almost evil and calculating and completely sane – not the innocent and almost childlike Walter that with which we are most familiar. It was a creepy look. Every picture they show him to trigger his memories remind him of Peter, including a coffin. They continue to give him more drugs. Newton asks Walter how he built the door, saying he knows why Walter did it and what he lost. He asks if he's willing to lose it again – “it” likely being Peter. He presses Walter again about the door.

When Peter realizes the fixations of the other patients are from Walter's memories - a girl in a red dress named Sydney lived across the street from him at 2828 Green Street. He also concludes they took Walter to a place which would help jog his memories. But they get there too late – Newton and his team have fled. The current owners of the home who have been bound and their mouths taped shut tell Olivia she just missed them and they fled out back. Olivia makes chase, and catches up with the van, shooting two of the men. One of the men looks like he is bleeding a silvery, shiny blood. Newton is still in the van, and when Olivia gets him to step out at gunpoint, he tells her that she must make a choice – it’s either him or Walter. It seems he gave Walter a drug that will kill him in minutes unless Newton gives her the instructions on how to use the antidote, which was his way to gain his escape. Meanwhile, Peter is freaking because Walter suddenly seems to be dying. Lucky for Walter, Olivia chooses Walter and runs back in time to give Peter the antidote instructions, and Walter is saved, saying he has a headache and craves chicken wings. Newton, of course, is long gone, after telling Olivia that she just confirmed how weak she is.

Olivia tells Broyles that Newton was right about her, she made an emotional choice – a friend over her responsibly - and now they have nothing. The brain tissue they extracted from Walter is now dead, and they have no idea if Walter gave them the plans for the door. But Broyles disagrees, saying she did the right thing and that putting a name and face on the enemy is important, saying there is only one Walter Bishop. "And we're going to need him before this is over" adding "Don't be so hard on yourself, we're going to be needing you, too."

Back at the hospital, Walter is readying for another MRI, just to make sure he is fine. Peter tells him he should have visited him when Walter was hospitalized, but Walter says it's OK, if he had, he probably wouldn't have remembered anyway.

While in the MRI, Walter has a memory. William Bell (Leonard Nimoy) is leaning over Walter as he is being prepped for a procedure. Bell tells Walter he wishes there was another way, but what Walter has accomplished is too dangerous, and promises Walter he'll put his memory in a place only he can find. Bell then tells him to listen as he tells Walter to think about the door he designed, and they begin the procedure.

Interesting that while Olivia talks with Broyles, they seem to recap for the fans what are the new questions we should be asking: Who is Dr. Paris? How did Newton know about Walter’s memories? Why did they let Walter live? Broyles sums it up, saying “I suspect that’s the way this is going to be. The more answers we get the more questions they’ll lead to.” I guess that sums up the whole series, doesn’t it?

But I have some burning questions of my own in my mind. Did Walter’s opening up this door cause the “blight” that exists on the other side? The fact that Walter’s brain tissue was reconnected and the memories apparently restored, couldn’t that possibly have created a new memory of this current event in his brain in some other location? Despite the fact that the old brain tissue with the old memories is dead, the memories could very well be alive and well in Walter’s current brain. I suspect this is not the last we will hear of these memories.

Fringe is a fantastic TV show and I find it bothersome that Fox has it in such a horrific time slot against quite a few powerhouse TV shows. I fully realize that Fringe is a niche show that wouldn’t appeal to the same viewers such as the networks biggest drama, “House,” but I certainly hope that Fox will keep Fringe going, and give it another season on a more reasonable day.

All Text Content (Recaps, Review, Commentary) © unless otherwise noted

Check out my blog home page for the latest information, at I Like To Watch TV, here.

No comments: