Friday, April 30, 2010

Fringe “Brown Betty”: The Musical, Trippy Episode

All photos from Fox
“Brown Betty” was quite a different –yet highly enjoyable - episode for Fringe (Fox), I guess you could call it the “This is Walter’s brain on drugs” story. It seems Walter has taken several hits from his special blend of pot that he calls “Brown Betty” and he is higher than a kite. When Olivia needs Astrid help to babysit Ella for a while, Walter gets roped in to telling Ella a story, and this is where Walter’s mind flies. This was a thoroughly enjoyable trip into Walter’s imagination with a story that seems like a 1940s film noir, yet includes modern technology like cell phones and quantum lasers, and also features the characters breaking out into song every now and then. We all know that Walter loves music, and it is as if he’s made his own soundtrack his story. And while Ella may think this is just a fictional story from Walter, it is very real to Walter. It is complete with a symbolic glass heart – glass being something that can break easily – but in this story, the heart is “stolen” from Peter to keep Walter alive. They know they both need it to live. In Walter’s ending Peter coldly takes his heart back from Walter; in Ella’s ending, Peter breaks the heart in two so they can both share it.

Walter also seems very aware of what his experiments with children have done, and in his story, he has Peter telling Olivia that Walter hurt 147 children, saying he stole children’s' dreams and left them with nightmares, and he thinks Walter is responsible for too much evil. Clearly, Walter’s conscience is talking to him, and he knows that it is his own fault that Peter is estranged. Maybe Ella, in her childlike desire for a happy ending, gave Walter some hope. But, the Observe at the end gives a feeling of foreboding when he indicated that Walter is not paying attention to their warnings. Walter’s mind may have gone to fantasy land for a while, but I suspect that reality is closing in on him every day – and it may be a reality that means hard times for Walter, Peter, and Olivia.

Here’s what happened:

Walter (John Noble) gets high in his office on some hybrid pot, which he calls "Brown Betty." He goes on a frantic spree of labeling everything in the lab, and luckily Astrid (Jasika Nicole) arrives to interrupt him. She thinks he is labeling as a way of getting control of his life since Peter has left, and she tries to assure him that Peter will come back.

Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) enters the lab with no news, instead she has her niece Ella (Lily Pilblad), Rachel’s daughter, with her, and she needs Astrid to babysit. Walter tries to occupy Ella with a game of “Operation”, but he’s still high and Ella complains all Walter is doing is eating her snacks, and everything makes him laugh. She wants Walter to tell her a story, and this is where Water’s mind goes off into a film-noir world, filled with the same people he knows in real life, accompanied by some of the music he loves.

His mystery story appears set in the 1940s, but there are still modern touches like cell phones. Olivia is a private detective, and Rachel (Ari Graynor) is a client who wants her to find her boyfriend Peter Bishop. Olivia makes her way to Walter’s lab, where he tells her that Peter has gone into hiding because he has a very special heart in his possession – a glass heart. The symbolism here is obvious as we know that the real Walter’s heart is fragile and breaking over the loss of Peter, and Peter’s heart was likewise broken by Walter when Peter discovered that Walter stole him from the other universe.

Olivia meets up with Broyles (Lance Reddick), a cop who is singing in a jazzy club, who points her to Massive Dynamic. Broyles calls the company “"a vile firm that never missed an opportunity to exploit the little guy” and in Walter’s story the building is a much older looking facility on the outside, something you’d expect from a cartoon city like “Metropolis”. When Olivia meets with Nina, Nina calls Peter a con man and is dangerous. But Nina later calls someone and tells them there is a development.

When Olivia makes a phone call to Rachel, she hears Rachel screaming and later she finds her dead with a hole in her chest. (Back in reality, Ella is a little freaked that Walter killed her mother in the story.) Broyles has no leads on the killer and warns Olivia she could be in danger. She takes Rachel’s planner on the way out and, seeing Walter’s name it in, finds her way back to him. He tells Olivia he hired Rachel to hire Olivia to find Peter because he knew she only took cases involving a lost love. Walter explains that Peter was his lab assistant – and we can see Walter is in a motorized wheel chair, and his cow Gene is now sporting colorful has polka dots. He goes on about some of his own inventions: bubble gum, flannel pajamas, rainbows and singing corpses – and a group of corpses rise up from their table and "The Candyman". He also admits he invented the glass heart, and when he opens up his chest, we see a hole where the heart was located, with batteries keeping him alive for a short while.

Olivia re-hires her assistant – who we know as Astrid but for the story, Walter calls her
Esther Figglesworth. But while Olivia is getting back into her car, she is jumped and an Observer-like man uses a strange scalpel and cuts above Olivia’s heart and tells her not to stick her heart where it doesn't belong. Back in the office while Esther helps Olivia clean the wound, they see it is quickly healing. They think this was the weapon used to kill Rachel. She draws a sketch of the scalpel and takes it to the nerdy geek at Massive Dynamic, Brandon (Ryan McDonald), who tells her the item was patented by Massive Dynamic. Angry, Olivia confronts Nina about it, who tells her it is a quantum laser and it had been stolen. She also thinks Olivia was attacked by a “Watcher” – which we know as the Observers. (Ella, meanwhile, tells Walter she doesn’t trust Nina.)

Olivia later damages Nina’s car’s taillight so she can easily trail her. She sees Nina at home on a video conference with William Bell, telling him that Peter has the glass heart. They planned to use the heart to create a door between the universes, so they can finally be together again. But as Olivia continues to spy, someone comes up behind her and knocks her out. She wakes up on a boat, restrained, with a “Watcher” Mr. Gemini and Nina there, reminding her they warned her to stay away. They close her up in a wooden crate, Olivia frantically trying to call Ether with no luck. She finds herself dumped into the water and as it seems she will certainly sink and drown, someone opens the lid and it is Peter (Joshua Jackson), who saves her.

At Peter’s house, she sees a map with push pins all radiating from Boston. Peter makes her breakfast, and we find that Peter likes jazz, Olivia likes to dance, and the 147 push pins on the map represent a child hurt by Walter Bishop. He tells her that Walter’s ideas come from the dreams from children; he replaces them with nightmares and leaves damaged kids. It seems the glass heart is really Peter’s, and Peter gave it to Walter because of all the good he’s done. But he later found that Walter was responsible for too much evil. Peter opens a door in his chest and we see the glass heart beating inside. But when a loud noise interrupts them, Peter realizes they’ve been found and as Olivia fights off a hoard of Watchers, it seems that Peter’s heart is stolen again. Olivia has to buy Peter some time with some batteries, and she carefully inserts them into his chest. It seems it didn’t work as Peter looks dead, and she begins to sing “For Once in My Life” thinking it is all over for him. He jolts back to consciousness, and they know they have to get the heart back. Olivia knows who has it now.

They get to Walter’s lab and he has the heart, and Olivia knows he is the one who brought the Watchers over. Walter tells Peter he never meant to hurt anyone, and promises he can change. He sings "Candyman, " but Peter isn’t buying it, saying “It’s too late Walter, there’s some things you can’t undo” He leaves with his heart and Walter is left alone.

Back in reality, Ella isn’t thrilled with the ending, saying it supposed to be happy. She gives her version, with Peter giving Walter another chance as Peter still sees the good in Walter. Peter splits the heart in two and they share it, and both go on to live happily ever after, as Peter and Olivia dance to the music.

When the real Olivia returns with no news about Peter, she finds that Walter has been doing some storytelling but Ella came up with a better ending. Afterwards, as Astrid drives Walter home, an Observer watches from the street, and he makes a call on a special phone. He tells the person on the other end of the call that . "The boy has not returned and I do not believe Dr. Bishop remembers my warning. Yes, I am concerned, too." As he closes his phone, the episode ends.

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