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The Seahorse: Fathers and Sons on "Fringe"

I've said it before, but I'll say it again: won't somebody please give John Noble an Emmy nomination?

Noble's work on Fringe as the addled Dr. Walter Bishop has been absolutely superlative these past two seasons. As the action mounts to next week's winter finale of Fringe, Noble has rendered Walter as a truly tragic figure, one whose seeming innocence and scientific curiosity belies a true pragmatist, a man willing to make the tough decisions that no one else wants to make.

Never was this more true than in last night's compelling episode of Fringe ("The Bishop Revival"), which found the team dealing with a chemical weapon capable of targeting specific gene groups or individuals and unearthing a connection between the deadly technology and the Bishop family itself.

Despite its format as a procedural series, Fringe has done a smashing job this season at keeping the character development moving along swiftly and wisely placing the emphasis on the relationships between the three core characters. Over the past few weeks, we've learned a great deal about Walter's relationship to and obsessive love for his son Peter. This week, he looked to draw Olivia even closer into his family, urging Peter to marry Olivia.

It was a small moment but spoke volumes about the love that Walter has for Olivia. Despite what may have been done to her as a child by Walter and his former partner William Bell, it's clear that Walter has a paternal love for Agent Dunham. He cares for her deeply and wants to see her happy and he wants Peter to be happy. Therefore, the only logical solution is to put the two of them together.

I'm glad that Peter shot down this line of romantic inquiry straightaway. There's been a nice tension between Peter and Olivia since the start of the series but I've been extremely pleased to see that the writers haven't pushed the two of them into a full-blown flirtation or paired them off into will-they-or-won't-they couplehood. I think that Peter and Olivia work best as friends or emotional siblings; it gives their relationship some nice heft while also making Fringe different in this respect: the team isn't just colleagues, but a rather dysfunctional family.

Last night's episode once more mined the former estrangement between Walter and Peter for dramatic purposes, revealing that Peter had sold Walter's prize possessions--a series of German novels owned by his own father Dr. Bishoff--while he was in St. Clare's as an act of revenge. What Peter didn't know was that these novels were in fact repositories of secret Nazi science and that his grandfather was a Allied spy working to sabotage the scientific aims of the Third Reich.

I'm glad that it wasn't Peter's foolhardy sale of those books that brought about the killer airborne weapon that the mysterious German was developing but rather an unexpected coincidence. That the German was in fact over 100 years old and had known Walter's father was a more interesting twist, one that was left tantalizingly unsolved at the end of the episode. (Though it had been mentioned earlier that the Nazis were investigating a fountain of youth.)

(Interesting aside: I loved that Bishoff's signature was the seahorse--supposedly, he was a good swimmer--but given that we've so far only learned about the male side of the Bishop family tree, a fitting motif, given that male seahorses carry the eggs of their offspring.)

Walter's own attack by this individual placed his life in jeopardy (though, interestingly, the weapon was synthesized to only attack Walter and not his whole gene line) and Walter was able to turn the tables on the German and attack him using his own tools of destruction, murdering the man in front of an assembly of hundreds at the charity event. I had a feeling that Walter would strike back but didn't think that he would so calmly murder this man nor that he would tell Broyles that he knew what he had done and would face the consequences.

In the end, as Walter said, family is the most important thing to him. The act of murder he commits not only saves the world from this maniac's twisted ideals but also reclaims his father's work and safeguards them from once more falling into the wrong hands. If there's one thing that motivates Walter Bishop it is the protection of those he loves as evidenced by the lengths he went--wrongly--to bring his son back from the dead by replacing him with his alternate reality counterpart. It's an action that could end up destroying their world, even if it was based in a father's grief.

What did you think of this week's episode? Should Noble finally get some recognition for his amazing turn as Walter Bishop? Discuss.

Next week on the winter finale of Fringe ("Jacksonville"), a violent tremor at a Manhattan office building leaves only one survivor who leads the team to believe he is not from this reality; Walter surmises that what shook the building was not geologic, but rather something discovered by him and William Bell many years ago; the team races to Jacksonville, the site of Walter and William's experiments, forcing Olivia to face her mysterious past and save hundreds of people from certain death.


gina said…
I agree, last night's episode was very good. The writers are doing a great job of developing the characters during stand alone eps (which is not always the case with other mythology-heavy shows), and it's all leading to Peter finding out what Walter did. It's going to be heartbreaking.

Great write-up!
Anonymous said…
... "(though, interestingly, the weapon was synthesized to only attack Walter and not his whole gene line)"

Maybe is because Peter is from another universe that he was not affected.

Jane Grey said…
John Noble most certainly deserves an Emmy nomination. In less capable hands, Walter Bishop could be annoying and clownish but Noble makes him a deeply layered, and deeply flawed individual.
Jace Lacob said…

That was my thought as well. Interesting, no? The clues are piling up...
rockauteur said…
Is this the first time we heard that Peter's mom has passed away? I don't remember them mentioning that before... my question is - why and when did she die? And is their one of her still on the other side?

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