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The Open Window: An Advance Review of This Week's "Fringe"

There are some lines, which once crossed, cannot be uncrossed.

FOX's sci-fi series Fringe returns later this week with a phenomenal episode ("Peter") that offers a look into the secret history of Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson). Airing Thursday evening, this episode might just be the very best of the season, if not the entire series, and should--if there was any justice in the world--net John Noble a well-deserved Emmy nomination.

After the winter finale found Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) learning of Peter's true identity, this week's episode of Fringe ("Peter"), written by Jeff Pinkner, J.H. Wyman, and Josh Singer and directed by David Straiton, offers viewers a look back into the distant past as Walter (Noble) confesses to Olivia the reasons behind his actions.

While Walter's words to Olivia comprise a narrative framework for the episode, the majority of the action takes place in the 1980s as Walter spins a tale of a father's loss and a fateful act of hubris that could destroy two worlds in the balance.

In the past, I've contended that Noble should get an Emmy nomination for his work on Fringe as Walter Bishop but he's never been in finer form than he is in this installment as Noble plays not one but three different incarnations of Walter, peeling away the layers of his character: his scientific drive, his noble quest to save a child's life, his fatal flaws that render all of his actions irrevocably damaged.

In this single episode, Noble manages to embody all of the disparate elements of Walter's personality, from his determination and altruism to his myopia and selfishness. In the process, we learn more about Walter than we have in nearly two seasons, as well as some of the other characters who populate the off-kilter world of Fringe. There's a great and well-earned reveal in this episode that I won't spoil here but which suddenly makes the dynamics between three characters all the more clear.

Kudos go out to Irish actress Orla Brady (Mistresses), who here plays Walter's long-suffering wife and Peter's mother. Her fate is still a mystery but in the 1985-set storyline here, Brady embodies Walter's better half with a nice combination of grit and sadness.

I don't want to say too much about "Peter" because I don't want to spoil what is a truly remarkable installment of this series. It's one that manages to inform without exposition and mines the past without hitting us over the head with an anvil. It's a gripping exploration of what makes Walter tick and the actions that define us as parents and human beings.

It's also a somber manifesto that pays homage to that old adage: the road to hell is paved with good intentions. For all of Walter's curiosity and benevolence, his quest to save his dying son rips open a tear in the fabric of reality that cannot so easily be mended, a window between two worlds that enables everything that has come after this pivotal moment on the series.

Ultimately, "Peter" is first-rate television: thought-provoking, challenging, and illuminating. It's an installment that will remain with you long after the credits have rolled and one that points to the underlying possibilities and potential of this series. Just be sure not to miss the tongue-in-cheek opening credit sequence, one that owes a little debt of gratitude for 1980s-set series Ashes to Ashes but which nicely acts as a window to another time in its own right.

Fringe returns Thursday evening at 9 pm ET/PT on FOX.

Comments

OldDarth said…
Have been waiting for this ever since the closing shots of the winter finale!

Thanks for the non-spoilery sneak peek!
Bella Spruce said…
Really, really looking forward to this. I love Walter Bishop and the Peter-from-another-world storyline has been excellent!
Anonymous said…
Great Preview,

one minor correction - Orla Brady is Irish!
Lisa said…
You are so right touting John Noble for an Emmy nomination. He is phenomenal and it's high time his great work here was noticed. Let's hope it will happen!
Anonymous said…
Not sure why they would name it 'Peter' when its Walter who gets all the attention. They might as well as call it "Walter's confession".
crabbyanne said…
Wow, I can't wait, this sounds fantastic. Thanks for the preview. I love this show.

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