Episode Title: "The Firefly"
Writers: J. H. Wyman & Jeff Pinkner
Director: Brad Anderson
Previously on "Fringe":
After finally escaping the alternate universe, FBI Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) had difficulty coming to terms with just how thoroughly her double had infiltrated her life. Her unofficial partner Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) unknowingly pursued a romantic relationship with the Faux-Olivia during her absence and he told the real Olivia what had happened between them at his earliest opportunity.
Although she initially took the news in stride, Olivia eventually broke down and told Peter that she didn’t want to be with him. Later, Peter and his father Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) were stalked by The Observer (Michael Cerveris); who apparently had his own purpose for them.
In his lab, Walter explains to Peter that he is preparing a chemical serum to make himself smarter, in order to better match wits with the evil Walter Bishop of the alternate universe. That night, Roscoe Joyce (Christopher Lloyd), a resident of an assisted living home sleepwalks into a hall and meets with his son, Bobby (Nick Ouellette), who died twenty five years earlier. Outside, we see that the meeting was arranged by The Observer. The next day, the Fringe team is called in to investigate the incident and Walter realizes that Roscoe was the former keyboardist of his favorite band, Violet Sedan Chair.
When security footage reveals that The Observer was seen with Bobby, Walter theorizes that Roscoe’s son was literally brought to the present and then returned to the past. They arrange for Roscoe to return to Walter’s lab in order to remember what his son said to him. Elsewhere, The Observer disrupts a violent jewelry store robbery and literally catches bullets as he takes out the gun men. He also stops to give one of the captive staff members, Victoria Dimorio (Olivia Cheng) a much needed burst from her inhaler before leaving her tied up. In the lab, Roscoe remembers that his son told him to help Walter, by name. But neither man knows what the message means.
Peter and Olivia hear the police report about The Observer and race to the scene. Elsewhere, The Observer and another, older Observer debate about the outcome of his "experiment" and whether Walter has changed. Back in the lab, Walter bonds with Roscoe over their shared loss and their love of strawberry milkshakes. The Observer then shows up and goes for a walk with Walter to explain the consequences of bringing Peter to this universe. From The Observer’s story, Walter realizes that he set off a chain of events in which a young girl’s father accidentally killed Roscoe’s son twenty five years ago. And from The Observer’s interest in Victoria, he realizes that she was the girl from his story.
Fearful that The Observer is planning to take Peter away from him, he begs the man to let him keep his son. In response, The Observer warns him that when the time comes, he should give Peter the keys and save the girl. Shortly thereafter, Peter and Olivia witness The Observer drive a truck into the vehicle carrying Victoria, triggering another massive asthma attack. Without her inhaler, she may die. Olivia goes after him on foot and when Walter arrives, Peter demands that he give him the keys to the car and save the girl. Walter initially balks and warns Peter that he may die if he gives him the keys. But Peter is insistent that he save her and Walter relents.
Walter saves Victoria as Peter finally catches up to The Observer. He tries to question the mysterious man, but he gets shot by an energy weapon for his trouble. When Olivia calls him about Peter, Walter fears the worst but he is soon relieved to hear that Peter survived. Roscoe is soon dropped off at his facility and he invites Walter to visit him. He also says how grateful he is to have seen his son again. Back at the lab, Peter and Olivia begin to reconnect when he accidentally ingests the serum meant for Walter. Peter immediately suffers a violent seizure, which Olivia is able alleviate with help from Walter.
Later, Walter realizes that his serum was unstable and would have killed him had he taken it. He tells Peter that it may have been an elaborate plan of The Observer to save his life. But elsewhere, The Observer and his older counterpart remark that Walter truly has changed and he was willing to risk Peter’s life… which means he’ll be willing to do it again.
I doubt this was intentional, but there was an interesting synergy of "Fringe’s" first episode on Fridays being named "The Firefly;" which echoes Joss Whedon’s "Firefly," a show that famously died in what’s now known as the "Friday Night Death Slot." And while the first new "Fringe" of 2011 wasn’t a home run that would bring new fans to the series, it was at the very least, a solid double.
It’s almost a shame that Christopher Lloyd didn’t appear in last year’s time travel episode with Peter Weller, which would have united two of the greatest mad scientist heroes of the ’80s with Walter. But Lloyd was very good in what was a slightly underutilized role. The elaborate time travel used to send a message to Walter never quite paid off in the way that it should have. Roscoe doesn’t actually help Walter in any tangible way. It’s more like Walter helped him come to terms with his loss and gets him to start moving on with his life. But I’d still like to see Roscoe back on the show at some point, if only as Walter’s one friend outside of the Fringe team.
But where this episode really shines is the relationship between Walter and Peter. John Noble and Joshua Jackson have developed such a natural chemistry together that their father-son scenes can carry a lot of weight. The moment when Walter was faced with possibly letting Peter go off to his death was incredibly well played and had a great sense of gravitas. And from the ending of the episode, it looks like it’s just the tip of the iceberg for the drama to come.
There was also an interesting thaw in the relationship between Peter and Olivia this week, with a subplot about Peter buying a copy of his favorite book for the alternate Olivia and the real Olivia’s subsequent rejection of it. On my initial viewing of the episode, I felt that the writers were bringing Olivia and Peter back together again too quickly by having them continue to discuss the book and why Peter liked it so much. But part of it needed to happen so that she’d be with Peter when he had the seizure. In that sense, it was a little more manufactured than the Walter and Peter moments. I’m not opposed to the idea of Peter and Olivia eventually ending up together, but those kind of relationships need to be earned. And "Fringe" isn’t quite ready for that step yet.
The early ratings for this episode offer some hope that "Fringe" can survive in the deadly Friday waters. And next week’s return of the Doomsday device has me intrigued. Amazingly, this isn’t even the halfway point of the season and yet "Fringe" already feels like its covered a lot of ground. That’s the mark of a great show, sci-fi or otherwise.
Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.