Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Wow. You’re here? Really? On a Friday night? You must really love Fringe!
Thankfully, it appears that Fringe loves you back. Those of you who tuned into Fox’s critically acclaimed science fiction series, despite the show’s new Friday night time slot, were rewarded with yet another compelling outing that furthered both the show’s core characters and its overarching mythology. Peter and Olivia continuing their turbulent romance? Check. Walter engaging in bizarre science experiments that involve needles in his butt? Absolutely. Observers? You got ‘em. Plus, Christopher Lloyd! A Firefly reference! How can you go wrong?
Short answer is, you can’t! “The Firefly” marked one of the strongest episodes of season three of Fringe to date, and considering that this season is far and away the best one yet, that’s saying something. We can only hope that the ratings reflect the quality of the series itself. For now, let’s go over the highlights, shall we?
At its core, tonight’s Fringe was about letting go. The lesson was learned through Roscoe Joyce, the sensational keyboardist of Violet Sedan Chair, Walter’s favorite band from the ’70s. But Walter’s musical hero is well past his prime, living in an old folks home as a result of his mental collapse from losing his son, Bobby, to a car accident. When Bobby mysteriously appears and delivers a message to Roscoe in the present, the Fringe team is sent to investigate, and it’s soon discovered that the Observer (Michael Cerveris) brought Bobby forward through time as part of a grander experiment involving Walter and his son.
The Observer’s intentions become clear at the episode’s conclusion: when Walter took Peter from the other universe, and the Observer subsequently saved them from drowning to death, a series of unintended consequences were set into motion. Peter’s survival inadvertently caused the death of Roscoe’s son, a hard truth that forces Walter to reexamine his choices. No, there’s no way he could have known that Peter’s life meant the death of others, but he still blames himself for being unable to let go of his son. Through Roscoe, the Observer is testing Walter, to see if he’s ready to let Peter go for the greater good. In the end, Walter proved himself capable of such sacrifice thanks to Peter’s own selflessness.
“And now we know, when the time comes, he’ll be willing to do it again,” the Observer coolly observes. Doesn’t sound good for Peter…
That said, it wasn’t all bad news for Peter, was it? During their rooftop encounter, the Observer made a very strange remark, telling Peter that it must be difficult “being a father.” Last we checked, Peter wasn’t paying childcare to anyone, unless that subplot was left on the editing room floor once upon a time. My guess? There’s a little Bishop floating around in the alternate universe with a certain redhead for a mom. Olivia is going to be pissed if that’s the case. And if it’s true, how long until Peter inevitably faces the same choice his father made so many years ago: let his son stay in his natural home world, or steal him back and raise him in this universe? Sounds like a season finale in the making to me!
There Are Many Futures
Remember that time when the Observer told us that there’s more than one of everything? Well, those words apply beyond the concept of multiple universes. The Observer revealed that there are numerous possible futures, and while he can tell Walter about all of them, he can’t tell him which one will come to pass. Is there an underlying truth to grasp within his words? Can we assume that there aren’t just two universes, but infinite ones with infinite futures determined by the various choices and decisions that are made every single day? And if that’s the case, why is it this universe, the one we’ve watched for three seasons, that’s so crucial in the grand scheme of things? Buh.
How great were John Noble and Christopher Lloyd in their scenes together? I would happily watch those two characters in a spinoff series all their own. Lloyd’s performance was suitably subdued, but you could see the occasional wild flicker in his eyes when reminiscing about the old days, or eating strawberry ice cream, or playing piano. The friendship forged between Roscoe and Walter was thoroughly believable thanks to the chemistry between Noble and Lloyd; truly one of the best guest performances by any actor on the series so far. Here’s hoping he gets another appearance at some point down the line.
Next week’s episode, titled “Reciprocity,” continues the collision course between Peter and the doomsday device. Walter seeks out Nina’s help in figuring out what the device is meant to achieve, while the rest of the team observes the assembly of the device at Massive Dynamic. Expect some dead bodies to pop up along the way, too.
Fringe airs on Friday nights at 9/8 PM central, only on Fox.