Fringe, S5 Ep9 – Black Blotter

This episode just settles it. I have never watched a show — certainly not while it airs — that has continuity as excellent as this one. Fan-freakin’-tastic. Oh, show, I will never doubt you again. Also, that’s three trippy episodes in three (non-consecutive) seasons named after drugs and featuring drug trips. Only on Fringe!

And this is not even close to as trippy as the episode gets!

And this is not even close to as trippy as the episode gets!

I was mostly unspoiled that Walter was tripping this week, and thus the joke with him breathlessly complimenting Astrid’s hair worked perfectly for me. Ha! I was spoiled about Carla’s appearance, but I thought it might just be a flashback, so that also was a well-done surprise. I’ve read some fan complaints that Walter’s worry about turning back into the man he was is too much of a re-tread. I sort of saw where they were coming from, despite my belief that John Noble can make anything compelling — until now. If this episode doesn’t convince you, nothing will.

This is not a re-tread, it’s an exploration of a new facet and logical continuation of Walter’s story. I have to say I was chilled at the way Walter’s face changed when Hallucination!Carla pointed out that he could be a valuable asset or ally to the Observers because of his intellect. And then I was freaked out when he seemed about to turn everyone in, just as she had suggested! When shows do the “not sure what is real” thing right, it can be  very creepy in all the right ways.

They're just so pretty! I also note that Peter's wearing his wedding ring again.

They’re just so pretty! I also note that Peter’s wearing his wedding ring again.

And the Donald plotline! Thank goodness for something more interesting in this season-long scavenger hunt. Firstly, it was surrounded and infused with lovely Peter/Olivia moments. What’s more, the addition of hallucinogens to the plot made me wonder whether the segment with the boat was real, which was a nice helping of tension. But then it turned out that the resolution of the Donald mystery *did* include the little Observer kid! Yay! I also appreciated the subtlety of the parallels between the family (who I’m calling the Van de Kamps, for reasons that should be obvious) grieving at having to let the child go, and all the still-grieving Bishops. Oh, also? I’m definitely assuming the reason they called him “Michael” was as an homage to the greatest Observer himself, September, or Michael Cerveris.

I hope no one calls the last few minutes a clip show, because that was certainly the most effective use of clips that I have seen in a TV show in a while. Kudos, as always, to John Noble for making me feel what Walter felt as he remembered these pivotal (and still heartbreaking) events. Will Walter be able to hold on to his good, loving side? What role will Michael the proto-Observer play? Will we get any more hints about how all the different timelines we’ve seen are now blending together? Thankfully, we still have at least one more episode this year to learn more.

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