You know how, at least once per season, ‘Fringe’ tries to do something totally wacky and experimental in an episode, seemingly from out of the blue? I’m talking about stuff like that musical episode in Season 2, or that animated ep in Season 3. Well, the show pulled that trick again last week with a pretty peculiar sequence stuck in the middle of what is otherwise another run-of-the-mill episode.
In ‘Black Blotter’, a depressed Walter finds some old LSD he’d stashed away in the lab and trips his balls off for the entire hour. About three-quarters of the way through the episode, this culminates in a bizarre ‘Monty Python’-inspired daydream sequence done up in a reasonably convincing imitation of Terry Gilliam’s old animated skits. The point of this (if it has one) is to help Walter remember an important passphrase that he will conveniently need later on. Mostly, it’s an excuse for the show’s writers to have a laugh over how clever they think they are.
The episode’s story is otherwise hardly notable at all. Not much happens here. Walter is depressed because he fears that he’s turning into “the Walter that was” (before he had chunks of his brain removed and then put back) and may soon no longer care about anyone’s needs but his own. That point has already been made to us in previous episodes. In addition to his ‘Python’ dream, Walter also hallucinates about being haunted by his old, long-dead lab assistant Carla, who taunts him about returning to his old ways. She helps him to locate a hidden notebook with his “life’s work” (some of his more morally questionable inventions) in it, and even almost tricks him into surrendering and offering himself up as a collaborator to the Observers.
Meanwhile, that radio from the mysterious “Donald” that he’d found in the pocket universe starts working, and receives a coded signal that the team can’t decipher. Peter and Astrid manage to track the source of the signal, which leads them to the discovery of a skeletized corpse we’re told used to be Sam Weiss. Kevin Corrigan doesn’t actually appear in the episode, though, so I’m not sure if the character is really being written out or if this is just a teaser to a later twist.
From there, they head to a small island where they find a family that had been sheltering the young Observer that Walter had hidden in the pocket universe. They claim that Donald dropped him off many years earlier (the boy doesn’t age), and that they should wait for a man (Walter) to claim him using the phrase “Black Umbrella” (which, as previously mentioned, Walter remembered in his dream). They’ve been calling the boy Michael, but he has never spoken a word.
In what I suppose we’re supposed to accept as a shocking twist, Olivia figures out that Michael remembers her from her original timeline, even though he’d never met her in this timeline. I have no idea why this should come as a surprise, given that the Observers have many times demonstrated the ability to view and manipulate the different timelines.
Finally, in an act of defiance against what he fears himself turning into, Walter burns the old journal, while Carla reminds him, “You’ve been him longer than you’ve been you.” Isn’t the fact that Walter worries about being a bad person at all enough proof that he still has a conscience and a moral center?
As I said, the episode doesn’t amount to much, other than an excuse to work in the ‘Monty Python’ gag. Also, I have to say that the bald cap on the Observer kid’s head looks really fake. The obvious hair bulging beneath it makes his skull look freakishly huge. That’s the sort of nit I probably wouldn’t pick if I still enjoyed the show much these days.