‘Fringe’ 3.10 Recap: “Various Possible Futures Are Happening Simultaneously”

‘Fringe’ returned from the winter hiatus last week, and moved into its new Friday night time slot. This is not a good sign for the network’s confidence in the show. I hope the producers have some sort of closure planned for the season finale, because I doubt the series will be renewed for another year. In any case, the first episode back features both a special guest star and the return of the mysterious Observers.

Despite its title, episode ‘The Firefly’ does not have any connection to the TV show ‘Firefly‘. (Not that I expected it to, but you never know.) It does, however, include a winking reference to another famous cult series. In the midst of his research, Walter pulls out a pair of glasses with one red lens and one blue, which he claims to have received from his good friend Dr. Jacoby in Washington State. This isn’t quite as good as the full-blown ‘Twin Peaks’ reunion on ‘Psych’ last month, but it’s a fun gag for those in the know. I wonder why ‘Peaks’ is suddenly on the minds of TV writers lately?

The guest star of the hour is Christopher Lloyd, who looks to be about 150 years old. He plays elderly rocker Roscoe Joyce, who was once keyboardist for Violet Sedan Chair, which just so happens to be Walter’s favorite band. Roscoe receives a visit at his nursing home from his son. That doesn’t sound too remarkable, until you realize that his son’s been dead for 25 years, and doesn’t appear to have aged a minute. The son delivers a message, but Roscoe’s mind doesn’t work as well as it used to, so he can’t remember it the next day. It then falls to Walter to help him retrieve the memory.

Surveillance camera footage reveals that the son was accompanied by one of the bald Observers. The same Observer later stops a jewelry store robbery and prevents the gagged and bound clerk from dying of an asthma attack (but he steals her inhaler in the process). This is very uncharacteristic of the Observers to interfere in human affairs.

What this amounts to is a convoluted “course correction” that all ties back to Walter kidnapping young Peter from the alternate universe. When that happened, it set off a Chaos Theory chain reaction – much like the fabled butterfly flapping its wings that causes a hurricane on the other side of the planet. Young Peter innocently captured a firefly in a jar, and his doing so created a chain of events that led to the death of Roscoe’s son.

It’s not possible for any human, even Walter, to understand the thinking or the methods of the Observers. All he can do is play through their course correction. Eventually, this culminates in a moment where Walter has to decide whether to save the jewelry store clerk from another asthma attack, even though he could be sending Peter off to die in doing so.

Peter winds up surviving two near-death events. Walter believes the purpose of all this was to prevent his own accidental death. In fact, this was all a test by the Observers to see if Walter had changed and would be willing to sacrifice his son. His “passing” the test comes as a surprise to the main Observer – and Observers are not surprised easily.

‘The Firefly’ is a strong episode. Although heavy on the show’s “mythology,” it doesn’t trip all over itself with nonsensical and cheesy plotting like some of this season’s earlier episodes. (Sadly, it looks like the ancient doomsday weapon will be back in the next episode.) Additionally, it has a nice subplot where Olivia receives a book in the mail that Peter had ordered for Fauxlivia, which triggers all sorts of emotional confusion in the both of them. I really like that the season’s identity swapping storyline has had some lasting repercussions for the characters.


  1. I was thinking TWIN PEAKS as soon as I saw those glasses…when he said the line, I burst into laughter.

    I think TWIN PEAKS has been on a lot of minds because of the 20th anniversary again. I keep hoping Lynch will dive back into the world on the 25th anniversary (thus making the dwarf’s line to Cooper “I’ll see you again in 25 years” actually mean something!), but that seems to be a dead issue with him these days. Lynch never wanted Laura Palmer’s murder resolved, so now he seems to be getting his revenge by refusing to ever go back to the place where the birds sing a pretty song, and there’s always music in the air.

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