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Walter Bishop Is The Greatest Tragic Figure On Television

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Last night's Fringe dipped about 10 percent in the ratings, which is a damned shame since this episode would have turned anyone into a die-hard fan of the show. Not to mention, leaving you obsessed with Walter Bishop. Spoilers ahead...

It's hard to believe we used to look upon Walter Bishop as the childlike mad scientist with the cute food and drug cravings and the dark past that drove him crazy. He's turned out to be a much, much more multi-layered character. Just in last night's episode, we got the neurotic, up-all-night Walter, the childlike excited Walter who discovers a joint and enjoys slicing up a shapeshifter embryo, the tender father who's overjoyed that Peter called him Dad, and then finally the devastated wreck whose deception has finally caught up with him.


And at the end of the episode, we see a glimpse of the reckoning that is coming for Walter Bishop — could the Man From The Other Side (who crossed over despite Peter's interference) be anybody other than Walternate, the Walter from another world? The fireworks are going to be almost unimaginable!

You have to admire the way the show's constructed the "everyone finds out Peter's from Over There" arc over the past four or five episodes. At times, I might have griped that the shoes were dropping a bit too slowly, but in retrospect it's been worth it to see just how much the guilt and grief have been tearing Walter apart. The idea that Walter's kidnapping of alt-Peter led to his wife's suicide while he was in a mental hospital is just the final piece of awfulness.


And you have to love the little bookending that goes on here — a few episodes back, in the flashback episode, we get a lot of Young Peter in bed, with Walter standing over him feeling helpless while Peter says he's not afraid to die. Young Peter is so stoic and at peace, their roles are almost reversed. Then, at the end of this episode, you get a similar scene, with Peter once again in a sickbed with his father standing over him. And once again, the traditional father/son roles are reversed, with Peter sitting (laying) in judgment on his father, who's completely undone.


So what was Thomas Jerome Newton's plan this time around? He had tried to bring over a whole building (back in "Jacksonville") and it hadn't worked out so great. This time, he's worked out the kinks, and... he just wants to bring over one guy? Assuming this really is "Walternate," what's so important about bringing one guy to this universe? It can't just be about Walternate's personal mission of revenge against Walter — there's a whole war coming, right? So what's the plan?


Meanwhile, Olivia was great in this episode — after last week's outing where she was somewhat useless, she was more resourceful and cunning, from figuring out the lack of lipstick on the joint means that there was a guy in the car to taking out two armed shapeshifters with her awesome gun kata. Olivia's not always that much fun to watch emoting, but it's good to be reminded why she's our hero.

So anyone who's ever watched television has to know that eventually the Peter-Walter rift will be healed and they'll be back to being friends, if not exactly a model father and son. But even if they're doing synchronized swimming together in a few weeks, that doesn't change the fact that Walter has been set up as one of the great tragic figures. He broke the laws of nature, not out of greed but to save the life of his dead son's mirror image. As a result, he was driven to become a monster to find a way to fix the damage. And he slowly went mad — which led, in part, to his wife committing suicide and his son becoming estranged from him. Now he's just started building a life again, and it's all coming back to haunt him. Not to mention, his pissed-off counterpart from the other universe is coming for him.


It should be pretty fascinating to watch. So fuck you, Nielsen households who switched to the Home Shopping Network or the NFL draft last night.