By Rhea Dee
We kick off this episode with Walter taking a hit off of his bong, playing Yes, and then busting out his label maker and labeling everything in his lab. And if you think that’s awesome (like I did), it was only a teeny bit of the awesome that this episode had to offer.
Olivia, who’s taking care of Ella while her sister is out of town, leaves her with Astrid and Walter for a few hours while she follows some leads on Peter’s potential whereabouts. Walter plays some games with Ella, and she complains that all he’s doing is eating her snacks and giggling at everything (Walter told Olivia when she dropped Ella off that he was already “well into Phase One” of Brown Betty, his super marijuana concoction). So Ella asks Walter to tell her a story. Walter reveals that his mother loved musicals and detective stories and so he weaves a tale about Olivia Dunham, a hardboiled private eye with a chip on her shoulder, and her search for the missing Peter Bishop.
Given the fact that there were a couple of musical numbers in this episode, it’s hard to avoid the inevitable comparison between this episode and the geeky musical episode of choice: “Once More with Feeling” from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But I actually think that this episode has a lot more in common with an episode of the original The Prisoner series.
“The Girl Who Was Death” was the 3rd to the last episode of Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner, right before the two part finale. In the episode, McGoohan’s character, Number Six, tells an espionage story to a couple of kids that closely mirrors his own experience in The Village. The episode was a delightful little poke at Number Six’s experiences rebelling against The Village, and since it preceded the series finale, it was also a fun break before diving back into the heavy material.
“Brown Betty” works in a similar way. After the revelation in the last episode, and Peter running away, this episode was a great way to express Walter’s grief and guilt about this whole situation without actually watching Walter talk about how sad and guilty he feels about everything. Walter’s story serves as a powerful metaphor for how he actually feels. For example, when Olivia and Walter meet in the story, he shows her all his inventions, like hugs, bubblegum and singing corpses. However, later in the episode, Peter reveals that Walter came by those good inventions in a bad way: stealing them from children’s dreams. Walter even hires Olivia to find Peter because he literally stole his heart (a powerful, mechanical glass heart).
This episode was also a fun peek into Walter’s brain. It was fun watching all of Walter’s eclectic tastes come together in this story, and what made it better is how well each character fit into the persona Walter crafted for them in his story. Olivia was the perfect hardboiled detective, and Astrid was even better as the perky Girl Friday. Everyone fit so well into this noir storyline (with random bursts into song) that I almost wished that Walter’s story was the actual Fringe reality.
But the story isn’t all fun, and to remind of this fact, Walter ends it on a sad note. Ella interrupts though, in a total The Princess Bride way, and changes Walter’s story to a happy ending. And even though Ella has absolutely no idea what’s going on with Peter and the alternate universes or anything, her happy ending gave Walter a tiny glimmer of hope that maybe everything will turn out alright after all.
And then it’s back to reality; the episode ends with Baldo (and the other Observers) worrying about the fact that Peter hasn’t returned to Walter yet. And if the Observers are worried about it…yikes.
Last Thoughts: Ella’s gaping face when Walter was singing “Head Over Heels” by Tears For Fears was freakin’ priceless. That whole scene was my absolute favorite. I’ve had that song on repeat all week.
Next Time On Fringe: We get a Peter standalone! I hope he comes to the realization that’s he’s nothing without Team Fringe. And why does it not surprise me that he confides in Broyles?
Rhea Dee spends her time collecting vintage junk, daydreaming about Eli Roth, and pondering the genius of John Carpenter soundtracks. She really likes horror films.
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