In this week's episode of Fringe, "Black Blotter", a familiar face from the past returns to help the team, while Walter goes on a psychedelic journey, revealing just how dangerous one man can truly be. Will we ever meet the real Walter Bishop?
After the radio they found begins to pick up a signal, the Fringe team attempts to track down its source, leading them to a dead body of an old friend. Meanwhile, (thanks to Walter's decisions to drop acid) fairies, as well as a former assistant, attempt to help him remember some of his most important inventions. However, when the radio signal leads them to a home of a familiar child, only Walter can provide the password needed for them to obtain their next piece of the puzzle. In the end, Walter begins realizes that he is slowly transforming back to his former, more dangerous, self.
After last week's entertaining episode, "Black Blotter" does, on some level, feel like a continuation of Fringe's ability to present strong stories of scientific exploration. The removed portions of Walter's brain, while being a semi-major plot point from the start of season 5, are just now receiving the type of service that it deserves. As Walter makes his way through his psychedelic experience, there are more than enough enjoyable visuals for audiences to thoroughly enjoy what's being presented, and the actual implications of Walter's evolving mentality are certainly compelling enough to fuel much fanatical thinking and speculation.
This week's episodic adventure of finding "something" is enjoyable enough, though still simplistic in its execution. By mixing in the remains of familiar characters from the past, it helps to strengthen the overall story-arc for season 5, albeit artificially. And by going as far as returning to characters from the series' first season, it creates some semblance of a single storyline being followed, no matter how impossible that currently is.
However, although Walter's storyline throughout this episode is completely fascinating in its own right, it still is, essentially, a series attempting to tread water long enough to reach its conclusion. Even though each and every character moment in this past season has been executed extremely successful, it always comes with a trade-off to the actual storyline. If, like in this week's episode, Walter's character needs to develop, a good portion of the episode is spent doing just that, all while the seasonal storyline (very) slowly continues. Considering character-arcs and story-arcs go hand-in-hand, typically progressing at the same time and on the same level, Fringe's "either/or" approach means that there's almost always going to be major story elements that feel underdeveloped when compared to others.
And with only 4 episodes left before Fringe comes to an end, it should be acknowledged that the series is actually nowhere near ready to end - hence numerous episodes with heavy character development as its focus. Ideally, a strong, succinct narrative would have allowed for more balanced storyline, however the drastic time jump between season 4 and season 5 made that almost impossible.
At this point, it's difficult to see how Fringe will present itself in its final moments. Right now, the series is, if anything, simply attempting to get to a point where all of the characters are established enough for the producers to pull off whatever finale they have in mind. As the few remaining episodes continue to air, fans will get a better idea of what the final showdown will be. Whether or not that final showdown is everything fans hope it to be is another question.
Fringe returns Friday with "Anomaly XB-6783746" @9pm on Fox. You can check out a preview of next week's episode below: