Welcome to the rewatch for episode 10 of Fringe season 2 – “Grey Matters”. Join as we dive into the memories of Walter Bishop in a bid to ward of the monsters of his past.
We have renamed this episode: Walter..
Newly Observed Perspectives
- Although this is a good episode, perhaps the most useful aspect as we go forward is the idea of memories and much they shape the characters who have them, and those who are just beginning to remember their pasts. Furthermore, the notion of alternate universes has always struck me as being a broader take on the show’s exploration of memories and dreams, so it will be interesting to see what analogies we pick up on Over There as Olivia begins to piece together a life that has shades of her own. What impact will this have on her mental state, on her perspective?
- The other interesting point, in retrospect, is the later reveal that it was in fact Walter who asked Bellie to remove his memories – the universe-destroyer was frightened at “what he was becoming”. I’ve always found that a powerful description for several reasons. I know that a lot of people seem to look favorably upon Walter for making this ‘sacrifice’, but there’s also the other side of the coin – the idea that Walter got rid of his memories to protect Walter, to satisfy his own conscience. These memories – ideas, secrets, guilt, contempt, were transforming Walter into something he didn’t like, and while he can do what he wants with his own brain, I think there’s something rather…unheroic about avoiding the consequences of his actions in this way. Maybe his subconscious needed resolving. Or maybe he did the right thing. I’m not damning the man, but yet again his actions, one way or the other, had dire consequences on innocents.
- Certainly the bulk of the blame for actually putting those memories in the heads of innocent people lands at Bellie’s door. I’m not sure that Walter ever intended to one day be reunited with his slithers of brain tissue, so Bellie’s motives have to (as always, with this man) be questioned. Did he want those memories for himself? Did he keep them safe just in case Walter one day needed them? Although the episode touches on an answer, his motives were always scratchy at the best of times. That said, I am intrigued by what I think this episode accomplishes on a wider scale – that is, creating a foundation for what serves as the framework for the alternate universe. Just as in the first season, themes were built upon with broader strokes, there’s an uncanny resemblance between the intimate memory struggles that Walter and the rest of our team go through and the global mythology of the show. Hopefully season 3 will give us more to go on.
- I like this quote for two reasons:
“A remedy for insanity, as you can imagine, I’ve thought long and hard about.”
- Oh Walter. Perspective, it’s a funny thing:
“What do you think that man did to me?”
- Peter comes to life in this episode, delivering some heartfelt moments. It’s interesting whenever he relates to Walter’s situation. Olivia, once again, offers Peter an alternative perspective (she likes doing that), and gives us an interesting question to ponder:
“What do you think that’s like for him? Wishing that he could turn back the clock to before he went crazy? He’s just sane enough to realize how much he’s lost.”
“I don’t mean to sound callous but, from what I know of your father (which, is actually quite a lot), going crazy made him a better person. It certainly made him a better father.”
- While this may be true, I have to go back to whether or not Walter essentially cheated by having his memories removed. Had these memories not been removed from his brain, would the healing process had started? While I still question just how ‘good’ of a person Walter is today, I wonder whether his goodness counts for quite as much as some people seem to think, considering that he took, what could be argued to be, the easy out to achieve a level of humanity that he might not otherwise have attained through conventional means. Isn’t it a bit like an athlete taking illegal performance enhancing drugs to win at the Olympics, except much worse since Walter has hurt so many people?
- I want Walter to redeem himself as much as anyone – I feel that is his mission, but I find myself asking these questions when examining the true nature of his character. But on the other hand, maybe all that matters is that he found a way, his way, to make it back to the promised land? After all, it’s not as though it has been an easy road for him, even after shedding those memories. It’s still been tough for Walter, and his guilt has returned with each new day that he spends with his faux-son and working for Fringe Division on cases that perpetuate his demons. So perhaps Walter is exactly where he should be right now – neither damned for his sins nor forgiven for his transgressions. At this point he still has the opportunity to take one of two roads, and I suspect that the universe will present him with some important choices that may very well require the ultimate sacrifice. That is my hope for Walter at least – I want him to redeem himself, but I can only see that happening through his two childlings – Peter and Olivia. Maybe he’ll have to lose them, or save them – and this time, not for his own selfish reasons.
- Just a quick comment on the final scene. Bellie says, and I quote: “I wish there was another way. But what you’ve accomplished. It’s just too dangerous.” That makes it seem as though it was Bellie’s idea to perform the operation and not Walter’s. There’s a bit of wriggle-room in there because the writers could argue that, though it was originally Walter’s request, Bell came round to the idea. Plus they could pull out the ‘Walter is crazy – can we really trust his memories?’ card. The other possibility is that Bellie is a liar and a thief (always wanted to say that), and that what he told Walter at the gates of the altar-verse, were lies, damn lies. But why would he bother to lie when he knew that he was about to die? (‘God could be watching’, after all). All questions I think we should be asking, but frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is another case of ‘changing the script as we go along’ – possibly as a result of casting Nimoy for the role, who as we know needed to be written out as a hero. Because Bellie was such a hero.
Best retrospective performer: John Noble.
Best retrospective moment: Olivia letting The Newt go / Walter’s flashback memory.
Retrospective episode rating: 8/10
Next rewatch episode – 2.11 “Johari Window” – TBA.