Welcome to the FB review of the Fringe season 2 episode 13 – “The Bishop Revival“. In this review I present my honest opinions on both the good and bad aspects of the episode. I also take a look at the answers and unresolved mysteries, before sharing my thoughts on other aspects which may have been overlooked.
- Backstory on the Bishop family. I was glad for this as I’ve been waiting for more information on the mythical Dr. Robert Bishop to surface for a long time – since “The Arrival”. It was good to find out more about him, giving me a sense of the Bishop influence on history and greater perspective on why Walter is so very protective of family and science.
- Heavy themes were introduced giving the episode a ‘real world’ sense of weight and reflection. The Nazi ambition for a “Master Race” and their obsession with advanced technology slots neatly into the context of this show. It also offers a sense of poignancy to the overarching storyline, particularly the conflict with the ‘slightly more advanced’ alternate universe, not to mention the ZFT prophecy of the destruction through advancement of technology.
- Book sub-plot. Surprisingly, I thought this was a pretty interesting part of the episode. Markham, the struggling Nazi artist, Walter’s anger, and the discovery of the old photo with Robert and Alfred – was all either entertaining or informative on a character level.
- The pacing was a little off. A times I found myself zoning out. I wasn’t as glued to my screen as I was for the previous episode.
- Could have done with greater exploration into what was clearly a mythology piece primed for serial investigation. I’m certain that we’ll revisit the themes raised in this episode – namely Robert Bishop and Nazi technology, but I also know from past experience that the next episode will not address these themes in great details. As a result of the format, potentially captivating elements like Alfred came across somewhat 2-dimensional.
- Peter making the candle connection was a bit of a reach. He really had no reason to be sniffing candles – it all seemed a bit convenient.
- How did Alfred (the Nazi killer) manage to appear not to have aged since the early 1900’s? The obvious possibilities are time-travel, suspended animation/cryonics and eternal youth. The latter seems to be hinted at in this episode (see below), but time-travel and cryonics can’t be ruled out.
- Robert Bishop is Walter’s father. We originally speculated this back in 1.04 “The Arrival” when we saw his grave. Robert was named “The Seahorse” because he was a good swimmer. He was a scientific pioneer and studied at the University of Berlin. According to Walter, Robert came over to the US in 1943. He was seen by the Nazi’s as a traitor because he was a spy for the Allies.
- Alfred knew Robert’s formula because he was around at the time Robert created it.
- Alfred attacked groups based on specific genetic traits using a chemical formula developed by Robert.
- Walter’s tests on the Alfred’s fingerprints (telomere degradation) suggested that he was over 100 years old. Possibly hinting that he had found the secret for eternal youth.
- Thanks to people in the comments for reminding me that Walter all but confirmed that Peter’s mother is dead – “God rest her soul”. Whether this is acutally the case or not is open to debate. (added Feb 4th, 2010).
- Some nice Walter moments in this episode. We find out that he was “never happier” than when he married Peter’s mother. I found that interesting because I oft-get the impression that Walter doesn’t look back on her with too much fondness (although he did mention that she was “brave” earlier this season). It also seems relevant because we will surely find out more about Peter’s mother at some point.
- More allusions to Mrs Bishop:
Walter “Did I ever tell you about when your mom and I got married?”
Peter: “No, I think I missed that one”
- Allusions to Peter’s past and his mother:
Walter: “She used to say that you had ants in your pants”
- This also plays into the idea that Peter is a bit of a nomad – he’s been around (more than even he knows). This is in marked contrast to the Peter we see today, who has remained at Fringe Division to help Olivia ‘watch the gate’ and to further develop his relationship with his father.
- Given all that is going on in this show, the following line by Walter is poignant:
Walter: “It seems science may have finally caught up with Nazi ambition.”
- A chilling statement. It makes me wonder how much of the alt-universe technology is at least partly an amalgamation of technology from their Nazi era and future knowledge. It would help explain why they often look old in appearance. Although, I’m still holding on to the idea that the amalgamation is due to inter-reality ‘fire from the Gods’ tech sharing/stealing.
- Which also makes me wonder whether the alt-universe Nazi history differs from our own? Was alt-universe Robert Bishop a Nazi spy like our RB, or did he help the Nazi’s develop their technology? Given the impact of the Nazi Germany on history it could be one of the ‘significant differences’ between over here and over there that the writers will explore.
- It was great to see Markham, the antique bookseller again! We last saw him back in 1.14 “Ability” when he helped the gang get hold of the ZFT manifest. Thematically, I think the antique bookstore and Markham’s manual record-keeping system added to the feel of old meets new.
- Markham asks Olivia how she ended up with Peter. Olivia, subdued but willing to interact, tells him: “..It’s my job”. Of all the answers she could have given, she gives the most straight forward one. It’s her job. We saw evidence of this in the previous episode when she helped save Peter and he thanked her for being herself. As I mentioned last week, I think she’s feeling a bit ‘mother hen-like’ of late, looking after the Bishop’s and protecting the world from known and unknown terrors. I know that Peter’s also helped Olivia out a lot, but I get the sense that she’s missing a John or a Charlie – someone she can really lean on and confide in.
- Walter to Astrid: “We need to take the higher ground” as they prepare to tackle the Nazi toxin. I really loved this line. It worked on a literal level because it was how Walter used the killer’s toxin against him – from above. It also worked on a metaphorical level, with Walter Astrid taking taking the high ground with their superior ethical and moral outlook on humanity. “Higher Ground” is also a strategic military tactic. Like I’ve said before, Fringe works on many levels.
- After Walter has taken matters into his own hands by murdering Alfred, he and Broyles share a moment which visually resembles the scene from “Johari Window“ where Walter pleads with Broyles not to reveal the Edinans true identity. This time, however, Walter is not for pleading. He accepts responsibility and doesn’t regret his actions. I found this to be extremely meaningful because it confirms so much about Walter, whilst inviting us to question to morality of his actions. He went outside of his jurisdiction to murder a guy. But the guy was a Nazi killer with long-held ambitions for a “Master Race”. That made it OK by Walter. It made it understandable by Broyles. But was it ethically right? Is it OK to fight fire with fire? What does it say about humanity, rehabilitation, the law? I have to admit, the more I think about this, the murkier it becomes. Had Olivia killed him I don’t think it would be much of an issue (although I would probably think about it), but Walter is still technically a civilian and the ease with which he executed Alfred was, well, chilling. But of course, Walter’s action was about something bigger….
- …it was about family. A deep-rooted need to protect both his father’s integrity and his son.
“Family is very important to me. There”s nothing I wouldn’t do”
- The fact that he felt the need to tell Olivia this was very interesting to me. It showed that he was aware that he had crossed a line – and that in doing so it affected the way Olivia saw him (again, perception). Take a look at the picture above..look at Olivia’s eyes, her contrasting expressions – each one a different degree of unease, distance and distrust. She’s just found another reason to doubt whether saving Walter back in “Grey Matters” was the right thing to do. Which might seem like a stretch, but put yourself in Olivia’s shoes – the experiments, the lies, the responsibility that has fallen on her shoulders – all because Bell and Bishop picked her to be their poster child for the coming war. Olivia doesn’t trust Walter – she can’t, not fully. She also doesn’t know whether she is included in his ‘family sphere’. I should also say that love Anna Torv’s work in this scene. She only says two words (“I understand” – a lie by the way), her eyes do the rest of the talking. Fantastic.
The Bishop Revival was a good episode with a lot of intriguing elements. It also featured additional layering and character dynamics that I found very interesting. I am even more intrigued by the Bishop’s role in shaping history as we know it (and as we don’t know it). I also feel both proud and uneasy at Walter’s actions in this episode. We can count ourselves lucky that he is as redemptive as he is, but we can also be somewhat unnerved that nothing or no-one will stand in his way when it comes to Peter. As a viewer that’s fantastic, as a member of society, it’s disconcerting.
On the down side I think it’s such a shame that an episode ripe for serial exploration was essentially given the stand-alone treatment. As a result the show is not as immersive as it could be. The writers, FOX, whoever, have a responsibility to keep the show on the air, but also to make it as good as it can possibly be. Fringe is a serial show, please treat it like one.
I really like episode title -“The Bishop Revival”, alluding to Robert Bishop’s work being brought back from the annals of history, as well hinting at some elements of past-Walter’s character being restored.
Best Moment: Walter explaining to Olivia that family is very important to him.
Best Performer: John Noble
If you liked “The Bishop Revival”, you’ll like: “The Equation”
Episode Rating: 8/10
If you want to dig deeper into “The Bishop Revival” stop by tomorrow for our Fringe Obserations on this episode. Fringe Observations specifically focus on the clues, connections, mythology and suggestive elements – we don’t consider our reviews complete until we’ve added the Fringe Observations.