Welcome to the FB review of Fringe season 2 episode 17 – “White Tulip“. 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.
- The “Mythalone” strikes again. For the second week in a row, what would typically have been a standalone episode some 3 months ago, was crafted into an intriguing character drama with a healthy dose of mythology. I feel that this helps to validate my criticisms of the standalone episodes – good as they were, they lacked direct connection to the main storyline and didn’t contain the necessary ‘carry over’ from previous episodes. Much like the episode before it, “White Tulip” did a good job at maintaining the ongoing story, while inviting us back into the head-space of the characters. And because of that, I CARED. I also appreciated that while the case was ‘closed’ by the end of the episode, the drama with Walter, Peter and the Dunhamnator continues. There’s surely no going back now – 5 to 8 episodes like this per season alongside the myth-heavy installments and you have a winning formula, one I’m sure will get even better with time.
- Faith and Science. It’s no secret that I love it when Fringe delves into issues of faith and science. I was really taken in by the philosophical debate had by Walter and Peck. It gave me a fuller perspective on the ‘Godless’ man that Walter once was and the man of faith that he is today. I also appreciated the level of respect shared between Walter and Peck – neither man imposed their views on the other, both men were emotionally invested in their own beliefs, yet equally considerate of the other’s point of view. I really dug the vibe in their scene towards the end and credit to the writers, Noble and Weller for delivering some really special moments.
- A Good Antagonist. Dr. Peck was not just an interesting character who brought the cool time travel stuff, he also had a story. Sure, it could have been fleshed out a bit more, but I liked the fact that he had an understandable and human motivation for creating temporal pockets. I also enjoyed the presence that Peter Weller brought to the character.
- Time Travel. As I’ll expand on later (and in the Observations column), I really enjoyed the time travel presented in this episode. It was one of the more bolder sci fi elements seen in the series so far but it also felt completely natural due to the human element that it tapped into. I also like the idea of time travel acting as another way to explore the redemption theme that has become a mainstay of the show.
- Lack of Story Advancement. While we saw various iterations of the same events culminating in a changed outcome with Walter burning Peter’s letter (etc), there was effectively a lack of progression with this episode. It began with Walter writing a letter and pretty much ended with Walter burning a letter. I’m being harsh with this criticism because this was also the skill of the episode in telling a very specific story involving time travel. However, If I’m being honest I have to at least mention the fact that a small failing of this episode was the lack of advancement from a technical viewpoint, even though that was the point.
- I find it a bit hard to believe that Walter would somehow contrive to lose Peter’s letter, and even harder to believe that Peter wouldn’t see it lying directly under his nose. I know, I know, they wanted to induce some drama while illustrating the idea that Walter’s secret was literally floating around in time as events repeated themselves. But still.
- I really doubt that Olivia or Broyles would allow Walter the opportunity to talk Peck out of jumping back in time instead of using the snipers. From their perspective too many lives on the line. It’s as though Olivia and Broyles allowed Walter to talk to Peck because they thought it would make for a better, more emotionally engaging episode. Therein lies the contrivance. One I’m happy to give a free pass, I might add.
- I found it a bit hard to believe that Walter would tell Peck how to go back further in time to achieve his goal of saving Arlette when he knew the potential damage this would cause. On the same token I guess it plays into the whole choices and consequences aspect, so I can forgive this contrivance. I do seem to be forgiving a lot of contrivances lately..
- Slowest SWAT Team EVERRR. Seriously. I know it was for dramatic effect but it was as if those goons running backwards or something – it took them a lifetime to bust in on Walter and Peck! Broyles needs to move that quarterly review up.
- Did Peck make a conscious choice to not save his wife and to instead die with her? Did Walter’s words about not meddling in the universe’s affairs (even though he still kinda did) have an effect on him?
- Peck’s time travelling required large amounts of energy, drained from anything within the target vicinity.
- Peck’s fiancee was killed in a car accident on18th May. Peck was trying to go back in time to save her.
- Peck was initially only able to achieve a 12 hour jump until Walter told him what he was doing wrong, enabling him to travel back to the moment before his wife was killed
- Walter started to believe in God after he took Peter from the Other Side.
- It was sad to see Olivia dig herself further into a hole:
“I haven’t noticed anything [strange about Walter's behaviour]” *Olivia literally GULPS*
- Oh Olivia, if Peter was half as good at “reading people” as he likes to think, your face would have given the game away long before the ink on Walter’s letter had time to dry! I do feel for her though, it can’t be easy being between a rock and a hard place. I just worry that the longer this charade goes on the harder it will be for Peter to ever trust her again. I keep thinking back to “What Lies Below” when Peter bellowed the words: “You betrayed me!”. Foreshadowing, indeed.
- Peter talking about Walter: “It’s like he’s enveloped in this…sadness”. Seeing as the envelope containing Walter’s letter was virtually a guest star in itself, I take it that this wording from the writers was very intentional.
- I’ve previously speculated that one of the long term themes is the possibility that time lines/realities were being edited. Although I believe this could still come into play in a bigger way, the general idea was played out to an extent in “White Tulip” with Peck repeatedly going back in time in an attempt to change (edit) the past.
- Walter and Astrid’s shared consciousness was a neat occurrence. Several things sprung to mind, including: last season when Walter mentioned that communication isn’t all we know it to be, which triggered our “proximity” observations with the idea that the characters closeness to each other opened up telepathic corridors of communication. My mind was also cast back to the Observers reading people’s mind – we saw this with August on Christine, and September on both Peter and Walter. I also wondered if there was a deeper connection with the idea that Walter’s guilt was literally leaking from his conscience, creating a connection where others, such as Astrid, could unwittingly tap into his thought processes. We could even take this a step further by relating it to the deja vu/time travel and the possibility that their shared consciousness was in some way derived from having already lived out this experience before (thanks to Peck’s repeated time travelling).
- Speaking of which, Walter’s chat with Olivia about Peter echoes this idea:
Walter: “Every time I think I’m ready to tell him, I envision his reaction when he reads it and I run the scene in my mind again and again. And every time the outcome is…terrible.”
- That’s surely a reference to the reoccurring events. What I find really interesting about this is that Walter didn’t feel comfortable telling Peter the truth until he received God’s forgiveness, by way of a white tulip which he had little to no chance of receiving since they don’t bloom this time of year. Now, taking into consideration what I’ve said earlier, it could be argued that somehow these entire events were imagined or constructed to ensure that Walter moved on from his guilt – receiving his ‘sign from God’, thus giving him no further reason to stall on telling Peter the truth. I’m probably taking this concept too far, but I like the idea that the world of the show is in some way constructed from our characters inner most needs, wants and desires and driven by their subconscious (or a cosmic force). I’m not discounting Peck’s existence or his story, but I reckon he was also narrative device for a larger concept. We’ll see.
- Time travel in the context of fate and freewill. It was interesting to see that the different iterations caused by Peck going back in time, for the most part, contained the same events and actions – constants. However, there were some interesting differences, including the various ways in which our gang apprehended Peck, and also Walter’s ultimate decision to burn his confession letter to Peter. I find this to be noteworthy as it shows that even slight changes in Peck’s interactions with the past adjusted future events by some degree. That said, Peck’s time travelling also showed that although fate can be altered, the universe does seem to have a general tendency to want to keep people on the same path to some extent. It’s interesting to consider what exactly governed Walter’s choice to burn the letter when previously he had every intention to tell Peter the truth on that day. I have no doubt it’s connected to his ‘unconscious’ experience of the Peck case.
- Olivia totally had a DUUUUUDE! moment upon experiencing ‘deja vu’. Yes Liv, season 1, episode 19.
- Peter’s comment about deja vu being the universe’s way of saying that you’re right in line with your own destiny makes me wonder whether Peter’s destiny changed slightly after being taken from his own world. Obviously his still important, but to what extent?
- Peter’s next line was from the top Fringe drawer:
“I never get [deja vu] myself, probably because I’m not on track with my own destiny.”
- Close your mouth Walter, you’ll catch flies!
- Some of the best moments in the episode came in the debate between Peck and Walter. Peck offers an interesting interpretation on the laws of nature. He suggests that they are not necessarily “binding”, implying that while nature makes it difficult, she doesn’t make it impossible for us to get around. He actually makes a good point – perhaps nature’s ‘laws’ have loopholes for a reason? Then again, just because we can do something, doesn’t necessarily mean that we should.
“Each jump back clears that slate”
- Great line. Even better was Walter warning him of the consequences that even a successful jump with no deaths would leave on his conscience. As well as the idea that any adjustment made to the universe will result in a change of some kind – the slate isn’t simply wiped clean. Funnily enough this reminded me of “Dollhouse“, in that respect *Dollhouse reference alert*, with the idea that “imprints” are retained. The universe is basically an “Active”.
- The Red Balloon was a neat device:
Peck: “On the day of the crash we argued [..] I became drawn to something on the horizon, a large red ball, it was a hot air balloon, moored on the city’s outskirts out on this field. I spent a whole day on this field, looking at this balloon. Then I got my answer. I had an epiphany, of how to physically apply my theories of time travel. I was in that field, the moment her car was hit[..] if I done what she asked me to, I know it wouldn’t have happened.”
- Firstly, what a wonderfully tragic story. The words “Red Balloon” scream out at me for thematic reasons as I’m sure the color choice was no coincidence. Peck’s story also got me wondering about this balloon and whether it was really a coincidental attraction, or whether there was some design in it being there at that time, sparking Peck’s epiphany. I say this because it’s quite similar to Walter’s white tulip device – seemingly sign from God that in actual fact was a sign from Science AKA Peck (was Peck also proving a point for his own God by doing this, perhaps?). For me, the red balloon may also have been a sign. Time travel brings us closer to the possibility that someone or something is able to guide our Fringies down certain paths, presenting signposts along their journey to effect a specific outcome as part of a much larger, much grander design.
- I also have to note the symmetry of Peck having the epiphany in the red balloon field and going back to that moment in a bid to save his wife. Again, how coincidental was the red balloon, really? Had it not been for that balloon Peck probably wouldn’t have had his light bulb moment and his wife may still have died. The red balloon, whether a construct or a cosmic sign, offered Peck hope (just as the Door to the alternate universe did for Walter) of bringing a loved one back from the dead. I just find this potential concept really interesting.
- Question: Does the alternate universe have an energy deficit due to the Blight killing the plants and trees? I ask because with energy being a recurring theme I wonder whether that will come into play at all.
- A couple of weeks ago I speculated when it was that Walter developed faith in God. It was interesting to hear him reveal that taking Peter was indeed the turning point for him in that respect. Whether or not God exists in the world of the show is up for debate but the IDEA of God certainly does. And this idea makes for a powerful dynamic because you have a disbeliever turned believer. Walter Bishop: man of science, and faith.
- Walter reveals that God must exist because he’s been punished for what he did. It’s strange to hear Walter talk like that but I can see what he means. It’s great to get inside Walter’s head and to see what he’s thinking.
- And now for one of the best deliveries of the entire season:
Walter: “So now I’m looking for a sign of forgiveness. ..I’ve asked God for a sign of forgiveness..a specific one, a white tulip”
Oh man Walter, wait to go and pull on those heart strings John Noble’s interpretation of that line was simply inspired. I also loved the next exchange between Peck and Walter:
Peck: Tulips don’t bloom this time of year, white or otherwise”
Walter: But he’s GOD.. And if God can forgive me for my acts then maybe, it’s in the realm of possibility that my son might possibly, may be able to forgive me too.”
- Wow. It did amuse me how often he used ‘maybe’ and ‘possibly’, but it’s in-keeping with Walter’s fragile hope – almost so fragile that he doesn’t want to be so presumptuous as to even think that God’s forgiveness would automatically mean that Peter would follow suit. It helps illustrate the power of hope, and somehow reminds me of Olivia’s Pandora’s Box reference at the end of the previous episode with the idea that amongst the evils that were placed in the box was also the gift of hope, always the last to arrive but healing the wounds of the soul.
- Peck offers Walter a reality check:
Peck: “Walter, God is Science. God is Polio and Flu vaccines, and MRI machines and artificial hearts. If you’re a man of science then that’s the only faith we need”
- I’m really glad he said this as it somehow makes science less ambiguous, almost giving it a face.
- Walter keeps it real and suggests that universe wont be happy:
Walter: “You don’t know how things will be changed by your actions, but they will. It’s not our place to adjust the universe”
- Another classic Walter line:
Walter: I have travelled through madness to figure this out, and you will too”
- I love the idea of madness being something Walter has travelled through. For me, this line is right up there with August’s “she crossed my mind, somehow, she never left”. I’ll check this after I’ve completed my review but I wonder if these two episodes were written by the same writers?
- I like the fact that Peck got to tell his wife “I love you” before fate did its thing, but he REALLY should have said “drive, baby, drive!” first. RIP Peck.
I think what most appealed to me about this episode was it’s relevance to Walter’s personal dilemmas. Time travel was an effective metaphor for Walter’s own attempts to undo the past, again positioning science as the bearer of second chances while also contrasting it with Walter’s need for God to give him another chance.
The ‘White Tulip drawing device’ was brilliant. I didn’t expect it until the very last moment and I found myself really wanting to know whether Walter completely saw this as a sign from God and his ‘mysterious ways’, or whether he had an inkling that another force may also have played a part. I guess it could still be viewed as God’s work either way. I have to say I was disappointed in Walter’s decision to burn the letter. At that stage it looked as though he had decided to wait for his sign before telling Peter the truth. Fortunately it came signed, sealed and delivered moments later. His reaction was priceless – “Oh..thanks GOD!” Actually, it was probably a mixture of gratitude and dread.
For the 1,000,000th time: Do the right thing, Walter..
Best Moment: Walter receiving the white tulip.
Best Performer: John Noble
If you enjoyed “White Tulip”, you’ll like: “The Equation”, “Midnight”, “Olivia. In The Lab..”
Episode Rating: 8/10