Welcome back Fringies!
As we approach the end of one of the most epic science fiction dramatic television series produced within the past quarter century, we take pause to remember those whose contributions have made the Fringe series one of the most beloved in all of televised entertainment history!
Not to discount the creative genius of series creators and producers including J.J. Abrams, Joel H. Wyman, Jeff Pinkner, Roberto Orci, David Fury, Tanya Swerling, Tamara Isaac, Noreen O’Toole, Bryan Burk, Monica Breen, or the brilliant talent of Anna Torv, John Noble, Joshua Jackson, Jasika Nicole, Lance Reddick, Blair Brown and so many others, this reviewer would like admirers of Fringe to remember the following; among these lofty names are other contributors, each as part of an entire team whom made the series so great and “Black Blotter” a memorable episode of Fringe!
WormholeRiders therefore pays tribute to some of the dozens of lesser known, albeit crucial crew members who toiled tirelessly for Fringe in general, and “Black Blotter” in specific. Each exquisitely made the series come to life before our very eyes on our television and or computer screens over the past superb five seasons coming to close in January 2013.
Our congratulations to Kristin Cantrell for success regarding her first televised screenplay, superb episode direction by Tommy Gormley, to Paul Wagner of the Art Department, Tobias Sarin and Lou Gruzelier “B” Camera leaders, Ryan Purnell for Digital Compositing, to Kristen Branan for Visual Effects from ZOIC Studios, to Visual Effects Editor Jon Dudkowski, to Neil Morrill for outstanding work in the Makeup Department, Stunt Coordinator Ken Quinn, Ryan Davis and Rick Norman for excellent Sound Design and Re-Recording, and many others that have made Fringe a series that will be sorely missed as the last four announced episodes air beginning today, Friday December 21, 2012.
The music selected for Walter’s LSD “trip” is the centerpiece of his altered mental state that reinforces an adventure in the episode that makes “Black Blotter” so worthwhile. Special kudos to Chris Tilton and Michael Giacchino for their delightful music score, and for selecting wonderful background music for “Black Blotter” including Donovan (Hurdy Gurdy Man) and Steppenwolf (The Pusher). Included above, these epic 1968 hit songs accurately reflect “Black Blotter” from the era of LSD!
For retrospective regarding this analysis, back in 2009, when WormholeRiders was a fledgling news agency, a single web site with a single blog, this reviewer called “it”; that wormholes, time paradoxes, alternate realities and universes would be the fundamental premise well beyond the first season of Fringe.
A few said this reviewer was wrong, some said this reviewer was, in fact, crazy. Time itself has edified this reviewer’s belief that the series creative genius’ had planned carefully in what has proven to be precisely that edification.
Late in 2010 and early 2011, when the two “sides” or realities of Fringe fought each other, this reviewer postulated the opposing forces of Olivia/BOlivia, Broyles/Alt-Broyles, Nina/AltNina, and most critically, Walter/Walternate would join forces to fight an even more evil third enemy.
Not one to bother TPTB Executive Producers, over time I had sent a series of single tweets to Joel Wyman regarding this subject matter. He responded with what I thought it would be?
Mr. Wyman responded with two words of his own; “Much appreciated”. And so it has become with The Observers in the 2036 timeline.
Fringe admirers learned in the recent past via discussion at San Diego Comic-Con and Twitter from creative genius Joel Wyman that seven (7) episodic seasons were planned. This reviewer stands by his belief that Fringe will not end after only five (5) television seasons on FOX Broadcasting.
This reviewer fervently believes that Fringe will continue on the big screen (movies), with direct to DVD mini-series, be picked up by a new network (Science Channel?) or a combination of all three to bring the adventure of seven contemplated seasons full circle.
Black Blotter Primer:
The reveals within the “Black Blotter” episode are many. Flashbacks are utilized via Walter’s use of LSD to identify key elements from the first four seasons that hold the answers to understand the 100+ episode journey that is Fringe.
How will Cecil (Zak Santiago), who was with “The Child Observer” from the “Pocket Universe” dovetail this finding in “Black Blotter”?
What does Walter learn on his LSD “trip”? Will the “acid” open memories that lead to the answers to defeat The Observers domination of the Earth in this altered reality timeline? Can his grand daughter Etta (Georgina Haig) be saved (restored)?
In a major reveal within “Black Blotter”, does anyone doubt that “Michael” the young Observer is the child of September (an homage in my opinion to Michael Cerveris) from the year 2036? Will Michael eventually once again alter the time line to save Peter (Joshua Jackson), Olivia (Anna Torv) Walter (John Noble), Astrid (Jasika Nicole), Broyles (Lance Reddick) and the irascible Nina Sharp (Blair Brown) from death at the hands of The Observers?
From the earliest fond memories of Fringe in our minds, all have wanted all our heroes to survive. But will they? And by what mechanism will this become manifest? Which, if any, of our heroes will be the ones that remember everything that has happened when all is said and done? To the point: Will any of them remember anything?
And what of another beloved series character, bowling alley manager Sam Weiss (Kevin Corrigan)? All have desired to learn the fate of Sam Weiss. Did Sam perish fighting to support the resistance leading up to the events in 2036? In “Black Blotter” we will find the answer to this question in a somewhat shocking, yet bittersweet discovery.
Walter’s memories, brought to the surface by ingesting “Black Blotter” LSD, revolve in part around those of Elizabeth Bishop, his wife. Elizabeth Bishop (Orla Brady) graced the series five times previously in “Peter” (2010), “Over There Part One” (2010), “Subject 13” (2011), “Back to Where You Have Never Been” (2012) and “Enemy of My Enemy” (2012). Each is critical is in this reviewers opinion, becoming the crux of “the what”, and “the why” of all that is about to happen in the closing episodes of season five.
Not to spoil for those who have yet to experience Fringe, one should never forget that it was “our” Walter’s tampering with the timeline, bringing alternate Peter to “our side” of the universe that set the stage for what was to occur over the course of all five seasons.
Walter’s intervention, to stave off his broken heart over the loss of their son, ultimately led to his involvement with David Robert Jones (Jared Harris), the ZFT manuscript planted in the 1930’s, Walter’s dubious association with William Bell (Leonard Nimoy) and multiple interventions by The Observers who at first seemed benevolent visitors to the Earth.
All of these situations occurred in attempts to restore or maintain the timelines in “balance”. This leads to the theory that such interventions are what shifted The Observers from being benevolent watchers of the timeline to The Observers of 2036.
Led by the evil Captain Windmark, brilliantly portrayed by Michael Kopsa, one must ask, was all of this the reason The Observers became the radicalized invaders of our fair planet? And just how and why did they become so selfish and evil? Was a reality change the ultimate cause?
Could all be restored if the cure for “his own” Peter could be made available in the past, obviating Walter’s original universe reality crossing expedition? Would such eliminate the revenge driven character “Walternate”? Would such a “fix” allow Walter and Elizabeth to lead normal lives in both realities, each with their own Peter?
Would such a solution also free Peter to not become the subject of cross universe adversarial situations that brought Earth to the attention of The Observers in the first place? Or were The Observers watching anyway as this reviewer suspected long ago based on a novel by Isaac Asimov that I had read in my youth?
What of Olivia and Peter? Will they be the only ones to remember everything when order to the universe is restored? How will it all be accomplished? With only four episodes of the fifth season remaining, read my closing theorem at the end of this analysis and then… we shall see Fringies, we shall see!
More on these topics later in the theorem section at this reviews analysis and contemplated conclusions.
Before beginning my analysis of “Black Blotter”, we include, courtesy of FOX Broadcasting, the latest promotional trailers for the next episode “Anomaly XB-6783746”. Written by talented David Fury, we are about to learn the Fringe story arc’s final foundation, setting up the final three episodes that will air in January of 2013.
Accentuated in “The Recordist”, The Fringe Team is searching for answers to locate the missing pieces of the puzzle required to put an end to the slavish conditions perpetrated on humanity by the evil that has become manifest on Earth in the form of The Observers of that future era.
In the underground Harvard facility of the year 2036, Walter’s laboratory appears to be a fantasy landscape of surreal proportions. The genius of the “Black Blotter” episode is that the viewer must ascertain if what we “observe” is real, or if the scenes we witness exist only in Walter’s mind?
One of the opening sequences great lines is when Walter says Astrid’s hair is so “beautiful”. Packing a pistol, Astrid knows something is up since she had just been sleeping on her hair! Based on the dreamlike visage on Walter’s face we suspect far more than a few puffs of “Brown Betty” are at work in Walter’s mind!
This discovery becomes a challenge as Olivia and Peter awake only to find that Walter has taken an LSD “trip” with “Black Blotter”. In order to expand his mind, we find out Walter’s purpose is clear; He needs to unlock the secrets in his mind for victory over The Observers to restore humanities timeline to what it needs to, should be, or what it will become after The Observers, invaders of Earth, are vanquished.
Before the LSD that Walter has taken is definitely confirmed, we segue to Peter and Olivia intimately chatting in the bedroom. Peter shares with Olivia that he still has headaches after the removal of The Observers “tech” from his brain.
Although Peter is returning to normal, as evidenced by his once again growing intimate relationship with Olivia, Astrid interrupts their moment together to alert them that Walter is up to something. Of course he is!
More humor is injected in the opening scenes as Peter asks Walter if he is “tripping?” The two word response from Walter “most definitely”, with a near “sh_t eating grin on his face” accompanied by two visions tells the tale! The first being a “Tinkerbell” like PIxie juxtaposed with the return of key series characters.
One key character is none other that Dr. Carla Warren (Jenni Blong), part of Walter’s LSD hallucination visions down memory lane. Fringe admirers will recall this character from two past episodes; “Jacksonville” (2010) and “Peter” (2012). “Black Blotter” represents the third episode where the Dr. Warren character, killed in the lab fire, will play a pivotal role, at least in Walter’s mind.
Without delving into the past story arc too deeply, recall that it was Dr. Warren who played opposite Nina Sharp (Blair Brown) during the early days of the Cortexiphan trials warning Walter what he has planned would likely damage the space-time continuum.
Among other things, including trying to stop Walter from crossing into the other reality via the wormhole Portal he had constructed to “save” Peter for himself and Elizabeth in “our” reality, we learn at episodes end, this seesaw battle for Walter’s inner conscience will become paramount to what has to be done to save us all from the evil that has become The Observers.
Floating in and out of lucidity, Walter shares with Peter, (as Astrid and Olivia look on) that 2036 Nina had promised to removed the portions of his brain that made him like Walternate after his LSD “trip” to recall what he cannot otherwise remember.
In the meantime, a clue is offered; Walter continues to “see” “Tinkerbell” and Dr. Warren which he observes flying around Peter’s head. Dr. Warren tells Walter that the other “he” knows things. We can observe by the look on Walter’s face he is afraid of the “other him”, Walternate!
During this sequence Walter sees a dimensional aperture (a wormhole gate or portal) frozen in time wherein “Tinkerbell” splits into two version of herself, one Blue (a bit green really except for the wings), and one Red as the Red “Tinkerbell” flies through what appears to be a portal between realities.
Clearly this is an homage to the “Blue Verse” (good) and “Red Verse” (evil) which dominated the Fringe story arc in previous seasons.
The conundrum within “Black Blotter” is that Walter knows he has a “dark side” in what appears to be his dual personality often alluded to in the past or other timeline realities via the Walternate characterization.
One must contemplate; is this where the knowledge and memory of Sam Weiss also resides? Walter realizes the knowledge to defeat The Observers that the Fringe Team needs is in the “Walternate” side of his personality. Walter is rightfully terrified of the “other Walter” submerged within his tormented soul.
As Walter has long feared in the 2036 timeline, and why he desires Nina Sharp to remove portions of his brain when the mission to eliminate The Observers is complete, is that the “Walternate” in him will potentially take away his son Peter and what he, Walter desires to be, a non aggressive personage of good intentions and spirit.
Without much delay Olivia and Peter go off to find the source of the radio signal using technology provided by Anil (Shaun Smyth).
Among several dead bodies including The Observers and Loyalists, what they discover are the bones of the Sam Weiss” behind the wheel of a large utility van.
Using the resistance radio triangulation technology from Anil, Peter and Olivia travel to Willington, Connecticut to the source of what appears to be the signal. Calling Astrid back in the Harvard laboratory, the discovery of skeletal Sam Weiss produces no recollection of him in the 2036 timeline for Astrid or Walter, at least not yet. Peter and Olivia discover the utility van is not the source of the signal, only a relay station.
Sharing a tender kiss in the woods, it is here they confirm the find. The weathered bones of Sam Weiss in the utility van are verified from the discovery of a driver’s license. Dead from a firefight some ten to fifteen years previous, the bones of Sam Weiss lead, via a cable, to a solar powered radio relay repeater.
After examining the surroundings, Peter and Olivia determine the signal is located elsewhere. A quick segue finds Walter chatting with Dr. Warren where he seemingly discovers a notebook journal beneath the floorboards.
Thanks to the hallucinations from LSD, Walter’s memory envisions a younger Nina Sharp. She and “Tinkerbell” caution Walter to not consult the documents in the notebook journal.
As Walter heads out for to join Olivia and Peter in a taxi, Dr. Warren is mentally in tow. In his mind Walter had apparently escaped from Astrid in the taxi outside The Observers Headquarters in New York City. Not really!
In “reality”, Astrid has taken Walter to link up with Peter and Olivia, but not before thumbing the notebook to find a number of his inventions as well as two words; “Black Umbrella”, which become important a bit later in the episode.
Despite being “high as a kite”, Walter is concerned he is following the path of what the “Walternate” personality really wants him to do, once again find a young Observer Child who may hold the answers the Fringe Team needs to set thing right.
With a segue to the next sequence, Walter and Astrid link up with Peter and Olivia. This reviewer very much enjoyed seeing all four of the team back together in action!
But not before Walter “sees” “The Emerald City”, another homage to “The Wizard of Oz” which our Fringe Team Leader Lori has postulated previously in her analysis of the genius of the Fringe series that utilized familiar works of entertainment to “ground” the audience within the story arc.
The island, sans the Emerald City observed in Walter’s mind, is the originating source of the radio signals. Once on the island our heroes are suddenly confronted by veteran character actor Tom Butler portraying Richard.
Richard is accompanied by his his wife Carolyn (Maria Marlow) and a surprise with Michael (Rowan Longworth), appearing as “The Child Observer” reprising his role as we have seen previously in Fringe (more on this subject later).
Michael “The Child Observer” has not aged a day in the twenty years since he was secreted away for his own protection until retrieved by Walter after first being previously secreted in the “Pocket Universe”, but only if Walter can remember the password to do so.
In a sequence that is really homage to Monty Python, a delightful animation scene is used to illustrate the inner workings of Walter’s mind. Accentuated by “Black Blotter” LSD, a visual of the “Black Umbrella” and a key unlocking a tree appears in Walter’s mind. Heck, we even get to see Walter ride “Gene The Cow” just like he is the “The Wizard of Oz”. Well, he darn well is, isn’t he?!
Walter leaves the LSD hallucination vision, quickly snapping back to reality uttering the “Black Umbrella” password. We observe “Tinkerbell” the Pixie who claps, while Walter smiles wryly (literally painted on his face).
Recall that we heard the password earlier in the taxi cab when Walter was “with” Dr. Carla Warren.
A suspicious Richard and Carolyn, who have been protecting an “item”, are now prepared to turn over the young Observer Child named Michael subsequent to when the “Black Umbrella” password is provided by smiling Walter.
In several touching sequences, Richard and Carolyn surrender Michael to the 2036 Fringe Team noting his purpose is for something “really important”.
Admirers of full circle story arcs, and Fringe fans alike, will recall Michael is more than familiar. Michael, The Child Observer, is the same child from season one episode fifteen “Inner Child” and the same person whom had been stored in Walter’s “Pocket Universe” from season five episode six “Through the Looking Glass and What Walter Found There”.
Peter is curious how such is possible, wondering how can this be? Olivia knows Michael must be special recalling that The Observers internalize time is a different fashion than human beings.
In the final moments, we find Walter “coming down” off his “Black Blotter” LSD “trip”. Walter is back in the underground laboratory at Harvard. Visions of his wife Elizabeth are superimposed on the wall to reflect his thoughts.
Walter recalls several memories of arguments from his past that led to this timeline becoming manifest. One is with his wife warning him about going to get Peter from the alternate universe reality stating “some things are only for God”.
Dr Warren also appears using Robert Oppenheimer’s prophetic words to warn Walter that he will become “The Destroyer of Worlds” and “There Has to be a Line” not to be crossed. The memory flashbacks include Walter crossing through the wormhole on his mission to get alternate Peter, completing the full circle arc within “Black Blotter’.
This includes the scenes of the inter-dimensional Wormhole Portal that set everything in motion from the original Fringe timeline where it all began not so very long ago.
As we watch Walter pour lighter fluid and apparently set the journal notebook aflame in a Pyrex laboratory container, a younger Nina Sharp and Dr. Warren’s final words of opposing debate are foreboding visualizations from Walter’s memories; “it’s too late, now that you remember all the things you are capable of…” with young Nina Sharp retorting “Walter you got the boy back, you have to continue, you have to keep fighting…”
We are suddenly confronted with a shocking reality. As the camera pans back, we “Observe” the Pyrex container is empty, containing only the burning lighter fluid as the words of Dr. Warren echo in our minds; ‘You’ve Been Him Longer Than You Have Been You!” an echo of a metaphor rippling across the timelines.
Throughout the course of “Black Blotter” viewers were led to believe Walter’s journal notebook was “real”. Not so. The notebook, just like the “Tinkerbell’s”, Elizabeth Bishop and Dr. Warren, and all the rest were not in the “real” world.
Each was a visualization of Walter’s memories that he had been experiencing the entire episode courtesy of the mind liberating tendencies of “Black Blotter”. Walter IS the notebook journal!
All are, and have been, his memories of what he needs to remember in order to accomplish the mission in 2036. Each of these memories, across several timelines, have been freed in Walter’s mind. Viewers and Walter himself stare dumbfounded at his other self… It’s Walternate!
We will “Observe” an entirely restored Walter soon? Will such a day be one to rejoice, or a day to chill our Fringie souls? Further, across five seasons, have we ever really witnessed just who the “real” Walter truly is, Walter or Walternate?
Is he not both? Time has proven he is, and always will be, Walter and Walternate! Was all well until the diverging timelines took place when September (Michael Cerveris) observed Peter and the Fringe Team’s activities in 36 episodes over the past five seasons?
Did this earlier Fringe event cause the dual personalities to generate the spilt creating the two distinct characters that were always there to begin within one soul in one reality?
Will Fringe admirers continue to connect with, and admire Walter amid the dire current circumstances and realization that he is, and always was Walternate? How will Walter and all of these factors manifest themselves in the final four episodes of season five?
Will the separate realities that were also part of a larger homage in “Black Blotter” to the entire series play a role in the final episode to bring closure to the viewership? Or will the series creators eliminate not only The Observers, but put the multiple timelines to rest with a return to an “original reality” before it all began?
In the epic science fiction novel by Isaac Asimov, “The End of Eternity”, this was the path chosen for the stories protagonists Noys Lambent (Olivia in Fringe), and Harlan (Peter in Fringe). They were the only ones to recall everything, but with no way to alter it when “The End of Eternity” became manifest after those in “The Hidden Centuries” prevailed over the evil and perversion of those who had altered reality to favor their matrix of existence to the detriment of humankind and all other life forms.
As Noys and Harlan began a new life free of “The Eternals” (equivalent to The Observers in Fringe), Laban Twissell (analog to Walter in Fringe), had to be destroyed because he too had an evil dark side like Walternate once he was revealed as the creator of the “Time Kettles” (like Walter’s wormholes in Fringe), which had originally empowered The Eternals to become evil and corrupt from power over all others lives.
A reality reset to its original shape was the only viable option to Asimov’s “The End of Eternity”, a single novel that needed to have a neatly wrapped conclusion in a world prior to the establishment of the multi-verse as hypothecated in modern scientific theories.
This reviewer’s theorem is that the brilliant creators of Fringe need not end the franchise at this time with a neatly wrapped “package” tying up loose ends. Much remains to be explored in a world with “Endless Possibilities”.
Specifically; what caused the radicalism from the seemingly benevolent nature of The Observers on Earth (like September) to the ruthlessness of Captain Windmark? How was September and those of his ilk overthrown? Did a reality change threaten The Observers existence, leading to the radical and tyrannical world of 2036?
Or must we accept that these intriguing potential stories were abandoned (passed over and pulled into a shortened fifth season) when the series ratings added overwhelming financial complexity to the contemplated sixth, and alternate fifth seasons?
This reviewer cannot speculate on this final hypothesis opined in the previous paragraph at this time. However, sometimes in business, financial considerations force compromises that “pull in” a future “reality” well before its time.
What this reviewer can say at this time is this:
Much more can be, and remains to be explored if another network (e.g. The Science Channel) picks up the Fringe franchise. Or perhaps Bad Robot and Warner Brothers will elect to pursue a direct to DVD or big screen strategy?
How would this be accomplished? By leaving season five with a huge cliff hanger! This could “plow the field” with new “seed corn” for more of the enjoyable alternate realities that are what Fringe is all about!
And here is where we must leave our analysis for now. The next four episodes will tell the tale, wherein only time will tell what reality will ultimately become manifest.
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