There was a lot to like about this past episode of Fringe. Did we learn a lot? No, but this season seems to be about the journey. The answers will have to wait till the end. (If ever.) What we got was another examination into the family dynamic of Fringe and how important they are to each other. It was good to see that Astrid is an integral part of this dynamic and as much a part of the family as Peter, Walter and Olivia. They may not be related by blood shared but instead by shed for each other.
The purpose of this blog post is to examine this dynamic from the perspective of Walter Bishop. Specifically, a Walter Bishop that is high as a kite. Walter takes a unique view of his immediate world and those important to him and we get to see this in a Monty Pythonesque animated extraveganza. Anyone that loves Monty Python got a real kick out of this (I did!)
We start our trip with the befuddled Walter as he is seemingly grabbed by the hand of God, carried across the globe and unceremoniously dropped onto the back of Gene the cow. God has always been a driving force with Walter. Either out of resentment or out of respect. Here God has the upper hand.
Walter sails by significant structures from our world. Chinese like buildings reminiscent perhaps of his adventures in Chinatown and those of others in Fringe. The Capitol building, symbolic of our seat of government, something Walter does not always trust. We get a religious figure that seems to be of Italian origin judging by the hat. Walter has always had difficulty with the strictures of organized religion. The figure burps up some birds as Walter and Gene trot past Mount Rushmore. Another symbol of big government perhaps or is it they are just as "stoned" as Walter is?
I should also mention Walter goes by New York City. Not Boston where Fringe is set. New York has been quite significant for Fringe. Its where we first glimpse the "other side" or Red Universe and it also seems to be the seat of power of the Observers and where they are building one of their CO2 devices.
Where we head next is significant. A machine.
Machines and devices are very important to Walter. Who could forget the role of the Machine in many season of Fringe. Walter tried so hard to fix everything he'd done with The Machine only to have it cause more problems. No wonder it haunts his hallucinogenic state. A machine transported Walter to the other side to rescue Peter and Walter seeks the aid of a machine or device to rid the world of the Observers. No wonder Walter finds himself swallowed by a machine. Just like Jonah and his Whale. (Hmmm, an obsession like a white whale?)
The Machine also kindly provides Walter with some new traveling companions. A frog, a "Toto" dog and a seahorse.
The Frog and the Seahorse are familiar to as as Fringe glyphs. I've always seen the Frog as symbolic of Peter, as Peter, like an amphibian, could survive in two different worlds. The symbol of Phi is on the back of the Frog glyph mathematically representing the Fibonacci sequence. Something of significance to Walter and Fringe after all these years.
That would leave Astrid taking on the role of Toto the dog. Sorry Aspirin, I'm sure Walter means no slight by it. You are his trusted companion and you are always there to safeguard him (even though she lost him in Chinatown). In the Wizard of Oz, Toto served the crucial role as to exposing the real Wizard in the movie. That "Man behind the Curtain" that had built a house of lies. Astrid is always there to remind Walter of his mortality and humanity.
The Machine also provides Walter with a green Tinkerbell as they move on together. We saw "Greenie" early on in the episode and she seems to represent Walters better Angel. Perhaps Greenie is a manifestation of Dr. Warren, who, in this episode, was the guilty conscience of Walter. She tragically died in the fire of Walter's hubris.
After exiting the Machine (a useful purpose this time) our traveling companions go "A wandering" over hill and dale much like the song that serves as a musical backdrop to this dream state. "The Happy Wanderer" is a fanciful song and is perfect for the Monty Pythonesque nature of this dream trip. It's light, fun and eminently singable. And truly Walter is a wanderer even when he is lucid. Why the hands? Palm trees? (Get it?) No? The hand of Fate then, as our band expertly dodges them? Yes.
Walter finally confronts his "bete noir" a Black Knight of sorts that represents Walter's dark side and the person he wishes not to become. Unfortunately this Black Knight holds the key to their salvation and Walter must win it from him.
I suppose we must all confront the Black Knight that lives inside us all. How can we expect to move on in life and continue its adventure if we don't face what haunts us the most. After doing so, we learn a lot about ourselves and its not as painful as we had feared. When we realize this we can confidently exclaim. "Tis but a scratch!"
Even though Walter successfully confronts his darker side it is Peter the Frog that rescues Walter. As you remember, Walter has pleaded with Peter to save him from the man he could become. Peter fulfills his end of the bargain and Walter is saved from himself. Good job Peter.
What happens next is a bit strange. In true Monty Python style, the "Foot of Cupid" descends upon Walters companions completely squashing them with the appropriate sound of flatulence. I guess they aren't needed anymore and it is up to Walter to carry on without them.
Walter unlocks the "Tree of Knowledge" only to find it crowded with children. I think these waifs are symbolic of the Cortexiphan Kids. Walter reaches deep inside them to produce the solution to this conundrum in Connecticut just as he used the kids in his experiments to further his science. Guilt is a powerful thing.
Walter produces a black umbrella and is lustily blown away by God.
It doesn't seem to be a Christian like God and certainly not like the one portrayed in the tales of Monty Python.
But close enough! God always played a major role in the Monty Python mythology and always resided in the clouds. (Oh, stop all that groveling!) God is important To Walter so it is no wonder we see him again.
Walter manages to escape from his drug induced stupor with the words, "Black Umbrella". Purportedly, Black Umbrella was a very high grade marijuana produced by the US Army and introduced to its foes in the Horn of Africa in order to render them incapacitated due to their amazing high. Figures Walter would know about it.
Black Umbella does serve to be the magic code word that drops the guard of the Inner Child's protectors. We also learn that he's been named Michael.
Do you think this is a hint as to the real identity of the Inner Child as the young September as in Michael Cerveris!!! I'm still convinced Donald is September but maybe September hid his younger self in the past so he can be of good use in the future.
Or maybe I'm tripping.
Sounds like fun. Pass the Black Umbrella Walter!