2.18 White Tulip
If I needed a reason as to why I still watch this show, and I don’t, White Tulip launched at me some of the most wicked curveball changes in direction the like of which I don’t experience often. That’s a spoiler warning, if you’ve not seen this episode, and if not stop now and rush to watch this wonderful example of Fringe at its very best.
It all starts oddly enough, in typical Fringe fashion, with Robocop materialising on a train, instantly killing everyone in that carriage. Did I say ‘Robocop’? Well, to be accurate it’s Peter Weller, but as this story continues the cybernetic association takes on a whole new dimension.
That’s one track for this story to follow, and the other is Walter’s preoccupation with telling Peter that he’s not from this dimension, something that’s weighing heavily on him. In an attempt to address this issue he’s written his apology in a letter, which he intends to give to Peter.
Fringe investigates the train deaths and concludes that all electrical energy was drained from the victims, and that the man with the likely answer is particle physics genius, Alistair Peck (Peter Weller). The FBI raid his home, and while they are there Peck returns and it becomes apparent that he’s done all sorts of odd surgery to himself. Before they can stop him, he’s operated the mechanism built inside himself and jumped back in time to return to the train. Which is where the events start to repeat themselves, with slight variations, as he’s now prepared for the eventuality that transpired the first time around.
This is fun, and nicely developed, but what’s really clever here is how Peck’s attempt to travel back and save his wife from her death in a car is how they parallel what Walter did to save Peter. Walter sees perfectly the dilemma that Peck faces, as each time he jumps through time any living thing within the vicinity is killed, and the further back he goes, the wider the radius of death. But he also sees what Peck is prepared to endure to save his love, and the ultimate cost of following your heart.
When they next corner Peck, Walter decides to go and talk to him, in an attempt to convince him not to follow through with his plan.
Noble and Weller are both very accomplished actors, and their meeting is the most electric scene of the running time. Water tells Peck about Peter, and the pain it’s caused him and how it’s made him think that God was punishing him for breaking the rules. Walter wants redemption, and asks for a sign from God, the white tulip, to show he’s forgiven. He thinks that if God can forgive him, then there is a chance that Peter can too.
The finale of all this entirely blew me away, as Peck is cornered for a final time and writes a letter to Walter before jumping back one entire year into an open space. He runs to, we assume, stop his wife getting in the car, but that’s not his plan. She gets in the car, he joins her and tells her that he loves her, before they’re both killed by the impact. Wow…a flawlessly brilliant twist, but not the last in the toy box.
The letter to Walter sits in the filing cabinet of an MIT colleague of Peck’s for a whole year before it’s sent, and arrives the very morning that Walter is penning his letter to Peter. In this reality, Walter burns the letter, having decided to tell him in person, I guess. The letter arrives and Walter opens it. There is no writing, just the image of a white tulip.
I’m sorry for getting mushy, but TV just don’t get any better, and I could name twenty movies in the last year that didn’t get to me like this story did.
J.H. Wyman, who wrote this, was also responsible for the excellent There’s More Than One Of Everything, Night Of Desirable Objects and Peter, so, in many respects, this is a story arc he’s had a huge influence over. But I think he surpassed himself here, with an excellent traditional sci-fi story that dovetailed beautifully into the greater Fringe adventure.
There are only two more episodes left of season two, but season three is now confirmed, so I’m not too depressed that it’s coming to an end. I only wonder if Joshua Jackson signing up for the remake of UFO next season could mean an exit of sorts for his Peter character.
Only time will tell, unless this isn’t the first time I’ve written this review?
Read our review of episode 17 here.