2.21 Northwest Passage
In writing these reviews I’ve set myself some ground rules, and one is not to ruin a really good episode with overt spoilers if at all possible. For that reason I’m not going to talk about the plot in Northwest Passage, as I think this is easily one of the top three or four episodes the season.
It’s a Peter-centric episode that tries to cover where he went and what he did after checking out of hospital and disconnecting himself from the rest of the Fringe team.
In many respects it has similarities with Johari Window, which, incidentally, was also directed by Joe Chappelle, where a chance encounter in a small town diner is the catalyst for strange events.
But where it stands out, and made this must-watch TV for me, was the casting of the entirely awesome Martha Plimpton as Sheriff Ann Mathis. She was the awkward tall girl ‘Stef’ in The Goonies, and is famously the daughter of Keith Carradine and Shelley Plimpton.
I can’t say if acting is genetic, but she is entirely wonderful as the local small town Sheriff trying to cope with less than normal circumstances. And, because she’s so great here, I think it actually encourages Joshua Jackson to up his game, and create a little acting magic.
It’s much better than most TV shows see, and films for that matter.
The other beauty in Northwest Passageis that the whole ‘he’s a stranger that small town people won’t trust’ and ‘she’s a sheriff doing her best’ could have so easily fallen down some abyss of predictability so deep it never returned. But the script twists and pirouettes between these fissures with a sure-footedness that would normally be dressed in a formal suit and have a number attached to its back. As such, nothing is what it seems, and where we’re taken was entirely unexpected, at least to this reviewer.
This should be a serious heads-up for anyone casting for a new fall show who needs a female lead with some genuine depth. Martha Plimpton shouldn’t be ignored (and no, I’m not her agent, and I don’t get a ‘cut’).
So, without giving much away, where does this all lead Peter? Well, not back to Walter.
He’s not coping well with living alone, and it’s stressed him out so much that he’s started remembering Astrid’s name. He fears they’ll send him back to the asylum, which isn’t a prospect he’d relish.
While a self contained story for the most part, Northwest Passage is a deep inhale of breath before we dive off into the final two-part story of this season. Will we see Peter and Walter back together, or separated entirely? I’ve no idea, but I certainly won’t be missing Fringe as I’m desperate to find out what the ultimate cost of Walter’s actions might be.
With the series already allocated a third season, well-justified in my mind, there’s little else to do but buckle-up and enjoy the ride.
I have the deep suspicion that things are going to get bumpy in the final Fringe story of season two. This is a great show, has shrugged off its ‘X Files Lite’ labelling, and is a genuine joy to watch and review. Bring it on!
Read our review of episode 20 here.