This review contains spoilers.
3.10 The Firefly
I’ve missed Fringe since it went on sabbatical, as season 3 has been consistently strong from a character and narrative perspective. Unfortunately, it’s not been getting the viewers that Fox wanted, so they’ve sent it to the Friday ‘death slot’, from where there is generally no return.
But unbowed by being treated in this fashion, The Firefly is one of the most interesting stories they’ve done on this show, and forms part of sand building exercise for the end of the season (and possibly the show).
The premise it explores is a common science fiction subject, best described by the ‘butterfly effect’, where small, seemingly insignificant events can have massive downstream consequences. The event that has these effects is the saving of Walter and Peter from the icy lake by the observer 25 years previously, and the story works around this point in time and the changes saving them ultimately caused.
As Fringe odd starts go, this was a pretty lightweight one, where an aging musical performer is visited by the ‘ghost’ of his dead son in his retirement home. The old man, Roscoe Joyce is played quite charmingly by ‘Doc Brown’ himself, Christopher Lloyd. The character he delivers is actually more like Reverend Jim from Taxi than the time travelling Dr. Emmett Brown, but he’s very watchable and more than capable of delivering the quirky but serious content he’s given. It made me wonder, if he’d done more serious work over the years, if he’d be more respected these days? Maybe.
The best scenes are undoubtedly those between Walter and Roscoe, who played in a band that the professor followed. Their relationship, and the unforeseen connection that they have, is the pivotal axis of the story, and how the Observer wishes to address the damage he’s done to the timeline.
What we’re presented with is the Observer doing seemingly unconnected acts that then start to form a sequence of events where Walter is pressed to make a choice that might end Peter’s life. It’s a test of sorts, but also a preparation for a greater, as yet undefined challenge.
So, where does The Firefly come in? Well, the according to the Observer, saving Walter and Peter had some curious effects, one of which is that Peter caught a firefly. That seemingly minor act caused a small girl who was looking for one to wander deeper into the wood, and consequently her father to panic, who then skidded in his truck through a junction killing a pedestrian, the son of Roscoe Joyce, no less. I think the hint was that the little girl was, in fact, the woman with asthma that the Observer, and then Walter, subsequently saved, although it wasn’t expressly revealed.
What the creators of Fringe cleverly managed to do was tell a modest but interesting time paradox story while keeping the characters interacting in a dynamic way, with some dialogue allocated to the issues that Olivia still has about being temporarily replaced in Peter’s affections by Altivia.
Overall, it was an excellent return, and one that will keep me watching this show, irrespective of where Fox, in their wisdom (if that isn’t a contradiction in terms), put it.
Next week, the team head off to see Nina at Massive Dynamic, which is usually a precursor to something nefarious and unpleasant.
Read our review of episode 9, Marionette, here.
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