Fringe season 5 episode 9 review: Black Blotter

Walter's mind goes a wandering in this week's Fringe. Here's Billy's review of the very peculiar Black Blotter...

This review contains spoilers.

5.9 Black Blotter

Each season of Fringe, they’ve tried to do something really peculiar, unlike any other story, or TV show for that matter. We’ve had musicals and anime, and other weirdness, but Black Blotter is, even by this show’s standards, a bit strange.

Most of it takes place inside the rich, and in this case, LSD-fuelled imagination of Walter, tripping through his regrets and fears.

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While being, like Walter, a child of the sixties, I passed on the hallucinogenic drugs, so in some respects I’m not the best person to judge how real this all seems to him, but to the casual observer, it seems a curious mix of the familiar and fantastic.

What I really enjoyed about this exploration of Walter’s mind was the appearance of Dr Carla Warren (played by the striking Jenni Blong), the woman who had been at Walter’s side at his experimental zenith, and who died in a lab fire. She’s undoubtedly sexy, but cold in a decidedly powerful way, and her presence in many of the scenes that Walter sees provides a potent representation of the battle that exists between the man he was, and the version of Walter now. 

Along the way we also meet the green fairy, which I associate with Absinthe not LSD, while the other characters try to fathom the mystery of the radio transmitter and the location of ‘Donald’. They also encounter an old Fringe character – Sam Weiss – though he’s hardly recognisable, to the point that they didn’t actually employ Kevin Corrigan to play him. To be honest, that’s a rather flat accompaniment to Walter’s LSD trip, and his conscious inability to solve the signal the transmitter is sending.

What really blew me away though was the build-up to the moment of revelation, where he presented the password that those caring for the Observer boy expected, and specifically the animation sequence that proceeded it.

As they see the island, Walter has an odd The Wizard of Oz-effect reference with the Emerald City on the horizon. But this  is nothing compared with the Terry Gilliam-inspired animation sequence to The Happy Wanderer (words by Antonia Ridge and music by Friedrich W. Moller). Where else would you find a chunk of Monty Python recreated in a science fiction show? This I just loved, because there was no warning it was coming, and it came right in the middle of what was up until that point a serious scene.

My PVR cut off the credits, so I’ve no idea if they got permission for this, because it wasn’t just an approximation of what would appear on Python, it was a perfect copy of the style and graphics.

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The end where they take the Observer child, having no idea whether it’s a good or bad thing, seemed rather too fluid, because they’re taking him for something that nobody knows. I’m confident that the boy is indeed September, but I could so easily be wrong on that. It also pointed up how uncomfortable it is to have characters who don’t verbally respond, and unless he finds a way to communicate succinctly fast, he’s going to be a problem for the writers.

Overall, I like it when Fringe goes into this mode, and parts of Black Blotter were genuinely mind expanding. The final shot where Walter sees the dark version of himself smiling back at him was a nice point to leave this trip. This underlines, as was stated by Carla, that the battle of his mind was lost long before he started to fight it.

Perhaps the irony of all this is that the evil version of Walter is the only person who can fight the Observers, as the nice bumbling one just isn’t ruthless enough to cope?

Four more episodes to go, and the tension is building rather nicely.

Read Billy’s review of the previous episode, The Human Kind, here.

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