‘Fringe’: ‘Black Blotter’ review

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Now that Fringe has completed testing Peter’s fragile emotional stability, it is shifting its attention to Walter. Putting these characters in situations where they need to be saved makes the quest to save the world much more personal, and is giving Season 5 a really focussed structure.

As with Peter, the person that Walter needs saving from is himself. The situation here is arguably more abstract and more complex, however, and ‘Black Blotter’ is in keeping with other Walter-centric episodes. It is strange but very effective all at once, as it explores the inner workings of Walter’s mind.

It’s hard not to recall previous episodes of Fringe such as ‘Brown Betty’ or ‘Lysergic Acid Diethylamide’ in an instalment that sees Walter high on acid and features some brilliant animation. It may be true that very little happens during this episode, but that’s probably for the best after last week’s action-packed ‘The Human Kind’.

John Noble is always exceptional in this role, but this episode gives him a great chance to display his range. ‘Black Blotter’ is all about Walter’s mental state; it’s something that has been talked about quite a lot this season but here we get a really good look at just how dangerously unbalanced he’s feeling.

Having taken acid so that he can uncover details of the plan that may be lost within his mind, Walter begins to experience hallucinations of Carla Warren (his old lab assistant who died in a fire). He also sees fairies and has other trippy occurrences including watching events happening behind him on a TV monitor in front of him. Gradually, it is made clear that the arrogant and driven Walter of the past has more control than had previously been indicated. Undoubtedly, there will be great complications from this revelation.

Meanwhile, the rest of the team work to track down a signal from the radio that they discovered in the pocket universe. It leads them to the Observer child that Walter had left there and the couple who Donald had been left in charge of keeping him safe.
We’re no closer to finding out who Donald is, but during their investigation Peter and Olivia discover the body of Sam Weiss. There’s probably not too much more to this (and the later reveal that the child remembers Olivia in this timeline), but it is interesting to see Fringe maintaining its continuity from the earlier timeline.

Very little is said about Peter’s recent stint as an Observer, but it is notable to see him feeling embarrassed about what he chose to do. The bond between Olivia and Peter remains strong, which is something that will definitely be important as the series moves towards its conclusion. Among everything with Walter, ‘Black Blotter’ finds time for an exciting shootout that keeps the sense of threat high when the team are nearly surrounded by loyalists.

There’s not much to fault in this episode. Perhaps some elements of Walter’s acid trip may have not been as effective as others but the overall device leads to a magnificent scene that leaves Walter reminiscing on his earlier life as scenes from Season 2’s ‘Peter’ play out projected onto the wall of the lab. It is now clear that Walter’s internal problems will be a danger to the plan, and probably not something that the rest of the team can see coming.

Aired at 10pm on Wednesday 19 December 2012 on Sky1.

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