Brief spoilers for Fringe coming up after the jump.
So I’ve written once or twice, or maybe it’s been basically every week, that Fringe would be much improved if it would get off its procedural focus and commit more fully to the Pattern storyline. Last night, we got another procedural mystery-of-the-week and only cursory attention (at least explicitly) to the Pattern arc. And it turns out it was one of the best episodes the show has done yet. So basically, don’t pay attention to me anymore.
The difference last night is, in part, simply a better story. There were few of the repetitions the show has been plagued with. Walter didn’t hook any corpses up to machines to read their thoughts. (Well, OK, we did have Olivia once again following Rule 1 of the TV FBI Handbook: Always confront the suspect alone, to ensure her escaping at the last possible moment.) The child musical prodigy was genuinely creepy—particularly the reveal of him playing the practice keyboard pad while he saw the illusion of his dead mother—and the Christmas Lights of Forgetfulness were something I hadn’t seen before. Unless I was hypnotized into forgetting it.
But the other improvement is that, while the Pattern, Massive Dynamic et al. may have receded into the background, the episode still had forward movement, especially regarding Walter’s character. Who knows what the significance is of his remembering the red-green light pattern from somewhere in his past, but by returning him to the asylum, the show fleshed him out, and made him something more than a charming lunatic. Instead, he was a poignant lunatic. His moment of self-realization—”Is that what it’s like to talk to me?”—was perhaps the best scene he’s had with Peter yet.
And if there’s one rule of Fringe I’ll still stand behind, it is: The more Walter, the better. But check back in another week and see if I’ve changed my mind.