Fringe recap: Touching The Lizard

Major revelations, a heroic death and the return of an old friend launch 'Fringe' toward its final act
Ep. 10 | Aired Dec 21, 2012

New Model Headwear. Nina Sharp (Blair Brown), Walter (John Noble) and Peter (Josh Jackson) shop for a new perspective on how to defeat the Observers.

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Before we go further, I would like to remind you anew of my theory about the master plan, that it has nothing to do with the objects but the personal change produced by the shared experience of acquiring the objects. Many of these changes have occurred right when the characters have needed them the most. For example: Olivia’s jaunt to the scrap yard to acquire the truck and the electromagnet produced a clarifying moment that seemed to help her emotionally connect with Peter during his Observer daze and inspire him to give up the corrupting Observer tech in his head lest he go full lizard. Now, in this episode, we had Walter, struggling with an analogous crisis: He was losing his mind and his humanity, regressing to his own version of a super-powered lizard-brain monster, “old Walter.” What’s his fix? I submit that the fix was Michael.

“Do you know why I needed you for my plan? Can you tell me why you’re important?”

In response, Michael stood up and took off the E-Cog. He walked over to Walter and touched him on the cheek. He had done the same thing to Nina, too, during a moment alone in the black lab, and she responded to it was if she had been struck by a heavenly lightening bolt, and we were led to believe the experience made a difference, i.e. prepared her in some way for her heroic showdown with evil. We didn't go inside Nina’s head, and so we weren’t allowed to see what Nina saw…

But we did get to witness the mental event Michael triggered for Walter. We saw a burst of light in the darkness, like a star exploding into being. We saw flashes of Walter’s painful “Peter” drama: His son getting sick, dying; the tragedy of trying to save “over there” Peter from the same illness, but failing; sorrow. Then we saw that same exploding star effect – except it was fading, like the closing of an eye…

Then we saw flashes from the episode “Inner Child,” when the Fringe team found Michael. We heard September telling them, “The boy is important. He has to live.” We then saw flashes of Olivia pulling Walter out of the asylum – his recruitment to Fringe division. But it wasn’t Rebootlandia Walter’s memory of the event – it was Original Recipe Walter’s memory of the event, for the memory (from the pilot episode) included his reunion with Peter after years of estrangement. Initially, I wondered if this was a continuity error. But in the very next flash, we saw a moment from last season that occurred right after Peter’s reintroduction into the timeline, when Walter spurned the son that should not exist. Question: Was Michael restoring Walter’s pre-reboot memory? The episode didn’t give us confirmation – but I’m thinking that he was.

We saw other flashes: Peter and Walter saving September; William Bell performing Walter’s cut-my-bad-parts-out lobotomy; Walter begging 2036 to remove those same parts anew; Walter getting a kiss from Etta; Walter watching Etta die; Walter weeping.

Michael was making Walter relive the most painful moments of his life, as well as the bonds he had formed, too. In short: all the stuff that makes humans -- even Walter -- different (and better!) than lizards. And I think Michael was trying to teach him anew how important these moments were – are -- to the ongoing redemption project of his life... and to the redemption projects of others, as well.

And so the final flash of memory. An ordinary man, in an ordinary house, rocking a blue sweater and a head of hair. We took Walter’s point of view as he reached out and touched the man on the shoulder. The man turned to camera, and we saw a familiar face, albeit presented in  a way we had never seen before. It was September. And he smiled.

Back in the lab, Michael removed his from Walter’s face. Walter offered a hint of a smile – an expression which, to me, said “thank you” to the child. Peter asked, “What happened?” Walter responded with the episode’s slyest yet most meaningful ironies. “I know who Donald is,” he said. “Donald is September.” No, this revelation wasn’t an OMG! epiphany. But the significance transcended mythology/plot. Remember that throughout the episode, Walter’s plight – his escalating dehumanization; his increasingly paralysis of empathy – was symbolized by his inability to refer to Michael by his name. To him, the boy was just “The Subject.” Now, here at the end, I think Walter was signaling that an important shift had occurred within him: By putting a name to the most depersonalized, objectified character in the show – for years, September was not just an Observer, he was The Observer – Walter effectively recognizing and affirming the humanity of the Observers – i.e., The Enemy – and in the process, regaining and reclaiming his own humanity, i.e. conquering his internal crisis. Hence, Michael’s significance to the master plan. His purpose was to reboot Walter, in more ways than one, and more, show Walter that Nina was wrong: The Observers aren't “animals.” They are simply human beings who’ve lost their way – human beings have the potential to be so much more than what they’ve chosen to be.

At least that’s how I read the moment. I also think I gleaned something else: The true nature of Walter’s master plan. The memory of Donald did not specify a date. Were we seeing Donald as he used to be, before he became September the Observer? I say: No. I say this was post-September Donald. I say this was Donald after being “cured” – most likely by Walter – of his Observer affliction. I say this was The Observer, rehumanized.

And so we come the truth of Walter’s master plan to “defeat” the Observers -- a plan, remember, he hatched with Donald.

They don’t want to banish them or destroy the Observers.

They want to save them.

Merry Christmas, my friends. See you next month for The End.

Twitter: @EWDocJensen

Note: This post will be updated throughout the day to fix grammar, spelling, and the usual oversights.

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