Well it's been over a month since Fringe went on their holiday break, and what better way to return than a little bit of time travel and some Doc Brown. Just minus the DeLorean. Christopher Lloyd guest stars on Fringe's new night and time (Fridays @ 8), but leaves his science act behind; trading it in for a dated rock star with an Iggy Pop look that's stuck in a nursing home.
This newest Fringe episode (The Firefly) is an observer filled episode, to help Walter realize the repercussions of his past actions. It starts out with a simple ghost siting at a nursing home. After a resident there, Roscoe Joyce (Lloyd), is visited by his dead son of 25 years it raises some questions. This kind of case would have been small potatoes for the fringe division if it hadn't of been for Joyce's son and the observer both being caught on the surveillance cameras together. Once the observer knows Walter and the team are on his trail he starts a chain reaction of events to help Walter comprehend that even the smallest decision can impact the fate of others. That it wasn't just the alternate universe that was affected by him taking Peter; it had its own effect on their universe.
"The Firefly" treads into to some tricky waters with it's 'changing fate' premises and the possibility of being too much like those Final Destination movies. The whole concept being if Peter was never brought over from the other universe when he was a child that something as trivial as him not being there to catch a firefly would have spared the life of Joyce's son. Fortunately the script was in the in the hands of both of Fringe's show-runners Jeff Pinker and J.H. Wyman and it never feels as campy as those crazy death scene filled films. Their use of the observer and Lloyd's Joyce character interacting with Walter is far more effective for Walter than if they to tell the story in flash backs or other visual tricks. It is Walter's loose connection to Joyce, from being a fan of his former band, which enables Walter to sympathise with being indirectly involved with his son's death. However, as good as the scenes were with Noble and Lloyd I have to agree with what Peter says at the end of the episode, being: "that there must have be an easier way" to show that Walter had learned from his mistakes.
I was excited when I first heard that Christopher Lloyd was going to be guest starring when Fringe returned from its break, but his performance was the complete opposite of what I was expecting. Ok, I'll admit it; I was foolishly half expecting a lot of Back to the Future references or maybe Lloyd being some kind of former scientist college of Walters. But who am I kidding? Fringe is smart enough not to do the obvious and type cast their guest stars. Instead Lloyd leaves his Doc Brown science act behind him and trades it in for a great performance of a mentally declining former rock star spending his final days alone at a nursing home. It was refreshing to see a different tempo and energy in his performance, rather than Lloyd's usual 88 mph high paced mannerisms.
As for some of the other high lights of the show it has to be the observer. Yes, Peter and Olivia have started mending both their personal and professional relationships, but you knew that was going to happen eventually. But it was seeing a bit more of the observer which was the real treat. The guy gets to have his Tom Welling moment in this episode when he is catching bullets out of thin air and throwing bank robbers across the room. Although the episode wouldn't be complete if the observer didn't raise some of new questions for the viewers at home to ponder. Like how he was able to bring Joyce's son Bobby through time? Or how far in the future can he say? I hope when the series is all over we get some actual answers about the observers origins. Not just like Lost and say the man in black is the smoke-monster because he didn't like his brother. In either case I'm still as curious as the next guy.
For the most part "The Firefly" was a good episode but I was hoping for a more exciting or action based story-line to help attract viewers to the new Friday night time slot. Good news, Fringe didn't need it. Fringe held their own on their new night with higher than excepted ratings. If this is a sign of things to follow Fringe may have a found a new home even after FOX goes post-Idle. Hopefully this puts those cancellation rumours to rest and helps Fringe get renewed for a fourth and possibly future seasons.
One thing I'd like to point (I don't think I've done yet in reviewing this show) is point out Michael Giacchino and Chris Titlon's score for the show. Some of you might recognize Giacchino style or sound from his work on Lost. In my mind TV composers don't get nearly the amount of credit they deserve. Next time you watch Fringe (or any other good drama for that matter) try and listen to the show's score and see how it can make a scene and add to the actor's performances. I maybe the farthest thing more being musically talented but I'm a bit a nut when it comes to TV or film scores. With over 125 different score soundtracks in my own personally CD library I can appreciate when shows (or films) put the effort into crafting these outstanding pieces of music, rather than just having some kind of background noise. So props to you Mr. Giacchino and Mr. Titlon.
Andrew Burns loves film and comics, and can be found writing about when those worlds converge. You can follow him on Twitter at @myAndrewBurns.