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Fringe s2e21: "Northwest Passage"


No mere supposition that this Fringe outing is a Lynch tribute: look for the clues...

Fringe- 'Northwest Passage'

This week's episode was a giant unabashed shout-out to David Lynch and Mark Frost's groundbreaking series Twin Peaks. Fringe, like The X Files before it, has often been compared to Peaks though I find most comparisons to that show to be completely unfounded. Twin Peaks was a much more complex work than either Fringe or The X Files, mixing genres and tones in radical ways still left unexplored by most of television. While clearly within the realm of the fantastic, Peaks refused to be shackled by genre, preferring instead to remain much more abstract. Fringe on the other hand plays fair within its science fiction boundaries. Narratively, it always crosses its "t's" and dots its "i's" and even at its weirdest seeks to shine a clear light onto mysteries that Peaks would've left disturbingly vague.

When we catch up with him, Peter (Joshua Jackson) is in Noyo County, Washington having ordered a piece of fine pecan pie in a small roadside diner. He also charms the waitress who agrees to make him one of her famous CD mixes and meet him after closing at his motel. Of course, he's stood up since Newton and his merrie men show up and do their terrible brain surgery on the poor girl.

Note to Women: Do not date Peter Bishop.

Local Sheriff Mathis (Martha Plimpton) and her partner Ferguson find Peter very suspicious and find his specific knowledge of what happened to the victim and his explanations of working for the FBI even more suspicious. But Peter's discreet call to Broyles (Lance Reddick) insures their co-operation along with an uneasy promise to not tell Walter (John Noble) about his whereabouts. When Ferguson disappears, Mathis has no choice but to trust Peter to lead the investigation. This is uncharted territory for him and he seems unsure of himself at first which does not encourage Mathis. But he wins her over with honesty as opposed to the con he would've pulled in the past. Besides this change, it seems he's still performing his old trick of isolating areas on a map using pseudo-science.

A few turns of the protractor gets the two to an isolated dairy farm and some local nut with a hammer who tries to kill Peter who has just found a CD marked "Peter from Boston". Ferguson is found alive and the mystery is solved well enough for the locals. However, Peter knows better and while lying in his motel bed listening to Band Of Horses’ “Is There A Ghost”, he sees one: The Secretary himself who bares a certain resemblance to... well, you know who.

"Aside from a few brief moments dramatizing Walter's depression and decline, this week's episode belongs completely to Peter"

Aside from a few brief moments dramatizing Walter's depression and decline, this week's episode belongs completely to Peter. In fact, it could be seen as a testing ground for a spin-off series in which Peter travels across the country helping local authorities investigate unexplained mysteries in an "unofficial" manner. Something along the lines of The Fugitive or its greener descendant The Incredible Hulk. I think Jackson has proven quite able to carry a series by himself but for Fringe's sake this will hopefully be a few years off.

Given the Peaks context, it's no surprise that it was an episode more about mood and atmosphere than plot and indeed very little of the main storyline is advanced here either. Personally, I found the in-jokes very enjoyable and fans of Peaks in particular will enjoy this episode very much. Just for kicks, here are a few select references:

*The title and Noyo County motel "Northwest Passage" was the original working title of Twin Peaks. *The "glamour" shots of the coffee and pie were two of Peaks most iconical images. The pie in particular was right out of the Double R Diner's famous Cherry Pie shots that Lynch made almost erotic. *The Deputy was named Ferguson. Laura Palmer's cousin was named Maddie Ferguson and that was itself a reference to Hitchcock's Vertigo by contracting the names of its two lead characters Madeline Elster and Scotty Ferguson. *The bass guitar strains of guest composer Mike McReady of Pearl Jam are tributes to the fine work of Peaks composer Angelo Badalamenti. *Perhaps most subtle of all-When Peter draws a graph of each victim's adrenaline spikes, he ends up creating two peaks.

All in all a decent episode. Looks like next week is going to be a battle of the doppelgangers.


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