Brown Betty

Genius. Fringe, the modern X-files alike does a Noir flavoured musical. Absolutely fabulous. It even made sense. Walter Bishop, failing to cope with the departure of his son upon learning the truth as regards his origin, concocted his own mix of marijuana variants and smoked the resulting “Brown Betty”. With Olivia needing to search for Bishop Jnr. her niece, Ella, was left with Astrid and Walter for the day and requested a story, starting once upon a time. Walter Bishop proceeded to tell a musical tinged noir fairytale mimicking his season’s arc and providing two possible outcomes (after Ella’s education as to how such a story must always end, i.e. happily ever after) which will be seen in real life soon enough – forgive and forget or forever hate.

It comes across as the perfect way to achieve wish-fulfilment (men powered by glass hearts they were born with which can split into two and save multiple lives! Multi-coloured spotty cows! Singing corpses!) and go totally bonkers with the story and not have to explain it all. The whole thing fits rather well within the Fringe world and in-between all that’s been going on these past few months.

Peculiarly, for a musical episode it’s not overly heavy on the music. Four or so of the main characters get to do part of a song once each and that’s about it. Their skill seemed perfectly acceptable at a minimum and for sure they could have carried it off for more of the run-time but I applaud the decision not to go the way of Buffy and Scrubs and make the whole thing about the songs. It wasn’t the point in the end. It was a way to have some fun and play about with the world whilst recapping on recent events. The noir setting was a very good choice, too. Dunham looked every inch the Femme Fatale, but played the private dick. Walter was the mad scientist with a good heart but a bad rap and Peter was the enigmatic hero of the hour.

Fringe has always come across as a modern day paranormal FBI drama with a slightly retro feel. The art design, set design and more have a very ‘now minus x years’ feel to them with the photography framing and capturing this feel also. I presume it’s intentional as it’s been consistent throughout the show’s lifetime. Here, the effect was overly confusing given we had a ‘40s noir detective story with modern day and near-future technology told within the present-day slightly retro Fringe world. It bakes my noodle to try and reconcile it all but the end result looked and felt great.

The one downer about this episode (and it really is the only one as any person who fails to enjoy the fun and frivolity this episode brings needs their head examined) is that it forces us to pause when we’re nearing end-game for this season and have finally seen Peter become aware of the truth as to his belonging to the Walter and Elizabeth from the alterniverse. We did get a hint of something yet to happen at the end though; an observer notes that Peter hasn’t returned and that Walter has clearly forgotten what that means will happen. Unless I’ve forgotten something from a previous episode I don’t think we have any inkling yet what this means. But we only have three episodes left to find out.

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