Now that is what I call a good episode of Fringe! “Grey Matters” is a mythology-based episode with action, suspense, and great twists. If it were not for a bit of a reach at the end I’d give it a perfect score. It’s a great way for Fringe to go into its winter hiatus.
The plot of “Grey Matters” involves the team’s new nemesis (he of the previously frozen head) breaking into mental hospitals and stealing brain cells from insane patients, which has the interesting side effect of making them sane.
Turns out that the guy, who Olivia IDs from the cryogenics photos and gives a name: Newton, is stealing tissue placed into these patient’s brains by William Bell (Leonard Nimoy) himself. It’s Walter Bishop (John Noble) who gave up the tissue during his own stay at Saint Clair’s and the stolen grey matter contains the information necessary to open the door to the parallel universe.
The investigation that leads the Fringe team to Newton is handled with marvelous dexterity. The show and its characters are firing on all cylinders. Walter slowly figures out what the brain swapping means while getting more upset the longer he is exposed to mental hospitals and brain exams. Peter (Joshua Jackson) makes the important connections, including a neat reveal where he figures out what the insane folks were rambling about when they were crazy.
Olivia (Anna Torv) is in true action form, decisive and even chillingly effective (it’s unnerving how she shoots for the head and reinforces our feeling that she is our side’s ultimate warrior). At the same time Torv gets to show emotional response and doubt, making her bravery that much more effective.
Astrid (Jasika Nicole) is still making big contributions, like last week, and I love the way she’s a major player now. Broyles (Lance Reddick) is on hand as a reassuring father figure to the team, while at the same time Reddick’s delivery and nuisance always makes us think he knows more than he’s telling. The only one missing is Nina Sharp, but everyone else is so good for once I didn’t mind.
The new bad guy, Newton (Sebastian Roche), is intriguing and effective. Instead of a stock villain he seems polite and even sympathetic at times. And he drops some tantalizing bombshell hints about what is going on over on his side, including something called “The Blight” which is some kind of environmental catastrophe. It may turn out that the other side isn’t evil but simply fighting for their own survival. Fascinating.
But the tour de force is Walter Bishop and if John Noble doesn’t get some kind of Emmy recognition for this season it will be a gross oversight. There is one scene where Walter’s old brain matter is reconnected to him. In that moment we see him revert to the “old” Walter before his insanity. The effect is startling—it’s one of the best scenes in the series. Noble, who steals every scene he is in on a normal episode, really takes it to another level here. The guy is one hell of an actor.
The only thing I didn’t buy was the ending. Newton injects Walter with poison to “insure” his getaway. It’s more than a bit contrived. Was he going to call them if he DID get away, and let them know how to save Walter? Why didn’t he do this in his similar brain heists when pursuit was right behind? It doesn’t fit except as a plot device, and it’s distracting.
That’s just one thing, though, and the episode overall rocks. My favorite line? Olivia to Newton: “You so much as twitch and you won't have a head left to refreeze.” My favorite moment? Walter wakes from his near-death experience and wants chicken wings. Fringe is such a powerful, fun show.
Fringe “Grey Matter” Episode Score (1-10): 9
Sean writes on J.J. Abrams, Fringe, LOST, etc. at Examiner.com as the J.J. Abrams Examiner. Check him out on Twitter too: @JJAbramsX.
Excluding possibly Peter, is anyone even sure Walter made it? I've only gotten the impression that they know Walter created a door, not that he used it. I'd kinda chalk it up to Walter doing it because he can, not because he actually wanted something and went there to get it.
Patient Joseph Slater described a girl with crysthanimums in her hair on the video. Slater then described a girl with heather in her hair when Newton was performing surgery. WTF?
Records indicated Walter had 6 visits from "Dr. Paris". Hmmm - could that mean Walter's real memory of how the door was designed were not in these three patients?? Why didn't we see Patient Gordon and why did Walter keep referring to him as Condom?
What if Belly in some way or another, had both Walter's at St. Claires at different times between 1991 - 1995?
Finally, what is the relationship between these three patients? Why these three?
I am so glad you mentioned the six visits. It has really puzzled me. Six visits but probably only three involved the placement of parts of Walter's brain into these three people. What did the other three visits involve? Were they actually visits from Belly/Paris or could the alter/Bell have assumed the role of Paris for three visits? Were they all about removing pieces of Walter's brain or did something else occur in the other three visits?
I have wondered if Bell ever visited Walter in the mental institution ever since the Pilot episode. Ever since Walter pissed himself just a little when they mentioned William Bell's name. Walter's reaction was one of great fear on a subconscious level. Something was done to him or something involving William Bell scares him, but he has no conscious memory of it. Perhaps that memory was removed too, but not saved anywhere. I can't wait to find out what happened.
Right now I am very curious as to how many William Bells there are and which one we are dealing with as well as any alter-Walters.
She's watching Fringe...again!