Fringe Season 2 Episode 20 ‘Brown Betty’

A long, long time ago in a galaxy that sometimes seems far, far away things were different. Amongst the many things were different was that the law that requires genre shows to have a muscial episode had not be passed. Let’s call it the time PW – Pre-Wheldon.

Obviously I exaggerate but there has been a trend to inject muscial episodes into geek TV since ‘Once more with feeling,’ (heck even Doctor Who audios have got in on the act.)

 Now let’s get something clear – I’ve nothing against musicals – cue  jazz hands, shuffle ball change, T and T. Maybe it’s growing up with Dennis Potter* on the telly, or the power of Caberet – I don’t know but when there done well they’re as entertaining stuff.   Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

So how does Fringe shoulder the challange? There may be spoilers in the high notes here.

First of all it does something very Fringe and roots the episode in the relationships between the characters.  Walter is not unaturally unpset with the end of the previous story ‘The Man from the Other Side’ and is distracting himself. Being Walter this features a bong of hybrid pot called ‘Brown Betty’, a Yes album on the turntable and labeling the contents of his lab. This feeds into Walter minding Olivia’s niece Ella  leading to him telling a noirish fairy story featuring regular cast in various roles.

Actually this is not really a musical episode. It’s more Fringe ‘does the Princess Bride’ via Dashell Hammet – complete with yanks back to the world of the storyteller when the audience interrupts. And that is a good thing.

The story delivers potential insights into the other characters – a fear of the Watchers, Massive Dynamic and deep suspicion of Nina Sharp all come out in Walter’s narrative. All of which aren’t surprises but it’s nice to get the inside skivvy on Walters take on the situation even if it’s through a Mary Jane haze. Walters hopes for Peter and Olivia’s relationship and inference that he doesn’t quite trust Broyles (Noir world Broyles is being blackmailed by Olivia over planted evidence) are nice remainders of the other stories bubbling under the surface of the plot arch. Furthermore Walter’s guilt and self-contempt is evident in the story he tells.

All the players appear to be having great fun. They all rock the 1940s look with great panache – even if being  a fairytale some of the technology is more modern.

The songs are not consistently applied they’re sometimes sung by characters to emote feeling, sometimes just the equivalent of whistling and other times just Walter going off on one. Mind you – Singing Corpses what’s not to love!

It worked well but wasn’t peek Fringe. A little part of me wishes all the songs had been a retread of Walter’s prog rock collection.


*I originally typed Harry Potter – Dennis Potter does Harry Potter – somebodies got to write that surely?

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