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Fringe Recap: ‘The Firefly’

Show: Fringe

Episode Title: The Firefly

Air Date: January 21st, 2010

Network: FOX

Fringe is back in the ‘Friday night death slot’ – is this the beginning of the end for one of the best genre shows on television today? I hope not and J.J. Abrams has been quoted as saying it’s a good thing because it frees them up to do just about anything they want… Does he not have Joss Whedon’s number in his speed dial?

In tonight’s episode, the Observers are back to get things ‘back on track’ and restore balance.

Warning – Spoilers Abound!


“Peter! You’re up early.” Walter is bent over in the dining room, pants down around his ankles, chemicals mixing on the kitchen table, large needle in his hand about to be injected into his leg.

“Oh no, I’m still asleep upstairs in my bed. You’re just talking to an astral projection of me.”

“…you’re just saying that to see if I’m high.”

Yes! Walter Bishop is back!


Christopher Lloyd guest stars in this, the first episode of Fringe for 2011. The team is called in to investigate a hospital patient who is visited by the ghost of his long dead son. As if that isn’t enough, an Observer also makes an appearance at the hospital.


Obviously, the Observer is up to something. As Walter states it – every time he appears, it has something to do with Peter and something bad happens. Whatever he’s here for, it includes doing a Superman on a jewelry story robbery where he catches bullets out of the air at they’re fired at him. Then he helps a hostage by giving her a shot from her inhaler, an inhaler that he pockets on his way out the door.

The awkwardness between Olivia and Peter persists. It doesn’t help that a gift he ordered for Alternate Olivia arrives – a book titled ‘If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!’ Inside is a note, “Olivia, because you asked. Peter.”


Roscoe Joyce (Christopher Lloyd) is brought to Walter’s lab where the team hopes to help him remember what his son said to him. Walter does not believe it was the ghost of the man’s son, but the son in person. He postulates that the Observer does not perceive time the way we do and is capable of moving through time easily. Why shouldn’t he be able to bring someone with him?

With hypnotherapy, Roscoe is able to remember what his son said to him, that he would meet a man, Doctor Walter Bishop, and he would need to help him.

Help him to do what? That’s what they need to find out…


Wow. This is such a great episode. In it, we learn more about the Observers, more about Walter – how everything is connected. The Observer pulled Walter & young Peter from the frozen lake the day they crossed over, causing a chain reaction of events. Peter is saved. Later, he captures a firefly that a girl down the street was meant to save, causing her to stay out later than she would’ve, looking for a firefly she’ll never find. This causes her father to go out searching for her in the rain. Worried, distracted, he drives too fast on slick roads, he can’t stop in time, killing a young man – Roscoe’s son.

Just wow.

“Give him the keys and save the girl.”


This episode is about ‘course correction’. Saving Peter all those years ago changed everything and now things have to be put back on course or, I assume, dire consequences will ensue. Walter immediately goes to the dark place, assuming that it’s all about Peter, that the Observer is going to take Peter away – but is it?

The Observer points out that the smallest detail, the firefly, can shift the course of events dramatically (like the butterfly who flaps it’s wings in China and causes an avalanche in the Rocky Mountains). So is it about Peter or something else?

(keep your eyes on that jug of milk)

Lloyd gives us an excellent portrayal of a burnt out old rock star that is reminiscent of Reverend Jim Ignatowski, though slightly more coherent. Lloyd has played so many characters, old and young, for nearly all my life – HOW OLD IS HE? He’s one of those people that it’s really hard to tell!

This episode illustrates what a fantastic show Fringe is and why more people need to watch it, keep it alive. Excellent writing and acting and they lead you down a path thinking the whole time you know what’s going on, then they give you a twist that makes you come out of your seat, and a reversal that makes you say, simply – wow.

“I must admit. I feared my experiment would fail.”

“But you were right. He’s changed.”


About Patrick Hester (527 Articles)
Patrick Hester is a writer, blogger, podcasting dude, Denver transplant and all around Functional Nerd. Don't hate him cuz he has a cool hat.

4 Comments on Fringe Recap: ‘The Firefly’

  1. Great episode, I agree. However, the whole idea of a course correction seems to be the antithesis of the Observers. It seems they aren’t limited by time the way we are, so doesn’t that mean that for them everything has already happened and is happening all at once? I figured this was at the heart of why they only observed. The notion that some event could upset the balance is contradictory to the Observers — everything that happens was meant to happen and has already happened. Wasn’t the ouroboros (snake eating its tail) in some of the Fringe opening sequences that sometimes change from episode to episode?

    Also, what do you think about the Observer’s comment to Peter about “It must be hard. Being a father.”? Do you think Faulivia could be pregnant?

  2. Here’s my thoughts on the Observers – They appear at Fringe events, whenever something affects ‘The Pattern’ and they take notes and pictures of whatever is going on.  We know that the Onserver who saved Peter & Walter was trying to make up for the other Peter’s death (he distracted Walter from finding the cure that would have saved Peter).  He got in trouble for intervening, indicating that they are only supposed to watch, not interact and that his attempt to ‘reset things’ did not go over well. 

    Another Observer, August, did a lot more trying to save Christine Hollis, admitting in the end that he’d fallen in love with her.  His actions ‘made her important’ and saved her life.

    Made her important?  To who?  To what?  The Pattern?

    Peter is ‘important’ too.  So is Walter.  So is Olivia.  All part of this Pattern.

    Is the Pattern time itself?  Can they move through time?

    In the episode August, the Massive Dynamics gy tells Olivia: “It’s more like they’re observing time. I think these guys show up at important moments. Um, historical, technological, scientific. But it’s rare. Maybe two dozen different definite occurrences in the past 5,000 years of human history. But recently, I’ve charted twenty-six sightings in the past three months alone. It kind of makes you wonder.”

    That doesn’t necessarily tell us that they can move through time, only that they appear at important moments.

    In The Firefly, we see definite proof of time travel as The Observer (he doesn’t seem to have a name?) grabs Roscoe’s son and brings him forward in time, then returns him after.  Why?

    Maybe he is still trying to fix The Pattern – whatever he broke when he accidentally distracted Walter all those years ago.

    How about this – since Olivia came on board with Fringe division, Pattern related incidents have increased, as have sightings of the Observers – is that part of the Pattern or an abberation?

    As for the comment to Peter – it could mean anything.  It could be that Alternate Olivia is pregnant, or it could mean that Peter has a child running around somewhere form a previous trist.  We know that, prior to coming back to the states with Olivia, Peter did a lot of things he isn’t proud of.  Who knows what may be lurking in his past…


  3. Best part of last night’s episode? (Well, other than the band name: Violet Sedan Chair.) The Twin Peaks reference!

  4. Kate Baker // January 26, 2011 at 3:40 pm //

    I loved this episode. It was pure chaos theory at its finest.

    Did you catch it when Walter and Astrid said goodbye to Roscoe that he called Astrid, “Callie?” I’m still trying to figure that one out.

    Also – I think September had multiple meanings for his line to Peter about being a father. Apparently in some Fringe episode, Jasika (Astrid) said that Bolivia and Peter’s relationship is far from over. So that could point to a Bolivia pregnancy. I could then postulate that Walternate would atttempt to use the DNA from the love child to run the fated machine. You could see Bolivia turn sides as it endangers the life of her child.

    The second meaning of course is that September was only reiterating to Peter how hard it must be for Walter to have let Peter take those keys to save the girl. And really, of which girl was Peter speaking? They didn’t get the inhaler, Walter ends up saving the girl McGuyver style.

    All I’m saying is that FOX better not cancel this show. I am hooked and hooked hard.

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