Season 2 Episode 10

Grey Matters

Aired Friday 9:00 PM Dec 10, 2009 on FOX
out of 10
User Rating
525 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

The Fringe team investigates a mental institution after a patient has brain surgery and begins to show an improvement despite having his brain exposed. Agent Dunham makes a discovery of her own after seeing footage from the surveillance tapes.

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  • Grey Matters

    Warning: mythology. Yes, may mark on your calendar fringeniano that this is one of those days that matter. One of those numbers with a fat red circle around it. And the mysteries of the brain is that this number ten is formed.

    At the end of the episode, Olivia (Anna Torv) has a very interesting conversation with Broyles (Lance Reddick), which perfectly mirrors the current situation of "Fringe" and its problems as a product of entertainment:

    Olivia: All we have is more questions. Who is Paris? How does Newton (Sebastian Roch) knew the memories of Walter (John Noble)? And because Walter left to live?

    Broyles: I suspect that things will be. The more responses we have more questions they lead.

    Olivia: But we did not get any answers!

    Well, dear Olivia, now everything you said. Let's see what we knew before the episode: Walter has previously built a portal to another universe and used it to go get your "other" son. , Due to his madness he does not remember as it did, there is an army of beings on the other side who want to open a door in the final between the two spaces; William Bell asked Olivia to protect this passage. In this episode we see the leader of the so-called first wave, the one whose head was so sought after and later docked, to remove small portions of the brain of three distinct persons. These people that after such an intervention come to his madness or obsession paid.

    What are then three pieces of three different people? To find out how Walter designed and put up such a portal. In reality, these are portions of the brain scientist's hidden in other people's thoughts, in order to protect this secret. The villain then you can reach the old protagonist and uses it to read that information. Their plan is materialized and it appears that the bad guys won this battle, let's see how is the war. At the end half still on offering surprise in the form of Bell (Nimoy).

    Although it was an episode focused on what really interests us brought very little new. It is painful to go through two or three fillers to get here, the more you see a story being dragged vagorosamente to finally give us little or nothing. We feel the series too comfortable, without trying to prove or conquer, taking too long for such advances.

    Apart from that, an episode was generally consistent, where an interesting story - the whole question of the brain - has teamed up with some rhythmic and tense moments - such as face-to-head final - and a villain with class. Just needed more ...

    The Best: The villain.

    The Worst: Little or no answers.moreless
  • Well done

    Well we found out why Walter is insane because bell removing memory brain tissue from him that can open a gate to the other side. Newton tries to restore Walters brain so he can get some answers into how to open up the gate to the other side. This show told volumes on how much Peter cares for Walter and Olivia found out what they mean to her, even though it wasn't an emotional action I'm sure she didn't want Walter to die. Newton will only tell Olivia the anidote sequence if she let him go, which she did. The only con in my opinion, since we know why Walter is insane because he missing the very essesense what makes us, us is our memories. Having that removed from Walter makes me feel he's not the whole Walter and Peter wouldn't want the remaining of his fathers brain inside of him. Peter doesn't want his father going back to being a cold hearted prick. I have mixed feelings about this because we don't know the truth of how Walter was like only from what Peter says but he was a kid at that time. He might be able to change if he had his restored memory. But, if I had to watch my dad cry over and over again because he forgot to tie his shoes you better believe I would restore that brain tissue into his head. Now to know the truth what happen to Walter and why he is the way he is and not do anything about it is just wrong.moreless
  • Newton finally reveals himself as he tries to restore the damage done by William Bell.

    St. Claire, present day: The new villain named Newton suprevises brain surgery over a crazy man. The results: remarkable. The man is sane again.

    St. Claire, several years ago: Dr. Walter Bishop is about to go under Dr. Paris's scalpel. The results: remarkable. Brain tissue is removed wich in fact is what made him go insane.

    Only catch is that Dr. Paris is none other than William Bell and the brain tissue he and Nina Sharp removed exactly what Newton and his men are trying to put back on Walter's head. Confronted by the choice to either stop them or help Walter, Olivia releases Newton in exchange for the exact dosage of the antidote that would save Walter's life before a neurotoxin would kill him right in Peter's arms.

    As emotional as Olivia's reaction my have been this episode is in fact an exercise on the emotions of father and son, from the way that every image reminds Walter of Peter to Peter's despair once his father is dying and both of Bishops tini glimpses into how they really feel about notoriously absent Mrs. Bishop.

    Peter's relief over Walter's welfare is palpable and while there's no doubt in my mind that the father he sees in him will be gone the minute he finds out the truth, this childhish remain of what was once brilliant Dr. Bishop is the man Peter calls his family, a man who needs him for his very survival and genuinely cares about him despite he isn't the son he lost.moreless
  • Let's keep evolving! A real good one!

    Unfortunately they keep holding up the good things about this history.

    I believe that might be possible that the writers keep waiting until they come up with something in their head to put in action on Fringe development.

    Is it just me, or episodes with history evolving has higher scores than the others? Nowadays, we want series with complex histories and evolution, nothing to fill up the 24 episodes in the season. Series with this formula, filling up episodes with stuff, sometimes become boring.

    As a fan, I'd like to see more episodes like this one and episodes to keep me stuck watching one after another! Waiting anxiously the next to come and the mistery always growing up with characters being evolved.moreless
  • Pieces fall into place

    With so many stand-alone episodes during the first half of this season, it's about time that the writers returned to the season arc. This particular episode does shed some light on some key elements of the story, which is a very good thing, but it also seems to be simplistic in approach. There's a lot of running around for what little ground was gained.

    In essence, the leader of the Alt-universe super-soldiers, Mr. Newton, is trying to open a doorway linking Fringe Prime with Alt-Fringe. This would be a very bad thing, and Olivia is supposed to do whatever it takes to prevent it. As it turns out, Walter is the only person in Fringe Prime with the knowledge of how to create a doorway, and those memories were intentionally taken away from him. Mr. Newton fulfills a plan to restore those memories just long enough to get his answers, and Olivia chooses to save Walter rather than stop Mr. Newton and end the threat.

    That summary doesn't quite do the episode justice. For one thing, the method of memory restoration is interesting, because it implies a mechanism for memory that doesn't quite mesh with how memory and consciousness has been handled previously on the series. Memory and consciousness have been a bit more ephemeral in previous episodes, implying that both are not necessarily linked to a physical anchor within the brain.

    In this case, however, it appears that William Bell was able to excise small portions of Walter's brain, thus removing Walter's ability to access certain key memories and associations. The question is: does this imply that the information itself was held within those chunks of grey matter, or that the chunks removed were necessary for access to the information? Considering that the series is as much about consciousness and perception as it is about monsters and alternate realities, this is not an idle question.

    We also get some insight into Walter's past history. It seems very clear that Walter's decision to open the door into Alt-Fringe and abduct Alt-Peter was a trigger point. It was the first such incursion, according to Mr. Newton, and I still believe that the abduction triggered a response from Alt-Walter that led to the war that has been heating up since. We have yet to see what kind of man Alt-Water might be, but there have been plenty of hints that the pre-psychotic break version of Walter Prime was not someone to cross. If Walter Prime had been advancing his "fringe science" all that time, who knows what kind of disturbing tech he would have created!

    That leads to another interesting possibility. Was Walter's mental collapse really all that it seems? Did he really lose his mind due to the death of a student? I don't recall that the details of that incident were ever provided. The surgery conducted by William Bell on Walter could have further degraded his mental state, but it's also possible that Walter's original condition was engineered by Bell as well. If Bell was that concerned about the potential for Walter's knowledge to be discovered by the enemy, eliminating that threat (while keeping Walter intact enough to be a potential resource later) would fit Bell's apparent pattern.

    Just as there were strengths to the episode, however, there were some inherent weaknesses. The first problem is something that might be explained later, but now stands as a glaring contradiction. If the soldiers of Alt-Fringe managed to cross over into Fringe Prime before, why do they need Walter Prime to tell them how to open a doorway back into Alt-Fringe now? The timelines still don't quite add up for me, though I will give the writers some slack and time to explain away the apparent discrepancies.

    More directly problematic within the episode, however, is Olivia's decision not to take down Mr. Newton when she had the chance. I'm not talking about her decision once Newton made it clear that it was a choice between him and Walter; I'm talking about the moments before that. Why didn't Olivia just shoot Newton in the head and be done with it? It's not like Newton is technically human anymore, and she knows the potential threat that Newton presents. Capturing him, rather than eliminating him, feels like a plot contrivance, designed to ensure that the plot thread remains viable until the intended point of resolution.

    Granted, the pieces of the "Fringe" puzzle haven't always fit together in the most elegant manner; the first half of the first season seems a bit disconnected from the superior second half, after all. And I accept the limitations of the scope of the plot for what they are. I just feel like the writers aren't quite sure how to get from point A to point B, and as a result, the seams are starting to show.

    If the previous examples don't prove the point, I can give one more. I noted in the review for "Snakehead" that the writers would need to use Walter's decision to implant a tracking device into his neck for something momentous to mitigate the otherwise isolated nature of the episode. So I was a bit annoyed to see it used as a red herring of sorts just one episode later. It's the sort of thing that could have used a little more forethought to give it more dramatic impact.moreless
Roger R. Cross

Roger R. Cross


Guest Star

Jeff Perry

Jeff Perry

Joseph Slater

Guest Star

Derek Anderson

Derek Anderson

Team Leader

Guest Star

Sebastian Roché

Sebastian Roché

Thomas Jerome Newton

Recurring Role

Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy

William Bell

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (3)

    • Broyles told Olivia that the Boston Police Department is sending an entry & apprehension team to where Walter's tracking chip was leading them. However, when they arrive, the tactical team is wearing FBI logos on their clothing, not BPD or POLICE.

    • Trivia: The glyph code for this episode is PORTAL.

    • Trivia: The Observer can be seen behind the white car as Peter and Olivia, along with an FBI team, go down to the men's bathroom after exiting their vehicles, while looking for Walter with the aid of the tracking device.

  • QUOTES (7)

    • Security Guard: Are you Dr. Bishop?
      Walter: Yes. And I'm perfectly sane.

    • Peter: Are you really trying to tell us that he is one of the heads they stole? Fine. Let's say for a second you're right. Frozen heads don't just get up and walk into places. I mean, the dead don't rise out of their graves and perform midnight brain surgery.

    • Peter: Apparently Mr. Gordon thought he was the actor Sydney Greenstreet, and went around quoting Casablanca. That's funny.
      Olivia: What?
      Peter: He looks a lot more like Peter Lorre. That's a joke.

    • Peter: Maybe some Valium would help.
      Walter: You know, I don't do Valium nearly enough. That's a good idea. I'll have 50 milligrams, please.
      Dr. West: Well, that... that's quite a high dosage.
      Walter: I have quite a high tolerance.

    • Olivia: So then how does Newton read them?
      Peter: In theory, he shouldn't be able to. But in theory, he should still be a frozen head. So in the department of how to make impossible things possible, what would he need to do?

    • Olivia: You so much as twitch, and you won't have a head left to refreeze.

    • Walter: Peter... I have a terrible headache... and a sudden craving for chicken wings.

  • NOTES (7)

    • Blair Brown is credited but doesn't appear.

    • Leonard Nimoy is credited as Special Appearance by.

    • Music: Trinkle, Tinkle (Thelonious Sphere Monk & John Coltrane)

    • Injoke: "Simon Paris" refers to Leonard Nimoy's middle name, and Paris, Leonard Nimoy's character on Mission: Impossible.

    • Injoke: The license plate on Olivia's SUV at the sanitarium reads "1C3PO1": an Easter egg reference to C-3PO, the protocol droid from the Star Wars movies, played by Anthony Daniels.

    • Injoke: There are references to the works of H.P. Lovecraft scattered throughout the episode:
      - Dr. West is named after Herbert West, the character in Lovecraft's Herbert West--Reanimator, and who appeared in the 1985 movie Re-Animator and its two sequels, and was played by Jeffrey Combs.
      - Stuart Gordon, one of Dr. Paris' patients, is named after Stuart Gordon, the producer of Re-Animator.
      - Paris' other patient, Crampton, is named after Barbara Crampton, who co-starred in Re-Animator.
      - The Dunwich Medical Hospital is named after the fictional town that is the setting for Lovecraft's The Dunwich Horror.

    • International Airdates:
      UK: December 13, 2009 on Sky1
      Latin America: January 19, 2010 on WB
      Sweden: February 4, 2010 on Kanal 5
      Australia: February 25, 2010 on GO!
      Germany: May 17, 2010 on ProSieben
      Poland: November 12, 2010 on TVN
      Finland: November 24, 2010 on MTV3
      Czech Republic: January 21, 2011 on Nova Cinema
      Slovakia: May 14, 2012 on Markiza