It's a pity that Fringe feels the need to reserve its best episodes for the weeks before it embarks on a lengthy break; while it's a fairly sensible marketing decision, making doubly sure that your audience will return in their droves for the start of the next run, it does mean that instalments like this are far, far too few and far between. Stentz and Miller's 'Grey Matters' is a fine example of just how wonderful a show this can be, beguiling, thrilling and fascinating in equal measure. This is one almighty beast of a narrative, grabbing the arc plot by the scruff of its pesky little neck and beating it to a bloody pulp, forcing out a plethora of answers that hint at gargantuan things to come, while also doing the nigh-on impossible and tying in the show's interpersonal relationships without ever seeming contrived.
So we have a thoroughly mesmerising central concept in the apparent healing of a select number of mental health patients, and thankfully, there isn't a flimsy, surface level explanation as to the nature of events. Instead, the plot twists and turns, leading the viewer down a number of dead ends before finally revealing the truth. And boy, what a reveal, eh? The idea that Walter's memory loss was a constructed occurrence is just fantastic, precisely because it's utterly logical. How could this genius simply forget all about some of the most important discoveries of his scientific career? The answer, naturally, is that he wouldn't... instead, Bell removes them from his memory for preservation. For the duration of the episode, the viewer could be forgiven for scratching their head somewhat at the idea that this 'doctor with a reattached head' would remove information from Walter's brain, implant it in others and then come back to collect it when originally, all he wanted was the knowledge itself: why, after all, would he not simply ask Bishop or even coerce it out of him? Thankfully though, Stentz and Miller have crossed their Ts and dotted their Is; the final moments snap everything into focus, providing a thoroughly satisfying, and also rather subtle, explanation.
It's also rather commendable that the writers refrain from making any significant alterations to Walter's character. When faced with the idea that his selective amnesia and hence, perhaps, his insanity, is something that can be rectified, it would be all too tempting to 'do the deed', as it were. And yes, for a minute or so, Walter is more lucid than we have ever seen him, and Noble is brilliant with it, but to maintain this state would be to betray both the character himself and, more importantly, the dynamic of the show. Bishop's fragility is one of the backbones of the series as it informs so much else, not the least of which is his relationship with his son. As if the brilliance of this needed any further demonstration, Noble and Jackson's scenes together here are just excellent, loaded with love and regret, and they're distinctly moving. To dramatically change Walter's personality would have been to disturb this rapport and frankly, that's the last thing that Fringe needs right now. Thank The Almighty JJ Abrams then, that the writing staff choose another avenue entirely, and for all it may result in a rather predictable get away for the show's newest Big Bad, I'll take this over the other option any day.
'Grey Matters', like 'Momentum Deferred' before it, sees Fringe upping the ante, forcing its foot down on the accelerator and bombarding the viewer with plot development. Stentz and Miller's script benefits greatly from its obliqueness, never allowing us to gain a great enough understanding of what's going on to be able to predict the outcome, and, even more remarkably, manages to provide a wealth of wonderful character development for the Bishops without ever really pausing for breath. For all the next three episodes will probably be X-Files-lite stand alones, on the strength of this, you just know you'll tune in for 'em. Top notch stuff.