One day, Fringe will present its viewers with a case in which no one, not Olivia, not Peter, not Broyles, no one, has any connection to the events in question or the antagonist responsible whatso-bleeding-ever. Since the show returned from its Christmas hiatus, we've had Walter just so happen to have worked on Project Elephant, the experiment that ultimately laid genetic waste to the town of Edina, Peter and Olivia have become trapped in a building containing a deadly virus, thereby amping up the stakes for Walter as he tries desperately to rescue them, and now, as a barking mad Nazi tries to 'purify' the human race and create Das Herrenvolk through the means that science has now opened up to him, we discover that it was actually Walter's father, the esteemed Roger Bischoff, who conceived of the science and technology that would be involved in the first place! Honestly, the amount of significant scientific discoveries and important milestone projects that the Bishop family have been involved in collectively over the last sixty or seventy years is bloody astounding. They should give them some sort of Guiness Book of World Records entry or something.
And of course, I jest, but it would be nice to see a story in which Walter has no previous connection to any element of the plot whatsoever, if for no other reason than it would force the writing staff to start thinking outside of the box and not allow them to simply pull out the 'Bishop knows something!' card every time they write themselves into a corner. And to be fair, its inclusion in 'The Bishop Revival' actually isn't all that bad. Unlike in certain recent episodes, it does open the door to some interesting character development, particularly for Noble. This is the first time we've seen Walter this deeply invested in something for a considerable amount of time; to the extent, in fact, that he becomes furious with Peter when he learns that his son sold the books containing the theoretical formula. This is a beautifully written scene, full of anger, regret and remorse, and pleasingly, it runs continually as an undercurrent in all of their subsequent scenes, until paid off in the closing moments. Jackson and Noble have such incredible antagonistic chemistry that it's a surprise they don't do this sort of thing more often... although it's looking likely that a similar sort of situation will arise once Peter finds out that, actually, he's totally from another dimension or something. There's also a great deal to be said for Walter's ultimate decision to murder the man responsible for the series of killings; this is a new and very dark development for the character but refreshingly, it seems to fit. The viewer understands his motives and appreciates the conclusion, however predictable it may be (as soon as Walter starts looking shiftily around that basement, it's perfectly obvious what he's going to do.)
Similarly, while it is clear from the moment that the 'Holocaust survivor' trope is married to the 'brown eyes' experiment that the objective is to create the Aryan race, the predictability factor is offset somewhat by the horror of the central concept. Once again, the writing staff work wonders with the teaser sequence, keeping the outcome fairly oblique but maintaining an undercurrent of inevitable tension that is brought to fruition wonderfully when Nana starts choking to death while walking down the aisle. Setting the scene at a wedding is a wonderfully macabre, twisted touch, and the District 9/Cloverfield-esque flitting between handheld recordings and steady camera (metatextuality and textuality) gives it an unsettlingly realistic feel. Subsequent scenes in the coffee shop and at the abandoned back alley are also well executed, harbouring enough dramatic weight and grizzly shock value to keep everyone satisfied. The key problem, though, is that these scenes never feel quite enough. Even with the addition of a link to Walter's past, and the barrier this throws up between father and son, the episode often feels like it's treading water, biding its time before the conclusion can be reached. There are nice set pieces, sure, and the character development is spot on, but both viewer and protagonist reach a complete understanding of events way too soon, so the plot simply shifts to auto-pilot before the big denouement. It's a shame really, since the story has the makings of a very good stand alone; it's just a shame the writers couldn't take that next step.
'The Bishop Revival' is a definite improvement on Fringe's recent stand alone offerings. There is a genuinely intriguing concept at the heart of the story that is executed well and provides much opportunity for discussion, while the additional scope for character development that is offered to both Walter and Peter pays dividends since it allows us to see aspects of both characters that haven't previously been explored in great detail. Where the episode falters is in both its reliance on a connection to Walter's past, which has been greatly overused of late, and, more importantly, in the lightweight aspects of certain elements of the narrative. At times, there just isn't enough here to keep the momentum going and as a result, the viewer's attention inevitably wanders. Still, this is certainly a good effort and at least it isn't just ripping off The X Files again. Probably.