Fringe: Snakehead   Rewatch 
October 26, 2014 11:16 PM - Season 2, Episode 9 - Subscribe

A distressed Chinese man scrambles through Boston, and arrives at an underground way-station, where a tentacled something is extracted from him as he dies. The team is called to a merchant ship that ran aground and caught fire near Boston, leaving a trail of bodies in its wake - but one is alive. Peter has an unfortunate meal, though not prepared by Walter, who is chasing another high. Broyles' sweating regimen backfires, and Olivia goes on a paper chase. Astrid is a terrible liar.

Three fives, a one, a zero and two sevens.
We don't have a father-son theme in the main plot this week. Instead we have the totally different mother-son theme. Walter asserts his independence, only to be unable to recall important pieces of information, or keep secrets. I didn't think of it at the time, but after watching Blacklist, I have to wonder if the 'tracking device in the neck' is a trope. It was used in The X-Files too.

Also, Olivia shoots the bad guy.
posted by the man of twists and turns (16 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We don't have a father-son theme in the main plot this week. Instead we have the totally different mother-son theme.

Au contraire! There's definitely a role-reversal, but it's within Peter and Walter's father-son relationship. When Walter ditches Astrid in Chinatown (dick move!) and gets himself lost, Peter chides him in exactly the way my parent did whenever I ran off and got lost. An initial "dammit you can't do that" is cut short in favor of "are you OK?"

- Big zero on Massive Dynamic in this episode. Do we see an Observer at some point? The only scenes in public were in Chinatown and on the docks, right?
- We're left with a pretty basic monster of the week plot. The monster isn't even weaponized for use in the coming war of universes— it's medicine.
- That Triad thug killing himself in the interview room is possibly the most horrific thing we see in an episode that features 3-foot parasitic worms gestating and birthing themselves out of human orifices.
- Walter also remembers Astrid's name correctly in this episode.
- When Peter lets himself into the herbalist surgery I couldn't help but imagine him getting dressed in the morning. Leather jacket, mm hmm, keys, wallet, phone, ID, and do I grab the lockpick kit today? Might as well!
- At the end Olivia gives the bird toy back to the little girl, as if a token from her horrifying journey in the hold of a boat across the Atlantic might make her feel better. Remember when you played with this, little girl who can't speak Cantonese and we don't have the time or resources to coach on any little-girl-chatter line readings so just sit there and smile dumbly?
posted by carsonb at 1:07 PM on October 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

John Noble is such a good actor. So good.

Of course Peter speaks Chinese.

I think Olivia giving the girl the toy comes off as tone deaf but is maybe supposed to play on Olivia not recalling much of her childhood necessarily and so of course she's all, "here. have a kind of horrible souvenir to remember this experience. :D"

I finally ordered my lock-picking tools. That's something that's been on my amazon wishlist but because of this show I am making it happen. Thanks, tv show. I promise to only use my new hobby for good.

I love it when Walter gets all spiffed up to go places. And I love how he's in a robe at the stranger lady's place when Peter retrieves him.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 3:17 PM on October 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

Ok, so the thing I don't get is why a boat from China, which last time I checked borders the Pacific Ocean, docks in Boston, which borders the Atlantic.

Oh, the magical power of google. Ok, I sit corrected, after 2 minutes of searching I found one that goes to Savannah. So I guess Boston isn't completely unbelievable. Hmph.

That worm - parasitic worm, thank you Walter - is one of the scariest things ever. Or maybe it's just because I was eating dinner. Gross. Not noodles, like Walter was though.

Do we think Walter hooked up with the nice Chinese lady? Because that might explain the dressing gown.

And I think y'all are being harsh on Olivia with the little girl's toy. Maybe it was the one thing she picked to take with her, the favourite toy she couldn't leave behind in China.

Oh, and those Triad tattoos looked so temporary. Probably just as well.
posted by Athanassiel at 4:27 AM on October 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

I just saw the robe as being a Walter thing since he pretty frequently enjoys various states of undress. I can totally see Walter being upset and taking his clothes off.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 5:39 AM on October 28, 2014

Yeah, you're probably right. I don't think Walter's quite at that stage of self-actualisation.

This episode really sets up the next one beautifully. For all that on one level it's a monster of the week episode, on another it's just a nice development of the show's themes, particularly around Walter's rehabilitation.
posted by Athanassiel at 5:59 AM on October 28, 2014

I really try not to pay too much attention to supposed locations/geography on this show because then my brain just starts screaming "VANCOUVER. IT'S SO VANCOUVERY."
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 1:36 PM on October 28, 2014

I didn't see any Observers but I'm certain I saw the Winklevoss brothers rowing past around the ten minute mark.
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 1:36 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ordinarily Nice Chinese Lady doesn't let strangers into her home. But when Walter turns up, takes off all his clothes and puts on her robe: No problem! Have some noodles!

In fact this encounter went so swimmingly Nice Chinese Lady is out there right now looking for another strange man to bring home.
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 1:55 PM on October 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh great. After the episode with the jumpy butterfly guy, which triggered my life long fear of papercuts, we get this one, which triggers my lifelong fear of sea anemones. Particularly giant ones that come out of the mouth and make high pitched screaming noises.

Peter always looks so snazzy with his black outer wear and everything. If there were a Peter catalogue, I would order the hell out of it. Or at least flick through its glossy pages of Peter looking snazzy, realise it would all look far better on Peter than me, and not order anything. One of those two things.

"This is rather pleasant." The quintessential Walter moment in this episode. I love these moments, even though they squick me the hell out.

I have absolutely no evidence for this, but I always kinda wondered if Leeds psychedelic band Hookworms (formed 2009) were named after this episode. Because that would be cool. Also cool in a '50s kind of way is that jazz album Walter is playing in the lab. My Dad totally had that album. Seriously. Of course, if my Dad were here and heard that tune, he would get very excited and tell a long, rambling jazz anecdote that would drown out the episode and go on for the rest of the night. My Dad actually owns books with titles like Jazz Anecdotes and More Jazz Anecdotes. In some ways, my Dad and Walter are not dissimilar. In some ways, my Dad and me are not dissimilar. Please, no one finish that thought for me.

The scene with Walter in the phone booth is heartbreaking. All one's fears about ageing and vulnerable family members distilled into one image.

Oh Peter. Getting out of a car and following the bad guys into a building is never a good idea in a Fringe episode. Well, I mean, it has to happen for plot reasons, but usually involves the protagonist getting beaten up or witnessing something unspeakable or something. I guess we could have an episode in which the Fringe team sit around in stopped cars for the entire running time and nothing happens. They could call it Two Walters, One Night. It would be awesome.
posted by Sonny Jim at 2:10 PM on October 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

My dad had the Mario Lanza album from the previous episode. My dad had all the albumz

Sonny Jim, I personally like your father's stealth jazz anecdotes, which start innocuously enough, about lesser known marsupials who have climbed Everest, before you're suddenly listening to a five thousand word essay on Dizzy Gillespie's favourite pie. In that way Walter reminds me of him when he talks about food.

I think in a strange way Walter is all our dads.

To what extent is this show (and Lost) psychically connected to "Dad's record collection" or more to the point "Dad's freaky album cover art"?
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 2:31 PM on October 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

If I could favourite that comment a thousand times. BAKERSFIELD!, I would. You've nailed something there about the family dynamics of Abrams shows and why they're so strangely resonant.

Also, by Two Walters, One Night, I was thinking of something along these lines.
posted by Sonny Jim at 2:36 PM on October 29, 2014

I really think there's something about the way John Noble plays Walter that strikes a chord with a lot of us, thus the affection some of us have for the character. I think Joshua Jackson really got into the groove of playing off of that as the long suffering adult offspring by this stage of the show as well. He's still playing Peter as a smart arse but it's far more naturalistic by now.
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 2:47 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

"This is rather pleasant." The quintessential Walter moment in this episode.

Yep! And he goes on to scientifically document his experience, talking about what he's feeling after 'the initial burn.' So Walter.
posted by carsonb at 4:37 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ah, I love you guys (that is a non-gender-specific inclusive term). I've always watched Fringe by myself so this is kind of like being able to watch it with smart, funny people taking the piss in an affectionate way. So awesome.
posted by Athanassiel at 5:22 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

The character of Walter resonates with me personally because it's a pretty decent portrayal of schizophrenia. My dad is schizophrenic. When this show originally aired it was (and still is) a damn delight to see a schizophrenic portrayed as a smart person. John Noble did a fantastic job throughout the run of showing the upset of being aware that something is broken in your head and knowing you can't do squat about it.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 5:43 PM on October 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

This episode really hit me in the nostalgia feels for featuring Vancouver Chinatown pre- right-around- 2010 Winter Olympics.

The area had been in decline since the early '90s, but the geographic targeting of the construction boom leading to 2010 further displacing and concentrating the indigent population to a block away (DTES - downtown eastside) was the death knell for the neighbourhood.

In an alternate universe, it's possible that Chinatown could have been revitalized/ gentrified and some other neighbourhood(s) suffer from the mental health/ drug use/ skid row fallout. But, it's Chinatown, so of course.

COVID-19 is looking like a coffin nail; the area is non-tenable as a tourist destination and the increase in economically advantaged immigrants concentrating elsewhere (ie., Richmond) really left the "old timers"/ "loa yeh" established Chinese (mostly Canton/ HK and even some from the railroad days) in the cold.

The commercial neighbourhood shown in this episode is a nightmare now. I'm not sure anyone in their right minds would want to use it as a "Chinatown" location anymore; for the (lack of) looks and the logistics and costs (of keeping mentally unwell drug addicted no-hope unpoliced belligerents from fucking up the set just to fuck something up).
posted by porpoise at 12:33 AM on March 7, 2021

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