Waitress: Can I get you some coffee?
Observer: Roast beef sandwich, on a roll, meat raw as possible. Room temperature water, no ice.
Waitress: Gotcha.
Observer: Do you have jalapeños?
Waitress: I think he does.
Observer: Eleven of those, please. On the side.
Waitress: Eleven. You got it.

Let’s cut straight to the chase: the Observer is a weird dude. He eats ridiculously spicy food, has no eyebrows, speaks with a weirdly ethereal cadence, and appears at supernatural “fringe” events. At the start of “The Arrival,” he’s an enigma. And at the end of the episode…well, he’s still an enigma.

Though the first three episodes of the series logically follow each other, “The Arrival” is Fringe’s first foray into true serialization, the starting point for some of the first season’s continuing mysteries and long-term storylines. In this episode, we learn that Walter and the Observer have met before, and the latter has something to do with Peter’s past. Furthermore, we learn that the Observer is somehow linked to the phenomenon known as the Pattern. It is also in “The Arrival” that Olivia begins seeing visions of the deceased John Scott. With these mysteries put in place, but not fully answered, Fringe establishes itself as a show that’s in it for the long haul.

As if to double down on that sentiment, this is also the episode in which Peter finally decides that he’s going to settle down in Boston – at least for the foreseeable future – and help the FBI investigate the Pattern. He receives his FBI “civilian consultant” identification card, signifying that he’s going to be a permanent fixture at the Bureau. This is a huge step for Peter, who is by all accounts a drifter, a nomad. He may not yet ready to build a home with his father, but he understands that his duty is to stay with him, even if it means playing the role of babysitter. The possible dangers that the Pattern could pose are too large to be overshadowed by petty familial feuds.

However, Peter still has to contend with Walter’s odd behaviour, which ranges from the innocuous, like his penchant for nudism, to the potentially harmful, like his drugging of Astrid. Walter can be unpredictable, and he acts rashly when it comes to guarding his secrets. Unfortunately, his reckless behaviour has brought frigidity to his budding friendship with Astrid. If he wishes to become closer to his son and the rest of the FBI team, Walter will have to learn to trust them. Without that trust, their investigation into the Pattern won’t succeed.

There appears to be an inherent contradiction in “The Arrival.” Peter deciding to stick around in Boston signifies that Fringe is settling into a comfortable groove. But Olivia’s visions of John, as well as Walter’s secrets about Peter’s past and the Observer, imply that the show is about to get a whole lot weirder. Those two ostensibly conflicting aims can be reconciled as such: the audience should expect the abnormal, the weird, the strange. Arcane mysteries and unanswered questions will abound. The FBI’s Fringe division may see these supernatural cases as routine investigations, but they will never, ever be considered normal.

For more information on the Fringe rewatch project, please click here.

Advertisements