“God is science. God is polio and flu vaccines and MRI machines and artificial hearts. We are men of science, and that’s the only faith we need.”
– Alistair Peck

“White Tulip” is considered by many to be the pinnacle of Fringe’s achievement. Its complicated time-hopping narrative and strong emotional core make it one of the most ambitious episodes of the series. As is the case with “Peter,” so much has been written about “White Tulip” that even a lengthy essay wouldn’t add anything new to the discussion. So instead of examining in detail how Walter deals with this episode’s case, I’m going to write a relatively short commentary and focus on the time-travelling genius at the centre of it all: Alistair Peck.

Peter Weller gives an understated yet impressive performance as Peck. He plays Peck’s grief as any rational scientist would experience it: burying the pain of loss under emotional detachment. Peck uses his hyper-rationality as a shield, à la Temperance Brennan, deflecting Walter’s warnings with stereotypically atheist logic. He has settled on going back in time to save his fiancée, Arlette, and he’ll justify doing so by any means necessary, feigning reason to cover his raw emotional motivation. On the day of her accident, Peck had argued with her and then walked off. If Peck travels back in time, he won’t have to live with the regret of his final words to Arlette being ones of anger.

Eventually, Peck does succeed in going back far enough in time to see Arlette before the accident. He gets into her car and apologizes. They tell each other, “I love you” before an SUV rams into the side of their vehicle, killing them instantly. Travelling back in time didn’t give Peck the chance to live as a happily married man. He was unable to cheat death, but at least his final words – and those of his fiancée – were ones of love. For all Peck’s atheist talk, maybe Walter is right. Maybe there actually is a God, one who is benevolent enough to let someone right a wrong before death, but one who is fair and just enough not to let that death be avoided.

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