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Fringe Recap: Grandpa Was a Nazi

Next week’s Fringe promises a no-holds-barred mythology story line involving a parallel universe, William Bell, and lots of exciting twists. In the meantime, we were forced to make do with a very silly stand-alone episode about Nazis … and purple tuxedos.

The Evil: At a wedding in Brookline, the groom’s side, which is Jewish, all suddenly start to gasp and turn blue, collapsing to the floor dead.

The Determination: An ominous bespectacled German named Alfred Hoffman has uncovered a Nazi formula for toxins that target specific genetic types. With it, he plans to carry out Hitler’s scheme for a master race by wiping out all the non-blond-haired/blue-eyed folks in the world. What really sucks for Walter, though, is that the formula was devised by his own father, who took it with him when he escaped to America, hiding the formula in books that Peter accidentally sold years ago.

Wacky Factor: Early in the episode, Walter advises Peter that he should marry Dunham and that he can use his old tuxedo for the wedding. When Peter suggests that fashion trends change over time, Walter replies, with utter confidence, “Purple never goes out of style.”

Paranoia Level: Loooow. At a time when political correctness really reduces writers’ options for crafting clichéd foreign bad guys, it’s sort of adorable when you see a Nazi villain nowadays. Even if you wanted to do a story about a Middle Eastern terrorist, you’d still have to give him a certain amount of backstory and motivation to avoid charges of cultural insensitivity. But if your villain’s a Nazi, you can make him as stereotypically evil as you’d like. Which explains why Alfred feverishly works away in his basement, à la John Malkovich from In the Line of Fire, listening to classical music and dalking like deese venn he speaks.

But if the bad guy was just plain dopey, that’s nothing compared to the stupid “revelations” that arose during the episode. The first was that Walter’s father was helping out the Nazis. But instead of making that tidbit really interesting, the writers quickly took pains to make sure that we knew his father was actually working undercover for the Allies, which just felt like a variation on season one’s episodes in which bizarre phenomena could always magically be linked back to Walter’s work for the government. Obviously, this info about Peter’s grandfather was supposed to be “shocking,” showing how the Bishop family’s scientific work can so easily be perverted for evil, but by this point it just seems like a very artificial, unnecessary ploy to keep us engaged.

But that wasn’t the only gimmick hauled out last night. The whole business of Peter selling the books was meant to create friction between him and Walter, but soon enough it comes out that Alfred didn’t even acquire the formula that way and that the books were never in danger of circulating that far into the world. Yet, this became a Very Important character conflict during the rest of the show, a tame reprise of the issues that have cropped up between them this season. With its cartoonish villain and strained family clashes, last night’s Fringe definitely wasn’t its finest hour. Hopefully next week’s will make up for it.

More Recaps:
The AV Club’s Noel Murray enjoyed Alfred’s “old-school” villainy and notes the J.J. Abrams-Cloverfield connection in the videography of the opening sequence.
MTV’s Josh Wigler points out how weird it was that Walter killed somebody during the episode and thinks it was a “terrific installment” of the show.
If all the exclamation marks are any indication, TV Fanatic’s Agent SAHM loved absolutely everything about last night’s episode.
TV Squad’s Jane Boursaw tries to figure out what the episode’s final image meant.

Photo: Liane Hentscher/Fox