Fringe: Peter

“He’s just like me. I wouldn’t look back, and neither would he.”

We got some answers this week, but—more importantly—we got some seriously heavy and emotionally wrenching storytelling and acting. A small part of me wants to leave this episode un-reviewed, because its beauty speaks for itself.

We’ve known for some time that Peter is from Over There, and that Walter brought him. But this episode showed us just how unbearable the grief of watching a child die can be, and how that grief can lead to rash, selfish, and completely understandable actions. Walter and Dr. Warren were forced into inaction, watching Walternate attempt experiments because they had already given up. And despite what must have felt like eons of waiting, the moment of Peter’s death still came as a sudden surprise. When Walter and Alterna-wife told Peter and alterna-Peter that he wouldn’t die, they weren’t just reassuring him: they were lying to themselves.

Walter was ready to save alterna-Peter and return him to his rightful family. But Elizabeth’s grief mirrored Walter’s own, and her decision to keep Peter gave Walter a chance to do what, underneath it all, he wanted to do most: to make alterna-Peter into his son, no matter the emotional costs to Walternate and Alterna-wife. I wonder if we’ll see them again, or if (as would be more convenient for the plot, probably) they died from grief.

Our Theme of the Week is mirroring. Not just the existence of Over There, Walternate, etc. But also the mirroring between the two families: Over There, Walternate doesn’t teach Peter the coin trick; his mother does. Our Walter seems to be more involved in Peter’s life (and death) that his counterpart. Similarly, Dr. Warren and Nina Sharp were mirrors of each other: supportive vs. scheming, understanding vs. tattling. The mirroring between Walter and Walternate is the main reason that William Bell couldn’t be in this episode: he and Walter are already mirrors of each other, but the symmetry would have been lost if he’d intruded on this very private twinning.

Present-day Walter and 80s-Walter mirrored each other, was well. Now, Walter knows what's at stake, or can guess. He knows how difficult his relationship with Peter will be, and not just because it depends on a lie. But both 80s-Walter and old Walter would make the same choice again: he still loves his son more than anything, even if it gets more and more difficult to show it or to act on it.

The theme of mirroring also extended to us, the viewers. The window into the other world was similar to a TV screen, to the point that shots of Over There (when viewed through the window, not when Walter was actually there) had the grainy look of 1980s TV, even though the other 1980s shots were modern crystal-clarity. Walter’s own desire for answers, and his anger at not getting them soon enough, mirrored our own occasional frustration with this show and TV in general. All of this reminds us that the everyday world of Fringe—heck, the everyday world of any TV show—exists in a world that is a not-quite-exact replica of our own. We look to that world for escapism, answers, and solutions to our problems. And, watching an episode like this, we feel for the characters as though they are real people.

Walter’s slow and steady path towards creating the first cracks in the membrane that separates the worlds mirrored Peter’s slow and agonizing death: the end felt inevitable, but still took Walter by surprise when it happened. We don’t know, yet, the price of Walter’s decision. But we do know—or rather, I can speculate—that the universe (both of them) seem to have ways of attempting course-correction, albeit not too successfully. The experiment almost going awry, Walter and Peter slipping through the ice: there were so many almost-roadblocks that I got the sense that the universe was trying to stop Walter from what he was doing. But refusing to accept rules and boundaries…well, Walter got what he wanted, no matter the cost.

The Good:

• The digital phone. “Is this Russian technology?” Tee-hee.

• The 80s credits, complete with synthesizer music and the promises of “Laser Surgery” and “Stealth Technology.” As well as “Invisibility,” which could be happening right under our noses, I guess.

• Walter: “I’d always known that one day I’d have to pay the price for my deception.”
Olivia: “We’re not really sure what the cost is yet, are we?”

• Blimps! So cool! And Eric Stoltz in Back to the Future. That would have been different.

• Dr. Warren: “I am become a destroyer of worlds.”
Walter: “Don’t you quote Oppenheimer at me.”

• Walter: “There’s only room for one god in this lab, and it’s not yours.”

• Walter: “I realized at that moment that despite what I’d promised, what I’d fully intended to do, I could never take Peter back... I couldn’t lose him again. It was the first hole, Olivia, the first breach, the first crack in a pattern of cracks, the spaces between worlds. And it’s my fault. You can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a child.”

• Was that the music from Peter and the Wolf?

• The Observer said that Peter is “important.” In Stephen King’s The Talisman, not having an alt-verse twin makes you important because it helps you develop the ability to shift between worlds and to effect changes in both.

Four out of four Casamir Effects.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

8 comments:

Mark Greig said...

Great review, Josie. This was a phenomenally brilliant episode. I’d go so far as to say that it’s now my absolute favourite episode of Fringe, maybe even one of my favourite hours of television ever. The retro titles were just the icing on the cake.

John Noble deserves to be up there with Michael Emerson and Nestor Carbonell when Emmy time comes. He was amazing and the effects to make him look 20 years look were certainly impressive for a TV budget, not sure if it was CGI or prosthetics.

Trousers said...

From what I've read, it was prosthetics. Whatever it was, it was certainly better than the cgi done to Patrick Stewart and Ian Mackellan in X-men 3.

This was my fave episode of Fringe so far as well, and it makes me wish that more episodes were this mythology focused, rather than being largely standalone

Anonymous said...

I liked the new opening intro and music..80s vibes..and reminds me Dalma in LOST.. and Qurantino movie as well.. too bad they don't use this opening anymore..~

Cesar said...

Definitely the best one so far. Your TV comparison is spot on, Josie. There was even that moment when you see a character fail to notice something important happening just behind him.

This episode answered more questions than I thought it would while putting a new twist to the story. I expected Peter's kidnap to be a much more straightforward "my son died, I'll get another one" and you're right about this universe's Walter seeming to be a better father.

Loved the new (old) credits and even the flying letters during the episodes were retro. I was particularly impressed by the effects on younger John Noble. Very well done.

Billie Doux said...

Because I've read a number of Josie's reviews before watching the show, I knew what was coming. But it was definitely special. And so sad.

Jess Lynde said...

Very sad, indeed. I got quite emotional numerous times. Incredibly powerful episode.

I agree with Cesar that the kidnapping turned out to be much more complex than I anticipated. I, too, expected less noble motivations behind Walter's actions.

Loved seeing how Nina lost her hand, but I didn't actually care for the change up in the opening credits. They gave me a little bit of cognitive whiplash, since the fun tenor of the credits in no way extended to the content of the episode. Oh well. I guess they just wanted to start things off light, before dragging us to devastating emotional places.

Plain Simple said...

This may be a minor point or perhaps it'll be addressed in a future episode, but it does bug me: what is the time line of Walter's altverse experiments? In this episode they make it sound as if Walter's kidnapping trip was the first cross between universes, but earlier we were told that the car swap was the first (not to mention the light and auditory information coming via Walter's 'window', but then science, or the portrayal of scientists, has always been an incredibly weak point in this show that deals so much with the topic).

Plain Simple said...

Addendum: Or are we to understand that this was the first cross between universes that didn't involve the correct 'mass balance'?