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Fringe: Subject 9

“I never meant to harm you.”

Whereas last week’s episode left me—but not everyone—rather cold, this ostensible case-of-the-week was absolutely delightful. The difference? Although Olivia and Walter thought they were on the trail of a traditional fringy unsub, they were really pursuing their own destiny. That makes for good television, doesn’t it?

Knowing that Peter must arrive soon, in one way or another, still didn’t decrease the tension around Walter’s possible re-instatement in the hospital. Unless Peter’s return re-sets all reality (which seems just like piling a paradox on top of a paradox), Walter’s uncertain mental condition is still up for grabs, no matter what happens with his son. The return to the hospital is a huge potential event, but it’s not out-of-the-blue: Walter’s madness, unchecked by domestic matters (what Wilkie Collins calls “home-dependence and home-control” in one of his novels—such a fabulous line) causes instability just as much as Peter’s energy-shifting hijinks did. Walter even called Astrid, “Claire”: obviously, a slip that showed how much he was thinking of St. Claire’s, but also an indication that he thinks of Astrid as his new minder.

The will-they-or-won’t-they-commit-him tension was made more complicated by the evident revisions to some of the events that we’ve seen in past episodes, but which Olivia, Astrid, and Walter evidently didn’t experience in quite the same way. Olivia remembers the Cortexiphan trials, but Astrid didn’t know much about them, and Olivia doesn’t seem to have met other Cortexikids before. Nonetheless, Olivia’s connection with her fellow research subjects is still strong, and she was able to help Cameron James/Mark Little control his powers just as she has done for others.

And we can’t ignore the delightful and troubling ups and downs of Walter’s first foray out of the lab in so many years. Root beer floats, a rant reminiscent of strawberry-flavored death, and technology outpacing utility were all perfect character moments for both Walter and Olivia, as someone who cares and is concerned. How much does Olivia think of Walter’s madness as her own failure, or something out of her control?

Olivia’s variable sense of responsibility—I suspect she tends to feel bad for many things that are out of her control given her high level of empathy—also came into play in the magneto-temporal disturbances. She wondered if she was causing them, and in a way she was: Peter was trying to communicate with her in a cloud of blue (blue!) light that was, let’s be honest, not Fringe’s best special effect. Was Cameron James’s name a reference to the causality loops in the Terminator franchise, a hint at the paradoxical nature of Peter’s disappearance and his return? An allusion to time-travel? I expected Peter to come back naked, which he did. And as Summer Glau, which he did not.

Speaking of confusing plots: Olivia reminded Walter of his assertion that none of the children retained their powers for more than 24 hours. But she implied to Astrid that she had the ability to slip into the other reality as a result of the trials. And then she told Cameron James that she hadn’t had any side-effects from the experiments, although obviously her empathy helped her understand that the Peter-cloud didn’t mean her any harm. Did anyone else find that confusing? Am I reading too much into her discussion with Astrid?

Regardless, what matters most is that Walter’s past as a mad scientist, Olivia’s past as a research subject, and their present detective abilities worked to their benefit: Cameron James’s powers helped woosh Peter back to his firm place in reality, if not to his place in our heroes’ hearts. I can’t wait to see what sort of chaos this causes, especially in light of Lincoln Lee’s place on the team, (was he recovered from last week’s adventures this week?), Walter’s madness…oh, and that other missing piece: Walternate.

This episode also raised some hefty emotional questions: How will re-gaining Peter after thinking he was dead all this time affect Walter? How much will his guilt over past actions and his growing awareness, thanks to Cameron James, of just how much those actions can affect both universes and individual people, break him or help restore him to sanity?

This Is Not Massive Dynamic’s Concern:

• Walter: “An idea I got from the fight scene in the Matrix.”

• Was anyone else thinking of “6:02 AM” in the opening scene? As well as, of course, “Subject 13.”

• James: “You ever had raisin toast?”

• A fair amount of red lights, eh?

• Fun meta-moment: Walter watching Olivia explain the trials to Astrid, on a TV screen. In that scene, both Walter and we are watching exposition we already knew.

• So, Nina Sharp had a maternal role in young Olivia’s life? Weird.

Three and a half out of four bodily fluids, seminal stains, and phlegm.

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


  1. The melancholic feel of the first few episodes makes me think that both Walter and Olivia are feeling a hole in their respective lives, and they aren't sure why. There is a sense of loss, but it is unidentifiable.

    I would not be surprised if they quite quickly accept Peter's explanation, and then get on with finding out what the hell went wrong...or whatever.

    By the way...I am a long time reader, first time commenter (I think) and I am liking this blog a whole heck of a lot.

  2. Yay - I've been waiting for your review since Saturday morning!! This is not me saying "How dare you make me wait" rather I just couldn't wait to read what you thought!!

    I loved this epiode so much. When Olivia and Walter went out for a root beer float, I got all warm and fuzzy, as I love the bond this change has created :-) Also, did anyone else notice the pictures on the wall in the back of the diner during this scene?

    I agree with your thoughts that Peter's return was expected, but still wonderful. When he popped out of that lake like a cork out of a bottle, I'll admit to flapping my hands about, teenage-girl stylie! ;-)

    There was always the chance that they were going reboot but, while the option for them to eventually welcome "reborn Peter" into their lives is probably a given, I doubt that the writers would insult the intelligence of the Fringe viewers by having a "this is how it goes now, accept and move on" scenario.

    Apologies for my incoherent ramblings, I am just a bit obsessed with the show and it is great to have somewhere to discuss my thoughts and read others!

  3. Loved it! So poignant. And now that I've got a few older episodes under my belt, I was actually quite delighted to see Peter back. Especially since it doesn't appear to have come at the cost of the new reality we are getting to know. Yet. I'm ever curious to see how they'll resolve all the timelines going forward.

    I really loved the synchronicity of Pete being "reborn" in Reiden Lake. Too perfect. And Walter's reaction to hearing they discovered a strange man who knew all about them in the place where he lost his son for the second time made me feel all tingly with anticipation.

  4. Congrats on your first comment, Rory, and welcome!

    Another terrific episode, and I loved that Peter finally popped out of non-existence in such an appropriate place and in such a James Cameron-like manner. I can't wait to see how Walter reacts to Peter. Olivia, too.

  5. Hello, Rory!

    Sam, I'm so sorry about the lateness. Life just got in the way. But I'm happy you're so excited by Fringe!

    Jess, I can't believe you're watching Season Two while keeping up with the new ones. No wonder I think of you as our resident time-travel expert.

  6. Terrific episode. Best episode of season four so far. Loved seeing Olivia and Walter bonding and Peter's rebirth at Reiden Lake.


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