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Fringe: Back to Where You’ve Never Been

“If you want to get rid of me, just help me.”

This episode began (dream excluded) with Peter asking Walter for help and hearing the story of Walter’s wife’s death and the tragedy that some Peter’s death caused. That tragedy is the moment in which Walter went crazy: not the death of his son (although obviously that was a factor), but the death of his beloved wife. The episode ended (dream-like Observer encounter excluded) with Peter asking Walternate for help and witnessing the death of Fringe Division’s internal security—smaller problems that only take on enormous import for a version of Walter who has not lost his wife.

Peter has taken on the role of a trickster or culture hero: someone who operates on the fringes of society’s structure, follows his own plans, and winds up affecting the society of which he is not a part, a process which often makes it seem like society’s outcasts and outlaws are, in fact, a part of society indeed.

If—and that’s still a big “if” for me—we take the show at its word and assume that Peter is in the wrong universe, then he really is a free agent. We’ve seen this before: Peter’s momentary spell Over There last season was an indication that Peter’s boundary-crossing abilities mark him as somewhat distanced from both worlds. Now, though, Peter has realized that this Walter is not his Walter, therefore this Walternate is his best hope.

If—and that’s not a big “if”—you’re a fan of Fringe for the love relationships, you’re probably rooting for a third universe in which Peter and Olivia can finally, finally live happily ever after. This Olivia seems quite interested in Lincoln Lee, and I can’t say I blame her: stripped of the bluster of his Over-There counterpart, Lincoln “Clark Kent” Lee is calm, forthright, and loyal to his dead partner.

That death at the hands of the new shapeshifters is really the guiding principle of this season: Newton’s return (which we all knew about from the casting spoilers, anyway) has confirmed yet another trickster—this time, a bad one. Jones, like Peter, is operating outside of loyalties to either (or any) universe. His goals are still unclear. His motives are scary: lots of pod-hatched shapeshifters waiting to be born.

If—and this is a different kind of “if” entirely—Over There’s Fringe Division has been as compromised as Broyles’ and Brendan’s, then the two sides are going to have to team up to take down a common enemy. What will that mean for Peter’s goals of getting back to “his” universe?

And, by the way, let’s take a second to talk about this “amber” universe we’re inhabiting. I think we’re thinking about it the wrong way, because we’re not dealing with one new universe, but rather two. Before, we had Over Here and Over There. Now we have a new Over Here and a new Over There. That’s two new universes.

Or, if we take universes as always having a pair (that is, an Over Here/Over There or red/blue pairing), we haven’t met the “new” universe until this season (the new pair of Over Here in which Peter died, and Over There in which Walternate stayed married to Peter’s mom—call it the orange/green pairing to reflect the insertion of the amber event of last season’s finale.)

You know I’m confused when I start drawing weird pictures. What do you all think? Am I misunderstanding entirely?

Anyway—let’s return to where we began: Peter and Walter, Peter and Walternate. Peter’s new alliance, which I assume is colored by his beautiful moment with his mother, hopefully means we’ll spend some fun time Over There. And hopefully Lincoln Lee won’t spend too long in the broom closet.

Ours Is Not To Question Why:

• Wanna support Fringe’s chances at another season? Might want to buy an electronic car.

• Lincoln Lee: “Agent Lee, I presume?”

• Lincoln Lee: “That’s brilliant. No wonder you’re a detective.”

• Lincoln Lee: “That’s very astute. No wonder you’re a detective.”

• Walternate: “Not everything is as it seems.”

• Peter: “You’re not the man I thought you were.”
Walter: “You are exactly the man I thought you’d be.”

I am clearly still thinking through this episode, and I haven’t said yet that I like it. I did, although my many “ifs” are still rattling around in my addled brain--and I didn't even get to the Observer's conversation with Olivia.

How many waffle irons out of four do you think it deserves?

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


  1. Great review as always, Josie, but I think you're getting your dead bad guys mixed up. That was David Robert Jones we saw at the end, not Newton.

  2. Hmmm ... I don't think your branching diagram is quite right. If we assume that the current Over Here/Over There pairing just happens to be the alternate universe pair that Peter resurfaced in (a big "if"), then I don't believe they branched off from the end of Season 3. Rather, they seem to reflect a pair that branched off from when Young Peter originally would have died. So they'd be more of a parallel track to the Over Here/Over There pair we've been tracking the last three seasons.

    But who knows? I really feel like I'm spending most of this season waiting for it all to gel. I want that brilliant flash of insight in which it all suddenly makes sense. I'm starting to wonder if they "erased" Peter so that Olivia and the universe would survive, but then discovered it all still goes to poop. They took Peter out of the equation, thinking he was the problem, but have now realized that Olivia is the problem. She and her ability to cross between the universes at will. So to fix the larger scale disaster waiting in the wings (whatever that may be), she has to die. (This specific one? All of them? Who knows?) Sigh. I just want it all to fit at some point.

  3. Jess, I agree about how they split, but I couldn't figure out how to represent that with Microsoft's "Paint" program. :-) Also, because we haven't seen the past-without-Peter, I'm tempted to say it never happened, just that people remember it happening.

    I, too, am sort of antsy for it all to make sense. Really antsy, in fact. I think I'd almost enjoy these episodes more if I knew how Season Four was going to end.

  4. I'll admit I'm dazed and confused. I really want it all to start making sense. Peter's dream at the beginning of the episode made me nostalgic for how I used to feel about Fringe.

  5. Love the graph, by the way. Visual aids are cool, like Stetsons.

  6. Take heart, have faith people !!

    We're still in the middle of a season, so therefore, anything is possible. Especially in the Fringe Universe(s). Oh yeah...

    I have NO idea where it's heading , but I go with the flow. And enjoying EVERY minute of it.

    3.5 waffle irons.......

  7. I think that timelines and universes are two different things that can easily be confused (Welcome to Fringe). The two universes we are seeing now are the same physical universes (forever joined at the hip) as before, only they are rewritten in terms of the events and people in them as part of one different timeline. So timelines trump or contain universes. Some commenter somewhere had the best analogy: the same tape that has been recorded over with different songs at a specific point. Yet, with the right equipment, the old songs can be at least partially recovered, or bleed through on their own (Peter).

    The big irony here would be that Peter is both wrong and right about being in the wrong place. Walter and Olivia are the exact same physical people that he loves, but they are also different people at the same time. Nature v Nurture?

    This distinction may be nitpicky since from a strictly narrative POV they're just different stories being told at the same time. One story (the last 3 seasons) is held in our heads, and in Peter's, which puts him and us in the same corner. The other story is the one unfolding before us. And they are both true. The distinction could be meaningful depending on how it's all resolved. It's a beautiful setup, but it remains to be seen if they can make it pay off.

    I still don't know how many broken waffle irons to plug in on this one as it feels to me to be part 1 of a 2 (or more) parter. Maybe after next week. Now, where did I put my migraine pills?

  8. I guess that's really the big question of the moment, eh? Have we (and Peter) been experiencing an "overwritten" version of the universe pair we've become familiar with, or have we been sent to an adjacent pair in the infinite multitudes of branching realities?

    I instinctively go for Option 2, but since Peter believes so resolutely that Option 2 is the answer, perhaps it is actually Option 1 (which Josie and milo seem to favor). Time will tell. (At least it damn well better!)

  9. "I guess that's really the big question of the moment, eh? Have we (and Peter) been experiencing an "overwritten" version of the universe pair we've become familiar with, or have we been sent to an adjacent pair in the infinite multitudes of branching realities?"

    I continue to maintain that, if you have parallel universes that differ because of different choices made in them, then changing an event in the past of one of them will just split off a new parallel universe. It won't change the "original" timeline at all. Otherwise, the entire cosmology of the show is inconsistent. So I believe Peter is indeed in an alternate timeline and can in fact get back to his original (doomed) timeline. For one thing, from a metafictional standpoint, permanently scrapping the timeline and most of the character development we watched for three seasons would be a pretty gutsy move. I'm guessing the writers don't quite have the stomach for it.


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