For weeks, we have been speculating about what changes have happened to the world of ‘Fringe’ because of Peter’s absence. Tonight more is revealed about Olivia and the new timeline as Walter confronts his past.
Olivia wakes up to an energy field next to her bed. She’s frightened as it approaches her. It touches her and then dissipates, leaving a pile of metal objects behind.
At the lab, Walter has regained some confidence. He has devised an experiment inspired by ‘The Matrix.’ He has set up a ring of cameras so he can photograph the apparition of Peter; Walter hypothesizes that the mystery man is out of phase with our universe so can only be seen from a specific angle. Olivia tells him about the energy field and asks Walter if she could be causing it because of the Cortexiphan experiments. In this timeline, like the previous one, Olivia and 36 other children were experimented on by Walter Bishop and William Bell twenty-five years ago.
Astrid and Olivia investigate Olivia’s apartment. Olivia goes to the bathroom. Walter, viewing the scene on monitors in the lab, sees Olivia in danger before the event occurs. The energy field distorts time and bends the natural electromagnetic field, attracting metal objects. This reminds Walter of one of the Cortexiphan children—Subject 9—who could do astral projection. Perhaps, Walter postulates, William Bell was right about the Cortexiphan subjects being psychically linked since the energy field seems to be stalking Olivia. Walter thinks Subject 9 is subconsciously reaching out to Olivia, and his message has taken the form of the energy field.
The Cortexiphan files are stored at Massive Dynamic. Nina Sharp bickers with Walter (he can hear her over Astrid’s earpiece), but agrees to give Olivia the files anyway because she and Olivia have what seems to be a close relationship. In the other timeline, Olivia first meets Nina when she starts working with Broyles; in this Peter-less timeline, Nina knows who Olivia went with to the prom. How long they’ve know each other is not clear, but Nina knows Olivia well enough to make her smile. Did Nina find Olivia after she ran away from the Cortexiphan experiments? Is Nina her foster mother or just a close friend? This one moment raises dozens of questions. I hope their relationship is explored more in future episodes so we can get answers.
Cameron James is Subject 9; his real name is Mark Little (this is an unnecessary, throw away moment; for clarity, I’ll call him Mark). He lives in New York City. Earlier, Walter discovered a form in Olivia’s jacket. Olivia needs to decide if Walter should be sent back to the mental institution. To prove he is capable, Walter leaves the lab for the first time in three years and accompanies Olivia to New York. Mark isn’t home and won’t be back until morning, so the two stay overnight. Olivia is in her room; she hears pounding against a wall. She runs to Walter’s room. Walter is in the middle of a rampage, breaking things and yelling. Olivia calms Walter down. They don’t have the close relationship like before, but they have enough of a bond that allows Olivia to get through to Walter. While she bandages his wounds (Walter clenched his fist tight enough to cut his palms), Walter tells her that he’s afraid of germs because he can’t see them; he’s a man of contradictions as his wife Elizabeth would tell him. His wife committed suicide after Peter died (in the other timeline she kills herself after raising Peter). Knowing she’s not going to get any sleep, Olivia suggests they get a root beer float.
After teaching Olivia how to properly drink a root beer float, Walter confesses his knowledge of the form that could send him back to the mental institution. He understands why she hasn’t made her decision yet. They are not family, and he knows that he constantly needs to prove his usefulness to the Fringe Division while not being too much of a hassle and a burden. Olivia says that she wants to make the best decision. This Olivia is analytical and relies more on her cool intellect than her instinct. Their discussion is interrupted by the appearance of the energy field. The field is larger than before and breaks the restaurant’s windows. It follows Olivia outside and is stopped when a car hits it.
The next day, Olivia and Walter find Mark. Mark recognizes Olivia and Walter, who terrifies him. His terror turns to fury as he confronts Walter. Mark has no super power; he’s had to suffer the side effects of the experiments his whole life—whenever he feels stress, he attracts metal objects. He feels like a freak; he doesn’t have friends and can’t date. Walter left him alone, and, in fact, Walter never followed up on any of the Cortexiphan children. Remorse is etched on Walter’s face, and his body slumps from the weight of his guilt. Walter takes responsibility for his actions and apologizes to Mark, who realizes that Walter is different than he remembers.
In the hall, the energy field appears again. Mark stops it. Walter has a plan. Since Mark can control his feelings, they can go to an electric power station so Mark can use the extra electricity to boost his effect on the EM field. The energy field appears. It approaches Olivia. Mark starts to channel his power. A figure begins to form in the energy. We see the faint outline of Peter; he is in front of Olivia, looking right at her. Olivia shoots her gun in the air to break Mark’s concentration so he would not destroy the energy field. The energy field disappears.
Reiden Lake is where Walter crossed over to the other universe. An Observer watches Peter emerge from the lake. Mark asks Olivia to make sure Walter forgets him and then leaves. Olivia wonders if the energy field is destroyed, but Walter thinks it was displaced. Walter asks if she stopped Mark because she saw their mystery man; Olivia confirms his suspicions. She had a feeling, an instinct that their mystery man didn’t want to hurt her. Walter comments that he has never seen her act on instinct before and finds it interesting that when he acts on his gut, he is called crazy. Later, we learn that Olivia uses her instinct again when Walter sees the signed form; Olivia decides to keep Walter with the Fringe Division.
Olivia and Walter meet Broyles at the hospital near Reiden Lake. The man rescued from the lake knows too much about the Fringe Division and claims to know all of them. He keeps asking for Olivia. Olivia goes to his room. Peter turns around. He’s relieved to see Olivia. Olivia asks, “Who are you?”
Peter knowing everyone while everyone doesn’t know him sets up a lot of possibilities for the show. Peter will have to prove who he is and earn everyone’s trust. I don’t want the timeline to suddenly reset because Peter’s back. Watching Peter forge relationships again gives the writers and actors room to explore. Will Walter reconnect with Peter? Will Peter and Olivia fall in love again? We haven’t seen the altverse for awhile, so it is not clear if one or two Peters have returned.
I want the writers of ‘Fringe’ to take hold of this new timeline and run with it like the writers of ‘Eureka’ did with their altered timeline. Season four of ‘Eureka’ forced major characters to adjust to a new timeline, and the writers took advantage of this by introducing new characters, exploring relationships, and reintroducing old characters. The shift to an altered timeline revitalized ‘Eureka’ and gave the show more tension by making the characters face challenging obstacles. This episode of ‘Fringe’ opens roads to fresh territory. As stated before on ‘Fringe,’ answers lead to more questions. We have questions about Nina and Olivia and about Peter’s whereabouts. There are other questions as well. Where’s William Bell? In his hotel room, Walter makes a comment about Bell, so Bell either is still on the other side or he’s missing or maybe he died and Walter’s just missing his friend. Olivia tells Cameron that she doesn’t know anything about the other Cortexiphan children; in the other timeline, three of the Cortexiphan people helped Olivia cross to the other side. So, why doesn’t Olivia know about the other Cortexiphan children? How did Olivia cross to the other side? Did she cross on her own or was she kidnapped? Without Peter in her life, why would she willingly cross over to the altverse? So many questions. So many possibilities. Run with this new timeline ‘Fringe’ writers; run fast and run far. I’m eager to see where you’ll take me.
Programming note: ‘Fringe’ will not air next week. ‘Fringe’ will return October 28.