The word “novation” is a legal term that means “the substitution of a new legal obligation or contract for an old one.” The word’s origins can be traced back to the Latin verb novare, which means “to make new.” Peter’s return signals a new beginning for him because no one knows him, so this new timeline has replaced his old one. Also, Walter will get a second chance to be a father; in this new timeline, both Peters died in 1985, giving Walter the opportunity to replace old pain with the joy of forming a new relationship with his son.
Peter is taken to a holding room at the FBI building in Boston. Olivia and the Fringe division do not know how to classify him—is he a spy or an anomaly? Peter will only talk to Walter. Broyles informs Walter that the DNA tests prove that Peter is Peter Bishop. Walter tries to rationally explain Peter’s presence; this Peter must be from a third universe. During their conversation, Peter treats Walter as the Walter he knew, but this new Walter is a shell of the man Peter knew. Years of guilt and grief have eaten away at this Walter. This Walter sees Peter as a stranger. Peter is confused. Why doesn’t anyone remember him? Peter summarizes last season’s plot, ending with the machine. Walter informs him that both Peters died. Peter asks about the Observer. No one knows what an Observer is. Peter pauses. He realizes that in this timeline he never existed. He’s a paradox. But his confusion deepens. If he is not supposed to be there, then how did he return? Overwhelmed by the situation, Walter leaves without responding.
Agent Lincoln Lee responds to a case with victims that match the victims of the shape-shifters introduced in the first episode of this season, ‘Neither Here Nor There.’ The victims are Karen Truss and her boyfriend. Olivia and Lincoln learn that Karen’s ex-husband is Dr. Malcolm Truss, a former employee of Massive Dynamic.
In Nina Sharp’s office, Lincoln sees a picture of Olivia. We learn that after her mother’s death, Olivia and her sister were going to be put into foster care, but Nina took them in and raised the Dunham sisters. Nina Sharp, the head of Massive Dynamic, tells Olivia and Lincoln that Truss was in charge of a project involving cellular regeneration and replication. The goal of his research was to heal burn victims by copying human tissue and grafting the tissue on to the patient. William Bell shut down the project.
Peter rigs the intercom in his room so he can hear what is going on. He overhears a discussion about shape-shifters and tells them that he has experience with shape-shifters. Lincoln suggests they allow Peter to help; after all, they haven’t been able to figure out the device they found. Olivia asks Peter what he wants. He wants to talk to Walter again. Olivia is reluctant because their first conversation ended poorly. Peter reassures her that since he knows everyone is different now, he will know how to talk to Walter. “I need your help and you need mine,” Peter says. Olivia and Broyles agree to let Peter help.
The shape-shifter, Nadine, convinces Truss to help her by weaving a tale about how his research cured her cancer but left her cells unstable, threatening her life. The people she works for built a lab following his plans; he has everything he needs to complete his research and complete her treatment. Truss is amazed at how the artificial skin adapts and wishes William Bell was alive to see the success of his research.
Nina visits Walter in his lab. Walter is distraught. And he is surprised by her visit. Nina says now is the time to get past their animosity. For twenty-five years, Walter has blamed Nina for the incident at the lake that resulted in the second Peter’s death. The blame mutated into hate and gave him an outward target for his guilt and self-loathing. Seeing his son’s eyes in Peter caused an upwelling of joy he has not felt in years. However, Walter feels unworthy of joy. He has seen his son die twice, he experimented on children, and he destroyed two worlds. Suffering is his punishment. Nina tries to convince him that he’s a different man now and that he has earned a second chance. Walter shakes his head, “I don’t deserve joy.”
Peter is a tremendous help deciphering the shape-shifter’s device. The device is more than a memory chip. These shape-shifters are a more improved model; they carry six DNA sequences in their device, meaning they change on the molecular level. They are the perfect spy; they can become like us by transforming their DNA and hide better because they can easily switch identities. Also, Peter figures out that the device has GPS and locates Nadine.
At the make-shift lab, Truss injects Nadine. She does not react well; she changes shape and becomes Truss’s ex-wife. Truss panics and tries to flee, but Nadine stops him. Part of what she said is true: his research was the foundation of her creation, but she’s not complete. He has to complete his important work. Truss tries to fake a new serum, but Nadine knows enough biochemistry to figure out his ruse. She breaks his hand and forces him to do his job.
Olivia and Lincoln find Truss. Olivia chases Nadine to the roof. Two agents are down, but one is still alive. The agent tells Olivia that Nadine jumped into the water below. Our suspicions that the conscious agent is Nadine are confirmed when the real agent is pulled from the water. We cut to the ambulance, which is on the side of the road. Nadine is gone.
At a Boston train station, Nadine injects the improved serum into her arm. The serum works. She unlocks a locker and uncovers a typewriter. Nadine types. She gets a response. Like before, the shape-shifters are agents working for the other side. Her orders are to make preparations for the others who will be coming. We are being invaded again, but who is in charge? I think William Bell is dead. William Bell was played perfectly by Leonard Nimoy who has retired from acting; I doubt the producers would recast the role. The leader could be Walternate; we haven’t seen the other side in a while, so what the altverse is like now is unknown. Other contenders are David Robert Jones, the criminal with ties to ZFT who helped Olivia discover her abilities in season one, and Thomas Newton, part of Walternate’s invasion force during season two and three. Both were formidable foes for Olivia in the past, and they could be again.
Walter agrees to see Peter again. He wants to know what Peter expects of him. Peter reveals that he doesn’t know what to do, and he knows what Walter is capable of. If anyone can figure out how get got back and why he’s there, it’s Walter. Slowly, Walter goes to Peter and places his hands gently on Peter’s cheeks. For twenty-five years he has imagined what Peter would be like as a man. Walter pulls away, “I don’t deserve this or you.” He sees Peter as a source of temptation to repeat his past mistakes. Before he leaves the room, Walter tells Peter that he cannot help Peter because Peter is not his son.
Over the course of the past three seasons, Peter was able to help Walter see the error of his ways and take responsibility for his actions. This Walter is in a darker space than the Walter from season one. The weight of his past deeds has crushed this Walter’s soul; he is worn, weary, and despondent; he sees himself as unworthy of redemption.
Peter knows what type of man Walter can be, and he will fight to bring Walter, his father, back to him. Standing in Peter’s way will be Walter. People who don’t feel worthy of love are difficult to save, but we have seen Peter save Walter from himself before. If this timeline continues, their relationship will never be exactly what it was, but watching Peter interact with a different Walter is fascinating. They are strangers who should know each other. Joshua Jackson (Peter) and John Noble (Walter) are tapping into this new dynamic energy between them and giving us a fresh perspective on their relationship. The strength of their performances tonight has me convinced that this new timeline can work. Wherever the writers and cast of ‘Fringe’ want to take me, I’m going. After three years, I trust that the destination will be worth the trip down this odd and winding timestream.