A few times in my life I have felt invisible; for example during lunchtime at school when everyone around me was talking and either ignored my comments or just didn’t notice I was there. What if you were actually invisible? Not for a moment, but for your entire life? The importance of being seen, of noticing someone else, is central to last night’s episode of ‘Fringe.’
Olivia can’t sleep. She wants to take a pill, but the bottle is empty. At the pharmacy, she takes a pill after picking up her refill. On her way home she passes a diner. She stops, turns, and goes inside. Why? She sees her FBI partner, Lincoln Lee. She could have ignored him, but she decided to join him. Lincoln has trouble sleeping because he is in a new town and the fringe cases are getting to him. Lincoln confides in Olivia, finally confessing that the cases they work on have fractured his blissful ignorance. He can no longer ignore there is more to this world than he thought he knew. As they talk, Olivia begins to open up; she has become more comfortable with Lincoln. The scene is subtle and watching them begin to bond is interesting. I want to listen to more.
But we cut to a man in an alley. He is on the phone with his wife. He feels as though he is being followed. We follow him to his door. As he starts to unlock the door I begin to think he will be fine, but suddenly he is tackled from behind. The moment actually surprises me. The cops arrive, and one officer shoots at nothing. He thought he saw something, but nothing is there.
Peter shops, but not alone. His FBI escort makes sure Peter limits his contact and interactions with the public, even stopping Peter from getting a toy from a high shelf for a child. Peter is frustrated; he is used to investigating fringe events, not being one.
Olivia, Lincoln, Astrid, and Broyles arrive at the crime scene. When we first saw the man, he had brown hair, but his hair is now white. It’s as though all color has been drained out of him. The cop admits to Lincoln and Olivia that he “felt something,” which is why he fired his gun. Back at the body, Astrid tells Olivia that Walter won’t know anything until he examines the body. Olivia strikes up a conversation with her. Does what they do get to Astrid? Yes, she admits, and if it wasn’t for the bureau’s psychiatrist, she is not sure what state she would be in. Astrid asks Olivia who she talks to. Olivia comments that she thinks it is odd that she doesn’t share with anyone. Their conversation is interrupted by Lincoln who tells them that they are not dealing with a ghost. He found blood on some of the broken glass.
We see a strange, make-shift lab in a basement. There is a tub of cloudy water. A man emerges from the tub. He is very happy to see himself; it’s as though he has never seen his body before. We see him, dressed, at an elevator. He gets in with a woman. He seems to want to talk to her, but he is nervous. The elevator stops, and a man enters. The new man chats with the woman. The elevator stops again. The two leave. The man stares at his reflection in the brass panel. He begins to disappear. He is our killer.
At Walter’s lab, Astrid reports there are other victims; it did not come to anyone’s attention because the police thought the victims were albinos. Walter finds unusual cells on the body. The cells are chromatophores, which allow the organism to change the pigment of its skin. Chromatophores are found in octopi, but not in humans. I’m thinking genetic mutation or experiments, and my guess seems accurate when we learn the blood is from a boy who died from a rare, unknown genetic disorder. Did he die or was he taken?
At the hospital, Lincoln and Olivia look through records. Olivia needs another pill. She is having migraines. They find the nurse who was present at the boy’s birth. The light burned the baby’s skin, and the boy was very pale. The doctor told her the baby died, but she tells Olivia that she thought she heard the baby cry as the baby’s body was being taken away. Olivia figures out which company took the baby—it was the same insurance company that paid her mother’s medical bills. The company was part of another company that would eventually become Massive Dynamic.
Olivia and Lincoln question Nina in her office. Nina tells them that the boy was taken for experimental purposes. Olivia cringes. The chromatophores were injected into the boy to save his life. As a result, he was able to blend into his surroundings, meaning he could disappear. The researches named him Eugene. Nina denies taking part in the experiments, claiming she didn’t learn about this until after a fire. Eugene was presumed dead. Olivia questions Nina about the necessity of the experiments. Nina states again that without the experiments, the boy would have died. Olivia says, “Maybe that would’ve been better.” Olivia and Nina exchange a look, the moment is tense. Olivia still resents being a lab rat.
The woman from the elevator enters her apartment. Is she alone? No. We see a wavy, shimmering distortion. The woman looks for her pet. She enters her bedroom. There are flowers on her bed. She drops her wineglass. She hears something. Eugene has left the room.
The sequence is extremely creepy. But with no proper name, no proper upbringing or socialization, Eugene has no real clue about how to interact with people. When no one can see you, how do you express yourself and communicate with others? At least he doesn’t hurt her or force her to do anything.
Lincoln brings Peter the specs on the machine that Peter used at the end of last season to fix the universes. Lincoln asks if Peter is with Olivia in his timeline. Peter says yes, but this Olivia is not his Olivia, so Lincoln is free to pursue her if he wants. They both agree that they have never met anyone like Olivia.
During a discussion at the lab, Olivia asks Walter if it is possible Eugene kills others for their pigment. Walter says it is possible, but he would need a lot of pigment. Also, if he reverses what was done to him, he will revert back to his previous condition, meaning Eugene might undo the cure and possibly kill himself unintentionally. Walter discovers that UV light will reveal Eugene.
Eugene has killed again. Olivia, Lincoln, and Broyles arrive at the parking level of a building. The dogs pick up Eugene’s scent. Broyles has the building locked down. The search teams have UV lights strapped to flashlights, so the search for Eugene scenes have an odd blue glow to them.
Olivia orders her team to split up to speed things up. Alone, Olivia enters an area under construction. The floor gives. She barely hangs on. Eugene appears and observes that her life depends on her seeing him. Eugene helps Olivia up. Olivia asks Eugene to come with her so she can help him heal. Eugene refuses; after what he has done, he does not believe she would want to heal him and let him live. His life has been used by others; he knows he has value to the military, so he thinks everyone only wants to help him in order to use him again. Olivia tells Eugene that he could die if he kills again, but he wants to be seen. To him, being seen, being recognized is more important than a cure. He has been an observer of life, and he wants to connect with someone. If no one sees you, then you don’t exist.
Eugene refuses Olivia’s offer of going to a lab. He has lived in a lab, so he will not return to one. The search team arrives, and this distraction gives Eugene the chance to slip away.
Eugene finds the woman again on the elevator. They are alone. Eugene introduces himself. The woman tells him she is Julie. She looks at him and smiles. She sees him. The elevator stops, and she leaves. He sees his reflection. He collapses and dies alone in the elevator. He dies alone, but he was seen. He existed for a brief moment before he died.
Olivia tells Nina that Eugene is dead. Olivia expresses how different she feels. Did the Cortexiphan trials stunt her emotional development? Nina tells her that she is as normal as everyone else. Olivia tries to believe Nina as she recounts how surprised she was to take in two girls when she thought she only had time for work. According to Nina, Olivia will know when the time is right to form a relationship with someone. Olivia really doesn’t appear to be 100% convinced.
Peter gives Lincoln a gift. During his shopping trip, Peter bought Lincoln a pair of glasses. “Trust me,” Peter tells him. Peter leaves. Olivia comes up to Lincoln’s desk, and she notices that he has completed the paperwork. Olivia tells him that if he can’t sleep that he should go to the diner. Maybe, if they can’t sleep, they will see each other there.
Lincoln can’t sleep. He is at the diner.
Olivia can’t sleep. She gets ready to leave. Smoke enters her room under her door. Olivia passes out. Two men enter. One injects a substance into Olivia’s neck, at the base of her skull. One says that she won’t remember the next two hours and will wake up with a headache. The men leave. In the doorway is Nina.
Perhaps Nina Sharp did not take in Olivia Dunham out of the kindness of her heart. Is Nina still experimenting on Olivia? Or is she suppressing Olivia’s abilities? She never supported Walter’s crossing into the other universe, so she could be stopping Olivia from crossing over in order to protect our timeline.
Since it is not clear about how long Nina has been giving Olivia these “treatments,” I wonder if Olivia has been acting “off” because of what is being done to her. We are meant to think that Peter’s absence has altered Olivia, and it has, but how much of this new Olivia is the result of a lack of Peter and how much is the result of Nina’s machinations? I’m intrigued by this new development, and I wonder how much we will learn about the impact this could have on the new timeline. Unlike some, I still find this new timeline fascinating.
For weeks many have lamented the loss of the previous timeline. People want to know when the original timeline will be restored and have complained about feeling emotionally disconnected from this current season’s crop of episodes. I am one of the few supporters of this experiment. Like many, I miss the versions we have known for three seasons, but I understand what the writers have been trying to do. The absence of one person can have a profound impact on our lives, and our lives can be altered by one seemingly random event. While these ideas are meant to provoke thought and debate, I think this new timeline has another goal as well. Many of us have been watching ‘Fringe’ since day one; we have knowledge of multiple timelines and versions of our beloved characters. During this part of season four, we have had to watch new versions of Olivia, Walter, Astrid, and others interact knowing their lives could be different and possibly better.
Of course we are experiencing an odd sensation watching this season. We have seen what was. We have seen what is. We have seen what could be. In essence, we are Observers. Not completely, of course, but by being able to discuss multiple timelines and possibilities from one episode to the next, we have been mimicking what the Observers regularly do. Disconcerting? Yes. But missing the old timeline shows how much we care about ‘Fringe.’ Has every episode this season been the best? No, but the writers are trying to take us to new places and explore new dynamics. Very few shows would dare attempt such a feat. Very few shows have a group of skilled writers that have the trust of loyal fans. I admit I want the writers to either bring the old timeline back in a manner that is just and earned or stick with this new timeline and really dig into it and mine it for all it’s worth.
Right now it seems the writers are building to Peter wanting to go back to his timeline, the timeline we have known for three seasons. Last week’s episode was about how you can’t go back, but Peter wants to return home to the people he loves and has probably realized that he won’t go back to the exact moment he left. He understands the mechanics of the space-time continuum, so he wants to return without causing more damage. This week was about connecting with people and being as normal as possible. Eugene strived to be normal, to be noticed briefly. Peter wants to go back to normal as well. Although returning home is Peter’s goal, this doesn’t mean he will get what he wants. This is ‘Fringe’ after all.
Note: Tonight’s episode was not the intended midseason finale. Because of the World Series, the midseason finale was bumped and will air when the series returns January 13, 2012.
If you missed the previous episode, be sure to read our ‘Fringe: And Those We’ve Left Behind ‘ recap to catch up.