Fringe Season 2.0 – Endless Impossibilities


Hello Fringe fans,

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The focus of season 1 was primarily on establishing the characters we’ve come to know and love, as well as on the pursuit of ZFT. Click to visit Fringe on 20th Century Fox Studios!However, there was a shift at the beginning of season 2 to a “bigger picture” plot; that being, the inevitable conflict between two realities.

2.01 A New Day in the Old Town

This episode starts off the season with a bang, literally, as Olivia comes flying through the windshield of an already-crashed SUV. Confused? Yeah, so was I. Peter was called to the scene of a car accident involving Olivia’s car, only there was no Olivia to be found until she came flying out of the car. Olivia was severely injured, leading to the doctors’ conclusion that she would never wake up. Always one to defy the odds, Olivia wakes up with no memory of her trip to the “other side” and feeling distinctly out of control – unable to even load her gun.

1a olivia hospital

Olivia after her crash landing

Peter and Walter’s investigation into the crash leads to the discovery of a soldier from the other reality who is intent on discovering what Olivia remembers of her meeting with Bell and killing her. An important piece of information about this soldier is that he is a shape-shifter; he possesses some sort of device which allows him to take on the shape of anyone he likes, after killing them. Upon the discovery that Olivia is in danger, they arrive at the hospital in the nick of time to prevent him from killing Olivia and chase him into the basement of the hospital. This was, of course, where I knew things were going to go wrong, as Charlie, Peter, and another agent, split up while searching for the soldier. Given that the soldier could kill someone and assume their identity, perhaps they ought to have stayed together. Charlie was unlucky enough to stumble upon the soldier first and was killed, allowing the soldier to assume his identity.

2 soldier presumed dead

Soldier (supposedly) taken care of

Since Olivia does not find out in this episode about the death of her friend, it has no immediate effect on her besides the assumption that the soldier was dead. While we have seen Olivia upset before, most notably following the death of John Scott, this was the first time we really saw her without her metaphorical “hard-ass FBI agent” façade. There was also a moment between her and Charlie (the real Charlie, that is) which, in hindsight, feels rather like a goodbye: Charlie was sharing one of his own near-death experiences as a field agent to reassure Olivia that she was not the only one who has lived such an experience. For Olivia, I think the biggest problem was not so much how close she was to death, but rather the lack of control she had over the situation, and how she has no memory of the events preceding the accident. I would assume that this aspect of her character is stems primarily from the fact that she shot, and nearly killed, her step-father when she was 9 years old because he was abusing her mother and, up until then, there was nothing Olivia could do to stop it. This lack of control over her own life also comes into play when you consider that she was in the Cortexiphan drug trials at the age of 3 and has no measure of control over what that may mean for her in the future.

3 Charlie visits liv in the hospital

Charlie visits Olivia in the hospital

This episode also shows us a glimpse of how the people in Olivia’s life would deal with her death; the possibility of losing someone you love always induces changes in your life – unconscious or otherwise. In Walter’s case, we see the connection he has with Olivia which seems to be rooted in her participation in the drug trials as a child. For Peter this experience seems to have prompted another change from when we first met him and Olivia had to blackmail him to get his cooperation: when Peter thinks that it is too late for Olivia, he is determined that they must never be too late again, and informs Broyles that, under no uncertain terms, Fringe Division must take a more active role in their investigations, and that they must no longer simply be a “clean-up crew” for when odd cases appear. He also seems to understand Olivia’s need to be in control (he is the one who brings her a gun to the hospital), and I think this was the first shift towards him becoming the support that Olivia will need once they find out that their Charlie is gone.

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Walter says goodbye to Olivia

Take care of your people

Take care of your people

Peter’s new-found determination to play a more active role in Fringe Division cements his relationship with Broyles, especially as they are fighting a United States Senatorial Committee to try and keep Fringe Division open. The Committee believes that, since there have been no concrete advances out of the Division, that it ought to be shut down as the drain on resources cannot be justified. Nina Sharp tries, and fails, to use Massive Dynamic’s influence in their favour, but tells Broyles that this is something he had to do on his own; this is when we discover that Nina and Broyles have a more complicated personal history than we had earlier assumed.

Nina and Broyles: Personal History?

Nina and Broyles: Personal History?

After the supposed death of the shape-shifting soldier, Peter is able to give Broyles the broken machine which allows the soldiers to change their shape. He suggests that Broyles use this machine as the metaphorical carrot to persuade the Senate Committee to allow Fringe Division’s continued existence.

Peter gives Broyles otherworldly technology

Peter gives Broyles an other-worldly device

One thing I have come to depend on with regard to Fringe is that I am often left with questions after an episode. Not regarding continuity, but rather where a certain plot point will lead, or how the events in the past led to such a point. In this episode, the soldier from the other reality uses an odd mirror in the back room of a pawn shop to contact the other reality and receive his orders. The pawn shop owner mentions that the last time he saw “one of them” was 6 years ago, begging the question as to how people from the other reality got to ours six years ago and, more importantly, why were they in our reality? And, of course, the obvious question of what happened to Olivia.

Communicating with another universe

Communicating with another universe

2.02 Night of Desirable Objects

More of a stand-alone episode, in terms of the conflict with the other reality, this episode focuses on the first stages of Olivia’ recovery as she leaves the hospital for the first time, albeit with the help of a cane due to her previously dislocated hip. An actively-searching Peter comes across a case where people are disappearing from a small town and thinks it may be similar to Olivia’s disappearance, which prompts his desire to investigate. It turns out that a local scientist had, 17 years before, genetically modified his own son in utero so that the fetus could survive because of a disease his wife had that ought to have made having children impossible. Unfortunately, the result of this genetic manipulation was a monster which was abducting and eating people.

Peter inspects Olivia's cane for a "hidden ninja sword"

Peter inspects Olivia’s cane for the “hidden ninja sword”

We also discover that Walter believes that Olivia traveled to another reality. He spends five hours attempting to recreate her car accident with frogs – much to Astrid’s chagrin. He informs her that though she “appears” to be fine, there are always consequences to traveling between realities – which begs the question of what consequences he and Peter suffered those many years ago. Walter also tells Olivia that he doesn’t know what he would have done if she had died, prompting an emotional moment between the two.

Astrid - Science is slimy

Astrid – “Science is slimy”

Nina Sharp, who has always seemed to care a great deal for Olivia’s well-being, offers Olivia the name of a man who helped put her back together after her fight with cancer. Nina believes that Olivia needs help dealing with what happened, and recommends Sam Weiss who seems to run a bowling alley. Olivia meets with Sam and receives the ominous warning that “the headaches” will start soon.

Sam Weiss

Sam Weiss

As usual, something else odd happens to Olivia in this episode: she appears to have bouts where her hearing is extremely enhanced. This is the only episode in which this has happened so far, which leads me to believe that this is one of the side-effects of crossing over of which Walter spoke, rather than some Cortexiphan-induced ability manifesting in Olivia. Also, Walter has previously stated that Cortexiphan seems to work on perception rather than on any of our more concrete senses such as hearing, and so it would make sense for this to be a one-off occurrence.

2.03 Fracture

In what appears to be a terrorist attack, at least at first, a man goes into a train station and blows up. What is not initially readily apparent is that he was the result of a classified military project which was shut down after the undesirable side-effects were discovered: the patients turned into walking bombs which could be triggered with a radio signal. Peter and Olivia, during a trip back to Iraq, discover that there is a Colonel who is using his former subordinates (who were part of the project) as sacrifices to take out targets. It turns out that the targets are actually people passing on intelligence about our reality to The Observers. The consequences of this have yet to be revealed, but this is the first time we are made aware of another group outside of Fringe Division which is actively trying to interfere with the “other” side which makes me wonder if this group is in any way affiliated with the off-the-books (that is, unofficial) group of which John Scott was a member.

Man about to explode

Man about to explode

Olivia is still struggling with the effects of her memory loss, as well as the physical limitations of her injuries, but she is finally able to shed her cane in this episode, after reacting – in a typically-Olivia fashion – to Sam Weiss’ goading.

Olivia Reacts

Olivia reacts

We also learn, during Olivia and Peter’s trip to Iraq, that the last time Olivia retrieved him from Iraq was not actually his first visit; he had been there before, during which he was involved in some unsavoury business which ended in rifts between him and the people with whom he had been dealing, although he wouldn’t elaborate to Olivia exactly what had occurred.

Peter and Olivia in Iraq

Peter and Olivia in Iraq

2.04 Momentum Deferred

To be frank, up until the later episode Grey Matters, this was probably my favourite Fringe episode from both seasons. We finally learn what exactly happened during Olivia’s trip to the other reality, and what exactly Bell wants with her.

This episode starts out, not with a bang, but with a rather cringe-worthy moment: Olivia chugs a glass of blended-up worms. Yes, that’s right, worms. Walter had this crazy idea (well, let’s face it: when are Walter’s idea’s not crazy?) that it could jog her memory of what happened before her accident; obviously it does no such thing, but it is a rather memorable moment in the series.

Olivia after drinking "memory worms"

Olivia after drinking “memory worms”

Similarly memorable, is the scene of another shape-shifting soldier throwing frozen heads away when he doesn’t find the one for which he’s looking… Perhaps I ought to back up a bit: Fringe Division is made aware of a series of thefts from a number of cryonics facilities, and it turns out that frozen heads are being stolen. This theft drew Fringe Division’s attention because one of the men killed during the most recent theft was bleeding silver. To be more precise, he was bleeding mercury. He turned out to be one of the shape-shifting soldiers from the other reality, which prompted a rather alarming discovery of Walter’s: the body that they had assumed was the shape-shifting soldier that Charlie killed several weeks prior had normal blood-work. That is, there were no traces of mercury which meant that the soldier who had tried to kill Olivia was still alive.

Bleeding silver

Bleeding Silver

Discarded Frozen Heads

Discarded frozen heads

This is to date one of the only sticking points I have had with continuity in Fringe: if Charlie is the one who supposedly killed the shape-shifter the first time around, why did no-one realize that “Charlie” could be the soldier? I sometimes believe that it may have never occurred to Olivia, usually almost preternaturally perceptive, simply because of whom Charlie is to her: her partner, staunch supporter, and one of her oldest friends. But then why did one of the other members of her team not consider the notion?

They also find another one of the devices which allows the soldiers to shape-shift, except this one is fully-functional. Peter discovers that the device is streaming mass amounts of data, and Olivia takes the device to one of Nina’s technicians (a man named Brandon) at Massive Dynamic in the hopes that, now that he has a working device as a starting point, he may be able to fix the first, broken device that they have. They determine that the device stores the information from the last person who was copied, and if they can fix the device, it could show them what shape the soldier (the one who tried to kill Olivia) has now.

Olivia at Massive Dynamic with Nina and Brandon

Olivia at Massive Dynamic (with Nina and Brandon)

Walter recalls a young woman whom he and Bell used during one of their experiments years ago who could somehow “see” people from the other realities. Walter hopes to use that same woman, Rebecca, to help them find the first soldier. However, the procedure takes an unexpected turn when Peter rings a bell which was supposed to start the process but instead Olivia collapses.

It appears as though the bell triggered her memories of her time in the other reality and we finally get to see what exactly happened to her: William Bell managed to pull her out of her moving vehicle and into the reality in which he is currently residing. He informed Olivia that there were, as Walter has said, consequences of traveling between realities and that it is only because of Olivia’s “natural talent” (the extent of which we are still not aware) that she was able to travel through without being torn apart.

Bell informed her that the Cortexiphan drug trials were intended to prepare the children for what was coming: a war between the two realities, out of which only one reality could emerge intact. He told Olivia that her purpose was a Gatekeeper, of sorts, and that she was always the strongest of the children. Needless to say, Olivia did not take any of the revelations well.

A storm is coming (Bell)

“A storm is coming – perhaps the last and worst storm of all. And when it is over I fear there will be little left of our world” – William Bell

However, Bell gave her some very important information about what he refers to as the “First Wave”. The reality in which Bell is currently residing is similar to ours, yet different. They are more technologically advanced, and the soldiers that are being sent through are mechano-organic hybrids. That is, part machine, part organic soldiers which are built to survive the trip between realities unscathed so that they might enter Olivia’s. He showed her a symbol which could be found on the leader of the First Wave and told her that the thefts from the cryonics facilities are because the soldiers are looking for the head of their leader, who had the knowledge to open the doorway between their two worlds.

Olivia is not pleased

Olivia is less than pleased with Bell

Unfortunately for Olivia, an incontrovertible law of physics is that momentum cannot be created or destroyed, but can be deferred. And because Olivia was pulled out of her reality from a moving car, the momentum had to be paid back in full. Hence the reason that Olivia came crashing back through the windshield of a stationary car in the premiere episode of the season.

Crash landing

Olivia’s crash landing

When Olivia recovered from the torrent of memories, her first stop was to Nina Sharp. Nina explained about Bell’s fear of the collision between realities as it relates to the Pauli Exclusion Principle: no two objects can exist in the same place at the same time. If the gate between the two sides, the two realities, was ever opened, only one world would remain. Bell referred to this as “The Last Great Storm”.

Only one world remains intact

Only one world can survive intact

Just after Olivia has another flash of memory of where the head was hidden, she receives a message from “Charlie” (who had found out about the attempt to retrieve data from the previously-damaged device which would implicate him) informing her that Nina was the shape-shifter. After making a swift exit from her meeting with Nina Sharp, Olivia walks right into a confrontation with the shape-shifting soldier wearing the face of her friend and partner. Olivia triumphs, but not before the soldier manages to relay the location to others of the First Wave.

Hollow Victory

A hollow victory

Still reeling with the loss of her friend and partner, Olivia tells Broyles that she failed, that she could not prevent the First Wave from gaining a foothold, even after William Bell had pulled her to another universe to warn her.



2.05 Dream Logic

This case sees Peter, Olivia, and Walter travelling to Seattle, Washington to investigate odd cases of people appearing to have a psychotic break and then dying of exhaustion, which technically shouldn’t be possible in humans. The course of the investigation led them to a leading researcher in the field of sleep disorders who has a new treatment for various disorders: a computer chip implanted in the midbrain (the thalamus, to be precise) which is intended to regulate the sleep cycle so that the patient may sleep. The chip transmits data back to the doctor for research purposes. After an initial assumption that mind control was involved, Peter and Olivia – with the help of Walter, who was back in Boston – discovered that the researcher had rigged a machine which streamed the brainwaves of the patients to his own brain and had become addicted to the sensation. Walter figured this out by drugging the FBI agent who had been assigned to him and using him as a guinea pig – pretty much par for the course for Walter. The problem was that when the doctor used the machine it overloaded the patients’ thalami via the brain implant  rendering the victim unable to differentiate between a dream world and reality; the patient would then be trapped in a nightmare while awake, hence the psychotic behaviour.

FBI guinea pig

Astrid disapproves of Walter’s FBI guinea pig

Peter and Walter finally moved into their own house in this episode when they had previously been staying in a hotel. One thing I wondered about: Walter’s intense dislike for Seattle. He told Peter that the reason he was so intent on returning to Boston was that Seattle reminded him of St. Claire’s (the mental institution where he was a patient for 17 years), but I’m curious as to whether that’s all it was.

Olivia is still seeing Sam Weiss in this episode, and he gave her an assignment, of sorts, to try and help her make sense of everything that had happened – in particular, Charlie’s death. I appreciated the parallel between how Olivia’s life is “something of a nightmare” (according to Sam Weiss) and the fact that this case involved people literally living out a waking nightmare.

Now that Olivia knows that she has lost Charlie, her foundations are shaken, so to speak. Peter seems to be stepping into more of a support role to Olivia in this episode. He has been supporting her since her accident, but she still had Charlie (or at least, thought she had him) at that point.

The friend she lost

The friend she lost

Olivia and Peter had a couple interesting conversations in this episode which lead to some interesting character developments between the two of them. We knew that Olivia had shot her step-father, but in this episode she tells Peter that he was an alcoholic, and it was like he had two personalities: one when he was sober, and one when he was intoxicated. This is what led her to the supposition that the sleep doctor himself was the bad guy for whom they were looking.

In Peter’s case, we found out that he had night terrors when he was a boy, and that after Walter taught him to condition himself, he didn’t remember a single one of his dreams. The terrors seemed to start when he was about 8 years old, which leads me to wonder whether they were a side-effect of crossing between universes. We know that “our” Walter’s Peter died when he was 7 years old, in 1985, which would about correspond with the other universe’s Peter (now our Peter) being taken when he was about 8.

Something about which I am curious is whether the other universe is temporally in sync with our universe. That is, did their momentous events which correspond with ours happen at the same time? The reason I wonder is that their world is slightly ahead of us in terms of technological advancement (for example, the hybrid soldiers); is this because their technological advancements occurred before ours? I think this would make sense, because there is a dream sequence at the end of this episode – I believe it is a memory of Peter’s from when “our” Walter kidnapped him – and there is a poster on the wall of the bedroom reading “Challenger Mission 11/ June 28 1984”. Why is this a problem, you ask? (Unless you know your Challenger history, in which case you’ve probably figured it out.) Well, in our world, the Challenger shuttle had its first flight in April of 1983, and it launched for its final, and fatal, mission on January 28, 1986. Before which it had only completed nine missions.

Challenger Mission Poster

Challenger Poster

This may relate to what Bell was talking about in Momentum Deferred when Olivia was still having trouble with temporal shifts as a result of crossing between the worlds.

2.06 Earthling

Astral projection, a Russian cosmonaut, and an alien entity: is your curiousity piqued? This was an episode which focused primarily on Broyles and some of his backstory. We found out last season that he and his wife are divorced, and that he has at least two kids. The case being investigated was actually a 4 year old case which Broyles handled before and could not solve; however, he got so obsessed with the case, that it cost him his marriage. There is some sort of shadow-thing that passes through people and leaves nothing remaining but ashes. It turns out that the shadow is a projected manifestation of an alien entity with which the Russian cosmonaut came in contact on a mission to outer space. The cosmonaut is actually in a coma, and the man Broyles was pursuing 4 years ago was the cosmonaut’s brother who kidnapped him from a Russian government facility; the Russian government wants them both back, which leads to a confrontation between Broyles, who wants to pursue the case on his own, and the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States who want to handle the matter themselves.

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Only ashes remain

As a side note, some of you may recognize the CIA agent as he is played by actor J.R. Bourne, of Stargate SG-1.

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Mysterious CIA agent

I actually quite enjoyed learning about some of Agent Broyles’ backstory in this episode, even though there was not a lot of development on the Final Wave front. I couldn’t help but feel sad for Broyles when he was telling Olivia that all he wanted was to make the world a safer place for his family, and in his pursuit of that, he ended up losing them. It seems to be a common theme with FBI agents in television shows, but it still did not feel like a cliché, to which I credit the subtleness of the writing and acting.

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“Why this case?”

Also of interest was Walter’s observation that the Russians likely have their own “fringe” science: perhaps we’ll see an international “Fringe Division” at some point.

2.07 Of Human Action

In a word: mind-control. This seems to be the season for it, as in the previous episode Dream Logic the assumption was that mind control was the cause of the weird occurrences. This time, however, it is actually mind-control at work. A 15 year old boy is kidnapped by two unlikely kidnappers, and Olivia’s working theory, which turns out to be erroneous, is that they are sleeper agents from a foreign country attempting to extort sensitive information in return for the boy: his father is a high-level researcher for Massive Dynamic, working on military projects. However, it is not until an exchange-gone-wrong, during which Peter disappears, that it becomes clear that the boy himself is the one in control. And now the unstable teenager has Peter. The boy’s powers stem from a combination of drugs and puberty which have amplified his natural brainwaves, allowing him to overpower other peoples’ minds. Walter, with help from a variety of sources including Nina, Olivia, and Astrid, eventually figures out a way to temporarily neutralize the boy’s powers and they are able to rescue Peter. Unfortunately for Broyles, they don’t rescue Peter until after Broyles is shot in the arm by Peter.

The teenager

The teenager

This was the first time that Walter saw Massive Dynamic, and we learn that Bell and Walter’s personal connections run far deeper than simply lab partners: it seems as though they were once close friends as well. Bell introduced Walter to the woman who would become his wife (and Peter’s mother) and it is revealed that it was originally her idea that one day Walter and Bell would go into business together. Walter seems to almost feel betrayed that Bell did not wait for him to start the business.

Walter is amazed at Massive Dynamic

Walter’s first glimpse at Massive Dynamic

Walter has a harder time than usual coming up with a solution to neutralize the boy because Peter had been kidnapped. While Walter has been getting better, this is a reminder, of sorts, of how much of a stabilizing influence Peter has on his father. It is eventually Nina who is able to focus Walter, which is rather curious except when you recall that Nina and Walter seem to have some sort of personal history. In season 1 Peter went to Nina for help, and she said that she remembered him as a child, and implied that she and Walter had a close relationship at some point prior to his commitment to St. Claire’s.

Peter always helps me

“How do I do this without Peter?” – Walter

There is a rather significant moment between Walter and Olivia where they share a moment of worry over Peter. Walter, rambling, mentions that he “can’t lose [Peter] again”; I think Olivia assumes that Walter is referring to his time in St. Claire’s, but that is the moment when Nina steps in, leaving me wondering – as always – just how much Nina knows. Given that Nina is Bell’s second in command, and has basically been left in charge of Massive Dynamic with Bell’s absence, it would make sense for her to know most of Walter and Peter’s history; for instance, the fact that Peter is not from our world.

You're the only one that can help him

“You’re the only one that can help him” – Nina

One of my favourite scenes from this episode was when Walter and Astrid were working in Massive Dynamic and wearing aluminum-foil hats. When Olivia, nonplussed, inquires about this latest fashion statement, Walter informs her that he does not trust them at Massive Dynamic and he thinks they’re trying to read his thoughts. I still laugh every time I watch this scene.

Aluminum hats

Aluminum Hats

2.08 August

Yet another intriguing episode, this one focused on The Observers about whom, up until this point, we knew very little. I contend that the most important thing we learned was that there is more than one Observer: prior to this, we only had knowledge of one. Also, it appears as though they are named, at least by each other, for the months of the year. As for why this is the case, we are still in the dark; perhaps something to do with their origins? I hesitate to use the term “birth”, because I doubt they originate from something quite so simple.

Multiple Observers

Multiple Observers

The Observer who is the focal point of this episode is named August, and he poses something of a conundrum: he loves a young woman who is supposed to be aboard an international flight which is about to crash, and so he abducts her. The other Observers are appalled because August has created an “irregularity” and has interfered. This appears to go against a sort of code by which they live: they shall not interfere, and the only time it is permissible for them to actively interfere is to rectify a mistake of their own making.

This is seems contradictory to what we know of the Observers or rather, what we know of them so far due to the fact that “our” Observer has contacted Walter several times and in fact saved Peter and Walter’s lives when Peter was a boy by pulling them out of a car crash in a frozen lake. This raises the issue of what matter The Observer was attempting to correct in his interactions with Walter, if there was one at all.

I wonder if perhaps the Observers are involved with the conflict between the two worlds as The Observer (Walter’s “friend”) was insistent that Walter remember how to close a doorway in the season 1 finale, and they are only supposed to actively help in order to put a situation to rights.

Walter meets with August

Walter meets August

August seeks out Walter’s advice on how to keep the woman safe because the other Observers want the irregularity adjusted – that is, they think she ought to be killed as she was supposed to die on board the plane crash – and Walter’s advice is to make her important to the other Observers too. Taking Walter’s advice to heart, August ends up sacrificing his life: this makes the woman he loves important because she is responsible for the death of one of the Observers. And from the way The Observer reacts to August’s death, it is an unusual occurrence in and of itself.

She is responsible..

“She is responsible for the death of one of us” – The Observer

Another thing that we learn about the Observers as a group is that they eat extremely spicy food. As in, the amount of capsaicin in the meals would cause any human a great deal of pain. Capsaicin is the active ingredient in pepper spray (it is what “burns”), and it is what give chili peppers their kick. In humans, and most mammals, capsaicin activates pain receptors. Basically, it is another indication that there is something rather bizarre about the Observer – as if the fact that they have no hair, are seemingly psychic, and can catch bullets with their bare hands isn’t odd enough.

As for what the Observers mean for the Fringe Division, they seem to be a portent that things are going to get a lot worse. One of Massive Dynamic’s technicians (a rather amusing scientist named Brandon) informs Olivia and Peter that he has found evidence that The Observers (at least one of them) has been present at several events of major historical significance in our history. One was present at the execution of Marie Antoinette in 1793 at the height of the French Revolution; one was present at the Boston Massacre in 1770, which ultimately contributed to the start of the American Revolution; and one was present at the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914. This last one is particularly worrisome as this event ushered in World War I.

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Sarajevo, 1914

The explanation provided at the moment for the Observers’ ability to seemingly travel through time is not that they are actively travelling per se, but instead that they are observing time. They appear to be affected by time in an entirely different way than we are accustomed.

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Olivia and Peter at Massive Dynamic (with Brandon)

Even more troubling (well, for Fringe Division), is the fact that there have been maybe 24 sightings of Observers in the past 5000 years of human history, but that Brandon has recorded 26 sightings in the past 3 months alone. Given that the Observers seem to have appeared at extremely significant events in the past, it really makes me wonder what on Earth is in store for Fringe Division!

As does the fact that, while Olivia is at an amusement park with Ella they are being Observed. The two Observers comment on how “she” looks so happy, and it is a shame that things are about to get so hard for “her”. The obvious question being to which “her” were they referring: Ella or Olivia? I tend to think it is Olivia, given that if something were to happen to Ella, it would affect Olivia as well. Also, Olivia is a main character and that is just how these things seem to work in shows, not that I’m objecting in any way. However, if things haven’t been “hard” for Olivia up until now (according to the Observers), then what is on the horizon must be very, very bad.

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The amusement park

2.09 Snakehead

It is almost a matter of pride for me that I can say I’m not a squeamish person; that being said, there were moments in this episode that made me cringe a bit. I think it was due to the fact that the monsters-of-the-week, so to speak, were giant parasitic worms. The worms are actually a genetically-modified version of a common parasite that is sometimes used as a naturopathic remedy. The modified parasites, while engineered to use a human as a host, appear to kill the host when they are mature. A gang smuggling drugs out of China was using illegal immigrants to incubate the larval form of the worm on the trip. The immigrants were told that they were being given sea-sickness medication on the trip, but the medication was actually eggs of the worm. Fringe Division got involved when many of the immigrants washed up, dead, on a local shore; in many of the cases, the worm had tried to escape from the body and the results were not pretty, to say the least. There was one survivor to whom Olivia and Peter were able to speak who told them many details of the trip, as well as entreating them to find the second boat – due to arrive several days after the first – as her husband and young daughter were on board. During the interview, we also find out that Peter speaks Chinese. Combine that with the fact that he could interpret a Chinese suspect’s gang tattoos makes me think that, at some point in his occasionally-shady past, Peter lived in China.

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Peter’s look says it all

The initial assumption was that the drug was some sort of illicit designer drug, when in fact the parasitic worms secreted a powerful immune-boosting substance which could be used for patients suffering from severe immunodeficiency disorders. In true Walter fashion, Walter discovered this when he was accidentally bitten by one of the parasitic worms at the lab. Walter does some investigating of his own in China Town to try and figure out which of the herbalists carry the naturopathic remedy of the normal parasites; Walter is attempting to be more independent, but Astrid follows him, invoking his ire. Walter inadvertently tips off one of ring leaders of the drug-smuggling ring that they have a “4 foot long” version of the parasite. Walter’s slip-up leads to a violent altercation for Astrid back at the lab with the bad guy’s goons after Walter “escapes” from her supervision.

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Walter’s New Pet

Walter’s “escape” leads to a rather heart-wrenching break-down at a bus stop because Walter could not remember Peter’s phone number and had no money to take the bus. More accurately, Walter could remember the 7 numbers comprising Peter’s phone number, but could not recall the combination. Luckily, a woman who was sitting next to him on the bench took pity on him and took him back to her apartment where they tried many combinations before they were finally able to reach Peter.

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“I can’t remember” – Walter

Olivia and Broyles, now apparently recovered from taking a bullet to the arm in Of Human Action, lead an assault on the second ship once it came into port, but found that the immigrants – including the Chinese woman’s daughter and husband – had already been moved off the ship. Luckily, Peter – who had figured out which shop in China Town must have been the headquarters – spotted the immigrants being taken into the basement and followed them after telling Olivia where he was. Olivia and Broyles’ FBI tactical team arrived just in time to save Peter from becoming a host to the worms himself.

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Rescuing Peter

Even though the “main” plot was the search for the men behind the drug smuggling, the subplot involving Walter’s continued search for independence stole the show. John Noble continues to impress me with his ability to carry off certain scenes with such aplomb and confidence. Walter is fighting to gain ground in his battle to regain his sanity, and he believes that achieving a modicum of independence will allow him to live his life with more dignity. And part of that, to Walter, means not being dependent upon his son for everything.

Since Walter is indeed a genius, he realizes that he still has a way to go before he is at a point of true independence and so, in a truly Walter-esque move, he implants a tracking chip into his neck. This is so that the “next time” he gets lost, Peter can always find him. At the time, I wondered whether this was some sort of foreshadowing for an upcoming episode, and I didn’t have to wonder long: the following episode Grey Matters did indeed involve Walter’s kidnapping.

2.10 Grey Matters

As much as I love every episode of this series, if you were to only watch one episode of Fringe so far, I would recommend that it be this one. I absolutely loved this episode, and it was packed full of pretty much everything that makes Fringe such an amazing series.

This episode is the first time we meet the leader of the First Wave. If you recall Momentum Deferred, this is the man whose frozen head the shape-shifting soldiers were seeking. This means that, indirectly, he is the reason that Olivia’s partner Charlie was killed.

In true Fringe fashion, the opening sequence was rather bizarre: it featured soldiers of the First Wave performing brain surgery – on a man we would later learn was in a mental institution for acute (incurable) schizophrenia – in a scene evocative of the brain scene with Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal. And yes, that may sound rather disturbing (although the soldiers weren’t eating his brains, so it wasn’t as disturbing as the aforementioned scene), but the truly weird result of this “operation” was that it appeared to cure the man of his schizophrenia and left none of the noticeable impediments that would normally result from removing a piece of someone’s brain.

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Amateur brain surgery

Naturally, a case where people break into a mental institution only to cure a patient of schizophrenia draws the attention of Fringe Division; especially Walter who has a personal stake in a supposed cure for “crazy”. Olivia recognizes the leader of the break-in crew as one of the frozen heads stolen from a cryonics facility, and identifies him as Thomas Jerome Newton. Even though the name is a dead-end, Fringe Division is able to finally put a name and a face to the First Wave.

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Thomas Jerome Newton

In investigating the patient’s history, the team discovers that the doctor who referred him to the institution, a man by the name of “Dr. Paris” who has since disappeared, in fact had 3 other patients admitted to different hospitals within the same week and that all 3 patients were on prescription anti-rejection medications (i.e. that are usually prescribed following some sort of tissue transplant). They also learn that each of the 3 patients had some sort of fixation on a single idea, and that in the last little while each of them has been mysteriously “cured”. MRI scans reveal that all 3 patients had part of their brain removed. Astrid discovers that Dr. Paris visited Walter during his time in St. Claire’s which leads to the revelation that Walter had, about 14 years ago, had brain surgery.

Comparisons of Walter’s MRI scans with the 3 other patients’ reveal something rather astonishing: that the reason the 3 patients were on anti-rejection medications was because they each had a small portion of Walter’s brain tissue implanted in their own brains in order to preserve the brain tissue. This likely contributed to quite a bit of Walter’s craziness, as removing parts of the brain cause irreparable damage. It also explains why Walter has such large gaps with regards to certain memories as we have seen throughout the series so far. A significant gap relates to how he actually created the doorway between worlds which he used to abduct Peter: he knows that he did create a doorway, but not how – which we now know is on account of those memories having been physically removed.

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Three missing pieces of Walter’s brain

As we know, Newton wants to open the doorway between the worlds, which explains why he has been going around and cutting open peoples’ brains. However, the reason that those patients were driven crazy after a piece of Walter’s brain had been implanted in theirs was because the memories were not their own and thus could not be interpreted by their own brain, leading to various states of psychosis. The final thing the First Wave needed to do in order to retrieve the memories from the pieces of Walter’s brain was to find a brain which could interpret the memories. Unfortunately for Walter, his was the only brain that could interpret them due to the fact that they were his originally. Of course, this meant kidnapping Walter.

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Walter, kidnapped

Initially Peter hoped that they could track Walter using the chip he had implanted in his neck, but the soldiers found and removed it, leaving Peter and Olivia grasping for straws as to how to save Walter. And then Peter realized that the fixations of the 3 patients were not meaningless ramblings of deluded psyches, but rather were Walter’s memories bleeding over into their minds. Peter figured that the kidnappers would need to take Walter back to the place where the memories were strongest of creating the gate between worlds, and that meant that they would have to return to the Bishops’ old home.

Olivia and Peter arrive at the house just after the soldiers leave, but are not in time to prevent the soldiers from hooking up Walter to a machine and retrieving the memories. Just before making a quick escape, Newton injects Walter with his insurance policy: a neurotoxin. Olivia, having chased down the get-away van, dispatches two of the hybrids with well-placed head-shots (which we know from previous encounters is the only way to kill them quickly) and catches Newton. However, just as she is about to arrest him, he informs her that she must choose between him and Walter: the neurotoxin will kill Walter within a couple minutes if he is not injected with the antidote. Olivia, after confirming Walter’s condition with Peter, is faced with a gut-wrenching decision. Does she allow Walter to die, potentially putting a stop to the First Wave right now? Or does she release Newton and save Walter?

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“Make your choice: me, or Walter Bishop?” – Newton

During a later discussion with Broyles, Olivia berates herself for making the “emotional” decision to save Walter rather than apprehend Newton. However, once again demonstrating his compassion and supporting his agent, Broyles tells Olivia that they will need Walter for the coming confrontations, and that she ought not to be so hard on herself, as they will be needing her too.

Also, there is an absolutely huge twist at the very end of the episode that I never in a million years saw coming. It pretty much left me gaping at the television for a bit while I tried to figure out what on Earth just happened, as well as the implications of the twist with regards to the episode and the series in general. For example, given what is revealed in the twist, how the hell did the First Wave soldiers, Newton in particular, discover the location of Walter’s memories?!? The problem is that I don’t want to entirely spoil that ending as it’s pretty darn huge. So my advice is: go watch the episode and you shall see why it is such a shocker.

One of my favourite scenes in this episode, actually one of my favourite pieces of dialogue in the series as a whole, is between Olivia and Peter: Olivia was questioning how she could possibly hope to stop the coming war, to stop the people from the other world, if she cannot understand them. We still don’t really know why the people from the other universe are so hell-bent on opening the gate between worlds and I think that if we can discover that, then the reasoning for the confrontation may become clearer.

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“How can I fight what I can’t understand?” – Olivia

During the same discussion Peter tells Olivia that she is not alone in the fight, which is another measure of how far his character has come since the pilot episode, when Olivia had to blackmail him simply to get him back to the United States from Iraq. At times it seems as though Peter is not getting quite as much character development as other characters, but if you were to watch the later season 2 episodes back-to-back with the first couple episodes of the series there is a striking difference.

Not just her fight

“This isn’t just your fight” – Peter

One of the most obvious developments is in Peter’s relationship with his father. Initially, Peter would like nothing better than to be finished with the crazy FBI chick and see his father go back to St. Claire’s. In this episode, however, Peter empathizes with Walter, musing to Olivia what it must be like for his father, and apologizes for never having visited Walter while he was institutionalized.

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“I should have visited you, Walter, while you were at St. Claire’s ” – Peter

I can’t help but think that Peter and Walter’s relationship is being built up only to have it torn apart when Peter inevitably finds out that he is not originally from this universe. I am curious as to how Peter will react. In many ways I am expecting a great deal of fall-out from the discovery, even to the extent that Peter wants to go back to “his” world.

At the same time, I’m almost hoping that the maturation of his character that we’ve seen throughout the season so far, and his increasing willingness to empathize with Walter, will lead to him at least hearing Walter out before condemning him for actions taken while in the throes of grief after having lost a child.

A statement from this episode which struck a chord with me was when Newton told Olivia that she was “weak” for choosing Walter over him, and implied that now he knows how to get to her: target the people she loves. I didn’t really have any true doubts that Olivia would choose Walter, but it was interesting to see how much she cares for him because they have had – still have – some conflicts over the fact that Walter was involved in experimenting on her as a child.

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Relief after saving Walter

I personally do not see it as a sign of weakness that she chose Walter over Newton; or, from another perspective, she chose to save a life rather than to take revenge. Newton is, indirectly or not, one of the reasons that her partner died. I believe that ultimately we are defined by what we will do, and are willing to sacrifice, for the people we love, whether they are our biological family or our family by choice. While Olivia’s place in their little family is, at the moment, harder to define than Peter and Walter’s father-son relationship, she is most definitely a member of the (only slightly) dysfunctional family which has formed in Fringe Division.

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Thanks for reading!

Nadine Ramsden


7 thoughts on “Fringe Season 2.0 – Endless Impossibilities

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