Fellow Fringe Fans,
However, given that the writing team – Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz – responsible for Momentum Deferred and Grey Matters brought us this episode, I was hardly surprised that I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The expectedly-weird opening scene of this episode involved a glimpse at the Other Side. Various hints included that they apparently spell “Manhattan” as “Manhatan”, it is extremely difficult to get fresh coffee (perhaps due to the blight that Newton has mentioned), and that they are building a “New Pentagon Annex”. The weirdness, however, came following an “earthquake” after which the inhabitants of the building were fused together and otherwise deformed.
Did you see the Observer?
Fringe Division, obviously, was called in to investigate the disturbance with the building – the cause of which Walter suggested was likelier a comet than an earthquake in Manhattan – and, after a brief conversation with the one survivor, were able to determine that a building from the Alternate Universe (the one which Olivia visited when she met William Bell) had been pulled into “our” universe.
As Bell had warned Olivia, two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time (as in accordance with the Pauli Exclusion Principle) and the results of attempting to open a corridor to the Other Side had these horrific consequences. Olivia, convinced that Newton was behind the event, was proven right when they discovered photographs of him at the building just hours before the event occurred. Walter, who was studying the bodies back at his lab, came to the realization that he had seen this sort of event before and he knew what was going to happen next: sometime within the next 35 hour, a building from our side would be pulled over to the Other Side. The universe requires Balance, and mass can be neither created nor destroyed; thus, since a building was pulled from the Other side into ours, the reverse must also occur.
“I already know how this happened… Two universes colliding? This is what William Bell warned me about” – Olivia
Walter revealed that they couldn’t predict where the next event would occur and the only warning they would have would be tremors similar to and earthquake and dogs barking, but that Olivia could. During the Cortexiphan drug trials, Bell and Walter discovered that Olivia could distinguish objects from the Other Side because they have a different energy than those from “this” side – she called it the “glimmer”. Walter posited that if they went back to Jacksonville, Florida – where Olivia’s drug trial took place – he may be able to activate the abilities which she blocked out after there were bad consequences when she was a little girl.
“Because you saw it once before!” – Walter
Walter seemed to have hoped that simply returning to Jacksonville would prove enough of a stimulus to trigger Olivia’s ability, but that was not the case. This necessitated dosing Olivia with more Cortexiphan and putting her in a drug-induced state designed to remove the blocks on her abilities: it was in this “dream” that she met the little girl Olive. Unfortunately, when Olivia came out of the experiment she was still unable to see the glimmer and was incredibly angry with Walter. Olivia, after receiving notification from Broyles that the warning signs of the impending event were starting up, came upon Walter watching the tape (which we first saw in the season 1 episode Bad Dreams) of her as a little girl after some sort of lab incident.
Walter reveals that the incident occurred after she first saw the glimmer: she was so scared that it triggered emotional pyrokinesis and she started a fire. After a fight with Olivia which was a long time coming, Walter realizes that the reason she can’t see the glimmer anymore is because she channels fear into anger as a defense mechanism and, as such, she is no longer capable of feeling that mindless fear like she would have as a child.
“What the hell is wrong with you? You did this to little children?” – Olivia
The team, failing to trigger Olivia’s abilities in Jacksonville, return to New York to try and do anything they can, with the resources of Massive Dynamic and Nina Sharp, to predict the building from Our Side which will disappear. Peter realizes that the only way to predict the building is to look at which building in New York has the exact same mass as the building which came from the Other Side as the universe is seeking balance and thus the buildings must have the same mass. Unfortunately, their time runs out and Broyles tells Olivia that they may just have to let the building – and all the inhabitants – disappear. Olivia, distraught, seeks out Peter and in the course of a conversation rather fraught with emotion she realizes that she is actually scared. This seems to trigger the ability to see the glimmer and the team is able to successfully identify and evacuate the building which then disappears into nothingness.
“There are times when the only choices you have left are bad ones” – Broyles
Following their success, Olivia and Peter have plans to go out for drinks on a “it’s not a date” date, much to Walter’s elation. However, upon arriving at the Bishops’, Olivia sees the glimmer around Peter. Peter, oblivious, goes to fetch his coat so that they can leave and Walter beseeches Olivia to keep her silence on the matter – thus setting us up with something of a cliffhanger preceding the hiatus.
“Olivia, please don’t tell him” – Walter
Thoughts and Impressions
Before I start going into the numerous character developments in this episode, I believe that what we learned about alternate universes may begin to explain why the First Wave from the Other Side is so hell-bent on getting into our side. Within a given universe, the laws of physics must hold; however, it appears as though they must also hold between universes, hence the “mass for mass” rule which we saw in this episode. And I believe this may be the crux of the issue: when Walter stole Peter from the Other Side, he created an imbalance, the results of which have caused any number of problems in the other Universe. My assumption is that Walter somehow managed to create a device to stabilize the corridor between worlds long enough for him to steal the Peter from the Other Side as, from what we have seen so far, there doesn’t seem to be a way to target an object from the other side, so it seems likely that Walter would have had to go to the other side himself to get Peter.
Walter explains that in 1986 he and William Bell were trying one of their “experiments” which involved sending a car to the Other Side, and several minutes later, a car appeared on this side (fused to a statue on Harvard grounds) – obviously from the Other Side as, technologically, it was slightly more ahead of “our” side. Walter also states that this “wasn’t the first time” that they’d opened a doorway which makes me very curious about the timeline of events: the Cortexiphan trials ran from 1981 to 1983, Peter died in 1985, and Walter “stole” Peter in 1986 (note that this last date is more of a supposition on my part, given various hints along the way). And yet, during the Cortexiphan trials Bell and Walter apparently had access to objects from the Other Side because Olivia (Olive) could see them. Which begs the question: why did Bell and Walter open a doorway between worlds in the first place? Had they already opened a doorway and realized that a war would come, hence the impetus for the Cortexiphan trials and “preparing” the children in the first place?
Olivia had some fairly significant interactions with both Bishops in this episode, but I think that her confrontations with Walter were certainly a long time coming. When Olivia first met Walter she really had no other choice but to trust him, despite the fact that he was clearly insane, and after he saved John Scott that trust seemed to persist, and Olivia was often far more willing than Peter to go along with Walter’s crazy experiments. And then Olivia found out about the Cortexiphan drug trails, and the fact that she had likely been experimented on as a child. However, Olivia didn’t really get angry about it until the season 1 episode The Road Not Taken, when she was faced with more consequences of the drug trials: namely, more individuals who had been experimented on in the trials. And while she took Walter to task about it, Walter disappeared with the Observer soon after, Fringe Division was racing to prevent David Robert Jones from opening a doorway to get to Bell, and then Olivia was pulled through to the Other Side. And with all the insanity that followed: Olivia’s accident and memory loss, losing Charlie, and trying to stop the First Wave, I think the issue of what Bell and Walter had done to her was put on the back-burner.
Then everything came to a boil when Olivia was personally involved on a much more direct level than before: namely, being faced with the testing facility, “Olive”, and finding out what really happened when she was 3 years old. It was also interesting to find out that more likely than not, Olivia’s parents didn’t know what was happening: the drug trials were disguised as a day care which raises even more ethical concerns given that drug trials on children require parental consent. I find it interesting that what really seemed to trigger Olivia’s anger was being face-to-face with little Olive – like being faced with a terrified child was enough to trigger the fury Olivia should have been feeling all along.
Olive (played by Ada Breker)
When Olivia finds out about her pyrokinesis as a child, she is faced, once again, with Walter’s justifications. He believes that he and Bell were making the children “more than they were” and that that somehow justifies what they did. For Olivia, it seems as though the encounter with “Olive” triggered her protective instincts and made her realize how wrong Bell and Walter’s actions were – how wrong they were in experimenting on defenseless children.
“Is that what you were doing? Or were you searching for answers to questions you shouldn’t have been asking in the first place?!” – Olivia
One thing I really noticed throughout the episode, throughout most of the series, is that Peter – even if he disagrees with her decisions – tends to stand by Olivia no matter what; this episode was no exception. Although he clearly disagrees with Walter experimenting (again) on Olivia, he goes along with it nonetheless and just supports Olivia who, for her part, seems to be confiding in Peter much more willingly. It is during one such conversation that we learn that Olivia has absolutely no recollection of the day care which, given her perceptive skills, is another indicator of how thoroughly she seems to have blocked the experience out of her memory.
“I have a freakishly good memory. I remember everything. Not this. There’s just nothing that’s familiar” – Olivia
Following the failed experiment, Peter comes across Olivia in the burnt out room where the pyrokinetic accident occurred when she was a child. To my recollection, this is the first time that Olivia actually out-right admits that she’s not “fine” without any further prompting. When she was in the hospital, Charlie practically had to drag the answer out of her, but Peter simply had to ask – I take this as another piece of evidence that she has come to trust him more, to let her guard down. When Olivia first met the Bishops, I think she trusted Walter more quickly because she had no choice, but that trusting Peter came more slowly because she always half-expected that he would leave at the soonest opportunity.
“Are you alright?” – Peter
Upon considering Olivia’s reactions in the past (for example, pulling a gun on Sam Weiss), credence is given to Walter’s hypothesis about her defense mechanism of turning fear into anger; it also makes sense that this, combined with her perceptive skills, is part of what makes her such an effective FBI agent.
I presume that the reason Peter almost seemed to trigger Olivia’s ability back in New York was that she finally let her guard down, consciously or not. That is, she trusted Peter enough to bypass the automatic defense of turning fear into anger so she was actually able to be scared. Given this, I wonder why Olivia didn’t see the glimmer around Peter then, but I figure maybe she had to be actively looking for the glimmer the first time – that is, looking for a glimmering building – and then the ability was “activated” and that is why she saw the glimmer around Peter at the end.
“Peter, I’m scared” – Olivia
I would certainly be remiss if I didn’t mention the rather significant shift in Peter and Olivia’s relationship. They seemed to be moving towards dating, or something, throughout the episode: from the banter at the beginning, to the “date” at the end. I know that relationships between main characters tend to be something of a hot button among fans, and I myself am not entirely sure yet where I stand on this one. On the one hand, they seem quite well-suited for one another, and who else is going to understand the craziness of Fringe Division; on the other, they’re partners, and that didn’t exactly work out well for Olivia last time. Not to mention, she just discovered that Peter is from another universe. But they both seemed pretty happy to be going on a “it’s not a date” date, so maybe we’ll see more progress in the episodes to come. However, I can’t help but think that the issue of Peter’s origins needs to be dealt with first – especially given Walter’s plea that Olivia not tell Peter, and the look she had at the end.
This was one of those episodes where the cast – all of them – were phenomenal. Olivia and Walter’s confrontations in the episode didn’t feel overdone or forced, but the emotions were clearly conveyed. And the look on Olivia’s face at the end really said it all. I am continually impressed with the cast’s ability to say so much without really saying anything at all.
Ever since John Scott’s last words to Olivia in the pilot episode, I have always wondered at the back of my mind whether there is indeed more to Broyles than we have been made aware: Scott as good as told Olivia that there was a reason that Broyles chose her for the assignments. Given Broyles’ connection to Nina Sharp, it would not be out of the question to presume that he also had access to the Cortexiphan information. I like to think that Broyles simply cares about his agents and wants to protect them, and he seems to be particularly protective of Olivia, but in the world of Fringe nothing is ever really as it seems. In this episode, one thing that piqued my curiousity was when Broyles inquired as to what triggered her ability. It was probably just a simple question on his part, but like I said, it makes me wonder. At the same time, Broyles has more than demonstrated his willingness to stand behind his team at Fringe Division, and if his actions so far are the most important consideration, he has more than proven himself loyal to his people.
“Dunham: this ability you’ve demonstrated, what finally activated it?” – Broyles
The episode was, as usual, packed with subtext and clues. For example, the glyphs (that spell out a word over the commercial breaks) seemed to be rather prominent in this episode: there were lots of butterflies and frogs in the daycare centre. Also, a wall in the centre had the Yellow Brick Road (i.e. from The Wizard of Oz), which seems to tie back to Walter’s obsession with the movie in Johari Window. An interesting tie back to Olivia’s past in the trials was a giraffe on a wall on which they appeared to measure the children’s heights: if you look closely, you can read “Nick L.” (Nick Lane), “Susan” (Susan Pratt), and “Nancy L.” (Nancy Lewis), which were the names of the other people Olivia has met who were also involved in the Cortexiphan trials. I am also curious as to the significance of the number sequence “5-20-10” which Walter states is the combination Bell always uses, but he cannot remember the significance himself. It could simply be the date of the season finale (May 20, 2010), but I wonder if there is more to it.
A specific moment – one of many – where Walter alludes to Peter’s origins occurs before the experiment when he asks Olivia if she “sees” anything, as there are several objects in the room that are from the other side: if you watch Walter as he says this, he shoots a look directly at Peter. I could, of course, be reading far too much into it, but it seemed significant to me; although, that could be because I was watching for it.
“Sixteen items in this room are from the other side” – Walter
One more thing I believe deserves mention is the scoring of this episode by Michael Giacchino. There is the theme that we often hear throughout the episodes, which was indeed present, but there was also a new piece in this episode (at least, I don’t recall hearing it in other episodes). I found it most noticeable when Olivia is in the “forest” during the experiment; the violins and string instruments were beautiful, and the melody was haunting and complex and suited the occasion perfectly.
Even though I wasn’t entirely surprised by most of the revelations of this episode – for example, I figured that Peter had to be from the Other Side – this was the first “official” confirmation we had of many theories. It was also great to see Nina and Brandon (from Massive Dynamic) again as it has been a while since we have actually seen them in an episode.
As you can probably tell, I really, really liked this episode; although, that doesn’t quite seem adequate enough. The episode has definitely become one of my favourites – right up there with Momentum Deferred and Grey Matters. Much as I love the stand-alone episodes, as we often get some very fun character moments and developments, and in Fringe even the stand-alones aren’t really separate entities as they usually build on the overall storyline, the episodes like this one which explore the “mythology” of the show are, in a lot of ways, the most intriguing.
I truly enjoy the continuing hints as to what has happened before and what is happening now and attempting to put together the disparate pieces we have been given and predict where the story will go next. As always, the episode seemed to leave me with more questions than answers, and I can’t help but think that it will be a long 7 weeks until the next episode airs on the first of April.
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