Fellow Fringe fans,
Any episode following the stunner Jacksonville had to blow us away, and Peter certainly did not disappoint. I was a little concerned going into the episode because FOX had released several sneak peeks of key scenes, and so I was worried that I would be underwhelmed having already seen some of the scenes. I certainly need not have worried: not only was I completely enthralled, but once again I was blown away by the entire episode.
One aspect about which I have heard some criticism is that the episode was a little too slow or that people missed the case aspect which we usually see. I, however, found that while Peter was indeed a bit slower-paced than some episodes in the past, it was exactly what we needed: the confirmation of what exactly happened to the Bishops when Peter was a boy, finally meeting Elizabeth Bishop and Carla Warren, learning what really happened to Nina’s arm, some hints as to Walter and William Bell’s rapport, and, most of all, the elucidation of how it all began.
The opening sequence, for once, was not outrageously weird – just rather fascinating. It was the first time we saw Walter’s window to the other side in use, rather than someone opening, or attempting to open, a doorway between the worlds. We have known since the pilot episode that Walter had worked for the United States military, but it was rather interesting to see him presenting his findings to a cohort of military leaders. Apparently, he and William Bell had been using the window for spying on the other side, and in the course of their espionage, had gleaned enough details about the technology of the other side to create duplicates. Interestingly, Walter told the Generals that the other side was about 30 years ahead of us – this makes me wonder, is Massive Dynamic so technologically advanced primarily because of the leg-up William Bell had with his access to the other side?
First glimpse of the Other Side
I found it neat to hear Walter finally start to explain how their window works: that the other side is always there, but it is only by means of the window which captures errant photons from the other world and stretches the membrane between the worlds that we can actually see it. As always, it is all about perception.
Please bear with me for a moment while I go on a bit of a tangent from the episode recap. I like Walter’s explanation for the window because it fits rather well with how I imagine the multiple worlds in the Fringe universe: that there are infinitely many, and that they are separated by a theoretical wall, of sorts. Based on what we have seen so far, I propose that there are three types of mechanisms – not including Olivia’s natural ability of prolonged déjà vu – by which we can come in contact with the other side: Walter’s window, which stretches the membrane between worlds; Walter’s doorway machine, which opens a doorway between the worlds, presumably by pulling apart the membrane to permit travel through; and, finally, there is Newton’s method which, although based on Walter’s machines seems markedly different, acts more like pulling something through the membrane, rather than opening a doorway between the worlds.
I submit that this partly explains why we have seen different side-effects of crossing over on different people: Walter and Peter seemed largely unaffected from their crossing over, while Newton’s method resulted in horrible deformations because the molecules were reassembled incorrectly. I assume that William Bell’s method is along the lines of Walter’s for crossing over, but Bell seemed to have some side-effects from crossing over; I think that Walter and Peter may have suffered some effects later given Peter’s comments in Unearthed that he was sick for much of his later years in school, and the fact that he suffered night terrors right around the time he would have crossed over until he was in his late teens.
“I need time, okay? I don’t even know how to begin to work this out” – Olivia to Walter
Following our introduction to the window, we return to our present where Walter is trying to explain to Olivia why exactly she could see Peter glimmering at the end of Jacksonville. Very perceptively, Olivia tells Walter that they don’t yet know the price of his actions, and I think that this is likely more foreshadowing as to what we can expect to see later in this season. We learn that Peter wasn’t actually sick with a rare form of bird flu as Walter had said in In Which We Meet Mr. Jones, but rather that it was a genetic illness for which there was no treatment.
Walter was using the window to see into the more-advanced alternate universe because, as he explained to Olivia, the other Walter – named ‘Walternate’ by our Walter – would be just as motivated to find a cure for his own Peter if he were sick, which he was. Unfortunately, before Walter could find a cure in this world, his own Peter died of the disease. After the funeral – at which William Bell was noticeably absent – we see Walter and Elizabeth struggle to come to terms with their son’s death. Walter shows his wife the window and, in an utterly heart-wrenching scene, tells her that he showed her so that she might gain some comfort from the fact that somewhere Peter would grow up and live a full life.
“I want you to know that somewhere Peter will grow up, somewhere he will lead a proper life, somewhere he will be happy but just not here” – Walter to Elizabeth Bishop
In what was arguably the beginning of the end, Walter continued to watch Walternate attempt to find a cure for his own Peter; however, just when a cure was found, Walternate was distracted by the Observer September and missed the reaction. Walter, devastated, decided that since he now knew the cure must travel to the other side and bring the cure to that Peter because he couldn’t watch his son die again. After an argument with Carla Warren, Walter’s lab assistant played by Jenni Blong, in which Carla said that to open a wormhole to the other universe would rupture the fabric between worlds, Walter built his device to cross over anyway.
“The boy is significant” – August
There was a rather intriguing scene with the Observers where we learned that they do in fact actually make mistakes, and that September must correct the error he made in distracting Walternate from the cure. According the September, the moment was significant because Peter is somehow significant; however, in order to right the balance, the Observers are allowed to take action.
In an attempt to stop Walter, Carla went to Nina for help, and the two of them followed Walter to Reiden Lake. We learned that Nina was apparently quite close to Peter – although this had been hinted at in the season one episode The Cure – and that Nina seems to be having a hard time dealing with his death. We also learned that Walter has a rather different view of William Bell than most people think: that Bell is only interested in power and does not really care about anyone else. Intriguingly, Bell had apparently been trying to convince Walter to open a doorway sooner. While trying to stop Walter, Nina grabbed hold of him, and when he crossed through to the other side and closed the doorway Nina was in close proximity and her arm appeared to dematerialize – thus confirming that Nina did not actually lose her arm to cancer as everyone had thought. Unfortunately for everyone involved, when Nina tried to stop Walter, the vial of the cure was broken.
Other Peter (played by Quinn Lord)
On the other side we saw Elizabeth Bishop teaching Peter how to do his coin trick in a scene paralleling one on our side between Walter and Peter, before his death. Walter went to get Peter and, since he didn’t have the cure with him any longer, told Elizabeth that he must take Peter back to the lab – promising her that he would bring Peter back. And at that point I firmly believe that he planned to do so. Walter and Peter crossed back over to our side, at which point the ice gave way; close to drowning, both Walter and Peter were saved by September who told Walter that Peter was important and had to live. Walter managed to cure Peter, still intending on taking him home, but Elizabeth came to the lab and saw Peter.
“I saw in her what I feared most in myself when I saw him, and I couldn’t lose him again” – Walter
In the end, Walter tells Olivia that he could not give his son up again; even though he had had every intent of returning Peter to his own universe, he could not face losing Peter again.
Thoughts and Impressions
One thing about the style in which the episode was presented which I particularly liked was that although it was a flashback, aside from the beginning and end sequences, Peter remained entirely within the flashback without narration. I enjoyed being free to draw my own conclusions from the events of the past rather than having it being coloured by Walter’s descriptions. I found that without any interruptions, it was easier to immerse myself in the flashback, and the emotionally fraught elements of the episode came through much better – the performances of the actors were left speak for themselves without any interference.
As always, Michael Giacchino created another masterpiece with the scoring of the episode. We started off with an interesting variation on the opening theme; although, as neat as it was, I am rather partial to the usual opening sequence myself. At times we heard a similar theme echoing the new opening sequence. However, I found the music at its most powerful during the scene where this side’s Peter died, and during the subsequent funeral and scene between Walter and Elizabeth Bishop. I would advise you to go back to those scenes and watch them again and just listen to the scoring. Alone, the music is powerful enough, but when it is coupled with the performances onscreen, it is enough to blow you away.
Speaking of performances, I assume that if you’re reading this review that you have watched the episode (if that isn’t the case, you really ought to go watch it!) and thus it goes without saying that not only did the actors deliver, but they were able to believingly convey the heartbreak of the loss of a child. One aspect by which I was particularly impressed was the interactions between the guest stars – namely, Jenni Blong and Orla Brady – and John Noble; since it was a flashback, we were technically meeting people with whom Walter had an established relationship, yet we were only meeting them for the first time. I think that it is a testament to everyone involved that the relationships between the characters came across as very natural and not at all forced.
I really would love to see Orla Brady reprise her role as Elizabeth Bishop: not only because her relationship with Walter intrigues me, but also because I am extremely curious about what happened to Mrs. Bishop. I assume that she is now deceased because of a comment Walter made in The Bishop Revival stating “[Peter’s] mother, god rest her soul”, which is usually not something you say unless someone has died. Something I do find a bit curious is that there were several times, closer to the beginning of season one, where Walter criticized Peter for being ‘small minded’ like his mother; however, in this episode we clearly see that Elizabeth appears to accept some of Walter’s crazier science ventures quite readily – most notably, the fact that she got her son from an alternate universe after her son had already died. Given that, there was a scene which was repeated in both universes wherein Walter told Elizabeth that he needed her ‘not to doubt him’, which makes me think that there were times in their relationship when Elizabeth did doubt Walter.
“There has to be a line somewhere. There has to be a line we can’t cross” – Carla Warren
Crossing lines seems to be something of a theme, understandably, as Fringe deals with what happens when people – usually Walter and Bell – cross lines they shouldn’t: recall Olivia’s accusation to Walter in Jacksonville when she said that he and Bell were trying to find answers to questions they shouldn’t have been asking in the first place, and Carla’s assertion to Walter that there must be lines they shouldn’t cross.
I found it particularly interesting to see Walter’s relationships with the women in his life in this episode – another one being that with his lab assistant Carla Warren. As we have previously learned, she was killed in a fire in the lab, an accident. And it was a result of this accident which resulted in Walter’s commitment to St. Claire’s. This fact alone, given that we know that Bell was somehow involved during Walter’s stay in St. Claire’s, makes me rather suspicious about the events surrounding Carla’s death and whether it really was an accident. Carla surprised me since, for some reason, I had always expected her to be a student, but given that she has three degrees in theoretical physics that is obviously not the case. In this episode she served as Walter’s conscience, so to speak, in trying to prevent him from opening the wormhole between the worlds. I found it fascinating to hear her and Walter arguing over religion since Walter’s views seem much less rigid now: we have heard him quoting the bible and debating on the matter of souls and higher powers before, and his views seemed much more open to considering religious views.
“Help me!” – Nina
As I have mentioned, this was the first time we learned that Nina did not actually lose her arm to cancer; rather, she was too close to the doorway between universes and got her arm caught. At least, that is what appeared to happen. One thing which initially confused me was that previously, when we have seen people catch body parts in interuniversal doorways, they have been severed cleanly when the doorway closes. In Nina’s case, her arm seemed to fluctuate between material and immaterial. I think this may be due to the cat that Nina may not have caught her arm completely in the doorway, but instead was in very close proximity – enough to cause substantial damage to her cellular make-up due to the fact that she came too close to the opening between the worlds without passing through.
There was a moment at the lake – and I am not quite sure whether it was intentional or not – but it reminded me remarkably of a scene in Of Human Action, when Nina was trying to get through to Walter to save Peter. This moment at the lake mirrored the earlier (or later, I suppose) moment, except for the fact that at the lake Nina was not able to get through to Walter to prevent him opening the doorway. The entire scene where Nina was trying to convince Walter not to open the wormhole was actually rather poignant: Nina comes off as being rather cold and aloof, but I think she just hides herself away rather than wearing her heart on her sleeve. At the lake, she begged Walter not to go and said how hard it would be for her to accept that Peter was gone. This begs the question of how close Nina was with Peter considering her familiarity with Peter earlier in season one.
Speaking of Nina, I find myself wondering at her relationship with William Bell since she defends him so adamantly when he cannot return for the funeral of his good friend’s son. At times I get the feeling that she is almost reverent of him and she seems disturbed by Walter’s contentions that Bell is only about power and money. One thing I find quite curious is that Bell has apparently been pushing Walter for quite a while to open an actual doorway between the universes but that Walter has been resistant.
I think that perhaps a reason that Peter does not remember crossing over – even though he was 7 at the time – is because he obviously would have sustained hypothermia following his and Walter’s inadvertent swim in Reiden Lake. A symptom of hypothermia is memory loss, and since Walter and Peter crossed over just before falling into the lake, it may have interfered with Peter’s processing of the memory and so he doesn’t remember. Even if Peter did remember before, he would just remember his father coming to get him and take him to the lab, so if he woke up in the lab it would not seem strange. And if Peter does remember almost drowning in the lake, Walter has obviously told him the story about their “car accident” many times, and so Peter would just assume it was a car accident and would not inquire any further.
“The boy is important. He has to live” – September
It seems as though every glimpse we are given of the Observers tells us much more about them – although that may be because we really don’t know much about them as it stands now. August, who fell in love with Christine Hollis, seems to have a better grasp on human nature than does December, who refers to movies as theories rather than entertainment. Interestingly, the Observers apparently do make mistakes, and although they aren’t supposed to interfere, they are required to do so to right an imbalance of their own making. Thus, the reason why September interfered to save Walter and Peter: he was righting the balance which he himself had caused by distracting Walternate. The Observers can seemingly travel between the universes without consequence as they were watching the movie on the other side, but September saved the Bishops on this side.
I do hope that we learn why Peter is so important – if not soon, at least at some point. I wonder if it has something to do with the role he would play in Fringe Division and the fact that Olivia needs him. In Momentum Deferred, William Bell told Olivia to keep Peter by her side as she would need him in the coming war between the worlds. However, this theory is contingent upon Peter being in ‘our’ universe which likely would not have happened if September had not distracted Walternate. My other theory is that Peter’s significance may have something to do with the fact that Peter in ‘our’ universe is dead and so the theme of “there is more than one of everything” does not seem to quite apply in the case of Peter; however, if you accept the multiverse theory upon which we are operating, there would be an infinite number of Peters in an infinite number of universes.I suppose that most, if not all, Peters might suffer the same fate as Walter’s Peter due to the fact that the illness was genetic, thus all Peters would have it. Perhaps the moment where Walternate found the cure was significant because he was the only Walter Bishop to do so, and thus that Peter would have been the only Peter saved.
“It was the first hole, Olivia. The first breach. The first crack in a pattern of cracks, spaces between the worlds” – Walter
Walter obviously blames himself for being the cause of the events in our present, given that opening the wormhole between the universes weakened the wall between the worlds. Obviously the weakening of the wall at Reiden Lake was what allowed David Robert Jones to open a window in There’s More than One of Everything, and I suspect that it is what allowed Newton to pull the building through to this reality in Jacksonville – leaving aside the fact that Walter created the technology which Newton used.
One thing I wonder is whether Walter’s statement to Olivia that Walternate was “equally motivated” to save his own Peter foreshadows an upcoming confrontation with Walternate. I can only imagine that Walternate would have been furious upon finding out that his son had been kidnapped by his alternate self, perhaps leading to Walternate becoming involved with, or even leading, the efforts behind the First Wave.
I just wanted to mention several things which bothered me a little bit in this episode. First of all, if Peter was suffering from a genetic disease, a one-time dose of a drug would not ‘cure’ it; the only way to cure a genetic disease is through gene replacement therapy which is obviously not what Walter’s cure was. Any other cure would be managing the symptoms of the disease rather than a cure, and would require long-term treatments. This little quibble bothers me a fair bit simply because the science in Fringe is usually pretty accurate – relatively speaking. Also, the fact that it was a genetic disease contradicts what Walter told Peter in season one about him being sick with a rare form of bird flu when he was a boy; I assume that this inconsistency was because if Walter told Peter that he had a genetic disease, Peter would want to know more details, particularly about the cure.
Something that struck me as a rather big inconsistency in terms of the established timeline is that Walter is very clear that the reason he opened the doorway between the universe for the first time was to save the Peter on the other side; however, Peter died in 1985 and the Cortexiphan trials in Jacksonville ran from 1981 to 1983. In Jacksonville, Walter tells Olivia that she was the first to be able to see the glimmer on objects from the other side, but that entails that they must have had objects from the alternate universe. So if Walter first opened the window in 1985 to save Peter, from where did the objects for the Cortexiphan trials come?
One more slight nitpick I have is regarding apparent contradictions between what we just learned in Peter, and other information which we have gleaned throughout the series so far. One of these being that Walter has said before that the reason he opened the window the first time was because he had lost something extremely precious to him and that he thought he could take what he had lost from the other side; the view of Walter’s past which we were given in this episode certainly doesn’t seem to fit with that statement.
Just an observation regarding something that seems slightly off: in August, when Walter met with August, he said that he had a “deal”, and asked the Observer not to take away his son. However, in Peter there didn’t seem to be any deal made between Walter and September – just the statement that Peter was important and had to live. Perhaps we simply haven’t been privy to the deal yet, as Walter may have made it with the Observer after Elizabeth saw Peter and Walter knew he could not give up his son again.
“You have no idea what it’s like to lose a child” – Walter to Olivia
The crux of the issue is that no matter how much Walter tells Olivia about what really happened, it comes down to that crushing pain of having lost someone whom you love more than anything, and who can fault Walter for his actions? For being unable to watch his child die again? In some ways the tragedy – beyond the fact that his Peter was already dead – is the fact that Walter truly just wanted to prevent another death, but multiple factors intervened. I wonder if Walter promised the Other Elizabeth that he would bring Peter back to her because then he would feel as though he had to hold himself to the promise – no matter how much he wanted to keep his son.
I just wanted to add one more thing: as much as I enjoyed meeting Elizabeth Bishop and Carla Warren, and seeing ‘young’ Nina, I felt as though John Noble carried the episode. I find it is not often, even with one of my favourite shows, that you could remove the other main actors for the bulk of an episode – those being Anna Torv and Josh Jackson – and still have one of the leads carry the show on their own. I think that part of it is due to the fact that we have ‘known’ Walter for longer and therefore can more easily connect with him emotionally in some of the scenes, but there is no doubt in my mind that it takes an actor of the calibre of John Noble to pull off such an episode.
“He knew he was loved… Didn’t he?” – Walter
I found that the single moment which affected me most deeply was when Walter and Elizabeth were trying to come to terms with their grief. Elizabeth was worried that they hadn’t given him a proper life as he was isolated due to his disease to which Walter replied that they did the best they could and that Peter knew he was loved.
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