Fellow Fringe Fans,
As you all know, we have come to the end of season 2 of Fringe, and it’s been a pretty wild ride! I, for one, was waiting in eager anticipation for part 1 of the season finale and as usual, it delivered! I found that in the weeks leading up to the finale, FOX did a great job of releasing just enough teaser material to whet our appetites, but not so much that it ruined any of the awe-factor of the finished product.
One reason I was so excited for this finale episode was that the filming of it looked incredible. As I’m sure you all know by now, season 2 was filmed in Vancouver, B.C ., and it was pretty neat seeing one of the major downtown streets all dressed up for the finale. Not to mention the fact that the big theatre (where they crossed over) is one with which I am quite familiar because it usually houses the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and I have been there many times.
Just a short note, before I get in to my recap and review: I apologize for my absence over the last several weeks. Final exam time hit, and then I got sick, so things have been a little crazy. Thanks for your patience, and the reviews which I’ve missed should be going up in the next several weeks.
Fringe Division of the Other Side
In, hands-down, one of my favourite opening sequences thus far in Fringe, we do not start with a Fringe event or our own team, but rather with the Fringe Division from the Other Side. From their headquarters in New York City, an anomalous energy signature is detected and we are introduced to the Other Team as they set out to investigate a breach: Alt-Olivia (Anna Torv), Alt-Charlie (Kirk Acevedo), and Capt. Lincoln Lee (Seth Gabel). Broyles (Lance Reddick) is still their commander, but he goes by Colonel, and the head of the team is Lee, and not Olivia.
On the way to investigate the anomaly, we learn that Alt-Charlie is infected with some sort of arachnids, and that the event which they are going to lock down involves some sort of molecular deterioration. Lee begins to investigate the breach and discovers that it is “within quarantine” range and activates a quarantine device, to which Broyles requests that a Looker come to his office: the Looker in question is Alt-Astrid (Jasika Nicole), who performs a casualty assessment to determine whether they should implement the quarantine.
Although cutting it close, which does not appear to phase Alt-Olivia and Lee at all, Alt-Astrid recommends against a quarantine. Alt-Charlie finds a body which looks exactly like James Heath’s victims from Olivia. In the Lab. With the Revolver, and the team quickly realizes something is off given that the body has an alien $20 bill, and an invalid identification (which they refer to as “Show-Me’s”).
Our People, on the Other Side
As the camera pans back, we see our Olivia hiding with Walter, Nick Lane (who you should recall from Bad Dreams), and an unknown woman: “our” people are on the Other Side.
The Observer, helping
Following this revelation, we flash back 36 hours to find out the events preceding the crossing over: Walter (John Noble) is watching footage from the “Northwest Passage Motel” from Northwest Passage where Walternate told Peter (Josh Jackson) that he could take Peter where he belongs, and that Peter must make a choice because he cannot come back to “our” side. Olivia is drowning her sorrows at a bar, and is given a piece of paper by an Observer – presumably September (Michael Cerveris) – which shows Peter, a machine, and some sort of genetic coding.
Peter and the Machine
Walter realizes that there was something he was supposed to remember, something bad about Peter: that something terrible is going to happen to him. Walter realizes that this is what he was supposed to remember. An Observer visited Walter a couple years after he brought Peter over and told Walter that he must never let Peter return to the other side: that Peter would be responsible for the end of the world. Olivia is adamant that they must get Peter back, even though he chose to go to the Other Side.
A way to cross over?
As usual, when things get turned upside-down for Fringe Division, a visit to Massive Dynamic is in order. After a shouting match between Broyles and Nina (Blair Brown), to which Olivia quickly puts an end, Olivia explains to Nina that Peter has been taken and is in danger, and the paper depicts technology which looks just like Bell’s work. Nina explains that they haven’t made it on this side, but she doesn’t know about the Other. Nina takes them to see Brandon (Ryan McDonald) who explains some misconceptions about crossing over, as well as some problems: namely that getting there is all well and good, but whether your molecules will stay together once you get there, now that’s the problem. Massive Dynamic apparently has no way to stably cross, and Walter’s doorway would likely destroy both worlds, but Nina tells Olivia that she can. Olivia says that no, she can’t, because she cannot control her ability. Walter has one of his epiphanies, and realizes that with more of Olivia, or rather, more Cortexiphan children to provide more power, Olivia might be able to cross them over. Walter thinks that Olivia is the only functioning Cortexiphan kid left, but Broyles corrects this misconception.
Sally Clark, Pyrokinetic
Broyles takes Olivia to the Massive Dynamic Experimental Campus, where he explains that they were able to find a couple more children who were treated with Cortexiphan, and that Massive Dynamic believed they could train them to control and repurpose their abilities. Of the five whom they woke from drug-induced comas, three were successful: Nick Lane (David Call) can control his empathic transfers, Sally Clark (Pascale Hutton), whom we have never met before, is becoming a functioning pyrokinetic, and James Heath (Omar Metwally) can control his energy transfers. They return to the Federal Building in Boston, and Olivia notes the new construction which was authorized thanks to a list of demands by Peter (recall A New Day in the Old Town).
“Horrible as it is to say, today is the day for which you were created” – Walter
Walter meets James, Nick, and Sally for the first time since the Cortexiphan trials and he apologizes and explains his justification: that he and Bell believed that one day their world would need their guardianship and protection. Walter explains that they foresaw the day when both universes would be in jeopardy, but that he never imagined that he would be asking them to help him save his son. Nick comments that Walter is not the same guy he remembers; James contends that he is exactly the same. Broyles gives the team a night off before they are to cross over in the morning: James goes to the hospital to cure patients, and Nick and Sally practice Nick’s empathy in a more intimate setting. The next morning we see Olivia say goodbye to her niece Ella (Lily Pilblad) and her sister Rachel (Ari Graynor): she gives Ella a necklace which belonged to her mother, and hugs Rachel rather desperately. Rachel notices something is off, but it isn’t until she sees the necklace Ella has that she really figures out that something is very wrong.
“Maybe you did damage us. But on the other hand, maybe you made us special: fate is a tricky thing” – Nick Lane to Walter
Broyles is not happy with Olivia’s plan of action for crossing over, mostly since she doesn’t really have a plan for once they get to the Other Side. They are essentially going in to enemy territory without any intelligence or back-up. Olivia retorts that no, she doesn’t think it is a good idea, but no-one has a better one, so it’s all they’ve got. Broyles initially tells Walter he can’t go with them to which Walter responds that he cannot ask them to go if he is not willing to go himself. Upon Walter’s query to the team whether they are actually going to go through with the plan, Nick offers Walter the beginnings of forgiveness.
Walter instructs Olivia, Nick, James, and Sally to form a circle “like they did when they were children” and talks them through the crossing-over process. When they get to the Other Side, James collapses and it becomes clear that he was the body which the Alternate Fringe Division found at the beginning. Sally too looks pretty badly off and is giving off smoke (as she seems to be losing control of her pyrokinesis), and Nick’s empathy is apparently on the fritz.
“ZFT: the natural decay of our world” – Walter Bishop (aka Walternate), Secretary of Defense
Alternate Fringe Division, after searching James’ body, scans the $20 bill into a database and we learn that the Other Side never had a President Jackson; the bill is a flagged item which draws the attention of the Secretary of Defense, Walter Bishop. Walternate is the Secretary of Defense, and has been supervising the efforts of Fringe Division. On the Other Side, Walternate wrote and published the ZFT in 1995 detailing the “natural decay” of their world. Walternate informs the Alternate Team that the tears in the fabric of their world – the Fringe events which they investigate – not only lead to a parallel Earth, but they are also man-made; he tells them that it was “our” world’s fault for initiating the pattern of destruction. Walternate tells them that the invaders are not peaceful and that they must be found quickly.
Olivia, Nick, Sally, and Walter try to board a bus to take them to Central Park where they are to meet Bell, but to take the bus on the Other Side requires identification, so they need to walk. Peter wakes up after having been asleep for three days, likely as an effect of crossing over, and he goes to the kitchen to find his mother, Elizabeth Bishop (Orla Brady), making breakfast. After Elizabeth rambles a little bit, Peter hugs her. It’s hard to imagine what they both had to be feeling, given that Peter lost “his” mother 10 years before, and Elizabeth is holding her son for the first time in 25 years.
“Things that might have been in our world, but weren’t” – Walter
Our team is still trying to get to Central Park, and Walter posits that the reason Sally and Nick in particular are feeling such ill-effects from the crossing over was due to a flaw in the “human circuit” which may have been caused by one of them using their abilities excessively the night before – we know that it was James who was healing who-knows how many patients at the hospital. Sally notices a hotel on the skyline, the Grand Hotel, which was apparently supposed to be built in their world, but wasn’t. Olivia prompts them to keep walking, as perhaps Bell can help with the crossing-over effects.
“In the end we have to take responsibility for our own decisions, the good and the bad” – Elizabeth Bishop
Peter and Elizabeth share a conversation out in front of the Bishops’ house wherein they discuss Peter’s childhood on “our” side. Elizabeth just wants to know that her counterpart took good care of Peter. Peter reassures Elizabeth that yes, he was well taken care of, however the other Elizabeth was always sad and committed suicide 10 years earlier; Peter still feels responsible for her death. Elizabeth reassures Peter that we are all responsible for our own decisions. We also learn that Walternate is actually seeking Peter’s help on the machine, and Peter settles down with the blue prints.
Nothing left to lose
Our team finally makes it to Central Park, to the bridge where they are supposed to meet Bell, only to be set upon almost immediately by the Alternate Fringe Division. Lee fires at Sally who is readying a fireball, only to have Nick jump in front of the bullet for her. Olivia tries to keep him with her, but Walter flees when the shooting starts. Olivia takes out an agent, and ends up on her own. Lee moves close and recognizes Nick, and when he dies, Sally gives up: she lets loose and explodes, nearly killing Lee in the process. Alt-Olivia comes across Walter, and fires off a shot but is called away when she learns that Lee has been injured in Sally’s blast. It turns out that Alt-Olivia did actually hit Walter who manages to stumble his way to the front entrance of a hospital.
Frank and Alt-Olivia
We get a glimpse of yet another way that Alt-Olivia is very different from “our” Olivia when she returns home for the night to her significant other Frank Stanton (Philip Winchester). Frank apparently knows her team, because she tells him that even though he has third degree burns over 90% of his body, Lee is going to live: he’ll have to spend 3 months in a nanite regeneration chamber though. Apparently Frank doesn’t have clearance to know the details of the day, but he seems well-versed in Alt-Olivia’s work. Curiously, we discover that Alt-Olivia and Frank have matching tattoos, but the question is what exactly they mean.
“My dear Olivia: I know you have good reason not to trust me but I’m afraid you’re going to have to…” – William Bell to Olivia
Olivia makes use of a public kiosk and finds where Alt-Olivia lives – to what end I am not quite sure. Bell (Leonard Nimoy) suspected that she would go there, and he manages to find her there. Understandably, Olivia wants to know why he wasn’t at the park, but apparently he was too late. Bell tells Olivia that she needs his help, that Walter is in trouble, and that they are running out of time.
On a rather chilling final note, we learn that not only has Walternate already started building the machine – in fact in it looks almost complete – but he also has the Manuscript depicting what will happen to Peter in the even that it is used. The episode ends with Walternate removing something from a casing near the machine, and heading out with it.
Thoughts and Impressions
I had heard in the weeks prior to Over There that the episode felt more like a movie than just a long split episode. After having seen it, I can say that there is definitely a cinematic feel to some of the shots and sequences, particularly in the scale and detail work given to the panoramic shots of the city.
Alternate New York City
I also very much enjoyed the style of story-telling in this episode, not that I don’t normally, but I loved that we got to see the Alt-Fringe Division’s side of the events and not just our team’s view. The device that was used in this episode, where they start off in the now but flash back to however many hours ago, is one which I find is often overused on television – not on Fringe, certainly, given that I’m fairly certain that this was the first time they’ve used it – but I felt that in this episode it was utilized perfectly.
Starting the episode with the Alternate team was fascinating in that it helped to really establish our team in the place of the interlopers which creates a bit of a murky situation: I’m sure that we are all inclined to want to root for “our” guys, but then we meet this other team who is engaging and fascinating, yet they are, in effect, the enemy. I’m very much looking forward to learning more about the Other Side; there is so much information packed into even the most simple of scenes that just begs for answers that I would like to see more development of the Other Side beyond part 2 of the finale. And, just for the record, I would most definitely watch a spin-off series about the Other Side’s Fringe Division.
Speaking of the Alternate Fringe Division, one thing I enjoyed immensely was picking apart the differences between our beloved characters and their other-worldly counterparts.
Alt-Broyles, still married
I found Alt-Broyles to be the most similar to our Broyles, at least given what we have seen so far. The most glaring difference initially is that Alt-Broyles is married, whether to his first wife, or because he has remarried I have no idea – though I do assume it is to his first wife. I wonder if it is due to the fact that on the Other Side the work of Fringe Division, while classified, is a very real presence to the average citizen; it strikes me that, since they live in a world where natural and environmental disasters are the norm, Broyles’ wife may have been more sympathetic over the fact that he sometimes put his job first.
I also found it interesting to notice that those in Fringe Division still seem to maintain their military rank – that is, Alt-Broyles goes by Colonel Phillip Broyles. Certainly slightly less concrete in terms of differences, but I noticed that Alt-Broyles doesn’t seem to have the same relationship to Alt-Liv as our Broyles does to Olivia: that is, while I’m sure he’s concerned about his agents, he doesn’t show any particular favour to Olivia. Broyles seems to try and look after our Olivia a bit, and he is quite protective of her whereas we haven’t seen any indicators of that sort of dynamic between their Alternate counterparts.
For someone who was only in the episode very briefly at the beginning, I found that Alt-Astrid raised a wealth of questions. First of all, when Alt-Broyles was trying to determine whether a quarantine was necessary, he called for a “Looker”; I really have no idea what that means, but I think it has something to do with the way she was able to analyze the data which was streaming in from the site. I wonder if Lookers involve some sort of cybernetics, given how she acted when she sat down at the computer. It also seems as though, while she is an agent, the Lookers are a separate division of sorts: Alt-Astrid did not quite treat Broyles the way I would expect an agent to treat a direct superior officer. Alt-Astrid was curt and impatient when Alt-Broyles kept pushing her for a determination on whether or not to implement a quarantine. Other than Alt-Olivia, Alt-Astrid is probably the alternate about whom I am most looking forward to learning more.
As for Alt-Charlie, and Capt. Lincoln Lee, I found it more difficult to peg them. For one thing, we don’t know of a Lincoln Lee on Our Side, and while Charlie was very close to our Olivia, we didn’t really know all that much about him, though I would hazard a guess that Alt-Charlie isn’t married, given a comment that Lee made about a strip club when they were investigating the Breach. While I do think that Lee was joking about that, it was the fact that Alt-Charlie didn’t say something about being married that makes me think this. That, and I don’t recall seeing a ring. I also found it interesting that Alt-Charlie and Alt-Liv don’t seem to have the same close relationship that our Charlie and Liv had.
“Nick?” – Capt. Lincoln Lee (Seth Gabel)
While we never saw alternate counterparts of the Cortexiphan kids other than Olivia, I think it’s a fairly safe bet to say that Nick Lane, at least, also exists Over There because after he (accidentally) shot Nick, Lee recognized him and seemed rather horrified at having shot him.
One of many aspects of this episode which I absolutely loved is how well it showcases the Fringe Powers that Be’s attention to detail: in an Alternate Universe, a seemingly-throwaway comment or panning shot of a scene can tell us so much. It also means that us less-casual fans who like to pick apart aspects of the show can spend way too long analyzing a single scene. One of many places that this is readily apparent is with Alt-Olivia. Perhaps it is also the fact that we “know” our Olivia better than some of the other Alternate counterparts whom we met, so the differences are even more glaring, but I find it fascinating what this episode told us, not only about Alt-Liv, but also about “our” Agent Dunham.
Joking with her team
Right off the bat it is obvious that there is something inherently different about Alt-Liv – and I’m not just talking about her hair. Simply in the way Alt-Olivia carries herself compared to our Olivia, as well as her interactions with her teammates. Capt. Lee is, evidently, her immediate superior officer – another difference, in that Olivia is the head of her team under Broyles on Our Side. Alt-Olivia also interacts with her team quite differently: she is more sarcastic and engaging, almost more open. Our Olivia is usually quite serious, so it was interesting to see the dichotomy between the two. We did see elements of this with our Liv’s interactions with Charlie before he died, but not to quite the same extent as Alt-Liv.
I also wonder if Alt-Olivia was ever in the military: since the Alternate Fringe Division seems more like a paramilitary force than our team, their agents seem to use military ranks a fair bit: Alt-Broyles as Colonel, and Lee as Captain. This made me wonder if, since Alt-Liv doesn’t seem to have a rank, if she was ever actually in the service.
A couple small things I noticed which spun me off onto pondering pathways were the fact that Alt-Liv is actually wearing colours, and a comment that Lee made about Alt-Liv’s will. What I mean is that on our side, Olivia rarely (if ever) wears colours: her wardrobe consists of darks (blacks and greys, mostly) and the occasional white shirt. While this may seem like a bit of a nit-pick, one thing that has been noted (I discussed it in a podcast with the wonderful guys from The Fringe Report ) is that the Cortexiphan subjects have an unofficial uniform of sorts: we saw this with not only our Olivia, but also with Nick Lane, Susan and Nancy Lewis, and James Heath.
Now, it may seem like a bit of a leap, but given what we know of the history on the other side, I think it’s fairly safe to assume that there never were Cortexiphan trials; at least, if there were, I somewhat doubt that Alt-Liv was one of the subjects. This, naturally, leads me to wonder what Alt-Liv’s childhood was like compared to what we know about our Olivia. You may recall that we learned that Olivia’s father was military (and presumably died when Olivia was young), that her mother remarried, and Olivia’s stepfather was an abusive alcoholic who Olivia shot when she was 9 years old. I wonder if part of the reason Alt-Olivia is somewhat less serious than her counterpart is that she has had less of these admittedly-traumatic experiences. I also doubt that Alt-Olivia was ever involved with a John Scott, given her relationship with Frank.
And considering her relationship with Frank, it seems as though Alt-Liv is a bit more lucky in the romance department than Olivia: in the pilot episode, Olivia tells John that she has “been bad at this” for a long time. And the fact that John Scott turned out to be a traitor (or so they thought for a while) partly contributed to the fact that Olivia is a bit more closed off.
“Really? God, and I didn’t even update my will” – Alt-Liv
The comment that Lee made to which I was referring a couple paragraphs back occurred in an exchange between Alt-Liv and Lee in which she made a comment on how she hadn’t updated her will and Nick said that Frank would just spend it all anyways. This made me wonder if Rachel and Ella even exist on the Other Side, or perhaps Alt-Liv is not close with her sister and niece. The reason I found this odd was that I figure that if Alt-Olivia did have family she would leave her assets to them especially given how close our Olivia seems to her own, but Lee implies that Frank would be the beneficiary. Perhaps this was simply a casual comment into which I am reading far too much, but I did find it curious.
Another couple more random things which set Alt-Liv apart: she doesn’t drink and she has a tattoo. Given the high amount of detail work on the tattoo, and the fact that her boyfriend Frank has a matching one, I very much hope that we learn more about the tattoos soon, if only to assuage my curiousity. Although, on closer examination, I wonder if Alt-Olivia and Frank’s tattoos are perfectly matching: the black portion of the tattoo certainly looks the same on both, but the red part looks slightly different. I found it difficult to tell from the angle of the shot what exactly the red part of Frank’s looked like. My guess at the moment is that they have something to do with a task force, or some sort of defense unit.
Olivia: badass in every Universe.
Funnily enough, given all their differences, Alternate Olivia lives in the same apartment that Olivia does on our side. Also, to no-one’s surprise, Alternate Olivia is just as hard-core as our Olivia when the time calls for it.
“I can’t control it! Not on my own!” – Olivia
Speaking of our Olivia, I found that this episode offered a glimpse at an interesting side of our favourite FBI agent both personally and in terms of her classification as a Cortexiphan subject. Bell once told Olivia that “of all the children that Walter and [he] prepared, you were the strongest” and it is clear that Olivia’s main talent lies in the ability to safely cross over. I assume that this is the reason that she was the only one unaffected from crossing over when James, Nick, and Sally were all severely affected.
From what we saw in this episode I don’t think it is the fact that all Cortexiphan kids have that same ability to cross over, but that the circuit of four amplified Olivia’s ability. As Walter told her in Massive Dynamic, she cannot control the ability on her own, but with “more” of her, it may be possible: that is, with the additional Cortexiphan kids to provide the power boost it becomes possible for her to exert a modicum of control over the ability.
One thing I hope we may see in the future is, given Massive Dynamic’s success at training the Cortexiphan kids in their powers, that Olivia may start to learn how to really use her powers. Given the extent to which the Other Side has been developed, I think it will be focused heavily on next season, and it would be fairly useful for Olivia to be able to cross over in controlled jumps. I also think it would be pretty cool if Olivia could master whatever latent pyrokinetic abilities she has: if you recall, we learned that when Olivia was little she generated a massive explosion during the Cortexiphan trials, so clearly she has the capacity.
“Walter, how do we get him back!” – Olivia
We have seen before that Olivia stop at nothing to try and save someone whom she loves; we see this drive again, clear as day, when she goes to great lengths to save Peter. Yes, you read that right: I just implied that Olivia loves Peter. But if you are an anti-shipper (fan slang for a viewer who is against a romantic relationship between Peter and Olivia), please bear with me: I am not suggesting that she is necessarily in love with him. As I have said before, I am not entirely sure where I myself stand on the issue of a romantic relationship between the two. But there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Olivia does love Peter – both Bishops, in fact, even given her past with Walter – and that they are indeed an odd family unit of sorts. At the base of it, Peter has been Liv’s partner for the past year, and she has come to rely upon him and trust him a great deal, which is no small feat given her trust and control issues.
“Stop it! Both of you! Peter is in danger!” – Olivia, to Broyles and Nina
Olivia’s level of desperation can first be seen at the Bishops’ house when she takes the Manuscript left by the Observer to Walter. She is adamant that they find a way to get Peter back, managing to get through to Walter until he has a suggestion. When Olivia, Broyles, and Walter invade Massive Dynamic to speak to Nina – who is outraged at Broyles’ accusations – Olivia wastes no time in yelling at Nina and Broyles to remind them of what is really important: not the fact that their world is in danger, but that Peter has been taken and is in danger. True, Olivia could be trying to get through to Nina because she knows that Nina herself cares a great deal for Peter, as we witnessed in Peter, but I find it telling that Olivia focuses on the peril in which Peter has unknowingly found himself as opposed to the danger to their entire universe.
“In which case you’re essentially invading enemy territory without a plan: you don’t know anything about the opposition, the landscape…” – Broyles, to Olivia
For someone like Olivia who hates losing control, her plan to cross over and get to Peter smacked of desperation. Broyles was quick to point out that this was less than a good plan and that they were relying on the fact that not only did Bell get Nina’s message, which was certainly not a surety, but whether they can even trust Bell. Olivia’s plan of action is markedly different from her usual level-headed approach to her work. The only times we have really seen Olivia out of control, so to speak, are when someone she loves is threatened. Not only is she going into enemy territory, but they have no reliable intelligence on the state of affairs on the Other Side and realistically have no-one on whom they can rely. The crux of the issue is that she really has been backed into a corner and there really is no other option if she wants to try and save Peter. We know that Olivia has been protecting ‘her’ people since she was a little girl, and this is clearly no different.
“No. I don’t think that this is a good idea. But you got a better one?” – Olivia, to Broyles
I thought it was great to see Ella and Rachel again. Olivia’s interactions with the two of them prior to crossing over were quite telling: clearly she was saying goodbye. We learned in Unearthed that Olivia’s mother was religious, and that Olivia is not. Liv gives Ella a cross that belonged to her mother, Ella’s grandmother, and tells Ella that her mother said that it would “keep her safe” and so now she is giving it to Ella. As much as she is driven to solve the cases and track down the Pattern, I think that a large part of what drives Olivia is striving to make the world a safer place for the “innocents”, like Rachel and Ella.
“She told me that it would keep me safe, so now I’m giving it to you” – Olivia, to Ella
It doesn’t surprise me that Rachel picked up on the fact that something was wrong, even before she saw that Liv had given Ella the necklace. Olivia hugged Rachel goodbye, but definitely held onto her little sister longer than she would if she were going to see her again later that evening. The comment Olivia makes to Rachel about doing this more often, I assume she means the hugging, makes me a little sad for Liv given that if she doesn’t hug her own sister that often, she probably doesn’t get hugged much. And considering some of what has happened to Olivia in the recent past, she could certainly use more hugs!
“We should do this more often; it’s nice” – Olivia, to Rachel
I always enjoy when we get to see Olivia with her family since it allows us a glimpse at a side of her we don’t often see; she is much more open and at ease with them. I find it interesting that at times she almost treats Walter similarly to how she does Ella; rather ironic, considering her past with him. Although since Peter disappeared after learning about what Walter did, Olivia and Astrid have had to step up and take Peter’s place in taking care of Walter, leading to an interesting shift in their dynamic.
Another showcasing of interesting dynamics was when Broyles told Walter that he could not go to the other side: I found it curious that Walter would appeal to Olivia rather than Broyles. I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that he figured that Liv could convince Broyles to let him go. But I think it says a fair bit about the relationship between Broyles and Olivia, that she is often able to persuade him, even when he doesn’t agree. When it comes down to it, he is her boss, and he could order her not to go, yet he doesn’t.
I am still not entirely sure whether or not Peter knows that Olivia knew that Walter stole him. For someone of Peter’s deductive abilities it might not take him long to make the leap that once Olivia’s abilities were activated in Jacksonville, she would have seen him glimmering as he is from the other side.
As a short aside, this leads me to the question of whether or not everything glimmers Over There for Olivia. If so, it might be rather distracting. But I digress.
As I was saying, it would not surprise me if Peter had figured it out and felt betrayed all over again. Yet we have not really seen anything to suggest the fact that he is angry with Olivia. It seems like all his actions, running away, asking Broyles not to tell Walter where he was, and going with Walternate, were driven by the fact that he was running from the schism which has opened up between him and Walter.
One of the many, many questions raised in this episode is why it is Peter who is needed for the machine. Walternate seems to have gone to great lengths to get Peter back for some reason involving the machine. And yes, one might argue that Peter is his son and he wants him back, but why has he waited 25 years to take action when the technology was clearly available on the Other Side. And if Peter is the one needed, why is he the only one who will do? It would not be unreasonable to think that if there were a different option Walternate would have found it, after all, why would he sacrifice his own son? So again, the question is, why is it Peter who is so important?
Nucleotides on the Manuscript
It wouldn’t make sense to me if it had to do merely with genetics, although I do think that may be part of it: there are lists of nucleotides on the manuscript, so genetics clearly plays some role. If you need a slight refresher, nucleotides are the basic building blocks of life; when they are joined together, they form the base units of DNA and RNA, in essence, what makes you, you. The question is, for what exactly do those bases code? The reason I don’t think it would make sense if genetics played the only role is because the Other Side is apparently incredibly technologically advanced, and clearly genetic engineering would not be beyond their scientists, in which case Walternate would surely have other options than to sacrifice his only son.
Breakfast (Elizabeth and Peter)
Although Walternate strikes me as being a bit evil, at least from what we have seen so far, I find myself liking Elizabeth Bishop more and more each time we meet her. I very much enjoyed Orla Brady’s performance in Peter, and once again she delivered beautifully. The scene in the Bishops’ kitchen was quite heart-wrenching, especially given Elizabeth’s obvious sorrow; for Peter as well it must have been surreal given that the woman he thought was his mother committed suicide 10 years earlier, about which he still harbours a lot of guilt. I thought the conversation between Elizabeth and Peter over breakfast was quite telling, and can easily be applied to our Walter as well, given his life thus far: that Peter is not responsible for his mother’s choice because we are all responsible for our own decisions, good and bad.
There were far, far too many gems in this episode with regards to Walter, not surprising given Mr. Noble’s always-wonderful performance (I’m a slight fan), for me to discuss them all. I want to instead focus on two themes, of a sort, which really jumped out at me: choice and redemption.
“He went over by his own free will…” – Walter, about Peter
It goes without saying that we have seen a remarkable amount of development in Walter’s character since his release from St. Claire’s in the pilot episode, but Over There was almost the pinnacle of that change. In the past several “months” we have seen how much Walter has come to appreciate choice, and the freedom to live his life as he sees fit; I think that this freedom to choose on his own dove-tails with his more recent quest for independence so that he may one day live on his own again. I find this importance which he has come to place on choice so note-worthy because of the times in the past when we know he has exhibited disregard for an individual’s right to choose: consider the Cortexiphan children, and any number of experiments he and Bell conducted.
Yet if you consider Walter’s experiences as of late, it is not so surprising: Walter has not been able to choose for himself for a very long time. He had no freedom at St. Claire’s, and Bell apparently robbed him of his right to choose when he performed brain surgery on Walter – I cannot imagine that Walter agreed to the surgery, because I cannot see someone like Dr. Bishop agreeing to voluntarily give up any part of his own mind. So the fact that Peter chose to go over to the Other Side is crucial for Walter in not wanting to pursue him, no matter how much he wants his son back. Yet, once again, Peter’s life is in danger.
“What I did was inexcusable. Barbaric. The collateral damage has been extensive” – Walter
When Walter finally meets Nick, Sally, and James for the first time since the Cortexiphan trials when they were children, he apologizes. To my recollection this is the first time he has actually done so, even to Olivia. Walter seems well aware of the fact that even though he and Bell had noble goals, that they knew the children would be needed, it still did not excuse what he did and it is clear he does not expect forgiveness of any sort. I continue to find it amazing that even knowing some of the terrible things Walter has done, I never fail to find myself sympathetic to him. Although I suppose it isn’t difficult to feel sympathy for Walter when he finishes the scene by saying that he’s “going off to have a bit of a cry.”
If you would permit a bit of a tangent, I wanted to mention an idea which a friend of mine, Sahar Sabati, proposed in one of her blog posts (I was having trouble finding the link, so feel free to click through to her Twitter page and ask her about it!): given the choice now, would those individuals who were involved in the Cortexiphan trials as children choose to take the drug knowing the good they might accomplish? Sahar drew the comparison to a wonderful novel called “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card, also a favourite of mine, given that the focus of that novel is on children who are trained as soldiers to save the world.
The parallel is very apt, especially given Walter’s speech on how he and Bell truly believed that they could foster the children’s talents and make them special and better prepared; that one day both universes would be in jeopardy and they would be needed. The situation becomes a bit cloudier given the fact that Cortexiphan needs to be administered to children, who cannot choose for themselves, nor would they comprehend the magnitude. But especially given what we know about Olivia and the lengths to which she will go in protecting people, I think she would take the drug. And what if the point were reached where your world and everything and everyone you cared about was being threatened and you were told that you would have been able to save them, if only they had given you this drug as a child. How would you feel then? I am not saying that I think the ends justified the means, or that Bell and Walter had any right to do what they did, but it is easy to see how they were able to convince themselves.
I really do think that Walter never expected any of the Cortexiphan subjects to forgive him, yet Nick Lane does just that when they are getting ready to cross over. I think that this arc, of Walter’s involvement with the Cortexiphan trials, quite neatly parallels Walter’s actions with taking Peter as a boy. And, arguably, what he did to the Cortexiphan children was far worse, especially given the consequences in the present. And yet if they can find it in them to forgive Walter for his actions, perhaps there can be hope for Walter that Peter might one day forgive him – especially given the fact that Peter still doesn’t know the whole story: he did not give Walter the chance to explain the story behind the events to which Olivia was privy.
Given the length of this post so far I am sure you have come to realize that I enjoyed this episode a great deal. Not that I don’t normally absolutely love Fringe, but this episode was something else entirely. I want to add a couple more things – more random observations that didn’t quite fit in anywhere else – before I wrap this up. And if you’re still reading this by this point, then I thank you for sticking with me! I still have so much more to say about this episode that I think I may have to write another piece about it at some point, but that’s an issue for another time.
A very, very big question on my part is why the Observers are helping Our Side in this; at least, that is how it appears on the face of it. From everything we have seen so far, the Observers have a strict policy of non-interference in events, except when they must rectify some sort of mistake of their own making. Yet in this case, the Observers have clearly interfered: they told Walter, even though he didn’t remember, that Peter must never be allowed to go back to the other side, given the disastrous consequences. We know that it was September – who I have come to think of as “our” Observer given his involvement with the Bishops – who warned Walter all those years ago. Again, the question is why? Could it be that the consequences of Walternate’s machine are really that cataclysmic? Perhaps the Observers themselves are somehow responsible for the machine having been built in the first place and so now they are trying to fix that mistake.
The Manuscript, original?
I can’t help but think that the Manuscript clearly plays a key role which begs the obvious question of where Walternate got the Manuscript in the first place? Could it be that the Manuscript was a product of the Observers? The writing on the original, which we saw in Walternate’s possession at the end of the episode was not written in any language I recognized, but it did remind me a bit of September’s handwriting from the season 1 episode The Arrival. This yet again begs the question of who translated the Manuscript for Olivia and Walter: the writing on the “original” does not resemble the nucleotides which are evident on the copy of which our team has possession – is this yet another clue for our Fringe Division? Perhaps a helpful hint from our friendly neighbourhood Observers?
Suffice it to say that I loved the glimpses of other-worldly technology in this episode, and I am immensely curious about what exactly the “Quarantine Potentiator” does. But one of my favourite parts was hearing Brandon give a more thorough explanation of what exactly it means to “cross over” and why exactly that phrase is a misnomer. I felt as though his explanation – that the Other Side is always present in the same place as ours, but that you must pass through our universe to get to theirs – wonderfully complemented Bell’s warnings to Olivia in Momentum Deferred and Nina’s description about the “Last Storm”.
The West Wing, Season 11
Of all the background differences on the Other Side, one which most tickled my fancy was the reference to the West Wing which, if you haven’t seen it, is a phenomenal show. If you aren’t familiar with it, the show ran for 7 seasons and finished in 2006. There were so many fascinating differences from the other side: apparently they never had a President Jackson, and instead it is Martin Luther King Jr. on the $20 bill, Richard Nixon is on one of their coins, the Statue of Liberty is in bronze, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre are still standing (which we first saw in More than One of Everything), and the Headquarters of the Department of Defense (and Walternate’s office) is on Liberty Island in New York – I assume that on Our Side the Dept. of Defense is in the Pentagon.
One of the neatest differences can be observed in the map of the United States of America which fills Walternate’s wall. Unfortunately it is difficult to make out details in the episode, but the folks over at SciFiWire have a fabulous article compiling the differences between the map Over There and on our side which can be found here: http://scifiwire.com/2010/05/secrets-of-the-alternate.php. Personally, my favourite is the fact that Canada apparently got bigger: the state of Washington is called “Southern British Columbia”.
One more thing I wonder about is the difference in locations of the headquarters of Fringe Division. The Alternate team’s headquarters is located in New York City, perhaps due to proximity to the Department of Defense, yet on Our Side, Fringe Division is located in Boston. Even more interesting, Alternate Fringe Division has the big fancy set-up which we can see at the beginning of the episode; that same room, though more bare-bones as it is in the process of being built, seems about to become our Fringe Division’s headquarters on our side, albeit in Boston. Broyles comments to Olivia that the reason they were able to get funding was because of Peter.
Speaking of Broyles, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of my favourite scenes of Fringe ever: when Broyles takes Olivia to the “Monkey House” – Massive Dynamic’s experimental site where the Cortexiphan kids are being trained – Nick is so overjoyed at seeing Olivia that he transmits to everyone else in the room, except for Olivia, whom we know is unaffected by his empathy from Bad Dreams, and seemingly Sally, who I assume has some sort of resistance from her relationship with Nick. But it is the Nick’s effect on Broyles that is priceless. We have certainly seen Broyles smile before, but this was the first time hearing him laugh. And Lance Reddick certainly has an infectious laugh; I kid you not, I laugh every time I watch this scene. It was also rather amusing to see Olivia’s reaction to Broyles’ laughter.
Olivia’s reaction to Broyles
Before I finish this, I just wanted to discuss Bell for a little bit. First of all, I like him, despite myself. I have no idea where he stands, and it makes him one of the most intriguing characters. It is so hard to pin down his motives and really trust him, but at the same time there is just something about him and the fact that he fairly oozes sincerity that makes you want to believe that he is on the level. And so while I hope that we will see that Olivia’s trust in him is justified, I am not entirely sure that that will turn out to be the case.
If you consider, for a moment, the events in Central Park: Olivia takes her entire team there and ends up being ambushed by Alternate Fringe Division, leaving Nick and Sally dead, Walter separated from Olivia and shot, and Olivia entirely on her own in this Other World. Not only does she not know whom to trust, but she literally has nowhere to go. I found it rather interesting that she would choose to seek out her doppelganger; I suppose if you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?
And yet the only people who knew where they were to meet Bell were Nina and Bell. So how did the Alternates know exactly where to ambush Olivia and her people? This ties back into the fact that Bell was the one who removed Walter’s brain bits (recall Jacksonville) and would have been the only person who could have possibly known where they were hidden, and yet Newton was able to somehow gain access to that information which, more than likely, had never been recorded anywhere. There are only two explanations with which I can come up: Bell willingly told the Alternates the information and is collaborating with them, for whatever reason; or the Alternates can somehow intercept Nina’s communiqués to Bell. This may explain some of the Other Side’s knowledge given that Nina has apparently been sending fairly regular communications to Bell over the years.
In a more cynical moment, I wondered if Bell perhaps manipulated the entire situation in order to leave Olivia in a far more vulnerable position with literally no-one else to trust on the Other Side besides him. Although the fact that he seems to want to help her get Walter and the fact that she already trusts him anyway makes me think that Bell really is trying to help. I also find Bell’s attitude towards Olivia quite intriguing: why are both he and Walter so very fond of Olivia?
“Spread out your arms, you remember how… I want you to think back to when you were just young children” – Walter
One last thing – no, really this time: when Walter had the Cortexiphan kids trying to cross over, tells them to hold out their arms just like when they were little. This makes me think that Bell and Walter taught the children how to do this exact thing when they were in the Cortexiphan trials and used the other children to boost Olivia’s power just like they did to cross over. Obviously they never actually crossed the children over, but believe that they may have used this method to bring objects over from the Other Side.
Evidently it is less destabilizing to the very fabric of reality – which Walter maintains he nearly destroyed opening a doorway to bring Peter across – and so chances are it could be done with minimal effects; the reason it would have caused a Breach on the other side this time, is because they had five people actually crossing over and the barrier between the worlds is already failing due to Walter’s actions.
This might explain on of my slight issues from Jacksonville and the timeline for the Cortexiphan trials: previously, Walter has made it very that when he opened the doorway to get Peter in 1985 it was the first time he did so. Yet the Cortexiphan trials were from 1981 – 1983, and Bell and Walter obviously had objects from the Other Side given that Olivia was able to see the “glimmer”. The obvious question being where did they get the objects? If Bell and Walter had discovered Olivia’s talent for crossing over, they could have used this method to bring objects over from the Other Side.
My only complaint with this episode was that it felt far too short; although, I find that that is usually the case when I’m watching Fringe. I thought that every single actor delivered a wonderful performance, though it was particularly interesting to watch how Anna Torv and John Noble portrayed the alternate versions of their usual characters. For Alt-Olivia it certainly seemed as though Ms. Torv carried herself differently and used a slightly different diction with Alt-Liv. For all that Walternate looks quite similar to our Walter, I found the differences between the two to be stark. It was quite fascinating to see such a very different character when just looking at Walternate, even though they are, for all intents and purposes, the same person.
I think that this kind of story, with Alternate versions of very familiar characters, only really works when the actors can become someone different while still playing the same character; thus far, everyone has done a phenomenal job and I can’t wait until Part 2 airs this coming thursday. No, seriously, ask anyone who knows me – the wait is killing me! (I don’t even want to think about the summer break).
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