Fringe Review Season 3 Episode 15 “Subject 13”

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This week’s Fringe episode focused on important childhood events that would eventually shape the lives of Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), Walter Bishop (John Noble), and Elizabeth Bishop (Orla Brady). “Subject 13” is a sequel of sorts to season two’s “Peter”. This episode is a bit unusual in that the only main cast member in it is John Noble.

Hold on to your seats Fringe Fans, we are going back to the 80’s to spend time with a young Peter (Chandler Canterbury) and a young Olivia (Karley Scott Collins)! And we didn’t even need a modified Delorean!!

Click to visit Warner Brothers Studios!The episode takes place six months after Walter takes Peter from the parallel universe. The actual date is revealed during the episode to be around April 1st, 1985 (it’s on the recording that Walter makes with his Betamax). We find that Elizabeth is struggling with her role as caretaker for Peter (who essentially is a boy that is very similar to, but is NOT, her dead son). Peter is certain that this Walter and Elizabeth are not his parents and this is not his world. Peter has left Elizabeth a note: “I am going home”.

Fringe S3x15 - The Letter

Peter believes his universe must be at the bottom of Reiden Lake and decides the way to get back is to tie himself to a cinder block and sink to the bottom of the frozen lake. We get a heart-wrenching scene as Elizabeth rushes to stop him… too late… he throws the block on the ice and falls in. Without a moment’s hesitation, Elizabeth dives into the ice water. He fights her but she manages to bring him up through the hole. It was an incredible opening to the show.

Elizabeth is clearly worried for Peter’s safety and mental state so she takes him to Jacksonville where Walter is working with his Cortexaphan guinea pigs… uh… I mean children at the Jacksonville Family Daycare Center. Sidebar: Seriously what did these parents think they were signing their children up for? It’s a daycare run by a research scientist… hmmmm… big giant red flag anyone? Anyway… we find a younger Walter (another awesome job by the makeup department) working with a group of the children that includes a young Nick Lane (Liam Macke) and an adorable young Olivia.

Fringe S3x15 - Young Walter with the Cortexipahn kids

Once Walter is informed his wife has arrived, he tells the kids they can go home. We get a shot of Olivia’s face and see she is clearly distressed about going home early.

Walter speaks to Peter and tries to convince him that his ideas about being from another universe is just confusion from his illness. Peter says that this universe is wrong and talks about the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Red Lantern. Walter speaks to his wife and they decide the they need to return Peter to the parallel universe for his sake and to make sure no one from over there finds out they exist. Elizabeth is clearly devastated about having to lie to Peter. It seems as if having this reminder of her Peter around that she doesn’t get to keep is becoming unbearably painful for her.

We get a glimpse into Olivia’s home life. We find her quietly reading the book Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin on the couch. Winter’s Tale is about a man named Peter Lake who falls in love with a young dying girl; the book is set in New York City of a fictional universe. Nice choice by the writers, don’t you think? Suddenly her dirt-bag of a stepfather rips the book from her hands, and begins to chase her down the hallway.

Fringe S3x15 - Dirt bag chases young Olivia

She is clearly scared to death as she looks behind her to see her step father whom we shall refer to as “Dirt-bag” from here on in. Young Olivia’s  universe crossing ability progress instantly transported her to a field.

Fringe S3x15 - A terrified young Olivia crosses over

We hear a motor that we can assume belongs to a Zeppelin and a large shadow passes over her. SNAP! She’s back in the hallway just as Dirt-bag grabs her head. At this point, I yelled obscenities at the television.

Fringe S3x15 - A terrified young Olivia

This is presumably the first time Olivia or any of the Cortexaphan kids have crossed into the parallel universe. The next day Walter believes Olivia has crossed over when he finds her drawing a picture of a Zeppelin.

Fringe S3x15 - Alt universe dirigible drawing

He also sees that Olivia has a black eye, courtesy of her father, El Dirt-Bag.

Fringe S3x15 - Olivia with black eye from dirt bag

Olivia lies and says she “fell”. Obviously this is an abused child. Meanwhile, Elizabeth and Peter are driving in a car when they pass a field of white tulips. Elizabeth passes the time by telling Peter about how the tulips came to be there but Peter still shuts down any attempts to be closer to him.

In an effort to get the boy to trust that she cares for him, Elizabeth takes Peter to a toy store. We finally get to see a glimpse of happiness in him. I loved this scene, mostly because I loved the 1980’s toys. Peter finds an airplane that he seems to enjoy playing with and when he catches Elizabeth hovering, they smile at each other. It was a touching moment. Maybe this woman has finally made some progress with the boy.

Fringe S3x15 - Peter with 1980s toys

Elizabeth and Peter arrive at the daycare to visit Walter. Peter sees Olivia for the first time through the glass window. They are instantly drawn to each other. How cute was their child-like staring at one another?

Walter explains to Elizabeth that Olivia has crossed and she may be the best hope for getting Peter home. Elizabeth seems excited about the prospect of Peter going home. This poor woman probably needs a break from all this madness and has not had a chance to truly grieve for her dead son.

Walter determines that Olivia’s crossing was triggered by an emotional response. He sets up experiments to try and determine which emotions are responsible. He records the experiments on his new Betamax (HAHAHAHAHA). We see him write “Subject 13” (Olivia’s designation) on the videocassette.

Fringe S3x15 - Subject 13 is Olivia!

When’s the last time you saw a videocassette? Walter tests Olivia’s crossing ability when joy, increase heart rate, anger, and loneliness are induced with no avail. He decides to test fear with the movie “Jaws” when Nick pops up in the window and waves at Olivia. Walter comes up with a horribly sick idea to scare the child out of her mind with an awful trick. It was particularly sad since we first have a cute scene of her playing around in the room. The lights go out and she freaks. If you listen, you can hear Walter whispering. The lights pop back on and Nick is lying on the floor with blood all over his face. Olivia totally flips the hell out and sets the room ablaze using only her mind to create the fire. HOLY CRAP!

Fringe S3x15 - Universe crossing ability test

Next we see Walter cleaning the fake blood of Nick’s face and we find out Olivia bailed after the fire. Elizabeth and Peter arrive to find out what’s happened. Peter is asked to hang out by the cubbies and he finds Olivia’s drawing book. He sees a drawing of Dirt-bag and one of the tulips.

Fringe S3x15 - Dirt bag drawing

Meanwhile, Elizabeth finds Walter’s notes in his office and finds out Olivia is being abused by Dirt-bag. When Walter arrives she grills him about sending the girl back to an abusive household and reads part of the notes out loud. “The unique combination of love and terror there apparently stimulates a cortical reaction”. I can only imagine that they use the term “cortical reaction” here to describe Olivia transversing the space-time membrane. (Usually the cortical reaction refers a process during fertilization where a sperm cell contacts an egg’s plasma membrane and sets off a series of events that prevents other sperm from binding to the egg.)

Elizabeth is floored that Walter is willing to sacrifice Olivia by exploiting her domestic situation. Walter admits he has chosen Peter over Olivia. He’s weighing one life over another. He is willing to experiment on children and overlook their well being in order to get Peter home. He worries that if he doesn’t get Peter back to the parallel universe Walternate will never stop searching for Peter and this search will lead to them. Walter feels this is exactly what he would do if his Peter was the one taken.

Turns out that Peter bailed while Walter and Elizabeth were talking and we see that he took the tulip drawing with him. This leads to a cool scene where Elizabeth is looking through a window and then we get a FLASH to other Elizabeth in the parallel universe. Walternate looks a mess and is drinking. A news story on Peter’s disappearance is on the television.

Fringe S3x15 - Walternate drinking thinking what he has happened

They mention that Walternate is the famed architect of the Star Wars defense system (This is in reference to the Strategic Defense Initiative that was a proposed defense system that would protect against nuclear attacks. It was nicknamed Star Wars because it was deemed unrealistic and unscientific in the 80’s).

Elizabeth pleads for him to stop drinking while Walternate questions her about the man who kidnapped Peter for presumably the hundereth time. Note that Walternate refers to the man as “the man that took MY son” even though he’s speaking with the boy’s mother (what a jerk!). The current theories on the kidnapping are plastic surgeries and aliens. He is clearly obsessed and their marriage is paying the price. Walternate seems to come to his senses and apologizes to his wife. She asks him to stay home from work and work on their marriage.

The next morning she awakes to find that he went to work anyway (what a jerk!). Walternate apparently founded BISHOP DYNAMIC.

Fringe S3x15 - Walters Bishop Dynamics

We find that he’s still drinking when we pulls a flask out of his desk drawer. As Walternate stares out the window, we get another cool flash back to the prime universe.

Peter has found Olivia in the tulip field and introduces himself. She warns him that she may not be safe and indicates to tulips she’s fried. He takes a chance and sits with her anyway. She trusts him with her dark secret that Dirt-bag hits her and is afraid Walter is angry with her for the fire and will send her back home. Peter tells her to talk to Walter and ends up referring to Elizabeth as his mom. Olivia asks him if he trusts Walter and Peter side-steps the question. These two star-crossed lovers seem to have a calming effect on one another and end up holding hands. How cute! Hands firmly held with Peter, Olivia causes it to snow.

Peter and Olivia return to the daycare and run into Elizabeth. It’s clear that Elizabeth was distraught and I think she is now too attached to Peter to ever truly let him return home.

Olivia finds out Dirt-bag is on the way to get her as she is drawing in her notebook and becomes very upset. She decides that she has to tell Walter what’s happening immediately. She bursts into tears and barrels into Walter’s office to find him sitting behind his desk. Olivia hands him the notebook and admits she drew the Zeppelin in her book after flashing into the parallel universe. She begs him to make Dirt-bag stop hitting her. Walter silently stares at her appearing to be stunned.

Fringe S3x15 - Walter is stunned by Olivias disclosure

Olivia is startled when Walter walks into his office. WHAT!!

Fringe S3x15 - Walter enters his office

She turns to find no one behind the desk. HOLY CRAP! It was Walternate!! I watched the scene a few times. If you pay attention, you will see that Walternate is wearing a blue tie earlier in the episode while Walter has a red one on. When Olivia sees the man behind the desk, he has a blue tie on! WOW! That was awesome!

Fringe S3x15 - Switching realities in Walters office

Dirt-bag shows up to get Olivia and calls her his “little princess” (YUCK!). Walter lays the smack down and lets D-bag know that if he touches her again there will be consequences for him.

We find Peter apologizing to Elizabeth for running away. He asks her if he’s ever going home. She basically tells him that she’s his real mom and that she’ll protect him and no one will ever take him away. He then calls her mom (excuse me while I wipe the tear from my eye). Elizabeth ends up crying. She’s ravaged by so many conflicting emotions. We see her start drinking. This is probably the beginning to the downward spiral that will eventually lead to her suicide.

We cut back to Walternate (blue tie) calling his Elizabeth. He says he knows where Peter is and is looking at the drawing of Olivia and Peter holding hands. UH-OH WHITE TULIPS!

Fringe S3x15 - Young Olivia and Peter in White Tulips

I think Walternate blamed his wife for Peter’s kidnapping. He couldn’t understand how she could let the boy go with a man who “looked” like him. They didn’t really have any good theories to what had happened. Then this distraught little girl appears and tells him of another universe. I got chills when Walternate made that call. His demeanor had changed. This man had found where his son had gone and you could see that he was going to find a way to get him back.

I loved this episode. I felt like I went through a rollercoaster of emotions over the course of it. The acting was phenomenal. John Noble was wonderful as always. Orla Brady gave a powerful performance. She managed to be so different in each universe. She played a strong Elizabeth in the parallel universe trying to hold together her family and a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown in the prime universe. The kids did an amazing job. Karley Scott Collins performance was extraordinary. When she cried, I felt as if someone was squeezing my heart. I truly hope we get to see more of this beautiful young lady.

There was a lot of 80’s awesomeness in this episode. Let’s go through some highlights!! Title Sequence: We get midi music and vector graphics and everything! YAY! I love the 80’s. Did you notice changes in the “futuristic” science techniques as well? These would be things that in 1985 would look more like “Fringe” science.

Fringe S3x15 - 80s Retro Technology

Fringe S3x15 - Great 80s Technology

Fringe S3x15 - More 80s Technology

Props and Set Dressing:

Peter’s room in the prime universe: I’ve watched the episode a few times and I kept pausing on Peter’s room so I could look around at his toys. I spotted an Erector set, a Labyrinth game, Lincoln Logs, and a Telescope.
Toy Store: when Peter is in the toy store I was SO excited to look around at the 80’s games. He lingered over a Battlestar Galactica game for a bit (LOVE IT!). On the shelf above it, was a set of Ghostbusters toys.

Fringe S3x15 - Peter with 80s items

These toys were from “The Real Ghostbusters” the animated series that ran from 1986-1991 not from the 1st movie in 1984. OOPS. We know from the date on Walter’s camera that it’s April 1st 1985 so these toys shouldn’t be in the toy store yet… HOLY CRAP I’m a HUGE nerd! Betamax!!!! HAHAHAHAHA!!! Also, how awesome was that HUGE cordless phone that Elizabeth uses? I laughed hard when she pulled up that antenna.

Fringe S3x15 - Elizabeth Bishop contemplates the future and antenna!

Costume choices: I loved the kids’ clothes. Why did our parents dress us that way? And it is too bad no one had good 80’s hair either 😛

80’s in the Parallel Universe: Peter’s room in parallel universe: There are some framed comics on the wall. One is of RED Lantern (Green Lantern to us) and another is of Superman but the background of the comic suggests that this is our Batman: The Dark Knight Returns with Superman stuck in place of Batman. What else did you guys notice?

This excellent episode was written by Jeff Pinkner, J.H. Wyman, and Akiva Goldsman. It was directed by Frederick E.O. Toye. I hopeClick to visit and follow WormholeRiders News Agency on Twitter!d you enjoyed “Subject 13” as much as I did. Let me know what you think and thanks for checking out this review. Fringe returns to FOX on March 11, 2011 with another great episode!

Click to visit and follow Dr. Rachelle Smith on Twitter! I hope you have enjoyed this review of “Subject 13”. As always we thank you for visiting WormholeRiders News Agency.

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Rachelle Smith, Ph.D.


5 thoughts on “Fringe Review Season 3 Episode 15 “Subject 13”

  1. Hello John and Longdon,

    Thanks for the nice comments. Hey do not feel old, I recognized the BETA video tapes because I was a huge fan of that format. It was way better than VHS but lost the “VCR wars”

    I still have two professional Sony BETA-MAX that do Beta-1, Beta-2, and Beta-3) machines made in Japan. They are now over 20 years old and have never failed once and work perfectly. Certainly cannot say that about modern electronics built in China these days. BETA Picture quality is as good as Standard Definition (SD) broadcasts of today but obviously pales in comparison to High Def standard. Oh and I still have a Laserdisk player and sizable library of both BETA and LD format movies!Both Walternate and Walter would be proud!:-P
    (But do not watch then much anymore, please don’t tell Walternate)

    Best Regards

  2. Betamax tape? I had to Google the term. I was not even born then and had no idea what a Beta was! I did see Walter write “Subject 13” on the tape but I thought it was a VHS tape! Thank you for a nice review.

  3. I am embarrassed to say that I did not catch that it was a BetaMax tape, nor that Walter had written “Subject 13” on the tape. Old age creeping up, I suppose. A very well-written synopsis. Thanks!

  4. I hopped into the Delorian and went for a ride with you! 🙂 Right from the retro beginng to all the little memories along the way. That was Awesome! You took me on a great ride into the past…… Fringe style! Seriously, wow! parents from the 80’s were so trusting. These kids did a wonderful job or portraying the characters. I was really impressed with their abilities. I, to got chills when dirt-bag grabbed her and chills again when Walter came to an understanding with the dirt-bag. Good for Walter! You also had many humorous and witty ways of expressing your ideas. I laughed many times through out! Cool! Fringetastic report! 🙂

  5. Wow! There are more great writers at WormholeRider that are Fringies. Very nice review Rachelle. Thank you.

Comments are closed.

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