I thought that I would provide you with my ranking for the season 4 episodes that we've seen so far. I would love to hear what your rankings are!
1. And Those We've Left Behind
The best episodes of Fringe are those that focus on the over-arching story and where the case of the week strongly supplements the main story line. The best episodes also take us into completely new territory and although they may allude to past themes, they allow us to see such themes in new ways. Good episodes also provide us with many answers, but also so many questions that lead to lots of fun theorizing. Although not a perfect episode, episode 6 of season 4 stands out above the rest for the reasons mentioned above. It is truly the first episode in quite a long time where we see things from Peter's perspective. Although, Peter seemed calm and collective during NOVATION, in AND THOSE WE'VE LEFT BEHIND we see him a little bit more emotionally raw as he deals with Walter's resistance towards him, with Olivia's apathy towards him and with the weird time jumps that only he seems to experience. We saw moments where the old Olivia and Walter peaked through due to something that Peter said or did. Raymond's and Kate's situation echoed beautifully Peter's current plight and perhaps more profoundly, re-emphasized how a machine can unintentionally destroy lives, but how it may be the key to going back to those that we've left behind. This gives Peter the idea to use the machine to get back to him own timeline. Unfortunately, Raymond and Kate's tragic story also provides us with some idea of where Peter's story may be heading. This episode was wonderfully acted and beautifully written.
This was a fantastic episode as well since it was the first time in season 4 where I felt like the old Fringe was back and I really felt like season 4 started with this episode. This episode reminded me of the magic of the Walter-Peter-Olivia dynamic and how central it is to the show and to defining what Fringe is all about. The wonderful scenes between Walter and Peter were the stand out part of this episode. It was just really wonderful to have Peter back and to have someone who reminded us of the last 3 years! The reason why this episode wasn't as good as episode 6 was because of the shapeshifter plot and how it took up so much screen time when all I really wanted was to spend more time with Peter, learning about where he's been and how he feels about everything that is going on. But, I understand that they needed to build on the shapeshifter plotline in order to prepare us for what is coming.
3. One Night in October
The guest star for this episode was phenomenal, the case of the week was heart-breaking, and the writing was absolutely amazing. The message of this episode was a beautiful one- that even when those we love are gone, their impact on our lives will always be remembered. My favorite part of the episode was when the professor was explaining his happiest memory to the serial killer and they showed us images of his time with Majorie. The images were bathed in sunlight and combined with the wonderful voice over, it was truly a remarkable scene. Memorable quote: "I could never understand how someone so good could love something so dark." It reminded me of Peter and Olivia's relationship and how a damaged Olivia doesn't believe how Peter could possibly love her. Also, Anna Torv performed brilliantly in this episode, wonderfully portraying both AltOlivia and Olivia. This episode was a stand-out among the lackluster initial 4 episodes of the season.
4. Alone in the World
Although the plotline was a bit contrived and dragged a bit, this was a truly wonderful episode and featured some fantastic and emotional acting from John Noble. I absolutely loved the parallels between the little boy and Peter. Gus was to the little boy what Peter was to Walter- something to anchor him to the world and to make him feel like he belonged.
5. Neither Here Nor There
The season 4 premiere was good in the sense that it provided us with the foundations for understanding the world without Peter and the characters in that world, but it was so mellow compared to the excitement of the season 3 finale. The pacing of the episode was very slow. I think that what would have made the episode more interesting (and the subsequent 3 episodes that came after it) was to maybe have the majority of the episode focused on the main story line in the Amberverse, but to devote some portion of the episode to following Peter in the aftermath of the season 3 finale (like what the comic books did). This way, the episodes could have been more balanced and by the time that we saw Peter in episode 4, we would have known where he was coming from. The introduction of Lincoln Lee was interesting and I appreciated having a new pair of eyes to look upon all the craziness that is the Fringe division. However, this episode (and the subsequent episodes) did really nothing to arouse my sympathy or interest in the character.
6. Subject 9
I really don't appreciate episodes that venture off the course of what the over-arching story of the season is. The development of the Olivia-Walter relationship was a huge redeeming aspect of this episode and John Noble and Anna Torv were outstanding in this episode. The case of the week wasn't too interesting and didn't really function as a case. He served to emphasize the tragedy of being experimented on which ties to Olivia's past. Although illuminating, this didn't really add anything to what I already know about Olivia since her past of being experimented on has been touched on over and over...and over again. Considering that Peter was apparently not (intentionally) reaching out to Olivia and Walter, so much about this episode confuses me. It really emphasizes the question that Peter asked in Novation- How and why is he here in this new timeline?
Just like it's title, this episode will probably not be remembered by anyone, especially since it is sandwiched between the AND THOSE WE'VE LEFT BEHIND (a fantastic episode) and BACK TO WHERE YOU'VE NEVER BEEN (which, rumor has it, contains the material and quality that you only see in season finales). And quite frankly, I would rather pretend like the first 55 minutes of the episode never existed. Although still poignant for the character and her development, I can't help but get frustrated by the fact that Olivia's tragic past with experimentation is highlighted AGAIN. Despite such frustration, Anna Torv is spectacular in this episode (as usual). Like I said in my review for this episode, I really believe that the Lincoln-Olivia romance might be good for both characters. Both characters are very compatible with each other. I just don't agree with making this relationship the center of the episode while pushing Peter out of the picture. I don't understand what prompted the show to make this decision. At this point in the season, stand alone episodes that temporary venture off of the main plot are not acceptable and the show cannot really afford to show episodes like Wallflower that loses all the steam that was built up from AND THOSE WE'VE LEFT BEHIND. It's episodes like Wallflower that make me wonder whether the show realizes that it is fighting for its life this season. Hopefully, once we see episode 8, the decisions made for WALLFLOWER will make sense such as why Olivia is seeking comfort in Lincoln instead of Peter (maybe their distance needs to be maintained in order for the plot of episode 8 to be effective and belivable) and why her feelings about her place in this world is brought to the forefront.