Monday, January 16, 2012

Fringe Episode 4.08 (Back to Where You've Never Been)

Fringe came back with an amazing episode that should have been the Fall Finale. It served well, though, as the Winter premiere and in some ways, it might be better that it aired in January instead of November since I know that I would not have been able to wait two months to see what happens next! Episode 4.08 is in a lot of ways the sister to Episode 4.06. Both episodes highlight similar ideas, begin in similar ways, and focus heavily on Peter. I feel really bad for Episode 4.07 (Wallflower) since it is sandwiched between two of the best episodes this season. Wallflower may just become forgotten, just like a...well...wallflower.

- I’m really enjoying the dream sequences that are at the beginning of each episode that involve Peter heavily. They really help us to get into Peter’s state of mind and always set the stage nicely for the rest of the hour. It’s sad to see how joyful Peter’s dreams are when his reality is so different. Peter is a man that doesn’t show his anxiety on his face and who is not exactly comfortable talking with other people about his worries and concerns. Giving us access to his subconscious is a great way to appreciate the character’s current plight. The dream is also very heavy with symbolism. Both Walter and Olivia are convinced that Peter wants waffles for breakfast, but Peter says that it’s okay; as long as they are together, the alternative, pancakes, will do just fine. If he can’t return to the people that he loves, will he learn to love the people that he’s with currently? Such ideas were initially proposed in episode 4.06 and it’s nice that 4.08 makes a call back to such ideas. When Walter remarks about the “infernal machine” that the waffle-maker is and how he just needs to fix it, Peter snaps out of his dream. The waffle-maker is analogous to the machine that Peter is trying to adjust, but just like in the dream, Walter is the only one who can fix it to suit Peter’s needs. A small side note- if my subconscious was as helpful as Peter’s is being, I would be in a much better place than I am right now. :) It’s interesting that Peter’s first dream proposed a problem and that this dream proposed an answer. It’s also interesting that Olivia is wearing a blue shirt representing the fact that in the dream, she’s from the Blueverse. Does this represent what Peter desires and what he can’t have?

- Walter remarks that the pinwheel with metallic qualities is unexpectedly spinning against the flow of air. I wonder if this means anything in particular. Is he alluding to the fact that things in this timeline are not exactly what you expect them to be? The scene between Walter and Peter was very well done by both actors and it was heartbreaking to hear Walter explain how Elizabeth committed suicide after the death of their only child. Although Walter’s motives frustrate me, I do understand where he’s coming from. He already caused so much damage by meddling too much and helping another Peter, that he certainly doesn’t want to repeat his mistakes and help this Peter. As a result of never having loved the adult Peter, Walter is able to exercise a lot more restraint when it comes to Peter. In Season 3, he found it impossible to let Peter go and so his actions in this scene are a great contrast to that. Many people asked why Peter didn’t tell Walter what he told Walternate- that if he wants to get rid of Peter so badly, all he has to do is help him. I think that deep down, Peter knows that that is not the right way to motivate Walter since as said before, in the old timeline, Walter found it nearly impossible to let Peter go and held on to Peter very tightly. Maybe the Amberverse Walter is not so different from the Walter of the old timeline and he, in fact, wants Peter to stay and not leave. Telling Walter to help him as a way to get rid of him might actually cause Walter to resist Peter even more.

- I was thrilled that they managed to fit in a Peter and Olivia scene and it was interesting to see how stiff their interactions are with each other. I found it odd that Olivia was taking leave from work due to a migraine since the Olivia that we know returned to work immediately after being kidnapped (season 1), waking up from a coma (season 2), and being tortured in a parallel universe (season 3). She also seems to shrugged off her migraines when Peter asks her repeatedly if she’s okay. Everyone seems to believe that Walternate is behind the shapeshifters, including Olivia. I wasn’t surprised that Olivia didn’t know that she had the potential to cross over. David Robert Jones was the one that initially tested her powers, allowing her to discover them and Peter was the one who activated her ability to cross over (Jacksonville). Now that both individuals are back in the picture, she just might discover what she is truly capable of. I found it weird that Peter didn’t try to explain how she could cross over, but I imagine that such a subject is not a priority for him at the moment.

- I found it a bit convenient that Olivia had a requisition form that would allow her to acquire Walter’s device from Massive Dynamic, but then again, she has a very close connection with Nina and so I would imagine that she would be able to acquire it quite easily. One of the biggest problems that I had with the episode was the fact that they used Walter’s machine so casually. One of the biggest plot points in Fringe is the fact that Walter kidnapped Peter from the other side and by crossing over, he violated the laws of nature and initiated the slow and gradual destruction of both worlds. Shouldn’t the machine be treated more as a taboo and as a huge security risk? I would understand if Olivia and Lincoln didn’t know this, but Peter should know better. Maybe he feels like the ends justify the means. Or maybe because the two worlds are now connected, the effects of using the device are not as profound. Either way, using the device in this episode strips the device of the significant role that it has played in the show’s mythology thus far and I thought that it was very lazy of the writers to not acknowledge this or at least give us some idea of why, in this timeline, its use is appropriate.

- Peter is adamant about his desire to go home and he ends up being at odds with Olivia and Lincoln who wish to use this opportunity to get information about the other side and whether or not they are behind the shapeshifters. I found it distressing that both Peter and Olivia don’t sympathize with what the other person is interested in. Generally, they are on the same page and so it’s distressing to see that they are not that way in this timeline. Both of them have agendas that seem equally important.

- Peter’s desire to go home draws strong parallels to Dorothy’s desire to do the same in the Wizard of Oz. There are even noticeable references to the Wizard of Oz when Peter calls Lincoln a scarecrow and tells his to snap out of his daze since the Flying Monkeys (those that are after them) will be along soon. Seeing the twin towers again was a wonderful and emotional shot.

- The bridge that was formed by Peter at the end of the season 3 finale has seemed to stop the destruction that was occurring in both worlds. Thus, the alternative universe doesn’t seem to be as damaged as it did in the old timeline. The attitude that both sides have towards each other also seems to be different in the sense that they don’t fear or despise each other for personal reasons. They just seem to view the other world as different and the understanding that existed between the two Olivias is obviously absent. By the end of season 3, the two Olivias separately came to a better understanding of each other, realizing the similarities between the two of them that allowed them to fall for the same man. Without Peter in the picture, such an understanding didn’t occur. Nevertheless, the similarities between the two of them are still being drawn as when Lincoln mentions how paranoid both of them seem.

- Peter’s interactions with Elizabeth are beautiful. It’s touching that she was able to recognize him immediately, a recognition that Peter craved and that validated his existence. When a mother loses her child, it is only natural that she thinks about her child every day, imaging what they would be like if they had been given the opportunity to grown up into an adult. This version of Elizabeth is much stronger, her strength having been derived from her faith that somewhere and sometime, Peter would live happily. It is obvious where Peter gets his boundless sense of optimism- he gets it from his mother. I think that Orla Brady and John Noble are both perfect for their roles as Peter’s parents since the actor Joshua Jackson greatly resembles them both in appearance.

- In the old timeline, Peter served as a neutral party, believing that both worlds deserved to live and in this timeline he is neutral too, but for very different reasons. When I first watched the episode, I was very put off by the fact that Peter was so adamant about not getting involved in the conflict between the two words. “This is not my fight” he kept saying. But as I thought about it more, I realized that he is right to not intervene. This really isn’t his world and it isn’t his fight. If he truly believes that he doesn’t belong in this timeline, then any actions that he takes to intervene in this timeline could have bad consequences. He was enough of a problem in his own timeline and now he sees that he’s becoming a problem in this timeline too. Naturally, he feels the need to step back. This world has existed without him and it should be able to sustain itself without him intervening. Also, the more connections that he makes in this new timeline, the more he will stray from his goal of going back to the people who really need him. I thought that it was a little harsh how he told his parents that he is not their son, but it was necessary for him to be straight and honest with them. It would have been easy for Peter to manipulate his parents emotionally in order to get them to help him. I respect him for loving them enough to not do this.

- I loved the first interaction between Walternate and Peter and when Walternate was assembling the gun in front of Peter, I honestly thought that he was going to use it on Peter. There is obviously a huge chasm between the two of them. Peter seems very bitter by the fact that when they first met, Walternate was using Peter in an plan to ultimately destroy Peter’s adoptive world and when they last met, Walternate was just about to kill his wife. During the season 3 finale, Peter was willing to set their differences aside to help establish peace between the two worlds, but in this episode, he’s cold and indifferent to Walternate. This may be due to the fact that establishing peace between the two worlds is not his priority in this timeline. When Walternate invited Brandonate into the office, I was stunned when he shot Brandonate after Brandonate had vouched for him, claiming that Walternate was not involved with the shapeshifters. Did he know that Brandonate was a shapeshifter because he wasn’t telling the truth (the truth being that Walternate was involved with the shapeshifters)?

- “At the end of the day, she’s a good person.” I appreciated how Peter said this about AltOlivia since although she deceived him, she did so for the sole purpose of protecting her world and I think Peter knew that she genuinely loved him. It took him time to see this and I’m glad that he came around and was able to appreciate the fact that on some level, she’s a good person. How can she not? She’s a version of his Olivia. At their core, all the different versions of Olivia are good people. The things about ourselves that are essential to who we are are true no matter which universe we’re in or what timeline we’re in.

- I absolutely loved the second conversation between Walternate and Peter as well. The review on Fringe Blogger mentioned the fact that in the old timeline, Walternate couldn’t help but be the person that he was. Walternate’s anger in the old timeline was justified. Compared to Walter, Walternate lost so much more and he was the one who truly had to pay the price for Walter’s actions. He was forced into the position of being the enemy, his actions being interpreted as horrible actions when in fact they were done to protect his world or out of anger that he was justified in having. Due to Peter’s choice at the end of season 3, Peter ended up dying as a child and thus, Walternate was perhaps able to achieve some closure and develop into the person that he was meant to be, without the anger dragging him down. Peter’s line that is addressed to Walternate represents his understanding of this fact. When Walternate asks Peter to go to the other side and vouch for him, Peter hesitates, but ultimately says that he will in exchange for Walternate helping him get home. Walternate reflects that this is consistent with the kind of man that he thought Peter would be- someone who could see Walternate for who he really is, is willing to admit and overcome his prejudices, and who is ultimately wiling to set aside personal goals to address the larger conflict, even if such a conflict exists in a world that he is not apart of. Any resolve that Peter had to stay out of this conflict is thrown out the window. This promise between these two men definitely ensures Peter’s continued presence in this new timeline, at least until the conflict is resolved.

- This leads directly to the last scene of the episode, where September visits Olivia to deliver to her a dire premonition: He has explored all the different possible futures and in every one of them, Olivia dies. Is September referring to Amberverse Olivia, Redverse Olivia (Bolivia) or Blueverse Olivia? Do all of them have to die or is the premonition just referring to one of them? You can read some of my detailed thoughts on this relevation in a separate post HERE. Also, who shot September? I didn’t think that the observer could get shot. Did he try to go to the future and save Olivia, but she ended up getting shot anyway and because he intervened, he got shot as well? Why is September so invested in Peter and Olivia? Do they both have a higher purpose? I’m confused as to what exactly is Peter destiny. Is his destiny to die (as the rest of the observers feel) or to survive (as September insists)? Why Does Olivia need to die and How does she die? How is her purpose tied to Peter’s? This scene raises a lot of questions, but it beautifully raises the stakes as we dive into the rest of the season.

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