Saturday, March 10, 2012

Fringe Episode 4.12 (Welcome to Westfield), 4.13 (A Better Human Being) and 4.14 (The End of All Things)- Part I

Review of Episode 4.12, 4.13 and 4.14

I decided to review episode 4.12 (Welcome to Westfield), 4.13 (A Better Human Being) and 4.14 (The End of All Things) together since I feel like these episodes are kind of like a trilogy in that they belong together and should probably be examined together. I really like how this middle part of the season is organized and there’s an urgency in episodes 8-14 that wasn’t present in the first batch of episodes this season. Episode 8 and 9 belong together since once directly leads into the other and they complement each other plot-wise. They expand on Peter’s quest to go home and they introduce David Robert Jones. Episode 10 and 11 feel like two sides of the same coin to me and they expand on the issue of Olivia’s fate and introduce the observers as a mystery to be explored. In Episode 10, we are presented with the idea that our fate is not written in stone and that it can be changed. In contrast, episode 11 presents us with the idea that our fate is predetermined and that there is no escaping it. Episode 12, 13 and 14 bring everything together: David Robert Jones, the observers, Peter’s journey and Olivia’s fate. Although this middle part of the season was infinitely better than the first part of the season, I’m not sure whether we got any definite answers for where things are going for the remainder of the season. Fringe seems to excel at giving us everything, but at the same time, giving us nothing. :)

During this spring hiatus, I hope to review the season thus far (while recapping the past three episodes), by creating posts where I address the following topics:

1. Peter and Olivia

2. Peter and Walter Relationship

3. The Observers

4. Peter’s journey to go home

5. David Robert Jones’ agenda

6. Olivia and Nina relationship and Olivia’s destiny

7. The character of Lincoln Lee

8. Cases of the week

9. Use of secondary characters

My first post will be devoted to Peter and Olivia.


I think that the best part of these last three episodes have been the fact that they’ve really developed the relationship between Peter and Olivia. The relationship is in a completely different place compared to where it was at the end of Wallflower. I honestly think that these episodes have been so rewarding because of the wonderful acting by Joshua Jackson and Anna Torv. For some reason, the acting and the relationship itself is much more believable this season compared to season 3. I think that it just seems so much more genuine in this season which may be due to the fact that much of the drama surrounding the relationship overshadowed the relationship itself in season 3.

In WELCOME TO WESTFIELD, we finally find out the content of Olivia’s dreams. When I first saw the scene, I was genuinely surprised by how graphic the scene was and I wondered how FOX ever approved its airing. The more I watched it (and I’ll admit, I watched it several times!), however, the more I appreciated how beautiful it was with the lighting and emotion and music. The color of blue is splashed everywhere, reflecting the universe where the true Olivia and Peter belong. Olivia asks Peter whether he loves her. We have never heard him say that he loves her and when she said that she loved him in THE LAST SAME WEISS, he didn’t say it back. If this is a memory, then he must have said it off camera, when they shared an intimate moment prior to Peter getting into the machine. For someone like AmberOlivia who has felt a hole in her life for as long as she can remember, this scene of such intimacy must have made her feel complete and loved beyond measure. When she was questioned by Peter about her dreams in AND THOSE WE LEFT BEHIND, she said that she didn’t feel anything towards him. This was understandable (to an extent), but now that she knows Peter better, does this dream carry more weight for her emotionally? Peter gives her a wake up call (literally) and when she sees him in the lab, her face is vibrant and alive. She doesn’t look at all as tired as she claims.

Their interactions during this episode are wonderful and I loved how it felt like the old gang of Peter, Walter and Olivia were back together. Peter’s concern about her was refreshing to see and I really appreciated his speech about how his Olivia was his home. The conversation mirrors the conversation that he had with AltOlivia in OVER THERE where she also asked about his Olivia. Both conversations are different, reflecting how different their relationship is now (in season 4) compared to then (at the end of season 2). He says that she is strong and stubborn and that they met when he was doing some “criminal activity” in Afghanistan. He says that she sees the best in others even when they can’t see it in themselves and this Olivia automatically says that he doesn’t look like a criminal. She is already seeing the best in him, saying that he is not as bad as he believes he is. The most interesting part of the episode, however, comes when Olivia starts to experience symptoms that are very similar to what the rest of the town is experiencing as they merge with their counterparts in the other universe. She remarks that she feels like there is someone else in her head, leading her to feel unstable and confused. Walter summarizes it best, when he examines the woman in the town who believes that her husband is both alive and dead. He states that it must be terrible to have someone else’s memories inside your head, not being able to distinguish between what is real (your memories) and what is not (memories from another life). At the very end of the episode, when Peter drops by her apartment to check up on her, she is acting very much like the old Olivia. She is glowing, her smile is wide and she pours herself and Peter a glass of wine (correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think that AmberOlivia has drunk alcohol at all this season). On a shallow note, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Olivia look more pretty. She leans in to kiss Peter and when she does, he draws back in surprise with a small smile on his face, thinking that this is some kind of joke. He quickly realizes that Olivia doesn’t see the problem with the kiss and his expression turns to one of shock and confusion.

A BETTER HUMAN BEING might just be one of my favorite episodes this season (probably on the same level as ENEMY OF MY ENEMY) due mostly to the fact that the acting was so very good. I remember initially thinking that Olivia’s joy at these new memories was a bit over the top and I was disturbed by the fact that she wasn’t concerned or alarmed. But, once I watched the episode a couple of times and read a couple of reviews, I realized that her response was very natural. Throughout the episode, she receives the memories of Peter’s Olivia and those memories with Peter are warm and happy. She goes through a process of rediscovering herself. With each memory that she acquires, she grows to understand herself more and falls more in love with Peter again. With this newfound love, comes a new confidence and a greater sense of self. Of course she wouldn’t worry about what is going on with herself. She’s is happier than she ever remembers being and these memories appear to make her a “better human being,” whereas before, she was only a shadow of the Olivia that we know. When we are changing in positive ways, we don’t question it. Rather, we rejoice. Peter’s resistance to these changes causes her to be even more drawn to him in an attempt to achieve the closeness to him that she “remembers.” Being so sure, she doesn’t understand why Peter is questioning these feelings. Peter’s hesitance is understandable. He has been burned by the wrong Olivia before and after having distanced himself from the people in this timeline, I can imagine how overwhelmed he must feel upon all of the sudden seeing his Olivia right in front of him after having dreamed about it for so long.

Throughout the episode, everyone seems to believe that Peter is the one who is altering Olivia’s memories in an attempt to force her to become his Olivia. Walter’s hypothesis is that Olivia is using her empathy to feel Peter’s desires to be reunited with his Olivia. She meets those desires by becoming his Olivia. This is such a wonderful idea because isn’t that what love is all about? Sensing what the other person needs and becoming that for them? I think Walter is very much against Olivia having any kind of attraction towards Peter and it is very clear that he sees this change in Olivia as a bad thing. In this timeline, he has a closer connection to Olivia and thinks about Olivia’s welfare before Peter’s which is definitely something new. It was a bit hilarious seeing him come between Olivia and Peter throughout the episode. It’s as if he’s an overbearing father trying to protect his sweet girl from the new bad boy on the block that she’s deeply attracted to. But his efforts are in vain since clearly, Peter and Olivia are smitten with each other. The crucial realization comes when Olivia mentions how she and John Scott discovered that it was Sementex that was stored in the storage units from the pilot. Peter didn’t know this and so he concluded that he cannot possibly be transferring his memories to Olivia since if that were the case, she wouldn’t have memories that he never had. I also thought that it was interesting that Olivia so casually mentioned John Scott throughout this episode and I know that a lot of people felt that it was weird since she had such an intense relationship with him in season 1. I don’t think that it feels weird at all since, after 4 years, I fully expect Olivia to be a very different person. She probably doesn’t even recognize who she was in season 1 before all this stuff with the fringe division tore her life apart. John Scott, in a lot of ways, represents the old life that she left behind. In the remaining moments of the episode, Peter confesses to her that he is scared, but that fear dissolves away when he looks into her eyes and sees that she is there. She interrupts their kiss to take a bathroom break (honestly, Olivia!) and ends up disappearing, leaving a confused Peter to wonder where she went. I really love how vulnerable and open Olivia was throughout this entire episode and it contrasted so well with how resistant Peter was.

In THE END OF ALL THINGS, Peter goes into the observer’s mind in an attempt to figure out where Olivia was taken. The observer tells Peter that the primary reason for his erasure was to erase his son, Henry, since he was born to the wrong mother. Peter’s reaction upon learning that he had a son was very sad to watch and I think that Joshua Jackson did an excellent job with the material here. I think one of the major themes in Fringe revolves around the relationship between a father and his son. It would be interesting if they continue with this plotline to show how Peter relates to his own son and that strengthens the relationship that he has with Walter. September tells Peter that although he is mystified regarding Peter’s return, Peter’s return will provide Peter with the opportunity to set things right. Peter must find the right Olivia, the one from which this shared life (Henry?) was meant to spring. He tells Peter to go home and Peter takes his words literally.

Upon arriving at his home, he is knocked unconscious by one of Jones’ accomplices and taken to where Olivia is. Olivia apparently told Nina that Peter was the only one who could unlock her powers with Cortexiphan. With Peter in the same room and his safety in jeopardy, Olivia gives Jones’ exactly what he wants and much more. This was probably one of my favorite scenes in this episode. I read a comment somewhere that this scene was an interesting twist in the traditional dasmel in distress scenario since Olivia finds a way to get Peter to where she is (by revealing to Nina that Peter is the key to unlocking her powers), but once he gets there, instead of having him rescue her, she uses him as a battery to fuel her powers and then ends up saving the both of them. It’s such a beautiful message- she uses her amazing capacity to love Peter to unlock her potential. She fries to a crisp one of his men as Jones and Nina escape. Upon encountering Jones at the portal, Jones remarks that Olivia’s love for Peter must be quite profound since she was able to expend her powers so much. Once outside, Peter gives in to his doubts and Walter and Lincoln’s accusations and tells Olivia that he doesn’t know what she is anymore, but he is sure that he is doing her more harm than good (as evidenced by the fact that she had a seizure after her fireworks show). After having seen his son in the observer’s mind and after having learned that he ceased to exist because of Peter’s association with the wrong Olivia, Peter’s hesitation and doubt are understandable. He doesn’t want to proceed unless he’s absolutely sure. Peter leaves her in the pouring rain (did Olivia cause it to rain?), reiterating the phrase that has been his mantra for most of the series: I’m going home. Olivia is understandably heartbroken and the degree of vulnerability that she shows in this scene is just absolutely amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so desperate.

The whole plot line between Peter and Olivia really highlights some important themes. One such theme is the idea of identity- what makes us who we are? This Olivia from the Amber timeline is genetically identical to Peter’s Olivia and has all her memories, but does that mean that the two Olivias are the same? As an audience member, I’m tempted to think that it does, but according to Peter, it doesn’t. What’s been so interesting about this season is that everything is so interconnected: You have Olivia who was given a ultimatum by September who appears to be trying to save her from her fate (I assume that’s how he got the gun shot wound). But, September is also trying to save Peter and may be Peter’s answer for how to get home. But, David Robert Jones with his plans to apparently merge timelines/ universes/whatever may also be Peter’s way home, but Jones is more concerned with activating Olivia for some unknown reason. I think that there are major questions that need to be answered regarding these two characters:

1) How will Peter get home (if there is a home for him to get back to)?
This seems to be THE question in this season and honestly, after 14 episodes, I still don’t have a clue what the answer to this question is. On the one hand, I applaud the writers for keeping the viewers guessing regarding the answer to this question. Peter’s perspective on things constantly changes- one minute he thinks he’s where he should be (AND THOSE WE LEFT BEHIND), the next minute he thinks home is someplace else (majority of season 4), the next minute he thinks he’s actually home (A BETTER HUMAN BEING), and the next minute he thinks he’s not (THE END OF ALL THINGS). Our opinions shift with Peter’s opinions and it’s made for a really heart-wrenching ride for the most part. On the other hand, it’s a little frustrating that we’re no closer to answering this question than we were when Peter first reappeared in SUBJECT 13. I’m a bit impatient for the answer to this question. The interviews with the actors and producers have been misleading as well- the way that they’ve answered questions has been very ambiguous and vague. In a recent interview with The Fringe Podcast, I believe that Jasika Nicole stated that this new “setting” for season 4 is neither a new timeline or a new universe. As was stated in THE END OF ALL THINGS, I believe that this is the old timeline, just rewritten to account for the fact that Peter is no longer apart of it. The old timeline is gradually starting to bleed through and I think that something will happen in the next episode that will help to speed up this process to the point where it gets Peter’s attention and he is able to finally accept that this is his home, but that it’s just a little different. I’m so glad that in THE END OF ALL THINGS, Peter finally got an explanation regarding why he was erased and who was behind it.

2) Is Olivia still destined to die and if so, can her fate be changed?
One theory regarding a possible cause of Olivia’s death is that CorteXiphan is the killer (= Man X where the “X” comes from the “X” in Cortexiphan). In the human mind, sometimes we can take inanimate objects like drugs and personify them as Olivia did in the episode LSD. In Olivia’s mind, Cortexiphan has damaged her beyond repair and so it makes sense that she would think that it would bring about her end as well. The seizure that Olivia experienced at the end of THE END OF ALL THINGS may give support to this theory. Expending her powers caused her to have a seizure, exhausting her. David Robert Jones stated that Olivia’s potential is far greater than what she exhibited in this episode. The effects of expending her powers must be far greater as well, perhaps great enough to kill her. If the cortexiphan is what is putting her life at risk, I think that the key to her survival is finding a way to control her powers (like she mentioned in THE DAY WE DIED). Another theory is that September is Man X (he was labeled as such in episode 14), but that doesn’t make sense since he has obviously been trying to save her and was concerned enough about her mortality to warn her. Since Peter merged with his consciousness, however, some of September’s consciousness could still be in Peter (similar to what happened with Olivia and John Scott in season 1). Thus, Peter could potentially be Man X which honestly, is a terrifying, but intriguing, thought. A third theory is that September’s prophecy doesn’t mean anything at all. I remember an interview from Joshua Jackson around the time of episode 4.08 where he said that September’s prophecy could mean everything, but on the other hand, it could mean nothing at all. I don’t know if the question of Olivia’s fate will be addressed in the next episode or if it will be something that will play out over the rest of the season. This plotline has been a bit forgotten over the last few episodes and so I hope that it comes back into play soon.

3) Is this Olivia Peter’s Olivia?
In response to the question of whether or not this Olivia is Peter’s Olivia, I think that she is and she isn’t. That would explain why Peter recognized her to some extent, but still feels the need to pull back because there is a part of her that he doesn’t recognize. This is consistent with the theory that the old timeline has just been rewritten. The aspects of Olivia that are bleeding through are what Peter recognizes, but the rewritten portions that are still there are what he doesn’t recognize. The question is whether the rewritten portions will gradually fade away over time and we will eventually get the old timeline back, whether there will be a merger of some sorts, or whether Olivia (and everyone else) will fluctuate between their two states forever. If the old timeline comes back in full force, then there needs to be some other justification for why have been in this Amber “timeline” all season. By having a merger of some sorts, we can preserve the good things about the old Olivia (which would satisfy the fans that love the old characters) and also preserve the things we’ve grown to love about this new Olivia (and satisfy the fans that don’t want to be told that this season has been a waste). I think that to some extent this Olivia is not our Olivia since I don’t think that the writers would have Peter screw up again and have him not recognize Olivia.

Another big mystery centers around how this Olivia acquired the memories of the old timeline Olivia and why she is the only character that has done so. One theory is that, with the help of Cortexiphan, she is able to access the experiences of individuals in different timelines similar to how she is able to cross between universes. Although she was doing this to some extent before Peter’s arrival (as indicated by her dreams), Peter’s presence allowed her to fully embrace this ability, allowing her to fully immerse herself in the memories of the Olivia from the old timeline. Another theory is that she is acquiring these memories from Peter himself and that her desire to immerse herself in his world is so strong that she is sometimes able to fill in the blanks herself (i.e. sementex). I think that Cortexiphan is the key to why she has been experiencing the memories from the old Olivia and no one has.

4) What greater potential does Olivia have that Jones was referring to?
This ties in to what Jones’ goals are and I have no idea how he even knows the extent of Olivia’s potential. This seems to be a big plot point and I think it’s something that will play out over the rest of the season.

5) How is Olivia’s storyline connected with Peter’s storyline?
This is one point that I’m a bit confused about and it’s frustrating because, in my opinion, this should be a topic that should be very clear by now at this point in the season. It’s almost like we have two plotlines (Peter’s and Olivia’s) independently going on at the same time and that seem to be at odds with each other rather than complimenting each other. For example, at the beginning of WELCOME TO WESTFIELD, Peter is on the right track towards finding a way home, but all the issues with Olivia throw him off course. I think Olivia’s storyline is connected with David Robert Jones and Peter’s storyline is connected more with the observers. I think that we’ll get answers to Peter’s storyline in the next episode, but Olivia’s storyline with David Robert Jones will continue to play out for the remainder of the season.

NOTE: I’ll talk more about how Peter and Olivia relate to September/The Observers in my section on the observers.

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