After two months off, “Fringe” returned on April Fools’ Day with an episode that answered questions that have been looming, some of them all series long.
Set mostly in 1985, the hour — simply titled “Peter” — holds a simple premise after what was one of the most dramatic cliffhangers of the show in “Jacksonville.” Based on what was shown in February, we were supposed to find out how the Peter we know came to exist on his alternate universe, and we definitely did.
But like every “Fringe” episode, there was a lot more going on than meets the eye.
To make a long synopsis short, the story went like this: In 1985, Walter shows several military officials a device he and William Bell invented to peer into the alternate universe; a “window,” so to speak. His young son Peter (guest star Quinn Lord) is sick with a genetic illness, and unfortunately for Walter, he is unable to save his son. However, he continues to use the window to watch Walternate concoct another mixture in his search to find a cure to save alternate Peter. The Observer (September) interrupts Walternate as he’s testing his latest compound and misses the cure, but Walter doesn’t, copying and modifying Walternate’s formula.
At Reiden Lake, Walter sets up his wormhole contraption and goes through to the other universe, “kidnapping” Peter and bringing him over to his universe after the vial with the cure in it unexpectedly breaks. September saves Walter and alternate Peter after they fall through the cracked ice in the middle of the lake. At the lab, Walter cures alternate Peter, but goes against his colleague Dr. Carla Warren’s (guest star Jenni Blong) wishes when he ultimately decides to keep alternate Peter in his world after seeing his wife Elizabeth (guest star Orla Brady) embracing her “son.” Because of his act, Walter believes he is the catalyst for the conflicts between universes.
To go more in-depth, here are eight things to take note of:
They are more technologically advanced. During the meeting with the military officials, Walter shows them a prototype for the cell phone that he had copied from the other universe using the device he and Bell had created. “It’s quite American, but it is technology from another universe, an alternate universe just like ours … but more advanced in some areas,” Walter explains. When Walter shows the same people the window looking into the New York skyline, there is a zeppelin flying overheard. The same object is seen in the scene between the three Observers outside the movie theater.
The mom holds the key. From the pilot on, we assumed it was Walter who was the arbiter of conflict, and while that may be partially true, we learn he is a lot more complicated than “the mad scientist with odd food fetishes” and that Peter’s mom Elizabeth plays a large role in him not being returned to his home. In the penultimate scene when Elizabeth discovers alternate Peter in Walter’s lab, she embraces him like she never wants to let go.
The alternates are like them, except slightly modified. The biggest indication of this is when Walter discusses what Walternate would do in the Harvard lab. “He’s just like me. I wouldn’t look back and neither would he,” Walter says to Carla, referring to Walternate’s “failed” cure. Also, if alternate Peter was sick in the other universe, Walternate would be motivated to find the cure as well. Another example are the scenes with both Peters and their respective parents (Walter and alternate Elizabeth); the two Peters have trouble completing the coin trick the first time around and succeed the second.
Why is Peter significant? “Why did you save us,” Walter asks, after September saves he and Peter from the icy water near the end of the episode. “The boy is important. He has to live,” September answers. It was discussed between the Observers that a mistake had been made, since September interrupted Walternate’s moment of finding his son’s cure because “there wasn’t a way to witness the [important] moment.” “You have changed the future. You have created a new set of probabilities,” one of them says at the theater. “You need to take action to restore balance.”
Veering off the original path? The origin of Walter and Bell’s “window” was most likely to serve military purposes, perhaps having something to do with the Russians and espionage, but personal need trumps everything. In a scene set in present-day, Walter talks about how much he wanted to change the world through his work, but once his Peter became ill, much of that plan changed.
Nina’s arm is caught in the fray, literally. We’ve all seen the bionic arm and it’s this episode that it is finally explained. During a showdown at Reiden Lake between Nina and Walter, Nina tries to stop Walter from going through the wormhole (apparently, the first) to the other universe but is unsuccessful. She pays the price by having her right arm in a visual state of shock.
Back to the future, or the ’80s. The stylized credit sequence showed different text than the usual, like “virtual reality,” “stealth technology,” “laser surgery” and “in vitro fertilization,” all of which were considered impossibilities back in the 1980s. In addition to Eric Stoltz on the marquee for “Back to the Future” in the Observers scene, there is a “Clue” poster in the background.
“Over there” is closer than you think. In many scenes, especially when the “window” is used, it is reaffirmed that the other universe is literally in the same place this universe is.
- “Shattering the wall between universes would rupture the fundamental constants of nature.” — Carla Warren
- “There has to be a line somewhere.” — Carla Warren
- “We both know the amount of energy required to create a portal will forever ruin both universes for the sake of one life. You will destroy the world. Some things are not ours to tamper with.” — Carla Warren
- “I know why you’re doing this. I understand. You know how much Peter meant to me and how difficult for me to admit that he’s gone, but this … this isn’t the answer.” — Nina Sharp
- “Somewhere Peter will grow up. Somewhere he will lead a proper life. Somewhere he will be happy, but just not here. And we must take comfort in this. And we must begin to move on.” — Walter Bishop
- “Bring him back to me.” — alternate Elizabeth Bishop
- The Observers are drinking Slush-Os in front of the theater.
- In a previous episode, there were no trees in the other universe, however in 1985, there are.
- “Peter” was a perfect Emmy submission episode for John Noble. With barely any Anna Torv and no Joshua Jackson, Jasika Nicole or Lance Reddick, it showcased Noble’s fine dramatic chops.
What are your thoughts on “Peter”? Now that Olivia knows the whole story behind Peter, what’s her next move, if there is one?