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Fringe, “Subject 13” (3.15)

Fringe goes back in time once again and looks at how the 80s sucked for everyone. Cross the jump to read the review…

You are Here and Now: Both sides in… I guess the 80s.

Peter and Olivia – Broken Childhoods

We get to see the life of the remaining Peter Bishop and it certainly isn’t the best. He knows and adamantly declares that he is in the wrong universe. He does very little else in this episode other than dismiss both Walter and Elisabeth. This makes it odd that, even with his – somewhat sudden – change of heart at the end of the episode, today’s Peter doesn’t seem to remember that he was so certain that he wasn’t from here until much later in the series. It might be just how I remember it but he didn’t seem to have much of a recollection that he ever felt as if he wasn’t from “here” until it got put out in the open in, I believe, season 2. It strikes me as an odd thing to just forget or put aside.

No matter how bad Peter had it, Olivia had it much worse. While Peter had two parents trying desperately to please him, she had to live in a broken home, and her escape from there was a place where she was a guinea pig for experimental drugs. I certainly understand why Olivia might hold a grudge against Walter after watching the cruel stress test he put her through.

Interestingly, Olivia seems to be the same personality-wise back then as she is now: independent and not looking for other people’s help. What is a bit different is her abilities. While now she seems to be able to pull off one or two main things – travelling between universes and spotting things that aren’t from this universe, back then she could also blow up into a fireball and make it snow. Will we see more from her as the series goes on?

Another apparent memory lapse is the fact that Peter and Olivia actually met each other in the past but neither seem to remember it. I think Olivia’s recollection problems were put under the “Blocking a traumatic event” reasoning but does Peter remember the meeting? Or has he blocked that too, putting that in with the rest of his supposedly false “sickness” memories?

Walter and Walternate – Broken Fathers

This episode was mostly about one man: Walter. And not just any Walter. While in the present day, we get to live with a Walter who, still haunted by what he did to Peter, Olivia and the Cortexiphan subjects, is crippled mentally and psychologically acts like a child looking for a sugary snack, this episode offers us the true Walter Bishop: mentally intact and fresh off of stealing Peter with the ultimate goal of saving him from certain death. This Walter could be the most interesting one Fringe has to offer. Why is he so fascinating? Because he seems to be a walking contradiction. He can be a loveable father figure but still cause irreparable harm to children. The way this episode frames it, it seems as if the Cortexiphan trials had one true and noble goal: Find a way to return Peter home. And despite Walter’s good intent, and even his treatment of the child subjects (like how he stands up for Olivia at the end of the episode or how he so nice to the kids in the circle at the start of the episode), he keeps on doing unspeakable things just to get results. His stress test on Olivia can become hard to watch and while he does stand up for her in the end, he was willing to send Olivia back into her broken home just to get her to cross over more quickly.

Walternate as well makes an appearance in the episode. And we finally see him as the vulnerable father Fringe had yet to show to us. He wasn’t there for Peter and it’s killing him. The alcohol doesn’t help either. And the man simply can’t find that clue that could help him find his son. But he does regain his confidence by the end (more on that shortly) and the determined and vengeful Walternate is born. That said, this episode’s Walter reminds me a lot of present day Walternate: a real contradiction. Present day Walternate is ready to go to any lengths to find his son, yet he’s willing to sacrifice him to a doomsday machine in a plot to avenge his son’s own kidnappers. It seems the last episode’s idea of using Walter to humanize Walternate is at work once again. Not that Walternate needed help this time around: you could definitely feel and understand his pain directly through him in this episode.

Finally we come to the episode’s big reveal. As the last shots of the episode make clear and this live twitterer makes even clearer, it seems Olivia’s quick jump between universes was exactly how Walternate got sent down the path of hunting down his son and his kidnapper in another universe. It doesn’t add much to clear up the future of Fringe‘s storyline but it does show the sad irony that the very person Walter hoped could help him avoid a confrontation with Walternate – Olivia – ultimately caused the very one he is dealing with right now.

The Elizabeths – Broken Marriages

This review can’t end without a look at the sad state of the Elizabeths, the wives to the two Walters. With Walter, Elizabeth needs to constantly deal with the defiant Peter by lying to him about his origin. When the lie finally seems to have worked, she turns to alcohol, a path that, if I remember correctly, ends with her killing herself. With Walternate, Elizabeth, for the time being, isn’t in that great of a situation either. She needs to constantly tell Walternate and others how she let her own kid go with a man she thought was her husband.

In Conclusion

I read beforehand that this was going to be a dark episode and it indeed was. While it did not clear everything up, it did plug up a few of the missing elements of the story. The biggest asset of the episode was the deeper look into the minds and the pasts of the Walters. We were able to learn a lot about a pair of characters that, while still odd and hard to understand, are a bit more relatable now.

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