Join us for our Fringe Summer re-watch, where we review every episode of Fringe during the summer hiatus. Comments are welcome as we dig into the connections made over three seasons.
I've never written for television, but I think there would be incredible pressure on television writers to create something that follows a strong pilot episode. In essence, a second episode of a TV series either keeps you sticking around, or sends you away.
Fortunately, for us episode 102, titled "The Same Old Story," is a very strong episode from start to finish. Written by 'Fringe' creators Abrams, Kurtzman, and Orci(Roberto, not his brother JR) this is the first of many episodes co-written by current showrunner Jeff Pinkner.
This episode feels like a continuation of the pilot, and views as smoothly as a John Grisham novel reads. Every single time I rewatch it I am amazed at all the writers cover in this episode. Patterns are revealed, including the one with a captial "P," but more importantly we see the birth of the "little family unit" consisting of Walter, Peter, and Olivia, that Peter refers to later in 216.
The beginning minutes of the episode are important, and gruesome. While relaxing after a tryst, a prostitute suddenly gets terrible pain and appears as if very pregnant. Her john dumps her outside a hospital. Minutes later the poor woman dies while giving birth to something that makes the ER nurse scream and look away. (If you're watching this after having watched all of Season 3 you'll view this as foreshadowing of FauxLivia's accelerated pregnancy in "Bloodline.")
The "new" Fringe team(see below) is called to investigate.
In my opinion, the second scene of this episode is one of the most puzzling of the series thus far. Broyles is thanking 8 people in an affluent location for coming out at a late hour so he can introduce "my new team." He gives them a slight overview of the case at the hospital, using some colorfully-vague wording:"it appears to be another anomaly whose mysteries and origins remains the sole purpose of this committee." Of his new team Broyles adds, "hopefully they'll have more success than our last." Broyles attempts to describe Walter Bishop but Nina Sharp vehemnently interrupts adding that Walter was committed to St. Claire's Hospital for manslaughter. They go back and forth and Nina's demeanor is driven, like a dog fighting for a bone.
Broyles calls Olivia after 3am and tells her to assemble the Bishops and meet at the hospital. Olivia can't contact them by phone, so she wakes a scantily-clad Peter in person(it's only the second episode in the series and already he's partially naked!) and it's fun to watch her eyes drift south for a beat while she tells him to wake his father. And that isn't a problem as Walter is sitting uncomfortably awake in the bottom of their hotel closet in the wee hours.
They get to the crime scene 27 minutes later but Walter is the last to get out of the car. In a very hallmark scene Broyles attempts to introduce himself to the elder Bishop, who rebuffs his welcome and continues to marvel at the seat warmer that "warms your ass." This is the very first scene(of many) in which someone other than caretaker Peter and Olivia, gets to view and question Walter Bishop's sanity and lucidity. Broyles questions that for a second time when Walter tells him he'll need a lab and Broyles reminds him they opened his old lab in the Harvard basement. He asks if Walter remembers that. Walter replies,"No, but that's fantastic news!"
By the expression on Walter's face you can tell he's questionning his own sanity.
Broyles starts to explain "The Pattern" to Peter with Olivia seated next to him when Astrid informs them of a lead on the hotel. Olivia tries to get Walter's attention to come with her and take samples. Walter snaps at her in a very forceful way and tells her he's busy. Peter speaks up and tells Olivia he'll accompany her to take the samples, and thus we begin the pattern of the Peter/Olivia("P/O," for short) investigative approach to Fringe case investigations that continues through Season 1, Season 2, and up through episode 3.16 of Season 3.
There's another great Peter/Walter scene in the lab in which Walter tells Peter he's completed the cellular testing on the "man/baby" and there's "good news all around." Read Walter's reply:
"DNA results confirm my suspicions that the woman was impregnated by a man who is the result of experiments identical to those conducted by me in this very lab around 30 years ago."
That doesn't cause much of a reaction if you've only watched the pilot, but if you're watching this again after having seen Season 3, especially the episode "Bloodline," perhaps alarms are going off in your head? What I have come to call "Fringe Doublespeak" continues from the pilot into 102.
I really don't think Walter is just talking about Loraine and "Christopher Penrose" here. This is foreshadowing of Season 3's "Bloodline" in which FauxLivia delievers a baby fathered by the Peter Bishop we know, and I think there's even more doublespeak here. I think Walter is foreshadowing that some form of Peter Bishop(perhaps the one Over Here that dies at age 8) was the result of experiments Walter Bishop did in his lab. Why do I think this? I'll answer at a later time.
Walter also tells Peter he remembers where he parked his car 17 years ago before he was placed in St. Claire's. This leads them to the garage where Walter easily recalls the combination to his lock aloud which Peter points out as the very fitting first six digits of "pi." If you haven't already noticed, some numbers are very important in this series. Peter's reaction to Walter's 1970's Vista Cruiser station wagon leads into more very important Walter Doublespeak:
Peter:"So what? You got cars stuffed with papers all over town?"
Walter: "Not just cars. You have no idea where I've hidden things."
Walter's response is foreshadowing for his safe deposit boxes in "Safe," the video of little Olive in "Bad Dreams," 'the plug' in "There's More Than One Of Everything," Peter's white noise teddy in "Of Human Action," the metal box in "Johira Window," and the machine parts in "6955kHz" and "The Day We Died." (Whew! That's alot of hidden things. Forgive me if I missed any others.)
Walter's files from his garage lead to Dr. Claud Penrose who Walter remembers worked with him on a government project to create human soldiers within 3 years via excellerated growth hormone use. P/O visits Dr. Penrose who says of Walter,"No one in power should know what he knows," which is foreshadowing for his doppelganger, Walternate, in Season 3.
A body Charlie Francis finds for the team confirms that something is out there killing women for their pituitaries to stay young. In the turning point of this episode, Walter has an epiphany from Jules Verne's book The Kip Brothers. In Walter's words,"in which he posited that the last image seen in life, right at the moment of death, is permanently imprinted on the retina of the eye."
This leads to healthy Walter/Peter brainstorming, and into one of my very favorite Fringe scenes. Peter approaches Olivia sitting on a bench in a park. She apologizes for snapping at him in the lab earlier. He tells her she's not alone in all this and touches her hand. To some, it may not seem significant, but a group who call themselves "the benchwarmers" was born from that moment and continue to identify themselves as such on one of the Fringe internet forums. Peter tells Liv they need a fancy piece of equipment and only 1 company owns the patent. Doesn't take a 190 IQ to figure out who that is!
Olivia sits with Broyles in a waiting area of Massive Dynamic to retrieve the camera they need. She tells him John Scott suggested it was more than coincidence that he picked her for her current assignment. Broyles doesn't answer her. Instead hs asks her if the last time she and John Scott were intimate if they were safe. "You weren't were you?" he asks firmly and there is a bizarre scene of a very pregnant Olivia in the same predicament as poor Loraine Daisy. If you've already seen Season 3 you know this is foreshadowing of FauxLivia's accelerated pregnancy in "Bloodline." The receptionist approaches Olivia and she snaps out of the moment to realize it didn't happen. She is alone and safe in the waiting area.
Nina gives Liv the electronic pulse camera without grief. Many people don't like this episode because of the gruesome scene of Walter extracting the second victim's eyeball to retrieve the images. But the team sees the bridge, Astrid recognizes it, Olivia sees the same van at the triangulation area from the eye's perspective, and she's racing out the door to the warehouse site, with Peter quick on her heels. This is the beginning of Peter watching over Olivia while on the job (when he can get away with it.)
They find Penrose and son in the process of extracting yet another woman's pituitary. Olivia chases after the running son, and leaves Peter with her gun and cell phone. In a last ditch effort Penrose overdoses the victim with anesthesia and sends her into cardiac arrest as he makes a run for it.
With a little help from Walter via the phone, Peter proves that it's not only things mechanical he can bring back from the dead. He modifies a piece of electrical equipment into a defribrillator and successfully restarts the woman's heart. We get the sense he is thrilled to have done this good, unselfish deed.
Olivia catches up with the creature who's rapidly aging and dying. He tells her that they should have let him die a long time ago. That that was Penrose's mistake. "He was blinded because he loved me." (That could easily be foreshadowing of Walter letting Peter get away with something very bad in the future of the series, and I hope that is not the case.)
Olivia returns the electronic pulse camera to Nina. This time Nina's in one of her talkative moods telling Liv how big and powerful massive Dynamic is in the US and abroad. If you've watched through Season 3 one part of Nina's narrative should stick out:"to manage global affairs into stable equilibrium." Hm. Isn't that what Peter said the two universes had to get to just before he vanished in 322?
Nina offers Olivia a job at MD, adding "I believe a position here would speed your effort to find answers." "You're referring to The Pattern?" Olivia questions. "Among other things," Nina evasively finishes. By the end of 102 you get a strong sense that Ms. Sharp knows alot more than she's telling, about The Pattern, and our Olivia.
Olivia gets debriefed in Broyles' office. He asks her if Nina said anything. She tells him that Nina said he is a good man to which Broyles looks away almost coyly, and you have to wonder for a beat what exactly kind of relationship Phillip Broyles and Nina Sharp have. If you've watched through Season 2, you know she kisses him on the steps of the Capitol building.
Olivia goes back to the lab and tries to get both Walter and Peter to sign government documents "waiving their constitutional righs against unreasonable search and seizure," which Walter's happy to do but Peter adamantly refuses to do so. He throws the document and storms out.
Walter is totally unfazed by Peter's actions. Apparently he needs to get something off his chest with Olivia and launches into a little lecture about his former colleague Dr. Penrose and his 'son,' and the inherent pitfall of a scientist not maintaining distance bewtween God's domain and his own. He tells Olivia he often forgets that himself. Olivia asks him what he means. Walter answers, "If you've read my file, then you know the truth about Peter's medical history."
Olivia tells him there was no mention of any medical history, just his birthday. So already, in the second episode of this series, you start to wonder what exactly is special about Peter Bishop's medical history? (If you've watched through Seasons 2 and 3 you already know-some of it anyway. I, myself, think there's quite a bit more to learn.
The episode ends with Walter having trouble sleeping in the Bishop's hotel room. Peter is surprisingly gentle with Walter in this scene, probably remembering that a fellow patient at St. Claire's used to calm Walter by singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat." And so Peter tells Walter to close his eyes and relax, as Peter sings "Life is but a dream," which is especially eerie if you've watched through Season 3 and know that Peter Bishop never existed!(Boy, that feels weird to type!) As Peter sings, someone wheels a gurney with a body on it that looks like Penrose's Christopher to rest in between two other gurneys with men that also look like him.
New Questions Raised In This Episode That Remain Unanswered:
Who is the group Broyles is addressing in the second scene?
Who is in the group mentioned above, besides Nina Sharp?
Who was in Broyles' last Fringe group, and what happened to them?
Did Olivia actually have a moment of deja vu in the Massive Dynamic waiting area?
If Peter Bishop Never Existed...
Walter Bishop might not be on the Fringe Team. Olivia Dunham might be working for Broyles on "Fringe' cases with totally different fellow agents.
Olivia might be feeling very alone in her new position in the Fringe Division.
She might be taking the loss of her partner and lover, John Scott, much harder than if Peter was there to help her keep focused.
If Olivia Dunham herself had had Walter Bishop released into her custody, she might have had an especially difficult time calming him down at night by herself, which would subsequently mean he wouldn't be very useful on cases during the day.
Walter might not have remembered where he parked his car, thus he wouldn't have found his files and made the jump to his former college, Dr. Penrose. Therefore, Christopher Penrose and his 'father' might still be out there killing, and stealing pituitaries.