Summer of Fringe Rewatch: #221 "Northwest Passage" ~ Fringe Television - Fan Site for the FOX TV Series Fringe

Summer of Fringe Rewatch: #221 "Northwest Passage"

      Email Post       8/26/2011 11:59:00 PM      

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

Northwest Passage is another one of my favorite Fringe episodes. As a fan of The X-Files, I adored the Pacific forest feel throughout the episode. Plus, the characters of Mathis and Ferguson reminded me (intentionally) of role-reversed versions of Mulder and Scully. The guitar music from Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready was icing on the cake. But it was Peter’s role in this episode that stole my heart.

Peter from Boston

Poor Peter… His life was all a lie. He had opened his heart, trusted and loved, only to feel like he was betrayed.

So, he resorted back to his old modus operandi and ran as far from Boston as possible, stopping for pie (Twin Peaks homage) and possibly some long overdue physical attention along the way. Sadly, Peter’s choice of a potential one-night-stand ended up dead… possibly because of him.

Peter told the café waitress, Krista, “Technically, I’m from no place that you ever heard of.” Of course, he was talking about Over There, but maybe it really is more technical. Is Peter Bishop really from a place that has not yet been revealed?

There was something about Peter’s character that really showed how much he had changed since the first season. Peter, by all rights, could have just kept on driving by the police that were at the Hilltop Café. But Peter genuinely cares for people, so he became involved. Even when his world was turned upside down, he took the time to help others. Unfortunately, when he heard that part of the girl’s brain was missing, like in Grey Matters, he became convinced that he was at fault. That Newton was after him.

It seems a common thing for Peter to be placed into situations that make him feel guilty. He learned that many people died Over There as a result of what Walter did to save his life. He believed that his mother committed suicide because she knew the truth about him. His forced action to destroy the other universe in The Last Sam Weiss had to weigh terribly on him as time passed, and his adopted world was still dying. Olivia did not want to have children because of the state of the world. But Peter always tried to stay hopeful. Will the worlds still be falling apart without his “existence?”

Peter echoed Walter’s past words about how amazing the human brain is at recording every detail a person observes. Something else that he said to Mathis stuck out to me: “If you can imagine it, it’s possible.” A conversation between young Peter and his mother in Subject 13:

ELIZABETH BISHOP: A professor who was working here missed them, so he imagined a tulip that would grow in this climate, and he invented it. He used his brain and his imagination to turn the world into what he wanted it to be. How would you change the world if you could, Peter? What would you wish for?
YOUNG PETER: I wouldn't make stupid flowers grow. 
ELIZABETH BISHOP: (laughs) What would you do? 
YOUNG PETER: I'd go home.
Yikes, what if Peter does “go home” in Season Four? But where is home?

Man of Many Talents

Peter was able to use his skills of persuasion in order to purchase guns and ammunition.

Peter also calmed upset Mathis with a touch of his hand.

Peter has often been shown finding locations on maps using different data like he did to find the dairy farm killing location in this episode.

Bridge Over Troubled Water

Mathis asked Peter when she thought that her partner was taken to get information about Peter:

“What is it that makes you so special?”

Peter sought answers one again in this episode. He had previously told Walter in August about his frustration in seeking answers. In The Arrival, Peter told Olivia that he wasn’t going anywhere until he could explain what was going on. But the answer that he received in this episode, only led to more questions. Walternate’s appearance in his hotel room shocked Peter into a state of awe and fear.

Peter showed great empathy with Mathis, upset and feeling powerless over her missing partner:

“What if he's alive? What if he's out there somewhere, thinking I am doing everything in my power, including calling the F.B.I. to save him?”

Poor Peter had to be feeling just as helpless when he found out about being deceived by the other Olivia in Entrada.

When they went to look for the missing partner, Peter walked across a bridge, while in deep thought. Bridges are somewhat a common background in the series.

  • In The Same Old Story, an image of bridge was used to find a kidnapped victim.

  • In The Man From the Other Side, a bridge was used to bring Walternate Over Here, and helped Peter to deduce that he was not from here.
  • In Over There, Nick Lane and Sally Clark died on a bridge, after Clark had sent a fireball into Lincoln Lee.
  • In The Day We Died, Peter built a bridge between the two universes.

Many Fringe fans picked up Mark Helprin’s Winter's Tale to read after young Olivia was shown reading it in Subject 13. It soon became apparent that the some elements in the show were inspired by the book. Fringe producer Akiva Goldman is even making a film adaptation of the book. One of the characters is a mechanic named Peter Lake. Bridges play a significant role in the book.

Mathis told Peter that she wondered if he was not completely off his rocker. Having his sanity questioned must have been unnerving for Peter. Walter faced such accusations all the time, and Peter would completely agree. Though Peter asked Mathis why she’d listen to an insane man. Peter said she was desperate. Of course, he had seen that level of desperation before - in Olivia. For the same reason as Mathis.

“Ferguson is more than just your partner, isn’t he?”

This in a way also mirrors what Nina Sharp told Olivia about recognizing the look in her eyes, letting Olivia know that Nina knew about her feelings for Peter.

The desperation would cause Olivia crossing universes to save Peter. Peter’s love for her caused him to jump into her mind and to go back and make a different choice in the machine in order to save her life.

You Can’t Get There from Here.

This was of course referring to Peter’s home universe of origin, but maybe the real meaning is a bit deeper. Peter wanted to find his place - to find out who he really was.

Peter was very sharp and on edge. He had suspicions that Mathis might have been replaced by a shape shifter when he saw blood on her wrist, and thoroughly questioned her at gunpoint. In Entrada, he asked Fauxlivia’s hostage a question that showed she was really a shape-shifter.

Watching Mathis walk to the second unknown body, thinking that it could be her partner was heartbreaking. I’d hate to imagine Peter’s reaction to seeing Olivia’s body in The Day We Died.

Walter Falls Apart

“Do you know what you are putting in our bodies? Death! Delicious strawberry flavored death!”

Walter was broken without Peter. After all, it was Peter that always helped him. His home was wrecked and he could barely function. Is this a glimpse at Walter in season four? Will Astrid and Olivia be as caring or indifferent to “crazy” Walter?

Walter spoke to Astrid while they cleaned the Bishop home. While listening to Violet Sedan Chair’s She’s Doing Fine, he said:

Thank you, Astrid. You're a Federal Agent. I doubt, during your years of training, that you had dreams of babysitting a helpless old man.

In The Day We Died, Walter asked about Astrid when he was allowed to set up the lab to help Fringe Division’s investigation.

Walter: Will Astrid be here?
Peter: No. Astrid's a Fringe Agent now. We need her out in the field. 
Walter: Oh. I suppose since she's no longer caring for me, she's able to (realizes his hands are chained) -- spread her wings.
What will become of Astrid in the fourth season since Peter has gone missing?

Walter set up a spectrograph to be attuned to Peter’s energy signature as a way to find him. Could this possibly be employed to find Peter in season four?

Find the Crack

“In the darkness, there's always a crack. It's how the light gets in.”

There are a lot of scenes that I love in Fringe, and it’s hard to rank them. I always enjoy the scene where Mathis talks to Peter and tells him, “I wish that there was something that I could do for you.” These two are both people that have deep hurt in their individual journeys. Peter was “looking for meaning in things that have no meaning.” Particularly in the reason why the secret was kept from him. Peter was looking for his place, and Mathis was right, he’d find it. And have it all fall apart in front of him.

Unanswered Questions

What was the deal with the phone calls that Peter received in the hotel?

Did Peter really see Newton at the Hilltop Café and in the woods?

Was Peter attuned to a specific frequency or energy that only he could hear because he was from the other side?

What happened to the pen that Mathis gave Peter?

If Peter was Removed from the Equation

Krista might have escaped being kidnapped and killed since she wouldn’t have taken extra time to burn a CD for Peter.

Deputy Ferguson would have probably been killed, leaving behind a devastated Sheriff Mathis.


Sunny_Y said...

"Then he proceeded to use one of his many skills to remove identifying information from them."

I don't think he removed informations! He made the bullets more efficient/deadly by modifying them.

Anonymous said...

X-Files? I always thought this episode felt more like Twin Peaks...

trent said...

I agree, it felt more like Twin Peaks. It's one of the many reasons this is one of my favorite episodes.

I loved the Sheriff Mathis character and I hope they bring her back for one episode. Her dynamic with Peter was very interesting. She seemed to be very attracted to him, but not in a sexual way. I find their scenes together strangely fascinating.

Anonymous said...

I myself never really understood the massive hate leveled at this episode on other fringe sites, i liked it, maybe its because the standards of fringe are so high, that even a good episode by industry standards is seen as bad on fringe? Some of the plot is bad, and there is not a lot of character development for peter, its ashame because by the looks of things this is the most peter centric episode (and by that i mean where he actually does stuff) fringe will probably ever have (bar reciprocity, which was quickly discounted)

Anonymous said...

I know this dosent have much to do with the post, but i was wondering what peoples thoughts are on joshua jackson being listed as "main actor" on fringe next to anna torv as "main actress", when in my opinion the "main actor" is clearly john noble, this isnt about actor/character hate, i just dont see how a "main actor" can be in half the episodes,and now atleast the first 3 episodes of next season and still be listed as the main actor, in terms of sheer screentime (which jacksons by the look of it is being reduced even more at least at the moment) john noble is without doubt the main actor on the show and should be put there, and i will repeat incase "45" comments, this is not jackson hate, im just saying and want feedback.

Unknown said...

X-Files was heavily influenced by Twin Peaks. I even mentioned the pie as a homage to Twin Peaks. However, it personally reminded me of the X-Files because that is the show I watched first, and for nine seasons ;)

Unknown said...

Plus Mathis was into UFO and the paranormal, like Fox Mulder. Her skeptical partner was like Scully to her.

Unknown said...

JM : I think you need to direct your question to the Fringe producers, because none of us know contract details for the actors.

Anonymous said...

i meant for awards and things john noble is always listed as "supporting" and jackson is up for "main", but i see ur point

45 said...

You know what, Josh should just quit this damn show. People hate him and only care about John and anna torv. Thanks so much JM for pissing me off.

45 said...

BTW, if you don't hate Josh then why are you picking on him for? Why the heck should it matter who the damn "main actor" is? Should we stop caring about Josh because he isn't the damn lead?

45 said...

I say and I will repeat it again, NOBODY ever picks on John and Anna for anything they do but Josh gets all the hate, all the whiners, all the people blaming him for anna torv's "supposed" "non success", complaining that he didn't acknowledge anna torv, complaining that he isn't a PO fan and now people are complaining that he is the "main actor".

Josh please, quit this show and go for a show that has people who CARE about you.

cortexifan said...

...the tension in your voice indicates that you’re carrying a heavy psychic burden. Tortured by the depths of some --

Why don't you just stop watching then and stop bothering those who try to be positive and give constructive criticism. Why are you lashing out at Anna and John as well and the rest of us who love this show and everyone in it. Josh himself said it's not about the characters, but about the show as a whole.

I challenge you to take an episode and write a review. If not, then leave us alone.

And just in case you're not coming back to this one, I'm gonna post it on Over There Part 1 as well.

trent said...

"i meant for awards and things john noble is always listed as "supporting" and jackson is up for "main", but i see ur point"

JM, John Noble is a main actor, but he submits himself to awards as supporting, because he has more chances to be nominated in that category. Joshua Jackson also submitted himself as supporting in the latest Emmy Awards.

witharmsakimbo said...

Thank you, Aimee, for the review, it's really interesting to see these episodes in the light of season 3 developments. I, too, think that S4 Walter will be much more like NWP Walter, although probably without the insight into what it must be like for Astrid and Olivia to see him like that.
One thing I always liked about Fringe is that, contrary to many other sci-fi productions, hope is recurring motif. "Find the crack" goes very well with the motif, as does Mathis' story about the loss of her family. When Peter lies down on the bed it is both with sorrow and hope for the future. As a viewer my impression was that, at least now Peter will get some rest. Which is why Walternate's entry was so effective in that last shot.
I really like how Peter questions his sanity. I like to think that it factored into his decision to come back to Walter in Over There, because he had made that experience that made him feel compassion for Walter's state of mind. So it's interesting that you mention the quilt Peter must be feeling (maybe also about abandoning Walter and Olivia in NWP) because that, I think, is ultimately another identification point with Walter.
Thanks again for the review and the interesting insights and new connections. I really enjoy reading the rewatch posts this summer :)

witharmsakimbo said...

BTW, I never got why some people dislike Northwest Passage, I love the Pacific Northwest setting, it's a great representation for Peter's situation and Mathis is such a compelling character. The case might not be the best case ever, but the way it relates to Peter makes it all the more poignant. Peter's brokenness really breaks my heart, as does Walter's. Joshua Jackson really stands out in this one. Northwest Passage is definitely among my favorite episodes.

Unknown said...

@witharmsakimbo, I love your description of Peter trying to rest. Right on the dot. If Newton hadn't shown up, Peter may have went off with Olivia and Walter back to Boston.

My biggest disappointment is the fact that we did not see Peter talk to Walternate later about leaving. Why bother having such an episode if Peter was not shown either possibly leaving or still very angry at Walter and Olivia...

witharmsakimbo said...

I know, to me it always felt as if a scene with Peter & Walternate had gone missing at the beginning of Over There I. Actually if feels like they wrote it and then couldn't fit it in somewhere, it's really too bad. If this scene had been made, I think there would have been a great chance of mirroring it to the one with Walternate at the lake house in TDWD. Now wouldn't that have been great? Peter had far too little on-screen interaction with Walternate in Over There, especially given the potential of this relationship that was used so well in the relationship between Walter & Peter.

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