Fringe 401 Review: Neither Here Nor There ~ Fringe Television - Fan Site for the FOX TV Series Fringe

Fringe 401 Review: Neither Here Nor There

      Email Post       9/25/2011 04:06:00 AM      

“I know what it’s like to have a hole in my life. It’s been there as long as I can remember.”

I always get nervous returning to a show after a long hiatus. Especially a show like Fringe, which produces precisely the type of massive theorizing that I am so resistant to, post-Lost. Will I be pilloried if I don’t spend paragraphs meditating on the significance of the yellow/amber/orange credits? Will I miss a massive “clue,” get it all wrong, and have a bizarre idiosyncratic reaction that no one else can agree with or even understand?

My resistance to Lost-style theorizing isn’t a condemnation of the fine folks who enjoy that activity. I was deeply invested in Lost, but for me those off-hours spent diagramming missile trajectories, plotting connections, and re-reading Philip K. Dick books just didn’t pay off. I (now) maintain that the writers and producers of many TV shows put in little Easter eggs to please fans, but I don’t choose to spend time trying to find an “answer,” because that makes me lose sight of the forest for the trees. Instead, a la Pauline Kael, I ask myself: “What happened to me as I watched Fringe?”

The answer to that is simple: it made me sad. Not sad for Fringe, which is still at the top of its game (and has been for a while). Not sad for the fandom, which got numerous tasty eggs to feast on, along with some meaty plot. Rather, I’m sad at the sadness our characters are experiencing. Peter’s loss seems to have created a psychic (in the sense of a psyche, not ESP) abyss within all those who were closest to him before his disappearance. Fringe without Peter is a sad story. We can only hope that when he returns—as I assume he will, using my mighty powers of ratiocination—Fringe will once again become a story of glorious possibilities rather than defeated impossibilities.

Olivia said to Lincoln Lee, ““I know what it’s like to have a hole in my life. It’s been there as long as I can remember.” In addition to the loss of her partner three years ago (did she mean FBI-partner Francis, or love-partner John Scott?), she’s haunted by a sense of loss. In the Fringe we’re used to, the sudden loss of John Scott was eventually balanced out by the family—Peter, Walter, and Astrid—that Olivia gained. But now Walter is crazy but not wackily endearing, Peter is missing, and Astrid is still an enigma. I just can’t picture Olivia and Astrid going out for cosmos after a day spent hunting translucent shapeshifters. Olivia (now) is still looking for answers that Olivia (last season) already found.

Those self-same translucent human shapeshifters (the THSSs) robbed Lincoln “Clark Kent” Lee of his ersatz family—something he never thought he’d find. The loss of his partner hits him hard, but that loss also provides him with a point of commonality with Olivia. It’s as though he has learned how to speak a new, melancholic language that allows him to communicate with Olivia in her native tongue.

They’re still learning each other’s vocabulary, though. Olivia is back to her old resistance, familiar to us from Season One. Lincoln Lee, in this world, just seems like a restrained guy: he can be open with Robert and his family, but is more reserved and shy with strangers. He can certainly hold his own, but he doesn’t open up easily. (I wasn’t a big Lincoln Lee fan at first. I am now officially changing my mind.)

The impossibility of communication—symbolized most obviously by the problems with cell phone reception—haunts this episode. Openness, the ability and willingness to share oneself, has always been at the heart of Fringe’s idea of happiness. That openness must exist within secrecy, of course: as Lincoln Lee’s willingness to expose the Fringe Division to public scrutiny reminded us, these world(s)-altering events are still under wraps to the general public, at least on this side.

Communication between Here and There isn’t all peachy, either. While the two Fringe teams seem to be engaged in active file-sharing (which, oddly, reminds me of the reasons Homeland Security was created), they’re still playing a game of knowledge cat-and-mouse. Ourlivia asked Fauxlivia about the THSSs, and Fauxlivia just smiled. Did she know? Does she not know, but want to avoid even revealing that? Walternate’s devious tricks know no bounds, and we know that he doesn’t favor openness with even his closest of employees.

Walter, on the other hand…Oh, Walter. Without anything or anyone to “tether him to this world,” he can’t master himself in the world—to the point that he doesn’t exist in the world, only in the lab. He said, “I don’t think there’s anything sadder than when two people are meant to be together and something intervenes.” He must have been thinking of Peter, the child he evidently lost twice. Like Olivia, his loss haunts him: he feels not just the death of his child but the loss of his adult son, even if he can’t understand why. And he doesn’t even know that the man he sees (in reflective surfaces!) is precisely what he is missing.

Very Clever

• Walter: “The thing about playing devil’s advocate…is that your client is the devil himself.”

• Walter: “I need to check her anus. Have that large lady there help you lift her.”

• Lincoln Lee: “One of these things is not like the other.” He’s said this before.

• Lincoln Lee: “Not from here? Like, China?”

• Olivia: “Sometimes answers lead to more questions.”

• TV Infomercial: “Set it, and forget it!”

• Olivia: “Long drive.” Finally! Acknowledgment that not everything is within 10 minutes of Harvard.

• I’m going with “amber” for the credits, because it seems like I might as well pick a team.

• In Jasper Fforde’s Shades of Grey, isn’t toast outlawed? Or am I having panary hallucinations?

• Olivia without Peter is also Olivia without a flat-iron.

• Blue support beams on the Over Here path to the bridge, amber lights closer to the bridge. Is it safe to assume the support beams Over There are red?

• (Yes, that screenshot is from last season. His hair looked so much better then.)

• I’m excited to learn about what’s going on Over There. Specifically: the baby. And what’s up with the THSSs. And when Peter’s coming back, especially since the Observer didn’t activate his doohicky. And everything, everything, everything.

I said above that I feel sad at the sadness our characters are experiencing. I also feel sad with them. I had a hard time “getting” Olivia in the first season, but now that I know how she can be, I empathize with her, in the understated despair. It’s not easy for a show to get us to feel so deeply with a character. It’s not easy for a show to so succinctly express a character’s point of view in the midst of a radical world-shift. And it’s not easy for a show to use such a sad character as our entry point to understanding the scientific and emotional rules of this semi-familiar world. Way to go, Fringe.

Four out of four engagement rings.

(Josie Kafka is the nom de plume of a magical unicorn. She also reviews The Vampire Diaries and Game of Thrones for


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this review - it seems to get to the heart of the episode.

I couldn't get into Shades of Grey (I will try again eventually), but in the Thursday Next books, which I love, toast is aggressively marketed and cheese is a banned substance. It has to be smuggled in from Wales, where it is presumably the national dish, grilled on toast.


Ron E. said...

Presumably without adult Peter there can be no baby Henry.

Jason said...

To follow up Briar's comment, sporks are a rare commodity in "Shades of Grey". And color swatches are heavily guarded. The book itself took me a bit of time to get through, but I'd like to see what the sequels have to hold.
- Jason

Anonymous said...

That was a great review!!
I was wondering if any noticed that when Olivia talked about her partner dying it was about John not Charlie. So what happened to Charlie?


Old Darth said...

4 out of 4 - wow! There goes your wiggle room when better episodes come along. ;)

I'd give it an 8 out of 10. Even taking into account this episode was tailored to welcome new viewers some of the dialogue about the absence of Peter was too on the nose.

Did love that Peter showed up right off the top of the episode instead of near the end as is often done with similar story devices.

The new shape shifters are most intriguing. And September changing his mind about erasing Peter! Most fascinating. Is he becoming the next August?

Will said...

You know, the only reason Walter went over to get Peter initially is because he saw the observer interrupt walternates finding the cure for the bird flu through his screen/portal/thing. Therefore, my prediction is that the observer is going to erase himself from time, so he doesn’t interupt walternate, Peter is cured on the other side, Walter never goes to get him, they don’t fall into the lake, the observer doesn’t have to save Peter (bcuz he never falls, and because he won’t exist). Although this seems anticlimactic with Peter just staying on the other side, and Walter never crossing over, so the universes aren’t breaking down, war is never waged, and Peter is still alive in the present. Unless the writers make Walter steal Peter anyway, pretty much everything in the present will be the same as it is, but with Peter here, so there is still conflict. Thoughts?

Old Darth said...

Walter makes a reference to the fact that people die, sometimes twice. Makes it seem like Peter died as a boy in both universes in the new timeline.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it is too easy but I believe that the way Peter was "removed" was that the Observer let him drown and only saved Walter when they fell into the lake.

It explains Walter's comment about people dying twice and still allows Walter to kidnap Peter which was eventually discovered by Walternate and kicks off most of the events that led to the current situation.


Anonymous said...

@ Will, I like the idea about sept. erasing himself from time, I hadn't even considered it. But I still think that Walter and William Bell would still have had the cortexifan kids be their "army" so there'd still be a war, but there wouldn't be any Peter which would defeat all that the writers have been building for him and, by extension, Olivia/Bolivia. Nice idea, but I don't think so.


Anonymous said...

This chapter does not like me. In my concept is the weakest of all. I like the analysis and the sadness of the characters, it seems that Peter is essential to make a character Walter tender and funny, with amazing notes, and without him Olivia is much more sad, bitter and introverted.
But leaving aside the absence of Peter I think in the case management of the new shifter is not exploited in all its magnitude, I think this because I felt the chapter was written more than a new driver to explain the life of the characters from the non-existence of Peter, as a way to justice the entry of the agent Lee over here, which I seemed forced, because even I gather that blur the character of Olivia, because Lee is now Lincoln has ideas to solve the cases and gives the beating of the ill, while our Olivia takes a passive role and allowed to beat a shapeshifter who moments before had so weak and trembling with a syringe in his hands.

Anonymous said...

Well, this is just all going the way of lost for me. It's just getting too stupid.

Paul said...

I think a lot of people are off base with Peter's disappearance. Peter is gone now but he did grow up to be a man. I think when Peter disappeared, everybody mind was ret-conned so to speak that he never existed. But he did, why else would our Olivia go to the other side as stated at the very beginning of the episode? The characters minds are rationalizing their past without Peter, like when Olivia checked Walter out of St. Claires. Peter really was the one to get Walter out, but now Olivia thinks she did it. So to me Peter is alive right now and always has been, but that begs the question "Where is Peter Bishop?"

Anonymous said...

Is it just me or does Lee really not fit right on this side?? Don't get me wrong I like the more carefree alternates with Linc, Charlie and the other Olivia who all mesh well with their attitudes and personas. Lee on this side however, just looks too young and out of place in comparison and the glasses just makes me roll my eyes because it's as bad as a Clark Kent disguise. If the aim here is for Peter to have a rival for Olivia's affection, this Lee just.....I don't know, he's too much of a pretty boy for it.

Observette MARCH said...

@Anonymous I wouldn't trust the english dictionary so much if I were you because boy oh boy, was your comment confusing. You've managed to create a FRINGE episode (or should I say chapter?) of your own with that comment.

"Lee is now Lincoln has ideas to solve the cases and gives the beating of the ill"

What??? I think I might need Astrid's code breaking talents to solve that one.
Lincolon has always been Lee and when the hell was he beating the ill?
I must've missed that Oh man!
DO NOT TRUST THE AUTO TRANSLATOR. It's cruel and apparently has a mind of it's own.

Observette MARCH said...

*I'm referring to the Anonymous that posted on September 25, 2011 3:53 PM

loveycats said...

Could I ask a favor please? Could all posters please, please, please refrain from mentioning the show, Lost, for the remainder of the season? Some of us have never seen Lost and comparisons to anything in Fringe are meaningless. Thanks

fringeobsessed said...

"Long ride." The writers STILL need work putting distances in the Northeast US into perspective.
Perhaps they could take the time to pull out a map! If you head west and then south from Boston to Hartford,Connecticut it's about a 1 1/2 hour ride.

To me, that's not a long ride when you consider how many times Liv/Peter/Walter/Broyles, in any combination, traveled from Boston to New York City in Seasons 1, 2, and 3 like it was nothing! That ride, even down quicker Route 95 takes about 4 hours each way.

Anonymous said...

Too bad it was a good show, just like so many shows, they always tried to change characters, peters character was different, to me is like the x-file all over again, don't need to buy the third season, because the fourth and the new ones are going to suck.

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