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.
One of the most critically acclaimed episodes of Fringe is the flashback story, Peter. This is where Walter revealed to Olivia how his son, Peter, had died, but he brought the dying Peter from the other universe here to cure him. Subject 13 picks up approximately six months after the Peter we now know was brought to this universe. Although it left me and many viewers scratching our heads on what are perceived as plot holes, I was for the most part impressed with this otherwise enlightening and highly emotionally charged episode.
Although some felt that they were a bit old for the roles, the young actors chosen for young Peter (Chandler Canterbury) and Olivia (Karley Scott Collins), were spot-on in my eyes. Each child even displayed small details that their adult counterparts show, such as Olivia tucking her hair behind her ears, and Peter’s long stare and the way he swallows hard when talking about a difficult subject.
The emotional ride starts right at the beginning of this episode, as Elizabeth discovers Peter’s note that simply states, “I am going home.”
Elizabeth told Peter several times that he was confused as a result of being very sick. Later, he’d leave a similar note when he left the hospital in The Last Sam Weiss. As a result of his head-trauma, Peter was confused and child-like in his actions. He seemed like he was unaware at first of being in a different universe than his origin. He even remarked to Olivia and Walter when they found him that “There are two of you, aren't there? I think I've been confused.”
Young Peter went back to the one place he last remembered before coming Over Here - Reiden Lake. He believed that he was from “the other world at the bottom of the lake.” Peter was a broken little boy to have reached the point of trying to break through the ice and sink himself to the bottom…
When Elizabeth made him breakfast, and he asked her if Walter made her lie to him, my heart hurt for the both of them. His tearful statement of not being crazy would not be the last time that Peter defended himself because what he believed was fantastic. In Northwest Passage, he told Mathis , “I'm not hallucinating. And I'm not paranoid. And I'm not questioning my own sanity.” It is also quite the correlation with a statement to Walter in The Arrival:
WALTER: I know you must think me insane.
PETER: Not nearly as much as you might think.
Olivia would also have to defend her sanity in Olivia. These lines sound similar to young Peter’s situation in Subject 13.
DOCTOR ANDERSON: Olivia, I know it's really scary... not being in control of one's own mind.
OLIVIA: Doctor Anderson... I am not crazy. That is not my mother. My mother died when I was fourteen. The Charlie Francis that I knew was murdered. I have never won an olympic medal for marksmanship. None of these are me. This is not my life.
DOCTOR ANDERSON: You think I'm trying to convince you you're someone you're not? Why would I do that?
OLIVIA: I don't know.Extended Cortexiphan Trials
According to Nina Sharp, William Bell’s Corexiphan trials were discontinued early-on because they were deemed a failure. The scared little girl seen in the videos in Jacksonville was a three-year old Olivia.
In this episode, the year was 1986. Walter used the children in a bid to see if they could cross over to the other universe, and take others with them. As adults,four of these children - Olivia Dunham, Sally Clark, Nick Lane, and James Heath, would succeed in Over There: Part I. In Subject 13, it was established that Walter was trying to find a way to take Peter back to his real family.
The Tale of Two Bishop Families
For one family of Bishops, there was a great deal of stress from the lies that were told to Peter in order to make him feel like he was home. Then poor Walter would have to go through the pain of watching Peter crumble as an adult, when he realized that he was from the other side.
As an adult, Peter showed great admiration for this Elizabeth. In Over There, he spoke with his birth-mother about his “mother from the other side.”
She took very good care of me. But she committed suicide about ten years ago. My mother from the other side… she was wonderful, but she wasn't strong. In fact, she was very, very sad... which I suppose is because of me.
Walternate and his Elizabeth experience the first fracture of their marriage here.
There is no doubt that Walterate loved Peter in this episode. He is after all, essentially Walter. He was clearly an emotional wreck after not knowing Peter's fate. His plea to Elizabeth to continue going over the details of Peter’ abduction said it all: “He’s my boy. I can’t lose him.“ Yet, he displayed a sense of embarrassment - a sense of shame against his honor as he said, “The safety Czar couldn’t even protect his own son.”
When little Olive flashed over to his office and revealed Peter was in another universe, I believe that his feelings became something more than just wanting his son back. As the years passed, Walternate became more hardened and interested in revenge against the side that took his son. Retrieving Peter became more of a goal to obtain, and Peter just a pawn in the madness. Olivia would become a special object of derision. Walter referred to her as “the girl” when he imprisoned Olivia.
When Peter Met Olivia
Peter did not say explicitly that he trusted Walter when Olivia asked. But, very Peter-like, his words do speak volumes. He seemed to think that Walter would do the right thing if he knew Olivia was being abused.
This is the first time that Peter encouraged Olivia. He would later be her rock countless times since, the most poignant occurrences being:
Ability: He came back to the bomb as Olivia tried to diffuse it.
What Lies Below: He told her that he was lucky that she was herself, when he wasn't.
Jacksonville: "I've never met anyone that can do the things that you do."
The Last Sam Weiss: "You can do this." (As Olivia tried to deactivate the machine.)
Heart and Imagination
Walter: Your imagination can take you anywhere that you would like to go.
Peter: My mo-- My mom was telling me that you have to imagine how you want things to be, then you can try and change em.
It was shown that Olivia crossed over to the other universe because she was extremely afraid of her step-father. However, as snow fell from the sky in Jacksonville, Florida, Peter asked Olivia, “Did you imagine that?” Olivia would later use her mind (and fear) to turn off the light-box that armed a bomb, although she swore at the time she didn’t. In The Last Sam Weiss, she was able to use her mind (and love) in order to turn off the machine so that Peter could use it. At the end of The Day We Died, Olivia asked Peter “Are you doing that?” when he was using his mind/machine connection to create the bridge between the two universes.
I feel that young Peter finally accepted that he was “never going home.” In Peter, he recognized very quickly that Walter was “not his father.” In Subject 13, he rattled off all the differences he noticed in his new world. Then, he lashed out at Walter yelling, “I am not your son! You are not my father!“ (In The Man From the Other Side Walter was once again told, “I am not your son.“) Peter’s acceptance of this world’s Elizabeth and Walter as his parents was an act that set a precedent for him in the future.
When Olivia was left in the other universe, and her alternate took her place, Peter recognized that something was not right with her, that there were changes. His gut was warning him. However, Peter may have subconsciously dealt with the situation like he did when he first came here; he didn’t probe too much because he didn’t want to “rock the boat” with Olivia. For once, he was happy. His mother had told him, “Sometimes the world we have is not the world we want. But we have our hearts and our imaginations to make the best of it.” Sadly, just like with Walter and Elizabeth, Peter was believing a pack of lies because this statement became his coping mechanism.
Olivia used drawing in order to cope with the abuse that she suffered at the hands of her stepfather. I found it cool that Peter was able to find Olivia in the white tulip field because “It was the only drawing that looked happy.” Sadly, a later happy drawing of that scene would alert Walternate to Peter’s location.
Drawings have been shown throughout the series. Often, it’s just as simple as a “random” drawing, such as the child’s artwork seen on the refrigerator in The Firefly before Peter drinks the tainted milk. Sometimes they were used to show events that would occur in the future. This happened early-on in The Ghost Network. David Robert Jones drew Olivia. Walter received his sign of forgiveness - a white tulip - in the form of a drawing. The drawing of Peter in the machine alerted Olivia to the fact that Peter was in danger Over There. That picture haunted Peter for the entire third season. Olivia took up drawing again and sketched who she said was “The man who is going to kill me” at the end of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide. One of the most sad scenes in the series was Peter mourning Olivia’s death, and his reaction at the child’s drawing on the refrigerator, showing the family they’d never have.
Other Interesting Things
The book Olivia was reading was Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin. I’ve recently finished this novel, and it was no easy task. Young Olivia must have been very bright for her age. Like many, I’m convinced that some elements of the book will be used in the fourth season.
(Fringe producer Akiva Goldman is adapting this work to a film.)
Olivia wore clothing in this episode that displayed a great deal of color - including a shirt with red, yellow, and blue hearts.
When Walter tested Olivia using emotional responses, she was trapped in a darkened room banging on the window of the door. She was seen in a similar situation at the end of Over There: Part II. Also, it was suspected that Olivia’s abilities were not only triggered by fear alone, but also required the presence of someone she care for or loved. She set the classroom on fire because she was afraid that her friend Nick Lane was dead.
The biggest lingering question that many fans have from this episode is why did Olivia and Peter remember any of these events? Walter’s lack of memory is explainable, through a combination of insanity and missing brain pieces. The producers said at one point that they just don’t remember. Especially Olivia, due to the trauma. Since I can clearly recall events from preschool, I’m not so convinced with this answer, but it may be all we get.
Since Walternate knew about Olivia, did he find her version in his world and keep tabs on her?
The timing in this episode seemed off. When was Peter abducted from the other side? The lake was frozen then. How could it be possible to frozen six months later?
If Peter was not in the equation
Olivia may have never had the courage to start to defend herself against her step-father. Peter encouraged her to tell Walter that she was being abused.
It is my belief that Peter always just assumed that his mother killed herself because of him. I am leaning more toward Walter’s insanity as her impetus to suicide. I feel that in season four, her suicide will still happen, even if Peter “does not exist.”