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.
As the summer rewatch draws to a close, I’m happy that my final post will be for The Last Sam Weiss, as this is one of my top five Fringe episodes. As a great fan of the Fringe mythos, I was thrilled to finally have some answers to many questions that have been posed, even as far back as season one. However, this episode has a special place in my heart because this is a big turning point in the extraordinary journey of the Fringe family. There are two epic love stories in Fringe, which is one of the main reasons I’ve enjoyed the show for so much in three seasons. The show has a great depth of heart.
Walter learns to let go - to step back and allow Peter to do what he must, even though the odds of him surviving are slim. Because "he is a man protecting his world." Olivia becomes empowered, and learns to accept that she really is extraordinary. Peter does what he must to help protect the ones he loves.
After an electrifying false start in 6:02 A.M. EST, we’ve almost reached the moment of truth. Peter and Olivia literally staring down the machine. But first, there was the little matter of a slightly-toasted and unconscious Peter, along with Olivia’s journey with Sam Weiss to uncover the secrets of the machine, and how he was given “knowledge” about the machine. Plus, Walter and Astrid tried to determine how to slow down the damage occurring in our world long enough to buy Olivia some time.
The episode began with Walter sitting quietly and contemplative near Peter’s bedside. This is quite the contrast to the last time we saw Peter in the hospital in The Man From the Other Side. Here Peter was sedated, and Walter is able to watch over him. Peter is surrounded in the color associated with our universe - blue. His hospital gown and bed linen are all blue.
Astrid, bless her heart, convinces (or more like lures him with the promise of tapioca pudding) reluctant Walter to leave Peter’s bedside long enough to eat. My question was why would you leave the most important guy in the universe alone?
|Walter takes Peter’ pulse, and this peaked my curiosity. Did he not trust the hospital monitors?|
The Storm Arrives
William Bell warned Olivia in Momentum Deferred:
A storm is coming, perhaps the last and worst storm of all. And when it is over, I fear there will be little left of our world.
Walternate's prior activation of the machine was causing havoc all over the eastern coast of the United States.
As The Doors’ Riders on the Storm played, nature’s wrath was witnessed by a traveling family. An electrical storm of immense proportion was destroying all unlucky enough to be struck by the many bolts streaking down from the red/blue/violet tinged sky.
Just as Walter seemed ready to give up all hope, Astrid encouraged him.
|"God helps those that help themselves." - Astrid quoting Ben Franklin|
A Demon’s Twist Rusts?
So Olivia put her trust into the enigmatic Sam Weiss.
“This machine was built for Peter. Only HE can OPERATE it.” The keyword in Sam’s statement is the word “operate.” Walternate was able to activate his machine using half of Peter’s DNA profile, obtained from his infant son Henry, but those 23 chromosomes were not enough to CONTROL the machine. The machines required a mind to function correctly. And there is only one Peter Bishop, who was unconscious, oblivious to the peril surrounding both universes.
Sam’s choice of throwing a pen at the machine, only to watch it sent flying to pierce a wall, was kinda funny. Pens always find a way into the story, don’t they? (Northwest Passage, Olivia, The Plateau)
Sam took Olivia on a trip to a family tomb and revealed some Weiss family history. It was assumed by many that Sam was a person that did not age, much like the Nazi scientist in The Bishop Revival. However, he explained to Olivia that he was the last in a string of men named Sam Weiss, all involved in a multi-generational quest concerning The Vacuum, and its origin. It was kind of a let-down that mystery-man Sam appeared to be just a guy with an obsession, but my gut tells me that he wasn’t being entirely truthful with Olivia. He babbled about his role in “what he had done,” and also told Olivia something about "maybe" the time-line was just “course correcting.” It is my theory that Olivia experienced a clashing of time-lines in The Road Not Taken, that the inconsistencies that she was viewing were not from the red universe, but something else. (And who could forget that Easter egg graffiti on one of the buildings in the background in a scene - “He is Here.”)
Everything previously assumed about the machine was up in the air. First, the First People’s Book had unpublished pages, and Sam Weiss had them in his possession. Second, the machine was not a doomsday device as previously suspected, at least according to Weiss. However, I’d say that the pending destruction of the other universe, and the subsequent breakdown of ours as a result, is pretty darned close to doomsday. So either Sam Weiss was totally confused, or lying through his teeth. I do think that Sam Weiss had a vendetta against Peter as well. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in season four.
You are the one, Olivia. Of all the children that Walter and I prepared, you were the strongest. You were always the strongest” - William Bell
As more of Sam’s story was revealed, he and Olivia retrieve a “key” embedded in a piece of ancient Native American art housed at a local museum. The biggest reveal later came when the lock-box was opened using the key, showing a prophecy drawing with Olivia pictured as a “crow bar,” to be used if anything went wrong with the machine. The paper was a MAD Magazine style puzzle, folding back upon itself (like the time-bending demonstration Walter showed in White Tulip) to reveal Olivia needed to use her gift of telekinesis to turn off the machine so that Peter could enter.
Even after all Olivia had been through, she was still doubtful and self-deprecating concerning her abilities. “You’re not suggesting that I cross over?" Olivia said to Walter, as her expression showed that she seemed to be about to lose her stoic composure at the mere thought of the act. It's no wonder after all she had been through. Coming a breath away from becoming vivisected alive would do that to just about the toughest person.
Walter told her:
I know what it’s like to feel unequal to the task required of you. To feel incapable. I’ll never be the man I was, but I’ve come to embrace those parts of my mind that are... peculiar and broken. I understand now that’s what makes my mind special. (studies her for a moment) I wish you could see yourself the way I see you. You have no idea how extraordinary you are. If you would embrace that, there’s no end to what you can do.
I know that you want to believe in me... and I want to believe in me... but believing doesn’t make it true.From Subject 13, we learned a lot about the power of imagination.
The Coin Resurfaces
A very confused Peter woke up earlier than expected, and left his room only to find chaos in the hospital. The facility was overloaded with victims from the lightning strikes. Peter was able to slip out of the hospital due to the confusion, and walked out onto the balcony to see a scene of destruction. He walked to downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts and hailed a cab. His interaction with the taxi driver is odd. Unfortunately, this taxi driver was not as cool as Henry Higgins was when an escaped Olivia forced him to drive for her in Olivia. But Peter seemed just as lost and confused. Peter asked for 42nd and Lexington, a New York City address, like it was nothing. As he handed the cabbie a credit card, he looked unsure if it would even work. He seemed a man on a singular mission.
Once in a NYC neighborhood, Peter sought out a pawn shop and specifically made a large purchase - a silver “Walking Liberty” half-dollar, the same coin shown throughout the series. Peter told the owner, “It always brings me luck.” Peter made his way to Liberty Island trying to see his father, the “Secretary of Defense.” In Peter, the boy that lived and grew up to become the Peter that we know, showed his mother the coin trick and offered her the coin if he died. The Peter from this universe showed Walter, and offered it to him. Why did adult Peter want to show Walternate the coin trick?
Chaos was happening all around him because the machine had been brought there to be close to the location of its quantum entangled counterpart, therefore limiting the area of damage. Walter and Olivia located Peter who at first was very confused: “There are two of you, aren’t there?”
|How will the coin make an appearance in season four?|
The Key to Transformation
I’ve stated many times in fan forums my feelings about Peter’s character transformation:
I love how he has grown from a boy stolen from his home, made to believe lies about his origins — to a con-man with no roots — to a man with something worth fighting/dying for.
His modus operandi before Olivia conned him back to his father was to tuck-tail and run away, like a thief in the night when things got too deep for him. But Peter could no longer accept running away because the stakes were too high this time. He had a place, a purpose, and he had roots - a father and a lover.
I wrote a piece of fan-fiction about Peter’s journey, and find some of the words appropriate for my feelings:
Three years ago he was a wild-man, moving from place to place without a care in the world. In order to survive in his darkest days, he had to give the illusion of being unethical, cunning and emotionally detached. His deep intellect and sensory capabilities made him a favorite of his employers. Bishop was often used to become a person's best friend or confidant, only to turn into a Brutus. For awhile, Peter was convinced that he enjoyed stabbing people in the back, both figuratively and for real. Olivia did not know just how much blood her love had spilled in his life. He convinced himself that they were bad men and deserved it, but that also meant that he was a bad man and his day would come too.
This about killed him deep down inside, because Peter wanted nothing more than to find a solid foundation in the world. Peter had a hidden golden heart, and his very few friends and lovers knew this. He would do anything for the people he cared about. This is why he tried so hard to remain aloof.
This kept him from placing down roots. Once he was in with the wrong crowd, escape became damned near impossible. Then Olivia came and stole him away from all that. He had grown so used to it, that he became indignant when he found that she had used his vulnerabilities to con him.
But it wasn't long before he secretly became relieved. Then immersed in the work that he did... then he fell head-over-heels in love with the woman he did it with. Then he came to love the man that loved him more than his own biological father did.
An Extraordinary Journey: The Circuit that is Peter and Olivia
There is a quote from a character in another science-fiction drama that I found appropriate:
It seems to me that the best relationships, the ones that last, are frequently the ones that are rooted in friendship. You know, one day you look at the person and you see something more than you did the night before. Like a switch has been flicked somewhere. And the person who was just a friend is suddenly the only person you can ever imagine yourself with. - Agent Dana Scully, The X-Files
And so, we have the united dynamic between Peter Bishop and Olivia Dunham. Two people that seemed so vastly different from each other at the start of the series. Peter, the man with no purpose, whose best answer about his aspirations as child was that he wanted to be a brontosaurus. Olivia, the woman that came from a tumultuous and tragic childhood, forged by her experiences into a formidable warrior for justice.
How Far would You Go to save Someone You Love? That has been one of the whole themes of Fringe. Peter and Olivia were willing to risk their lives for each other.. crossing into other universes, jumping into the mind of another.... That's a pretty epic love.
As Olivia sat with Peter, elated that he was OK, the type-writer in the lab typed out the message, “Be a better man than your father.” The promotions for this episode before it aired had the mystery message on the type-writer, and I speculated that it said “Peter has a son" over and over. Thankfully, like 90 percent of the time, I was wrong.
After a season of deception and shaky trust, the now united couple stood together facing insurmountable odds once again. In Ability, Peter observed Olivia from a short distance, but here they were joined together, side-by-side in purpose. His confidence in Olivia’s abilities never wavered. Not once had Peter ever felt that Olivia was not capable of the task at hand. Or as Walter put it, she “does not fail.”
Although they don’t remember it, the two met years ago in a tulip field, the girl extending her hand out to the boy. Now, many years later, destiny had brought them here. The man extended his hand toward the woman, as they have done many times before. Together, they walked to meet their greatest challenge.
Once, Olivia made a dangerous choice because, "John would do it for me." Peter made such a choice for Olivia and Walter.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. - John 15:13
Olivia gazed at Peter, mustering the last reserves of her immense strength, and he gave her a smile that seemed to say “Goodbye, Olivia.” Olivia brought forth a small one of her own that may have spoke to him... “It's OK, you can go…”
Olivia may have said, "I love you,” but I think Peter did not want to say it to her, as to actually say those three words would be like he was telling her goodbye. Once again, he is man of action. He did not have to say what she already knew. But for Olivia, vocalizing her emotions was a really big step. Also, Nina Sharp once told Olivia that “you’re not prepared to lose him.” But by this point, Olivia seemed to accept that Peter had a much larger purpose.
With Peter's character, his actions speak louder than words, and he would tell Olivia in his own way that he loved her, by showing her.
The look on Peter’s face as he climbed the scaffolding steps, boldly stepping towards an unknown fate, showed a sense of courage in a changed man. From the day Over There that he had synched up with the machine’s ominous power source, shockingly realizing that it was made only for him, Peter wanted nothing to do with this. But now, he was here anyway, because he had to do something to save the people he loved.
The first time I watched this episode my heart raced along with Chris Tilton’s perfect musical arrangement for this moment. A moment that was an entire season in the making. It ranks as my absolute favorite scene of the entire Fringe series.
Peter's loving gaze never left Olivia’s eyes until the moment he made the final connection to the ancient machine. His thoughts of her and Walter showed his mindset of the time. In Concentrate and Ask Again, Sam Weiss explicitly told Nina Sharp that Peter’s mindset would determine which world would survive.
I couldn’t help when I first watched this scene but to say, "Oh, my God, he IS going to destroy the other side!“ His body contorted, and Peter's eyes rolled back into his head and closed. Both Walter and Olivia stood silent, awaiting the results of Peter's ascent to his destiny...
In the Season One finale we learned that Olivia was in the Twin Towers, still standing in another universe. By the end of The Last Sam Weiss, an older Peter Bishop looked up to the Freedom Tower that is supposed to be built on Ground Zero in our universe...the future is now.
Thanks to everyone that has read or participated in the summer rewatch. There is one more tomomorrow: The Day We Died!
If you haven’t had the chance, check out some of the other posts. I’ll be writing some recaps/reviews for season four, so see you then!