Oct 14, 2011
11:10 PM ET
'Fringe' report: The beauty of the new season's storytelling, and what it means for the future
by Ken Tucker
The frequently heart-breaking, beautifully romantic yet action-packed season of Fringe continues, with the series moving along on great swells of emotion, as though trying to reach the peaks of the Mozart that Walter was listening to in “One Night in October.” This week, the hour titled “Subject 9″ returned to the series’ most potent, everlasting element of its mythology: the Cortexiphan experiments conducted more than two decades ago on “37 innocent children,” including Olivia (“Olive”) Dunham. Oh, and in part because we saw the writing credits — showrunners Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman plus Akiva Goldsman — we knew we probably were in for some fundamental shifts in the season’s main plot line, the search for Peter Bishop, and we sure got ‘em.
I’m going to leave the close reading of “Subject 9″ to Jeff Jensen and his recap. (Have fun, comrade, with double-gloved Nina!) Here, I’d like to write more broadly about this episode and the season thus far. The apparitions of Peter that both Walter and Olivia had been experiencing this week manifested themselves as a blue charge of amorphous energy. Walter has a theory that it relates to astral projection, which reminds him of experiments he did with William Bell 25 years ago during the Cortexiphan trials. In this Fringe universe, Olivia recalls having set fire to the Florida building but seems less psychically damaged by what she went through — unlike Cameron James, subject number nine in the trials, whose life has been cursed. When anxious, he “sends metal flying,” he tells Olivia and Walter when they visit him, and he’s bitter and depressed about the lonely life he’s led.
That’s just one level of the story-telling. An equally important one is the follow-up on last week’s psychiatric evaluation of Walter. Discovering that St. Claire’s Hospital is seeking Olivia’s opinion as to whether Walter should be re-admitted for further evaluation, Walter is moved to leave his lab for the first time in three years. This placed him in the midst of the action and face-to-face with Cameron James, and the old guilt stole over the older man. He’s still not without guile — he tries to mollify Olivia’s questions about her youth by assuring her, “You were always the strongest; you were always the favorite.” But we are also told that Olivia ran away from Bishop and Bell’s house of pharmaceutical horrors. This is an Olivia who’s suppressed a great deal. With immense yet discreet skill, “Subject 9″ returned us to Fringe’s richest subjects: Children lost (both literally and psychologically), children loved too little and too much.
Read Ken Tucker's entire Entertainment Weekly article here.