“Why am I here? How am I back?”
Having been woefully sick for a woeful amount of time, I find myself in an odd situation as I review this episode: I am asking myself what I remember, five days after having watched it. (And having watched it in a Theraflu-induced haze.) What sticks with me most is the sensation of the enormous risk the creative minds behind Fringe took by “renovating” their show in the manner they have.
We’ve been waiting for Peter’s return since the moment he disappeared. Regardless of how much we like Peter (and there are some haters out there), the other characters don’t. Olivia doesn’t know him, and certainly doesn’t love him. To her, he is a case. Walter doesn’t trust him, and hasn’t experience three years of coming to love him, fight for him, and grow because of it. Broyles doesn’t trust him (to say the least), and ultimately no one knows quite what to do with him, his skills, or his claims.
We are working at cross-purposes with the actors. We want them to realize what they have been missing, but they don’t even know they’re missing anything. And, in a way, they aren’t. All of our heroes have lived Peter-less lives. The tension that creates great stories is there: how will our characters react to this odd situation? But the desired resolution isn’t clear: are we going to maintain this odd dramatic irony? To do so means that we discount the new backstories our characters have—even though there is no reason to think they are any less valid than the backstories they had that did include Peter. Do we want everything to go back the way it was? Wouldn’t that re-set the timeline yet again, making the mass destruction we saw at the end of last season once again a possible possibility? Do we want Peter to find his way into everyone’s hearts? It took two and a half seasons for that to happen the first time. Can we wait that long?
And, hey—what did go wrong? I’ve been so preoccupied wondering when Peter would come back that it didn’t occur to me until Peter brought it up that his re-appearance means something has gone wrong. If asked how such a thing could be possible, I would probably have said something like “he pushed his way back into reality.” While that may be the explanation, it’s pretty weak. What game are some of the Observers playing, if they’re ultimately behind this? Surely, it’s more than just a desire to see Peter and Olivia settle down together. What do the repeat moments that Olivia experienced at the end have to do with it all?
As tantalizing as we find those questions, we cannot dwell on them too much, because our characters are not as preoccupied than we are with them. The shapeshifter plot of the week was quite interesting in a simple, character-based way. I like Malcolm Truss: he loved his work, thought it had great potential, and wound up risking everything and making a terrible decision because he couldn’t see all the angles. There’s a parallel in there somewhere. (I also think the actor did an incredible job selling the “truth” of the character in a very short amount of time.)
Speaking of parallels: last episode ended with Peter, alive, emerging from a lake. This one ended with a man who had been shape-shifted being pulled, dead, from a river.
This Is Amazing:
• Olivia: “Who sleeps like this?” Anna Torv gives great exasperation.
• Astrid: “What’s an Observer?” Wow!
• Truss: “The fact that you’re even alive is nothing short of a miracle.”
• Bell: “Some things are not ours to tamper with.” How does this line relate to…well, everything?
• Walter: “Seeing this man has brought up many things I’m trying to forget.”
• Peter: “What do luxury cars and shapeshifters have in common?”
• Fun info about Nina Sharp and Olivia, huh?
• I loved the improbability of Peter hacking into the phone lines through the door keypad.
• Ugh! Walter did the face-touching thing again! We haven’t seen that since Season Two, have we?
Peter said, of Walter, “I was talking to him like he was the man that I knew, but clearly he isn’t.” The question that we’re faced with now, as we slowly learn exactly how these characters will grapple with this newness, is how the writers will satisfy our urge for closure without relying on sentimentality. It’ll be an interesting journey, and because so much is left unresolved and so many questions unanswered, I’m going to wait until next week before I start to play the ratings game.
How many calming custards would you award it?