So Peter and Olivia met when they were kids. Bet that has some of you scratching your heads, huh?
Last Friday, Fox’s sci-fi uber-coolness Fringe kicked back to 1985 — land of Walter’s sideburns and cortexiphan treatments — to show us how young Olivia (called Olive by Dr. Bishop) star-crossed paths with new-to-this-‘verse Peter just as she was tapping into her abilities to travel between worlds. Turns out both kids were in tough spots: He was all pissed that his “parents” were trying to sell him on the lie that he hadn’t been snatched from another dimension, and she was desperate to avoid the abuse of her stepfather. Before you can say, “young love,” the two youngin’s are connecting on that kind of level that causes snow to start magically falling and, in Olivia’s case, accidentally crossing over to the red universe and cluing Walternate into the possible location of his missing son.
It was awesome! And not just because a certain Watercooler writer also had that Battlestar Galactica boardgame young Petey was eyeing up in the toy store. The scene where Olive spilled the beans to the man she thought was her protector was a chilling mind-bender that only got cooler up multiple viewings. And once you’d figure out that she had indeed just met Walternate, the realization of what that meant (this was the germ of the idea that has inspired the man to devote his life to ending our universe) solved a huge piece of this puzzle.
However, there were a few questions that came out of the hour we’d like to pose to you…
– Was that betamax video of Olive mentally torching her classroom the same one we saw last season? Thought there was a bed in the background of the first one.
– If Walter’s old lab assistant Carla died in a fire, who thinks it was one started by Olive?
– How come Peter didn’t remember meeting Olivia? We know she blocked out the cortexiphan stuff from last season’s “Jacksonville” episode.
– Do we think maybe Olivia has an untapped ability to turn things she imagines into a reality? That snow sort of just happened, you know?
– How come Walter never mentioned that these two met 26 years ago?
– How much do we love Orla Brady as Elizabeth Bishop?
Ok, Fringies, have at it. Who knows, maybe some of your theories will make it into our next chat with the producers.
If you look at episode 2.15 of Fringe, titled “Peter,” you’re probably like most in thinking that it’s one of the show’s best episodes. You’re quite right; the episode received great critical acclaim when it first aired, and was declared one of the best television episodes of 2010 by many critics. So how would Fringe, the best-written show on network television, follow up its acme? Could it perhaps top “Peter”?
“Subject 13” didn’t top “Peter.” That’s the inevitable comparison to be made with the episode, and to be fair, “Peter” is clearly superior. But look at it this way: “Peter” was the climax, “Subject 13” was the falling action of the show’s flashback timeline. “Peter” was significant because it opened us up to an entirely different story, with new characters, and put everything we were seeing in mid-season two into a new context. “Subject 13,” however, wasn’t as innovative: it was more of a ‘puzzle piece’ episode that revealed character motivations but ultimately not much else. The mythological elements, for example, were nothing we didn’t already know (Olivia can transcend universes when she’s emotional).
No, it’s undeniable that this episode was more about the characters than the plot, though unlike last week’s “6B,” neither suffered from the imbalance. Instead, we were essentially given a reiterated but solid mythological episode for our characters to interact upon.
Speaking of the characters, the acting this week was once again solid. John Noble is becoming less and less believable as a younger Walter (his hunched stride into Bishop Dynamic seemed more resultant from age than grief), but his acting abilities were otherwise unhampered. Both as Walter and Walternate, he created a character to really, really sympathize with. Seeing Walternate’s motivations instead of them being implied wasn’t groundbreaking, but it was powerful. Same goes for Orla Brady’s powerful performance as Elizabeth Bishop in this universe, as we saw the tip of the spiral that would lead to her eventual suicide.
The child actors were great as well; I could really buy that both of them were younger versions of Anna Torv and Joshua Jackson, and strangely enough, I found their encounter fleeting enough that it was believable for them not to remember it. By the way, that scene with young Olivia in Walter’s office at the end? Heartbreakingly well played. Kudos to her.
In the end, “Subject 13” isn’t going to be remembered in that same fond light as “Peter,” to which it will be forever compared. But it will bask in the glow of being one of the best episodes of season three, taking a firm third place after “Entrada” and “Olivia.” A-
For a while now, we’ve known — from clues dropped; from flickers of behavior; from good guessing — that both Walter and Walternate are not mere good vs. bad opposites. This week’s Fringe let us know how close the two universes’ Walters are, in one of the most moving and revelatory episodes in the series’ short history. Set in 1985, the episode titled “Subject 13″ portrayed Peter and Olivia as children (and very well-played, too, by Chandler Canterbury and Karley Scott Collins). Pre-credits, we saw a young Peter standing on the ice-covered Reiden Lake, a rope around his waist, a block of stone tied to the other end, trying to smash his way into the cold water. This was the same site, of course, where the Observer saved Peter from drowning, and the same area from which Walter pierced the universes to steal the “other” Peter back to our side. What was also immediately established in these opening moments was the idea of extreme emotion (another key theme of “Subject 13″) — little Peter was so upset, so maddeningly confused at having been brought to our world without explanation from these alternative versions of his parents, Walter and Elizabeth, that he was willing to brave icy depths in a mistaken attempt to, as he put it in a note, “go home,” to reach, as he said later, heartbreakingly, “the other world at the bottom of the lake.”
“Going home” had another meaning entirely to young Olivia — for her, it meant returning to a house ruled by an abusive stepfather. Unlike Peter, she never wants to go home. She dreaded leaving the Jacksonville, Florida, school where she and others were being subjected to various tests by Walter Bishop, experiments intended to define and harness the powers granted these children of the Cortexiphan experiments, of which Olivia was a most prized pupil. Episode director Frederick E. O. Toye executed one of the most effective smash-cuts I’ve seen on TV when, just before the commercial break, an Olivia terrified by her father leapt across universes to escape her father’s rage only to be transported immediately back to her horrible reality and then an abrupt commercial. It was at once shocking and witty, this use of network-TV breaks as part of the structure of the episode, to make a dramatic point. (more…)
In the past, a young Peter ties himself to a heavy brick and attempts to break the ice covering the lake that he is standing on. He finally succeeds and plunges into the icy waters, but Elizabeth Bishop arrives just in time and rescues him. Meanwhile, in Jacksonville, a young Walter works with a group of young children, including Olivia Dunham. Returning home, the scientist attempts to reassure Peter, who is convinced that Walter and Elizabeth are not his real parents. Later, Walter explains to his wife that the children he is working with may be able to cross between universes and take Peter back home. The next day, Peter argues with Elizabeth, claiming that Walter stole him from another world at the bottom of the lake.
At Olivia’s home, her brutish step-father chases and threatens her. While panicked, Olivia is briefly transported to a green field, before returning home. When Walter arrives at his lab the next day, he notices that Olivia has a bruised face, which she claims was caused by a fall. Walter notices that she has sketched an airship, like the kind in the alternate universe, and that she saw the craft when she ‘fell’. Walter becomes convinced that Olivia’s power is linked to an extreme emotional response and, when Elizabeth and Peter arrive for a visit, he explains to his wife that Olivia may be able to help Peter cross over.
Walter begins experimenting on Olivia, but her abilities do not respond to feelings of joy, exhilaration, anger or loneliness. He finally tests for fear, trapping Olivia in a dark room and covering her friend Nick in gruesome make-up. Terrified, Olivia activates her power and the room is engulfed in flames. In the aftermath, Olivia flees the lab.
Elizabeth leaves Peter in the lab while she investigates Walter’s office. While Peter examines Olivia’s sketchbook, which contains drawings of her angry step-father and the field she was transported to, Elizabeth finds Walter’s notes on his experiments. Walter returns to his office and reveals that a combination of love and terror is what triggers Olivia’s powers. He admits that he is considering returning her home to her abusive step-father in order to trigger her abilities, send Peter home and save the two universes, but Elizabeth is appalled. At that moment, lab assistant Ashley arrives and reveals that Peter has gone missing.
In a flash to the alternate universe, we see that Walternate has turned to drink in the aftermath of Peter’s kidnapping. The alternate Elizabeth begs him to help rebuild their crumbling marriage, but rather than stay at home, Walternate returns to work at ‘Bishop Dynamic’.
Back in the regular world, Peter finds Olivia back in the field. She finally admits that her step-father hits her and that she ran because she is afraid that “Doctor Walter” will send her home, but Peter insists that she should trust Walter. The pair return to the lab, much to Elizabeth’s relief. When Olivia learns that her step-father is coming to get her, she rushes into Walter’s office and tearfully tells him that she has been abused and that the violence causes her to cross over. However, Walter then appears behind her, asking what is the matter, and it is revealed that Olivia has unconsciously crossed over and actually made her confession to Walternate.
Sometime later, Olivia’s step-father arrives to pick her up and Walter warns the brute that if she is harmed again, he will use his government contacts to cause “significant troubles” for him. At the Bishop home, Peter apologises to Elizabeth for running away. He asks her one final time if she is his real mother and she repeats her earlier lie, telling him that she is his mother and that his confusion is caused by his recent illness. Peter seems to believe her and leaves the room, but an emotional Elizabeth is clearly affected by the deception and begins drinking.
The episode concludes back in the alternate universe. Now in possession of a sketch by Olivia, illustrating her and Peter sat in the field, Walternate calls his wife and tells her that he knows where Peter was taken.