Welcome to our review for episode 4 of Fringe season 3 – “Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?”.
In this review we give an honest opinion on the good and not so good aspects of the episode. We find out what answers were provided and what mysteries remain locked away. We take an in-depth look at the other aspects of the episode that made an impression on us, before rounding off the review with our final thoughts and episode rating.
You may want to check out our Fringe Unlocked article: Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep? as this review builds from and refers back to it.
- Powerful Themes. Humanity, empathy, dreams, the soul, identity, family, love, individuality, betrayal, loyalty, God. These are just some of the resonating themes that the episode explored in the space of 42 immersive minutes.
- The Ray Storyline. Ray gave us a fascinating look at a shapeshifter’s capacity to love, and in doing so allowed us to consider how far these emotions represent the defining aspect of the human condition and how far they symbolise a means of presenting an empathetic nature. In other words, what is real and what isn’t.
- Altlivia undercover. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Altlivia duck and dive her way through this episode. The shifty eyes and the quick thinking were fun, while the quieter moments of conflict provided context. While I don’t agree with her actions, it was interesting to see her caught between her own feelings and the so-called requirements to do her job.
- Anna Torv. I’m running out of superlatives. She seems to be very in-tune with this current storyline and her interpretation of emotional aspects seem to come from a very genuine place. I enjoyed the way she portrayed the multiple shades and dynamics of Altlivia, making the character emotionally closer to Olivia, while maintaining that strong distinction.
- Sebastian Roche. He capped off a fantastic yet all-too-short arc with a portrayal that managed to capture the intriguing characteristics of a part human, part machine being.
- The Visuals At times they they bled through the screen. The highlight was the final Altlivia/Newton face-off which managed to capture a million tiny yet telling expressions. I think I’ll have trouble getting Altlivia’s beady little eyes out of my head for quite some time. I actually found myself thinking of Rachael Rosen (not R@chel) in that scene. I wonder if that was the intent?
- The Musical Composition. Fantastic and moving throughout. The music in the Newton death/Altlivia and Peter scene was especially memorable – filled with sorrow yet somehow uplifting. It reminded me in some ways of the elevator sequence from “What Lies Below”.
- They Killed Newton! I am absolutely distraught. The passing of David Jones doesn’t even compare to this. I was hoping that instead of killing him, they’d have him make a conscious choice not to take the suicide chip. How awesome would it have been? While I appreciated getting a big dose of The Newt I honestly feel like there was so much more to learn. Does this mean that we’re also done with the shapeshifters now? Perhaps the writers feel that they need more space to bring Sam Weiss and other characters into the fold, but at the moment I’m genuinely disappointed to see the demise of the Mercury King. That said, what a way to go and what an awesome character he went on to become.
- The Deed. I find it extremely disappointing that Altlivia and Peter slept together. I found the level of deceit, betrayal and ignorance from these two characters very distasteful. A necessary evil in terms of story, perhaps, but an ugly taste.
- Peter and Walter. All that unresolved mess and not a hint of it in this episode? I’m not surprised though, I knew it would be a contrivance from the moment Peter hop-skipped and jumped his way out of Blight country.
- How is Altlivia going to pull her mission off without Newton and his Intel?
- Do the shapeshifters retain remnants of the people they have shifted into in the past? We know they retain their own memories and experiences while in those identities, but what about the inherent elements, the souls?
- Why did Newton smile as he died?
- Newton tried to retrieve Senator James Van Horn after he was injured in the crash because he knew that his identity as a shapeshifter would be revealed.
- Van Horn provided Newton the information on Olivia Dunham and the Fringe Team seen in “The Box“.
- The shapeshifter assumed Van Horn’s identity two years ago and has been collecting Intel on the Fringe Team ever since.
- It appears that Newton’s head was in deep freeze for 4 years – the shapeshifter Ray Duffy hadn’t seen him in five years, and we know that Newton has been out of deep freeze for around 1 year.
- Newton killed himself because he didn’t want to compromise the mission. By ingesting the suicide chip, he presumably wiped out all data from his memory unit.
- I thought the opening scene with Peter and Altlivia talking about ‘transactional needs’ was a bit nauseating, but it performed its function. Despite being blind to his own situation (at least consciously), Peter makes some good observations about the human need to find the missing pieces from other people, which plays into one of the episode’s themes of the individual being part of something greater.
- The opening also gave us our first true glimpse beneath the surface of Altlivia. I’m pleased we go to see her in an intimate moment of self conflict – one almost identical to Olivia’s bathroom sob in the premiere. Altlivia didn’t cry like her double, but it showed that she was struggling with the moral implications of her ‘romantic entanglement’. It’s a question of self respect and dignity and I’m glad that she at least found it difficult to cross that line. This little moment also helped illustrate that if you boil the two Olivias emotions down enough, they make similar emotional retreats. Altlivia may not be as in touch with her emotions as Olivia, but she has the capability.
- Also, have to say, I’m so not feeling Peter after this scene. He comes across as a bit of a sleaze. He’s so full of himself that he can’t see that ‘Olivia’ is looking more than a bit uncomfortable. I’m sure people will find ways to defend him, but for me his attitude is a problem on many levels. And hows the research on the weapon going, Peter? Any progress? Thought not.
- Oh my. The Senator Van Horn scene – cute, hilarious and tragic all at the same time! I’m pleased that they gave us this glimpse into Van Horn’s nature. He may be a shapeshifter but it was important that we saw his generosity and playfulness. What I took from that scene is that he likes humanity and understands how we work. You don’t show a shapeshifter doing something like that unless you want to illustrate his capacity for being human. The fact that he gave the girls a big tip made me smile because it’s exactly what a kind old grandpa would do. An old lemonade-swilling grandpa.
- On the other side of the coin, I think the writers may have also wanted to make another point – Van Horn’s act of pure humanity essentially got him killed. He took his eye off the mission (literally, he was looking in the rear view) as he indulged in his adopted identity. This is an ongoing theme throughout the episode as we see both human characters and hybrids struggling to find the balance between their objectives and their emotions.
- You have to feel sorry for Broyles though – it seems that all of his friends turn out to be traitors, douchebags or doomsday hybrids. First there was Mitchell Loeb, then everyone’s favorite Sanford Harris, and now James Van Horn. Next we’ll find out that Molebaby was his mail man.
- Newton seemed much more intense in this episode. Seeing him clinically massacre innocent people sent a chill to the bone.
- Good to see Newton display some ninja moves not seen since shapeshifter nurse escaped the bullet of Jessup in “New Day In The Old Town”. We know they’re agile, but there’s still no evidence to suggest that they’re super-quick, meaning the ‘Charlie: Furnace of Death’ situation remains a contrivance.
- So Nina is seemingly OK with Bellie’s wish that Walter assume control of Massive Dynamic. I suspected as much from her reaction in “The Box”, but somewhere deep inside it must burn her, just a little. And while I’m all for Nina ‘believing’ in Walter’s intellect, I’m concerned by the ease with which she is happy to let the mad scientist run the joint. This is a man immoral in the extreme. He’s a perpetual danger to society and Nina needs to put some safeguards in place, and not go granting him complete access to the chocolate factory. I’m glad that Walter seems to be facing up to his responsibilities, but perhaps now more than ever he needs a counter-balance to keep him in check.
“Don’t worry, I do some of my finest work self medicated”
- I have concerns that Peter would let him come to work in that state – and that Nina would all but laugh it off. And to think, the fates of two worlds could rest in this mans hands?
- That said, Walter delivers an important line:
“The brain is consciousness..the mind is GOD!”
- Interesting for several reasons. Firstly, it ties into the notion that consciousness is part of the human condition – clearly the shapshiters are conscious beings with the capacity to develop their own interior emotions, therefore are they part of this collective consciousness? Secondly, consciousness also relates to ‘wakefulness’ – which is a theme of the story that we’ve been tracking for a while now. What does it mean to be truly awake, and are our characters currently sleeping? Thirdly, Walter says that the mind is God. We know that Walter re-discovered God some time ago. How does this outlook reconcile with his previous spiritual statements?
- For me it works fine, it just depends on how we want to interpret spirituality and consciousness. Walter is a scientist first and foremost, so it should be remembered that any view that he has on God will place importance on the mind and the idea that we are all connected through consciousness. It’s interesting to look at this viewpoint in light of his quest for forgiveness – essentially, Walter may not have been asking for forgiveness from one singular powerful being, but the forgiveness of the collective and ever expanding consciousness. This further plays into my theory that Walter somehow constructed Alistair Peck in order to self-engineer his own ‘white tulip’ to help him to move on. In light of recent episodes, this notion is becoming ever more possible.
- This idea of the consciousness as God, whatever our spiritual beliefs, is surely interesting within the context of this multi-universe story. I often jokingly say that the ‘universe’ has a sense of humor or wrath when it comes to parallels, symbolism and punishment in this story, and actually, the writers may very well be going down that route.
- Altlivia observes Newton’s ‘strength':
“Look at that, it’s like he’s got no fear”
- What I love about that line is that she’s absolutely right. But I also sense that her comment comes from a very real place – given her personal rivalry with Newton, it’s as though she feels threatened by the ‘advantages’ that his ‘programming’ as afforded him. While she’s becoming more and more conflicted with each passing day, Newton is unwavering. A being without fear – can he be considered human?
- Broyles says that James Van Horn was a “good man”. This brings me to another point not touched on in a while – are people inherently good? At our base level, if you strip away our individual circumstances, are human beings all capable of goodness? Or, if you go the other way and put people in the most extreme of situations, are we really all bad? It’s nature vs nurture. My personal view is that we are all capable of goodness, inherently humans want to do good, but we are also all flawed, with the capacity for bad. But that’s the struggle, and it’s why redemption is such a wonderfully inspirational theme to explore in a story like this. Especially when you throw in so-called ‘non-human’ characters who are capable of acting better and worse than humans.
- But my point here is that Broyles, perhaps naively, considers that Van Horn ‘was’ only a good man before this impostor took his identity. From the interactions we’ve had with shapeshifter Van Horn over the past couple of seasons, it’s not out of the question to say that the shapeshifter was also a good man. Well, aside from murdering the original Van Horn and planning the downfall of Over Here. But that’s the thing, as we see later on with Ray, it appears that the shapeshifters themselves (some of them at least) suffer from the same conflict of interests as the human characters. Van Horn seemed to enjoy aspects of his ‘human identity’, but he also had a job to do. Where does the line fall? It’s messy and its complicated, and I’m really pleased that the writing reflected that truth.
Agent: “So if it’s not a machine, it’s human?”
- Interesting logic. Interesting because the Agent didn’t seem to consider the possibility that it could be both. The word that springs to mind when I think about this line is convergence and it goes back to something I mentioned in ‘Fringe Unlocked’ – perhaps being a hybrid is something more than human? Bellie had the unique perspective of having lived in two worlds, you could argue something similar for the shapeshifters and their dual genetic make-up.
Walter: “I’m a little envious that Bellie thought of it before I did”
- The man is dead and Walter is still jealous? Seriously Walter, get a grip of yourself! Although as I said last season, I wouldn’t be surprised if the shapeshifters actually were Walter’s idea on some level.
- Great callback:
Peter: “So assuming that you’re right, do you think that we could fix them?”
Walter: “Fix them? We could try!”
- This is neat because it links back to Walter’s ‘first’ encounter with Newton in “Grey Matters” when he asked The Newt if he was going to fix him. That line always stuck out to me. There’s something about the word ‘fix’ when applied to humans that I find very tragic. To have it used in the other direction with the shapeshifters only serves to highlight just how narrow the gap is between these two forms of life.
“Don’t worry, he’s been disabled, or as you people call it, he’s dead”
- You people? Lol, Newton! In an episode that explores the closeness between humans and shapeshifters, he goes against the grain and places a river, nay, an ocean, between the two. Newton’s outlook is rude, and borders on human-phobic (is that a word? It is now). To put it in context, he’s what you might call extremely ‘patriotic’, he’s fighting for his world – a world that is essentially run by humans, yet he degrades the ‘humans’ with a tone that Altlivia must have found rather insulting. As I said earlier, I love the complexity of this scenario – we have two beings essentially fighting for the same thing, but they’re wired so differently that they simply clash.
- But consider this – Newton was presumably programmed in a specific way – did Walternate prejudice him to loathe humans? Unlikely, since Newton has expressed great kindness to humans in the past. So his loathing seems to come from his commitment to his job and his opinion of Altlivia. For me, this is his nurture at work. Newton has learned this outlook through his own experiences rather than it being something he was ‘born’ with. While he may have been created with a base outlook (i.e. a love for ‘his’ world), his experiences in fighting the war and interacting with people have no doubt shaped him into the man he has become. I wonder how much Altlivia’s second-class citizen act towards him in “The Box” informed his opinions on her? I’d say a lot. And I love that, not because I agree with either of their short-sightedness, but because it actually tells us quite a bit about Newton and his ability to feel, even though he’s not consciously in-touch with his emotions.
- Altlivia’s low opinion of Newton (and by extension, hybrids) may also inform us as to why she kept him out of the loop regarding her mission. Maybe Walternate didn’t want Newton to know, or perhaps Altlivia just wanted to pull rank on Newton after their tiff in “The Box”, but it definitely seems to have rubbed him up the wrong way. Just as interesting are the seeds that Newton planted in Altlivia’s mind – essentially telling her that she had to sleep with peter in order to completely gain Boy Wonder’s trust.
The Newt: “Maybe it’s because I’m looking in from the outside, but I’m willing to wager that somewhere..deep inside his brain, Peter Bishop senses that something is not quite right with you. That something has changed. That, you’re not HIS Olivia.”
- Sickening behaviour from The Newt, but as I said before, he is highly perceptive and knows how to push her buttons, just as he does with “now I know how weak you are” Olivia.
“You’re in over your head, you’re not committed to this task, and because of that, you will fail“
- You. Will. Fail. I love this guy! He has officially replaced Jones as my favorite ‘villain’ on this show. Just the idea that a leading shapeshifter can get embroiled in personal squabbles amuses me so much. In truth, Newton does have a point – Altlivia is not as committed as he is, and isn’t that something? A shapeshifter is more prepared to do whatever it takes to save their world than a human from Over There is. What does this say about the humanity of these two characters? What does it say about the human relationship with technology? Can they survive without machines?
- For me it says that as complicated as Newton really is, he has no trouble in seeing the world in red and blue. He is not conflicted by emotions when it comes to protecting his world. Whereas Altlivia, a woman who has no doubt had to fight to get where she is (although there might be more equality in the alternate universe), whose commitment and ability is being questioned by this sneering ‘vacuum cleaner’ (her words) who undermines her at every point. And to make matters worse, he’s suggesting that she bed Peter in order to prove herself! To be honest, he deserves a smack. (but make it gentle).
- One thing which springs to mind is that maybe being human is not as ‘easy’ for Altlivia as it is for Newton. And I say that with the knowledge that Altlivia is supposed to be the happy-go-lucky version of Olivia. So it’s fascinating to see these dynamics at play and the ways in which humanity can be both a disadvantage and an advantage, depending upon your perspective and the situation at hand. The funny (or sad) thing is, Newton won his personal battle with Altlivia here. Just as he did with Olivia in “Grey Matters”, he wins his battles in the hearts and the minds of his opponents, which may well be a metaphor for this story at some point.
- In “The Plateau”, Walternate gloats about his “bigger laboratory”, so I found it amusing that Walter would say, “no, my other lab” referring to his bigger and bolder Lab at Massive Dynamic. Little does he know that he’s still not the bigger Walter.
- Was it just me, or did they try to play around with the possibility of Astrid being a shapeshifter?
- Oh how I laughed:
Altlivia: “It’s R@chel, I should take this”
Peter: “Tell her I said hai”
- HEH indeed! Too funny. Gotta love Newton on the other end complaining about how many messages he had to leave.
- And finally, here comes the big moment when Peter gathers his senses and is redeemed! He’s about to realize that Altlivia is not his Olivia. Boy Wonder is about to become Boy Wiser:
Peter: I found something
Altlivia: What is is?
Peter: It’s you..
- YES! Go Peter! Oh, wait..
Peter: “..you..and me..and Walter..and molebaby, and magic dragon..”
- The Ray Duffy story was heart-breaking. I love the fact that he came to love his human identity so much that he didn’t want to lose by shifting into another body. It reminded me of the 10th Doctor’s regeneration (in a figurative way). In the moments that we spent with Ray we learned that a shapeshifter can understand on some level what it means to be human, what it means to love.
Newton: “After this mission you take a new identity. And Ray, no traces left behind, nothing that can expose us”
- Given that the shapeshifters were created to help the other side win the war, it’s interesting to see just how difficult this was for Ray to accept. It taps into the “allure” that Newton spoke of a couple of episodes back. I had wondered whether he had any grounds for saying this, and even though he still had trouble understanding Ray’s hesitation, we can see what he meant. The shapeshifters are perhaps just as fallible to the desires of the heart as humans are.
- Walter’s ‘Van Horn empathy test’ and his explanation of how desire and love can become fixed in the shapeshifters ‘heart':
“To succeed in its mission, it needed to play the role of a spouse, and pretending to have an emotional connection, caused a real one to form.”
- I like this. It also plays into Altlivia’s conflict of having to play out a role she might actually be developing a hankering for, but one that is also beginning to impinge upon her own moral code. But more powerful to me is the way it speaks of Walter’s love for Peter. Since the first season when we discovered that Peter was stolen from an alternate universe, I’ve wondered whether Walter really loves Peter as much as he did his original son. By illustrating how the shapeshifters can develop feelings through identifying with a role, it offers an example of how it is ‘possible’ for Walter to love Peter as much as his biological son. The father/son relationship is itself a role designed for nurture and protection. While he may or may not love Peter in the same way as his original, it shows that it’s possible to love something or someone who fills that gap. In many ways it’s impossible to untangle the love he has for the two Peters – especially not after all this time.
- With this train of thought, it’s interesting to consider that the shapeshifters (those of them who develop emotions) are essentially acknowledging that on some level that they are missing something, and that by doing so they are able to let those feelings become real. And for me, that’s the other level to this story – what is real and what isn’t? How do they know for absolute certainty that the love they have for someone is real? I’d say it’s a question that can be answered using experience. If they’re capable of experiencing something, then surely it’s real to them. Of course there are levels to it and sometimes reality can be deceptive (*ahem* Peter), but if we truly believe something to be real, then no-one else can say that it isn’t. Consciousness cannot be denied and reality is subjective for the individual.
- Man, the second scene with Ray where he’s essentially saying goodbye to his family is killer. The look he gives his shapeshifting device is one of bleak disdain. It’s clear that he doesn’t want to let go of this life that he’s become so fond of. You can almost see the internal battle playing out in his subconscious – shapeshifters have a subconscious, right? Speaking of which, Ray’s last words to his son are some of the most powerful this season:
Ray: “Hey Buddy, what are you still doing up?”
Son: “I didn’t sound the monster alarm, but I think he’s here”
Son: “Under the bed”
Ray: “You know, sometimes, monsters aren’t all that bad. Sometimes, if you get to spend some time with them, they can be very surprising. They can be, um, incredibly sweet, and pure, and capable of great great love. And then, one of them might actually become your very best friend”
Son: “But you’re my best friend”
*The silence..the violins..the emotional anguish*
Ray: “…yeah that’s right”
Son: “You going to work?”
*child grabs fathers hand*
Son: “Come check on me when you get back?”
Ray: “I will”
- Wow. There’s so much to love about that scene. There’s a hint of menace because we know something that the little kid doesn’t, but the purity of Ray’s love for his son comes shining through. The ‘monster under the bed’ trope was a clever device because it echoes Olivia’s fear – an emotional response which has been surprisingly helpful to unlocking her ability. And so we have it with Ray, who plays the role of the ‘monster’ in this scene. It’s heart-breaking that he sees himself in this light – he knows that if his son knew the truth about him, he might not love him for who he is. And yet the monster is also the hero, because it’s he who is capable of great great love. It’s the so-called monster who becomes the best friend, the ally who has raised this very human child through the formative years of his life. The monster is not such a monster. This may be a self-idealized portrayal that Ray is giving, but it’s an incredibly important one because this is how he sees himself. I find this to be a very useful for working out this character.
- And as I type this, I can’t help but be drawn to the comparison of ‘the monster’ and the subconscious. Olivia is currently being kept afloat by her ‘monster – the unformed beast within that terrifies her but also represents her inner most self – her best friend, if you will. Likewise, my mind is cast back to Walternate’s descriptions of the people Over Here as “monsters under our skin” and the ways in which this war is not a battle of us vs them, but an internal battle of the self. For me, this show is very much becoming about the hero within. I’m not sure if the writers intended these parallels (and granted it’s open to interpretation), but that’s where it’s resonating with me.
- But going back to Ray, I like to think that in that moment when his son grabbed his hand, that was the instant he realized his worth. Because as much as being human comes from within, I think it doesn’t hurt to have that love reciprocated when it’s most needed.
- And without wanting to put a downer on Ray’s experience of the human condition, I have to wonder whether he was being entirely fair to these people? I mean, he may have developed real feelings for them, but he’s essentially deceiving them (and killed their loved one). I’ve given Walter a hard time for his deception over Peter, so I have to ask these same questions of Ray. In many ways Newton is right in his stance because because at least he’s not playing on peoples emotions like Ray and Van Horn. But then this is just another example of the human heart.
- I liked the Patricia/Van Horn scene. She showed just enough emotion to make me believe that she could come face to face with the shapeshifter who killed her husband. She also helped Peter out a bit in the fact that even she wasn’t aware of her own mole.
Patricia: “I’m sorry I didn’t know you were gone. I don’t know how I didn’t know..you would have known, I know you would have.”
- I still feel that Peter’s ignorance of the Altlivia situation is worse though, because Altlivia is doing a pretty rotten job at acting like Olivia. That said, I don’t find the idea of someone not knowing that their loved one has been replaced impossible. It’s a creepy notion that plays right into the show’s themes of people and emotions becoming obsolete. As an aside it’s interesting to note that Patricia asks for Van Horn’s forgiveness, she blames herself believing that he would have known. Would he?
Astrid: “Look! Animal cookies. You love these”
Walter: “No! BELLIE loved them. I occasionally eat them to honor him, that is all”
- Lol, Walter, so you don’t pour liquor on the ground then? It’s possibly contrived that the animal biscuits just so happened to remind Walter of where the shapeshifters memory unit would be, but I’m happy to put it down to our much talked about ‘cosmic guide of the universe’ assisting him.
“Oh, don’t eat my pudding”
- Yuck? Maybe I’m imagining things, but isn’t there a similar scene in the Fringe Universe?
- A bit of faux-tension there with Walter coming close to being shapeshifted. Thank goodness that Ray wanted to keep his identity.
- Policeman or not, with Ray being able to stroll up to the 23rd floor, I take it they don’t have much security at Massive Dynamic? Seriously Nina, I thought you’d have sentient robots patrolling every floor.
- I can’t work out if Peter is silly or just really slow on the uptake.
Peter: “Maybe [Patricia] did notice? She just made excuses to herself not to deal with it, or she came up with ways to explain it to herself. Kinda like I’ve been doing with you”
Altlivia: “Say what?”
Peter: “Yeah..with all the little differences ever since you got back from the other side. You did tell me that your experiences on the other side changed you, but ever since you got back it’s like. It’s like you’re a completely different person”
*Olivia does ALL of the tell-tale signs that guilty people do*
Peter: “You seem less burdened, you’re more patient with Walter.
- He gets points for considering the possibility that Patricia could conceivably have known that Van Horn was replaced and made excuses to herself. I’m fine with that because we’ve seen how powerful the subconscious can be. But he loses all points for saying that he’s been doing the same thing with Altlivia, yet failing dismally to make the connection! As I touched on earlier, in many ways this actually makes his ignorance even worse.
Peter: “Don’t get me wrong, I like it the change is good”
- AHA! Is Peter saying in a roundabout way that he prefers ‘Olivia’ like this? That he prefers Altlivia over Olivia? Perhaps it another example of the complexity of the human heart – we want what we want but if we could just make this tweak here and this adjustment there, ‘then it would be perfect, honest’. As much as I loathe Peter for constantly disrespecting Olivia and HER worth, he is an example of how people often want to change other people. I haven’t forgotten his ‘I like your hair bettah’ remark either, so I’m not just basing my opinion on this one conversation. It just seems to me that he likes both Olivias to varying degrees, but would love a merger of some sort. Ah well, at least he hasn’t slept with Altlivia yet. Thank God for small mercies, huh!
- Oh Astrid, you do make me laugh with your totally incompetent Walter-sitting skills. Is this like the 20th time already?:
Altlivia: “Where’s Walter?”
Astrid: ” I don’t know, he said he’d be right back”
- Haha! The look on Altlivia and Peter’s faces. Astrid has her plate of food, who gives a damn about Walter.
- Who gives a damn indeed, because Walter just keeps on plummeting in my book. I’m not happy that he stabbed Ray. I’m sure that most people will claim that he had no choice, but there’s always a choice. It seems that Walter just doesn’t consider the “tin cans” to be truly human, so viciously stabbing one of them doesn’t matter, right Walt? Now maybe he thought Ray was going to kill him (though clearly Ray didn’t even after he was attacked), but does that really lessen Walter’s act? For someone so worried about ‘Gods forgiveness’, he has a funny way of showing it. The only thing I’m holding on to is the possibility that Walter knew that stabbing Ray wouldn’t kill him, that he just wanted to slow him down enough and escape with the disk.
“Ownership has its privileges”
- Yes, and God help us all, Walter.
- Throughout this episode I kept wondering why Newton chose Ray for the mission to retrieve the data disk. It seemed like such a specific choice when he could have used one of his other men in high-ranking positions with less attachments. His final scene with Ray doesn’t quite explain that but it shows a interesting distinction between Newton and this particular shapeshifter.
Newton: “I saw it but I couldn’t understand it. I do now, it’s them”
Ray: “I got the disk, I found a way”
- However much I sympathized with Ray, it strikes me that he wanted to have his cake and eat it. It’s a theme of the episode – Ray, Van Horn, even Peter – they each want the best of both worlds.
- And did Ray really think that not shifting was an option? Walter and Massive Dynamic CCTV would have been able to ID him.
Newton: “now it’s time to move on”
Ray: “no, this is my life”
Newton: “And now you’ll have another life, just like you had another one before”
- The struggle here is captivating. On the one hand there’s Newton’s broad almost inconsequential view of life. He sees it as a passage, a collection of meaningless identities serving the ultimate goal. Whereas Ray not only loves being human, he loves this specific human life. He’s made a choice. Out of all the identities he has assumed in his time, it’s this one that fits the best, it’s this one that he identifies with. I find that very realistic.
The Newt: “This is simply a way station for you, a stop along the way. It’s what we do, it’s what we’re made for“
- I think this is one of my favorite quotes from the show so far. It speaks of transition - and what is it Bellie said about that being the hardest part? But it also speaks of destiny. Newton is utterly convinced of their purpose. Here’s this human-mechano hybrid who’s been known to question human-authority, yet he’s completely in love with his human-created programming. Is this acceptance, naivety or does Newton’s outlook apply to all living beings, and not just shapeshifters? It’s interesting to consider that we are all made for this purpose – to live out our lives and to be at peace with it when it’s time to move on to the next stage – the next life. In many ways, I think Newton has a very good point. And that’s what I love about the shapeshifter storyline, it’s a reflection of the transiency of human identity and it contains spiritual connotations which I find interesting. With that in mind, perhaps humans are more like shapeshifters, than the other way around?
Ray: “No, no, no. They mean so much to me, and I have come to mean so much to them. How can you ask me to give them up?”
- If this review wasn’t so long already, I’d dig into that, but you know what I love the about this part? That Newton pauses for a long time and thinks about it. He actually comes to understand that it’s too big an ask for a conscious being let go of such bonds. To me, that’s a very human consideration. His next move was less so as he blows his brains out. Ray was obsolete.
- It would be useful to know how the script asked Sebastian Roche to play this moment, but his face after killing Ray was a picture of befuddlement – as though he had just experienced a twinge of something new to him.
- It’s worth pointing out that for whatever reason, Newton didn’t kill the family. What informed this decision?
- Gotta love Altlivia’s crappy shooting, considering she’s actually an expert shot and could have nailed Newton in the head if she wanted. Funny thing is, not even Olivia would have shot so woefully. Peter, you awake?
- The ‘Fringe 2 Fast, 2 Furious’ scene was exhilarating. Is it wrong that I wanted Newton to escape?
- How creepy was it when Newton grasped Altlivia’s hand? In trying to interpret what that meant, I came to the conclusion that his rather mechanical stare was his way of reminding Altlivia that she couldn’t have done all of this without him. And perhaps a hint of ‘you know what you have to do next’.
- And now for my favorite scene. Newton’s total dedication to the mission puts Altlivia to shame, and they both know it.
Newton: “Is the Van Horn disk secure?”
Altlivia: “It is”
*Her voice wavers and her eyes look freakishly beady.*
Newton: “You’re going to have a very difficult time without me, you know”
Altlivia: “Well, there are plenty of machines here. I can befriend a vacuum cleaner”
*Newton laughs as he sees right through her*
Newton: “You’re very at that”
Altlivia: “At what?”
Newton: “At continuing to try to convince yourself that you don’t care. But you do care, don’t you? Every night, when your head hits the pillow, in the last moments before you go to sleep, your emotions betray you, and you question your ability to pull this off. Words like, insecurity, self-respect, they haunt you. They form a line that you’re unwilling to cross. And that will lead to your undoing. But I suppose that’s not my problem anymore.”
- I said earlier that Newton had already won his personal battle with Altlivia, so this was merely damage limitation on her part, but she failed, dismally. What I particularly loved about this scene is that is further narrowed the gap between Olivia and Altlivia. Though we speculated that she had her own emotional reservoir, we began the season with Altlivia as the less haunted version of Olivia. As she walked away from Newton’s cell, his words not only haunted her, they manifested themselves into action.
- His words were so clinical, so unemotional, and yet he was talking about very human matters. The idea that Altlivia’s emotions betray her is fascinating because it suggests that her subconscious is perhaps not her greatest friend at the moment. The ‘Inner Altlivia’ is not in harmony with what this mission may require her to do. So once again we have an internal battle with the self, and it’s these words which provoked her to cross her own moral code. It’s worth considering whether Newton really wanted Altlivia to fail, or his words were designed to ensure that she did whatever it took to keep her cover to help Over There win the war. Knowing Newton as I do, I wouldn’t put it past him.
- You may also notice a faint recurring theme with Newton – a whiff of self-importance. Where did this come from? Thing is, this trait isn’t driven by pure emotion, he’s not burdened by the fact that his efforts are not appreciated – instead he uses it as a weapon against Altlivia.
- And what of Newton and his suicide? Perhaps the most haunting moment on Fringe thus far. As I watched a shapeshifter die it dawned upon me that I found it more powerful than any of the human deaths that we’ve seen on the show. What did it for me was the struggle that came after the acceptance. Did Newton experience fear in those convulsing moments? And then as he lay there, mercury dripping from his ear, he simply smiled. Iconic imagery leaving us to ponder its meaning.
- Obviously it was meant to signify his success at triggering action in Altlivia. But on a deeper level, who knows what he saw. Maybe he was only just waking up? Perhaps his death activated something – a ‘thank you’ – that Walternate had included in his programming? I’d like to think that he had acquired some kind of confirmation of his own worth as a conscious being. Ultimately though, the smile tells me he was at peace with himself. That in some way he was right, this body was only a stop on the journey to something much bigger. He had fused with this force through understanding and experiencing what it means to be alive in his own way. Although what of the consequences for his actions? He is after all a conscious being.
- It’s sad though – to think that most of the people in the alternate universe will not even realize the sacrifices that he made for them. He didn’t seem to mind though – as far as he was concerned, he just wanted to perform his function. It’s as simple and as complicated as that. I appreciated that about him – he was a believer in something bigger than himself. And perhaps that’s what the smile was about – maybe in those final moments he knows that his efforts were not in vein.
- RIP Newton. You said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. You amused and intrigued me in equal measure. You taunted Olivia – that made me sad. You teased Peter in the woods – that made me glad. You were proud of who you were. You were the villain we were crying out for, but in many ways you are also a hero to the alternate universe. Shapeshifter, human, closet electric sheep dreamer, you were loyal to the end. Farewell my Newtyness. I pour a bottle of mercury juice on the ground in your honor.
- As for Faultlivia. I know that her actions were in some ways inspired by Newton, but that’s no excuse. I am saddened by her choice to sleep with Peter, knowing that she has a man on the other side waiting for her. How could she? And for the record, I don’t buy Newton’s insinuation that she had to do this – it was an option sure, but by no means a necessity. If she can do this, what wont she do? And as for Peter, he has doubts about ‘Olivia’ and yet he still thinks with his pants? It’s not unbelievable by any means, but it’s very disappointing.
- The irony is that Altlivia acted more like a perceived shapeshifter than a shapeshifter. She went to that cold, lifeless place and performed an act that emotionally disagreed with her. I think she’ll struggle to find herself again after this. She may find that she’s lost more than her integrity. I’m just being honest with where I am with her at the moment.
- I couldn’t see Olivia doing something like this. I feel so sorry for her over there on the other side with Projection Peter kicking around in her head. There’s surely no way back (for her and Boy Wonder) from this. As she restores her natural hair color, she needs to also wash that man right out of her hair.
A fantastically intoxicating exploration into the themes and ideas that drive this story. My hope going into this episode was that they would do it justice. They did more than that, they honored Philip K. Dick’s vision and put a Fringe stamp all over it.
As for the question: Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep? While I have concerns with the idea of man playing God, my take away is that shapeshifters can certainly experience what it is like to be human. And while there are echoes of a cautionary tale in this story, there’s also hope in the fact that the inevitable convergence of man and machine will not leave us without the ability to dream and aspire, to connect and love.
Best Performer: Anna Torv (honorable mention Sebastian Roche).
Best Line: “Well, there are plenty of machines here. I can befriend a vacuum cleaner” – absolutely classic.
Saddest Moment: Newton’s death. (Peter/Altliv I’d put in the ‘sick’ category).
Episode Rating 9.5/10