Welcome to our review for episode 11 of Fringe season 3 – “Reciprocity”.
In this review we provide honest opinions on the good and the bad aspects of the episode. We identify the answers that were provided and the mysteries that remain locked away. We take an in-depth look at other aspects of the episode that made an impression on us, before rounding off the review with our final thoughts and episode rating.
Contains one or two “Blade Runner” movie spoilers.
- Up a notch. OK, that’s more like it. I’ve been saying that I wanted more pro-activity from the team regarding the Vacuum and the war, so credit where credit’s due.
- Peter “The Machine” Bishop. Yikes! They’re really going for it. I’m really intrigued by the direction of Peter’s relationship with the weapon. I particularly like the idea that the Vacuum has a will or influence of its own. This development could be the making of Peter as a more proactive and interesting ‘character’.
- Shapeshifters. After Do Shapeshifters Dream Of Electric Sheep? I quietly feared that we’d seen the end our beloved hybrids, that they were being phased out of the story. I should not have feared. The Shapeshifters are persistent if nothing else, and I was pleased that “Reciprocity” extended their story while informing Peter’s latest career move as a machine hunter who himself questions whether he is a machine. It’s really quite clever, particularly given the nods to Blade Runner and Philip K. Dick‘s original work.
- Character Boom. Some nice character stuff in this episode. Useful insights on Olivia, Walter, Nina, and of course, Peter. And as ‘triangles’ go, this puts the LOST triangle to shame. I’m not saying that I’m all ‘caught up in it’, but it doesn’t make me want to tear my eyes out and set them on fire..just yet.
- Hidden. Some nice storytelling and direction in the way Peter held information from both the characters and the audience. It was touch and go, but I think it ultimately worked well for the story.
- The Overall Mythology was good – Shapeshifters, First People, The Machine. We got some useful tidbits on each, nudging the story forward while leaving us with a more tasty morsels.
- Some Moles Do Have ‘Em. I like the idea of the mole, I just didn’t much like lack of gravity that went with the reveal. Massive Dynamic discover they have a spy in their ranks and we don’t even get a Nina freak out moment? Come on, give me something.
- Grow Me. I found it a bit contrived that Walter can simply regrow his brain. That really seemed to come out of left field, despite the seeds being planted in the previous episode. Next they’ll be telling us that Peter is actually a plant that Walter watered every day until he grew into a real boy. (actually, that sounds pretty plausible).
- The Pacing could have been a little more..invigorating.
- Love Me Some Nina, but she didn’t quite feel integrated. I would love for her to be in the show more often to reduce the slight disconnect I have when my favorite iron-fisted maiden makes an appearance.
- No Livia. I felt that Olivia acted somewhat out of character on a couple of occasions. Nothing overly terrible, but it jarred me a touch.
- Airy. Something about this episode gave it an airy feel. It dealt with some pretty heavy issues, but in some ways it lacked true gravity. The weight of the episode doesn’t quite land where it should. I think it would have been great to have more build up to both Peter and Olivia’s respective changes. Aside from that the visuals looked somewhat bland.
- Altlivia’s Diary. Perversely interesting, but I almost vomited. Furthermore, I’m not sure it does the character any real favors. She seems even more cartoony than I’d like her to be. I understand the reasoning, but I’m not sure it was overly necessary or believable that she would keep a diary, under those circumstances. Sure, she felt alone, but I don’t quite buy the diary or its tone.
- Just how far were Peter’s actions influenced by the Vacuum?
- How much does Nina really know about the Vacuum and the First People?
- Why (specifically) was William Bell searching for First People books?
- Massive Dynamic has constructed the Vacuum from the parts identified in “6955kHz“. This confirms that there are now two Vacuums, one in each universe.
- Massive Dynamic tried a dozen different power sources on the weapon before Peter simply had to look at it.
- Altlivia used a U2 song lyric to encrypt her computer. Bless.
- Peter is responsible for the deaths of the shapeshifters. The suggestion is that the Vacuum is changing him.
- Massive Dynamic now have three more copies of the First People’s book. Each of them in different languages, written by different authors, and published within two years of each other. They’re pretty much the same word-for-word.
- A couple of years back, William Bell started searching for copies of the First People’s book in far flung places.
- One of the First People books retrieved by Massive Dynamic is titled in Spanish: ‘LA PRIMERA GENTE‘ (The First People).
- Now that’s a vehicle carrying some pedigree. Who wouldn’t love to be a fly on the steering wheel. Are we there yet? Shut it, Walter!
- Good to see Nina back in the fold. And wearing clothes from the future too.
- I’m surprised it took Fringe Division so long to break the encryption on Altlivia’s computer. That’s why Peter’s on the team, folks. Though if they didn’t get rid of Amy Jessup it would have been decrypted within 8 seconds. That’s what’s Jess-up.
- Unsatisfied with calling his equal “Walternate”, Walter now has a pet name for Altlivia – “Fauxlivia”, otherwise known as Fox Livia to Peter, and Foe Livia to Olivia. Nina gets it and swiftly moves on.
- The team stand transfixed at the sight of the BOOM-BOOM-MACHINE (BBM). Interesting to see their different reactions. Walter looks worried, but slightly in awe. Peter seems almost pleased to see it. Olivia, bless her cotton socks, looks terrified, and gulps:
“It’s bigger than I imagined”
Peter: “That’s what she said.”
Olivia: “I’ve got a tiny imagination. Don’t flatter yourself”
Peter: “Still, it’s just big enough to destroy a couple of universes”
- I wonder..just how small did Olivia imagine it would be? She’s seen the diagrams depicting its scale in relation to Peter. Why would she think it was smaller? I can understand what she means though. It was also a nice set up for Peter to remind us that this shiny device has multiversal consequences.
- As an aside, I wonder if there’s any hidden meaning in the use of the word “imagine” in the context of the Vacuum? Just something I’ve been wondering for a while now regarding ‘how’ it actually works. We’ll see though.
- The collective brains of Nasa, the CIA, Massive Dynamic, et al can’t figure out how the thing works. Don’t they know Peter has an IQ of 190? Why wasn’t he brought in sooner? It’s not like a piece of the Vacuum responded to him on the other side or anything.
- Walter’s all suspicious of the new guy, James Falcon. Has he learned from the Altlivia situation or are these more underlying issues with people who match his intellect? In any case, it helps set up some decent tension.
- It was also interesting to watch Falcon throughout the episode given that he’s one of Walternate’s spies. It was fairly obvious from early on, but the approach played the drama in interesting ways.
- We have this question over the machine’s power source – the piece Altlivia stole, or Peter? Either, or?
- The BBM heaves to life and Peter’s nose starts bleeding.
Falcon: “It’s like..something triggered it.”
Peter: “Something did trigger it..ME”
- SEMI-BOOM! Peter is almost mesmerized by the machine. Though I wonder, would he have been so sure that he triggered the BBM had his nose not started bleeding? I ask because I wonder whether he felt anything? The BBM has a deep relationship with Peter, but does he feel its pull, its influence, in a physical way, or is it more of a psychological connection that they have? Perhaps both, maybe something else entirely?
- There’s also the question of how much the BBM is influencing Peter, and how much Peter is influencing the BBM? Perhaps a third question would concern to what extent Peter allowing the BBM to slide through the cracks of his mind, his morality?
- Later, Peter quietly puts down his kill bag and heads to the fridge for a glass of milk. He remembers that he almost died last time he drank the stuff and fixes himself a peanut and jelly sandwich instead. He’s worked up an appetite, OK.
- I felt quite sorry for Peter for some reason. Strange. I can watch the man get his ass whooped by the Observer and not flinch, yet give me Peter making lonely meals and I feel bad for him.
- Walter enters the situation. Peter’s brow furrows deeply, and he lies to his father. The ease of that lie is interesting. This is a man I commended for coming clean to Olivia about his dirty secret, and yet a couple of weeks later he’s telling bare faced lies. Are some truths harder to admit than others? Either way, the fact that he lied about it will later reveal the truth of his own morality.
Peter: “I couldn’t sleep”
Walter: “I thought I heard the door?”
Peter: “You must have been dreaming”
- More dream and sleep references. Walter says that he wasn’t sleeping either. He’s been reading up on The First People by that classic author, Seamus Wiles (I have every book he’s ever written).
- At which point did the BBM start affecting Peter? Was it from the moment he gave it a high clasp on the other side, or when he triggered it in this episode? The implication seems to be that it started back in “Over Here” but took hold when he glimpsed it in this episode. Though the part he touched was for the other BBM.
- Peter says that he doesn’t believe his sleepless nights have anything to do with the BBM because he knows himself better than anyone. Plus, he really wants to get his sandwich-on.
Walter: “The First People’s book. I’ve read it cover to cover a dozen times. There’s nothing to suggest how that device works, or how it’s connected to you”
Peter: “Walter. Stop, please. I want answers too. And I know you want to help me, but I don’t think you can this time”
- Doesn’t that just make your heart bleed? Peter is just shutting down all over the place. It’s as though admitting that he keeps people at arms length in the previous episode has made it a reality in this. Does Peter really feel this alone in his struggle, or does he just want to do things his way?
- It’s interesting how the actions of others can influence people’s attitudes. Olivia left him crippled in the garden, Altlivia used him (to some extent, at least). It’s like Peter has come to a decision about the hopelessness of striving for anything good in his life. I think it’s important to remember that before Olivia confessed her undying love to him, he was a broken man. Shattered and incomplete. Who knows what his outlook, his destiny, would have been like had Olivia not believed in his purpose by her side?
- Was this part of the natural course of events? Perhaps, kinda? We know that the Observers were sweating on getting Peter back to the blue universe, so perhaps ‘natural course’ wouldn’t quite be the right word. But it worked, and the timing was great. Now Peter has not only lost Olivia, he’s lost her twice over and has to live with the guilt of not knowing ‘his’ woman like he should, of being the one to crush her optimistic little heart. OUCHIE x2!
- So forgive Peter if he’s not exactly the life of the party. He’s too busy being the life of the machine.
- Anyway, where were we? Ah yes. Peter tells a worried Walter: “you can’t protect me from everything”. He says it with love and warmth, and passes Dad a sandwich filled with love and warmth, otherwise known as peanut butter and jelly. Some sad music, Walter’s eye glistens.
- The next day Peter goes for a brain scan. He looks lifeless. Walter isn’t happy and bitches about his being put through unnecessary risks (Heh). Falcon explains that “every human being gives off a unique electromagnetic signature,” and that he’s testing to see whether it was Peter’s signature that triggered the Boom-Boom. Walter feels patronized and considers firing Falcon’s ass. He very much doubts that this has anything to do with electromagnomics!
- Walternate must know this too. So it raises the question as to what Falcon was trying to find out by putting Peter through the scan? Perhaps Walternate’s knowledge of the BBM supersedes that of Walter’s? Wouldn’t be surprising given that he’s had longer to play around with his own Boom-Boom on the other side.
- Interesting to see that there’s still a chain of command at Massive Dynamic. Walter may own the company, but Nina still hires and fires with that iron first of hers. Walter decides to try his luck with another request:
Walter: “I want to see [Bellie's] research to know what he did to me – to regrow my brain cells”
Nina: “Walter that’s more than 15 years ago”
Walter: “I’m not whole Nina. If I’m to figure out how Peter is connected to the Boom-Boom-Machine, I have to get smarter. It’s the only way I’ll be able to help my son”
Nina: “Yes. I’ll get on it right away”
- I both like and dislike this. I think it’s contrived and a bit of a cheat to say that Walter can simply ‘regrow’ his brain post-“Grey Matters”. Perhaps it’s the method I have a problem with, rather than the idea itself? I appreciate the continuity of this quest, but it feels a bit wonky to me.
- That being said, I liked some of the delivery and the sentiment behind it. Walter’s “I’m not whole, Nina” was remarkably touching. It reminded me of when he asked The Newt, “Are you trying to fix me?” There something about this drive, this need to become whole that really lifts the story.
- I also like how it parallels Peter’s situation with embracing his BBM destiny. In many ways, perhaps Peter is not whole without his Boom-Boom?
- And a word for Nina. I enjoyed the way she responded when Walter mentioned his son. She really cares for Boy Wonder, doesn’t she?
- Olivia enters the situation and gives Peter her very ‘Olivia’, “Hey”. Peter beams. He’s glad that she could make it. He even busts a Boy Wonder-esque joke:
Peter: “I think I’ll use my new-found superpowers to make this machine levitate”
Olivia: “Ooh, now that would be impressive”
- They’re back ladies and gents!
- Something inside Olivia has shifted (and it’s not a baybee!):
Olivia: “Listen, I tried to call you last night and you didn’t pick up. Who were you with? Tell me. TELLS ME!”
Peter: “Uhh-yeah. Walter was being Walter, because he is Walter. I had to go for a walk. They don’t call me Boy Wanderer for nothing. I’m trying the single game for a while. Don’t fret your Dunham heart out”
- Shapeshifter Falcon somehow detects that Peter is worried, and tells him to relax, the scanner wont hurt him.
Peter: “Sorry doc, you’ll forgive me if I’m a little bit leery of machines right about now”
- Irony-Hoo! Even now it’s quite clear that Peter knows Falcon’s a shapeshifter – you can see the loathing in Peter’s eyes. A loathing perhaps last seen when he discovered he was from the alternate universe.
- Peter enters the machine. Something tells me this wont be the last machine he enters before all is said and done.
- A man finds a dead shapeshifter in a fountain. Who could have done such a thing? Olivia suspects Walternate, for some reason. I guess it’s because everything is his fault, isn’t it? He may have his finger on the Big Red Boom Button (BRBB), but he’s not heartless. He wouldn’t just KILL his own soldiers. Colonel Broyles was a mistake. Honest.
- Olivia suggests that Walternate has sent over a cleaner (not a vacuum cleaner, Liv?) to wipe out all of his shapeshifters before the Fringe Team find out what they know.
- Broyles pays Astrid a visit. “Agent Brooyles?” She says. “For what do I owe this pleasure?” Broyles tells her that he could use her skills. He wants her to look through Altlivia’s diary while trying not to read all the juicy details. “It’s X-rated stuff”, he says. “I love deets!” Astrid screams. “I’ll be discreet,” she lies.
- I love Broyles for wanting to protect Olivia (and Peter). He’s more than a boss..he’s a friend, an ally. I wish we had more Olivia and Broyles scenes because they have an really good dynamic. “I just want to go back to before” / “Dunham, I don’t think you can”. Ah, memory lane.
- Walter and Falcon continue their squawking. It’s only a small thing, but I liked the little embellishment given to the previously explored notion that shapeshifters are not quite as in touch with emotions as humans. Walter is going all parental about Peter’s safety, while Falcon thinks any notion to pull the boy out over an elevated heart-rate is “ridiculous”. Now, perhaps Walter is over-reacting, but I like the human vs machine perspectives being explored.
- Peter’s increased heart-rate is interesting though. Falcon is now not so sure that it’s nerves. So what is it – is the machine powered by his heart? Oh “Brown Betty“, wont you stop, already?
- Walter grinds on me a bit with his constant Peter this, Peter that attitude. Though I do wonder how much almost losing his son in “The Firefly” is fueling his angst. I have no doubt that he’d be deeply worried regardless, but after such a huge moment for Walter in willingly sacrificing his son, I’m looking for evidence on how this has impacted him. We saw something shift inside Walter, so is he now over-compensating for a decision which, in the cold-light of day, must be causing him some distress?
- However altruistic an act that was, he essentially sent his son to die. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticising him for something that I feel he needed to do (given the context of the situation), but this is Walter we’re talking about – it’s gonna cost him emotionally, don’t you think?
- To be honest, I think that he might be over-compensating here slightly – trying to make it up to Peter in some subconscious way.
Broyles: “Suppose Walternate knew we were getting close to identifying the list of shapeshifters on that drive”
Olivia: “How would he know that?”
Broyles: “Because someone on our side may have told him”
- Wait for it..
Olivia: “We’ve got a Molebaby!”
- LOLS! Oh Olivia, you do make me chuckle. You said Molebaby, right? He’ll be stoked that he got an in-show reference.
- The idea that they have a mole should really be of no surprise. Basically all of Broyles’ buddies have turned out to be moles – the Loebs, Agent Harassment, Senator Van Kampff. And do we need to mention Shapeshifter Charlie? Altlivia?
- Did you know that William Bell designed an unbeatable lie detector machine? Don’t lie! Massive Dynamic whip it out to test for human moles (shapeshifters would be given away by any blood tests). Nina still speaks about Bellie with such pride and admiration:
Nina: “William designed it, it measures the slightest shift in facial muscles, which allows us a link to stress and a particular emotion. [referring to the test subject] His facial expressions tell us that his stress is not connected to feelings of guilt or shame”
- Walter wishes he thought of it. Heck, he probably did. Peter taps into his inner machine and lays into poor Nina:
Peter: “Do you actually want to catch this molebaby, Nina?”
Nina: “Oh no you didn’t!”
- Sadly, he did. It’s interesting, because again I ask whether this is Peter or the BBM talking. I suspect that the BBM brings to the surface the inner thoughts and feelings – for me that would be interesting because we’d be dabbling in the murky pool that is the subconscious.
- I’ve previously speculated whether the machine’s true power is some kind of wish fulfillment device that brings to life the will of its master/puppet. Bringing whole new meaning to: “If you can dream a better world, you can make a better world”.
- Nina gives Walter the GROW ME brain serums that Bellie developed, but warns he could go ape if he uses the wrong serum. Walter cares not and begins sniffing the first sample.
Walter: “Don’t worry I’ve snorted worse. A few good whiffs and my brain should be able to regrow its missing parts”
- Nina says that she’s worried about Peter, and suggests that he should see someone.
“There are people that are trained to help
- I’m thinking..SAM WEISS?
- Walter taps into his ego:
“Nina he’s my son, I’m the one that needs to help him”
- Fathers always know best, right?
- Olivia sees that Petah is hurting. This perhaps allows her to subconsciously shift and see things with less fury. She thinks that Peter is protecting her by blocking her from reading Altlivia’s files. I think she’s being a bit too generous. Peter is protecting Peter, first and foremost. Nevertheless, Peter opens up like a book:
Peter: “Olivia, I’ve conned people, and I know what I would have written about them. She must have thought that I was a fool. And I don’t want you to see me like that”
- Like father like son. Petah Pride is back in action! Though I don’t think we can be too hard on him here. Why would he want Olivia to see him as a fool? But the bigger point for me is that he mistakenly thinks that Altlivia has a negative take on him. (DUDE, SHE PACKED THE PHOTOS OF BOTH OF YOU). He’s underestimating her feelings towards him, and I think he’s doing it as a defensive mechanism. No-one wants to feel like a fool, least not twice over.
- As I’ve said before, it will be interesting to see how Peter’s outlook on Altlivia changes once he discovers that she actually likes the way he brings he breakfast in bed.
- Furthermore, this tells us something else about Peter. He’s projecting his own moral code on the universe. He’s reciprocating (DING DING) his own past actions. Clearly, he doesn’t know Altlivia well enough – or rather, he’s not allowing himself to think the best of her.
- But Olivia knows better – she figures that Altlivia wouldn’t see Peter negatively because she herself doesn’t. Though their lives have taken different paths, the two Dunhams both relate in similar ways.
- Moving on, Olivia suggests that Falcon should do the test. Peter knows that he’s already killed him. Big drama scene ensues, and Falcon is found in a puddle of his own mercury, trapped in an endless dream. Another one of Altlivia’s contacts bytes the dust.
- Can I just say: Thank you Walter for giving yourself an IQ test, your intellect has certainly come under the spotlight this season. I feel so much better now.
- Olivia exasperates, “It feels like every time we learn something new, we’re still a step behind”. Didn’t Peter say something similar in the previous episode? Peter knows that he must keep things this way.
- An intriguing little character moment. Walter asks Astrid what Altlivia had to say about him in her file. Walter actually cares what other Olivia thinks of him. Why could that be? I wondered. My perspective is that Walter quite likes Altlivia (hey, she brought him CAKES), and he wants that to be reciprocated. It’s perfectly natural – if you like someone, you want them to like you back. It’s to the credit of the writing that they find time for these incredibly small, yet meaningful character moments.
- And in case you were wondering, Altlivia liked Walter back. “she thought that you were kind, and brilliant,” says Astrid. Walter is no doubt pleased, and hearing this reaffirms his opinion of Altlivia.
- More Triangle soup:
Olivia: “The last few weeks have been hard for me, I’ve been so focused on what the other Olivia did to me, that I just haven’t thought about what she did to you. And I want you to know that I’m sorry and I get it now. The good news is that she’s gone. I know it doesn’t feel like that at the moment, but, she is gone. And, we can get past it”.
- Hm. Not sure I buy that. It seems more plot derived than something the ‘Olivia’ I know would say. This is the same Olivia who said, “she taken everything!” a short while ago. I’m not saying Olivia wouldn’t be able to move past it, clearly something has shifted, but I don’t buy that she would be so presumptuous to think that Altlivia meant nothing to Peter, or that her legacy would wither away. Not in the space of three short weeks.
- Nevertheless Peter soaks it up and gives Olivia something back in return – appreciation, a sign that her words have healed him ever so slightly. Dunham feels better about herself. Maybe we can move on? She wonders.
- Peter goes off to do more killing. What I find interesting about his next kill was that there seemed to be a conscious writing effort to change the female shapeshifter shift into a male before Peter did his thing. Perhaps it was coincidence, but I’m guessing not. Sure, seeing the transformation process again carried its own interest, but I do think there was a conscious effort not to have Peter kill a ‘woman’.
Broyles: “Don’t move”
Brandon: “Should I swallow?”
- Yes Brandon, please swallow. No-one wants to see you talk with your mouth full of crap.
- Good to have some more Olivia/Astrid action. That argument they had over those sparkly shoes has finally been buried.
Olivia: “I’m not just another set of eyes. We’re the same. The other Olivia and me. I should be able to think the same way, so maybe I’m going to be able to find a pattern”
- Walter breaks out the whipped cream. Nina rings his bell. “I was just thinking about you,” he muses. And who can blame him? Nina has all the men (and women) running around after her. Nina’s looking for Peter “The Machine” Bishop. Walter gets suspicious over Peter’s whereabouts and goes looking in the boy’s room (never a good idea), which for some reason is not locked.
- Peter’s room is a TREASURE TROVE of MYTHOLOGY PORN. First People, the Vacuum locations, shapeshifter identities. The boy has been busy. I take it all back, Peter, you are more retroactively proactive than I gave you credit for. I should never have doubted you. I am…at your command oh ‘child of the machine’.
- Walter realizes that he has his own android hunter on his hands, as we see Peter looking all mean and moody in the Killmobile preparing for his next victim.
- Olivia goes all Dear Diary as she accepts that her and Altlivia have the hawts for the same guy:
Olivia: “It’s strange, but at moments when I’m with PBie, I find myself forgetting what I’m here for. PBie’s different than I expected him to PBie. A sincerity behind his eyes, a deep seated goodness. It’s hard not to get caught up in it. Not to get caught up..in him”
- Tell me about it, I’m constantly getting caught..up in ‘PBie’. Olivia rationalises that if she can see PBie in such affectionate light, then of COURSE her double from another mother would too. “we’re the same, she would see what I see”. To PBie or not to PBie, that is my question.
- Olivia breaks Altlivia’s secret code, “Olive”, to figure out her shapeshifter contacts. Their ability to think alike comes in handy for Olivia, and perhaps foreshadows more of same in future.
- The best part of the episode, for me. Peter botches attempt at killing the shapeshifter. There’s another Blade Runner nod with the fact that he mistook the lifeless mannequin for a shapeshifter. I liked the fact that ShiftaLot was smart enough to do that, jumping Peter from behind:
ShiftaLot:”Hello my friend, I was expecting you”
- He wants to know how Peter found him and confirms our suspicions:
ShiftaLot: “You might think that we’re not allowed to kill you, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t hurt you”
- Nice to have that confirmed, though it would be interesting to know whether Walternate specifically gave the shapeshifters the green light to torture Peter if necessary, or whether it’s a loophole ShiftaLot was prepared to take advantage of.
ShiftaLot: “We can get everything we need from you, even if you only have nine fingers..or, one eye”
- Interesting use of the word “we” and “need”. Does he include Walternate in that? If so, it might suggest that he primarily wants Peter alive to operate the BBM. I believe that Walternate does love his son, but how far is he prepared to go to unleash the BBM?
- I don’t think he’d want Peter dead, but then we could have another Walter scenario on how hands – is Walternate prepared to risk the life of two universes, for his son. It’s a reversal that could come into play. We should perhaps also bear in mind that ‘life and death’ may carry a different connotation once the BBM is activated. Heck, perhaps he’s confident that the Observers (who whoever) wont let Peter die, thus lessening how careful he feels he has to be.
- Walter enters, distracting ShiftaLot, allowing Peter to dispatch himself another non-human. And it’s this that I find so intriguing on a character level. Now, a lot of people disagreed with my view that Walter was wrong to stab shapeshifter Ray back in DSSDOES?. Many didn’t see much wrong with what Walter did. Which is totally fair enough, we each have different perspectives. Yet here, we see that Walter himself is aghast at Peter’s actions.
- Indeed, the story is confirming that this is an issue that shouldn’t be swept under the carpet. That’s not to say there’s not more than one viewpoint to be had, but you wouldn’t have thought that was the case given the way Walter’s stabby-stab-stab was generally glossed over.
- Peter mercilessly rips open the shapeshifter, removing his data disk, as Walter watches on in horror. His own brutality reciprocated in the image of his son.
Peter: “I have to know what they know, Walter. I’m tired of being reactive”
Walter: “Son, this isn’t you.. you can’t..”
Peter: “They’re soldiers, Walter. They’re here to kill us. Besides, they’re not even human..and I’m not doing anything wrong”
[Peter pops a final cap in the shapeshifter, ending his daze]
- Let’s see: “they’re not human..not doing anything wrong”. For me that’s the crux of it, and on both counts I’d disagree with Peter. Whether we consider them to be human or not, they ARE conscious beings. Part-human conscious beings. I think it’s a slippery slope the day we start to view life with such prejudice. To slaughter something because it’s perceived to be less than ourselves is not just a brutal act, it’s a commentary on society – on history.
- His argument (rather rationale) that they’re soldiers and here to kill them, doesn’t make it much better. So what, this places him one ledge above Altlivia has her ruthless murder of Box Man. But this is the same Peter who not so long ago melted hearts when he said, “I gotta believe there’s a better way”. A better way, Peter, a BETTAH WAY. Can we not go back to before?
- As for the idea that he wasn’t doing anything wrong, as Walter points out, he lied about it. He hid his actions from his family and friends, so somewhere inside himself he knew that his actions where wrong. I’m really glad this issue is being raised again, as I think it was one of the most interesting things to register from DSSDOES?. I’m also pleased that Walter is now able to see his previous actions through external eyes.
“Then why didn’t you tell us. If you weren’t doing anything wrong, then why didn’t you tell us?”
- Walter believes that Peter’s actions are the result of the machine. While I can see that, I continue to speculate where the demarcation line resides. How much of this is actually Peter’s internal will? I suspect that quite a bit of it has to be.
- Though it’s fascinating to think that Peter is not just powering the machine, the machine is also powering him. There are many ways to look at it, each clicking the concept into gear from a different direction.
- This is a good plot development, and it’s interesting that Peter and Walter one again have secrets that Olivia isn’t aware of. I would hope that Walter spills the beans, as I’m not sure that Peter has it in him right now. Keeping this from Olivia and Broyles is not the way to go about things. To complicate matters we have Walter’s perpetual drive to be the one to protect his son. Is he going to do anything to go against that? He was able to encourage him to spill regarding Altlivia, but this is different since Peter himself is unwilling and seems possessed by this device that has terrified Walter all season long.
- You gotta feel for Olive. Just when she finds the capacity to place her trust in Peter once more, he lets her down. As I said, I just don’t know if Peter is the one for her. Machine or no machine, there’s always some excuse. Healthy relationships cannot be built on the foundations of lies.
Olivia: “Peter, I read her file, and you should know that you have noting to be embarrassed about. Two whole minutes is like so insane, I cannot tell you.”
- That is pretty huge. Olivia didn’t have to do that, but she wants PBie to be comfortable within himself. You could argue that she’s doing Altlivia a solid, and while that may be true in a roundabout way, I also think this is Olivia’s way of saying that she would never see him see him as a fool either. Peter appreciates the gesture, but the look in his eye once Olivia turns her back tells it’s own story. What evil lurks in the heart of men?
Walter: “I think I know what’s happening to you. Every relationship is reciprocal, Peter. When you touch something, it touches you. You’re changing, son. When you touched the machine, it changed you, it weaponized you”
- Intriguingly, Peter asks Walter: “what do we do now?” Is this his plea for help? I would be interested to know whether Peter consciously feels the pull of the machine, because he doesn’t give much away. Not sure if the actor is doing this intentionally, but it’s interesting to see this contained emotion. There’s almost a tinge of resentment in his eyes, as if he’s saying “this is the destiny that you have helped shape”. It’s as though Peter, like his biological father, it seems, has lost hope.
- Somebody activate the machine, because I think PBie has just gotten interesting!
- Brandon discovers three more copies of the First People’s book. Long and short, they all say the same thing.
Nina: “And..what do you make of it? A civilization that existed millions of years before the dinosaurs?”
Brandon: “The planet has been spinning for 5 billion years. We’ve only been around for the past 250,000. There were six major extinction events before we even crawled out of the slime, so who’s to say that one of them didn’t wipe out a great civilisation”.
- Well, the Vacuum does have the power to both create and destroy. Nina’s reaction is curious, it’s as though she knows more than she’s letting on – Blair Brown certainly plays it that way intentionally. Given that Nina knows Sam Weiss, perhaps that should be of no surprise.
Brandon: “There’s another thing. When we put the word out that we were looking for copies of the book, we found out we weren’t the only ones. A few years ago somebody started a similar search”
Brandon: “William Bell”
- Intwisting! I take it Nina didn’t necessarily know that, given her reaction? It does make sense that Bellie would have wanted copies of the book, given that Walternate’s version of the Vacuum is apparently based on his design.
- I always found that curious, since the Vacuum was created by the First People – so perhaps Walternate’s weapon has some customizations added to it? Either way it’s interesting to consider what Bell was looking for specifically.
- One of the things I felt this episode lacked was an internal monologue for Peter. I was glad to get the above introspective shot as it provides a silent tether to his internal conflict. Funny how one solitary shot can provide so much framing.
["What am I..man..or machine?"]
["That, dear boy, is something you can only find the answer to within. And if you see that Buddha on the road, stomp him]
- And by the way, sleep tight tonight, Walter. Sleep really tight.
“Reciprocity”. Another good and useful episode that lived up to its title. Both mythology and character touched my heart. And my heart..touched them back, so to speak.
Best Performer: Joshua Jackson.
Best Line: “You’re changing, son. When you touched the machine, it changed you, it weaponized you” – Walter to PBie.
Best Moment: Peter’s showdown with the final shapeshifter and the subsequent morality discussion with Walter.
Episode Rating: 8/10