Welcome to our review for chapter 3.15 of Fringe – “Subject 13”.
In this review we provide completely 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.
- The storytelling. I’ve long considered Fringe to be something of a TV novel. Well, those storybook elements really flourished here in a fantasy-meets-reality page-turner. A captivating follow-up to “Peter“, “13” provided context while encouraging us to really imagine the possibilities.
- The Characters. I am so pleased to see care and attention given to Walternate’s character. He became fleshier and juicer in just one trip down memory lane, and this can only be good for a story that wants us to experience both sides of the coin. I found myself invested in all the players in this one, and found the themes to be a perfect fit for supporting this character-driven ‘wishing well’ of a episode.
- John Noble and Orla Brady. They needed to be great to make up for the absence of the other main cast members, and boy where they great. They complimented each other extremely well, bringing a realistic hue to their characters and an ‘brokenness’ that prevented them from being unsympathetic. I think Noble does some of his best work as a more serious version of Walter/nate, and Brady is welcome on Fringe anytime as far as I’m concerned.
- Young’uns. I thought the young actors did pretty good jobs. Particularly Chandler Canterbury, who did some things that actually made me sympathize with grown boy Peter a bit more. Credit goes to the writing, casting and directing as well. But, as young actors go, I thought he captured some interesting elements of the Peter Brand.
- Enhanced. I’m sometimes asked what makes a good episode in my eyes. One requirement is that it needs to make me believe in the story. This episode was all about believing and it hit several notes that enhanced my enjoyment of the story’s bigger picture.
- The Score. Particularly good in this one; supporting the emotion of the scenes very well.
- Beyond the story. I got the sense that something else was going on. It’s something I touch on below, and may explore further in the Observations column, but there’s certainly potential for this episode to be something of a matryoshka.
- For the Sake of Continuity. It’s a shame they couldn’t get the same actor as before to play young Peter. I didn’t find it to be a major problem, though, as I thought the young actor did a good job. That being said, there were some wider continuity issues at hand, such as the timeline.
- Parents? I would have liked to have got more explanation on whether the parents of the ‘Day Care’ children knew the full extent of the experiments Walter was putting their tots through? That seemed like a convenient omission. I mean, seriously, where was Mama Dunham? I guess something had to give, but it would be nice to know.
- Stepfather. ‘Glad’ is not the word, but it was..useful to finally met Olivia’s stepfather. That being said, I thought he would be a bigger character when he was introduced. There’s still scope for that in the future (should there be a fourth season), but his role here was rather one-note.
- Retcon. Unless we glimpsed into another realm, there are several massive retcons in this episode. There seems to be a problem with the Cortexiphan timeline, Olivia’s age, and Walter’s prominent role in the ‘trials’. As for the children being “prepared” specifically for the war? Mangled by previous episodes, but not remedied here. Some of these deviations could be explained away by Walter’s hazy memory, or some sneaky misdirection, but until then it looks somewhat ‘retconny’.
- Belleive It. The absence of William Bell in an episode like this was noticeable. This is one of the reasons why I thought the producers would go for an actor who is committed to a long arc, and not necessarily a ‘big name’.
- At some point we know Olivia forgets her childhood, including: Peter, Walter, and the trials. In “Bad Dreams”, Nick Lane says they meant for them to forget. How was this achieved?
Are we now to believe that William Bell came up with the idea for Cortexiphan shortly after the events in this episode? If not, when?
Update: As a few commenters mentioned, the suggestion seems to be that Cortexiphan was indeed administered to the subjects prior to the events in this episode, in-keeping with the previously established Cortexi-timeline.
- The white tulip field. There originally, or manifested from Olivia’s imagination? I have my thoughts on this, but it’s still an open mystery.
- Does the white tulip field bear any direct influence on the events in the episode “White Tulip“?
- There were a couple of strange occurences in this episode (which we’ll explore in the Observations), once again raising the question: how reliable is our dear Fringe Narrator?
- Peter’s suspicions that Walter stole him remained after he recovered from his sickness. He almost killed himself trying to go back home through Reiden Lake.
- Olivia is the titular ‘Subject 13’.
- “Subject 13” takes place six months after Walter kidnapped Peter from the alternate universe. The episode was previously titled “Six Months Later”.
- Walter and Elizabeth continually lied to Peter about his origins until he ‘believed’ that they were his parents.
- Walter created his own version of Massive Dynamic, called “Bishop Dynamic”. He developed the Star Wars missile defense system.
- Walternate and Elizabeth didn’t know who took Peter, or where he had been taken, until Olivia unintentionally crossed over to the alternate universe, mistaking Walternate for Walter, and leaving behind a drawing of herself and Peter.
- Last season’s flashback episode, “Peter”, saw Walter guide us through his account of events, serving as the narrator for our story. The “Subject 13” narrator seems to be less forthcoming, though s/he does tell both sides of the story. I wonder if we can take anything from this approach, or whether it was just a storytelling decision borne out of convenience. Is “Subject 13” a more accurate reading of what happened, does it hint at hidden context, or can we trust the narrator of both episodes?
- A traumatized young Peter returns to zero, his original point of entry into the Blue Beyond, in a desperate bid to get home. How gripping! How thematic! How cyclical!
- It could have been under more pleasant circumstances, but I was glad to see Elizabeth again. She’s emerging as one of the most intriguing Fringe characters, and Orla Brady is UTTERLY convincing as the loving yet deeply traumatized mother and wife. Someone please retcon her death! Her face when she read that letter..
- And what about that letter. I’ve had a poke or ten at Walter in the past for failing to leave a ‘I Haz Your Son’ note for Walternate when he ‘intended’ to bring back Peter. So it was good to see Peter being ‘better than his father’ by letting them know where he was going. It’s a small thing, but it might tell us something about his eventual capacity to forgive his kidnappers.
- The ice cracking from Peter’s weight as he walked towards his ‘RETURN ME’ held more than just metaphorical weight. Peter momentarily slows down but doesn’t stop. He’s committed to this task. More than that, he genuinely believes that he can get back home. The boy believes.
- It’s that quiet determination that is so haunting; seeing this young whippersnapper tethering himself to an anchor that will plunge him into the depths of the murky unknown. Except, he does know..he remembers, through the haze of his sickness, he remembers that he was stolen! While this scene is somewhat disturbing to watch, Peter doesn’t see his actions as crazy – he’s simply prepared to do anything to get back. Where have we seen that before..
- Elizabeth calls Peter’s name, her voice untraceable in the echoes of the icy air. I just love that momentary sense of displacement; an almost dreamlike vibration, his mother calling him from above or from below – from the other side? Mother, is that you?
- Peter ignores her calls, plunging the ice-breaker down with vengeance. He just wants to go home, he doesn’t belong here. Peter is both right and wrong in his thinking. This is the way home, but this place is also death.
- The look in his eyes as Elizabeth desperately begs him to step away from the FREEZE ME. Her raw desperation, those fresh cracks in her spiralling madness. But Elizabeth is a TROOPER. As Peter descends into the abyss, she doesn’t hesitate for one moment, she dives right in after him. Both Walter and Elizabeth have saved his life. How interesting.
- It was great how the episode converged the two back-stories of Peter and Olivia. The return to the Jacksonville Day Care center further added depth to what we already knew. But I think it works both ways in that respect – the future can foreshadow the past in this story, it just depends on your perspective of time.
- One of my most useful take-aways from the episode is the validation of wish-fulfillment and its influence on reality. It’s something I’ve been talking about for a while, and recently the idea has really bubbled to the surface. The opening scenes at the Day Care Center lend themselves as further evidence:
Walter: “We discussed that your imagination can take you anywhere that you want to go”
- It was great to see young Olive, Nick and the other Cortexitots.Walter is a firm teacher, but he’s intuitive to the children’s needs – giving Nick his toy despite telling them off for talking. It’s this that makes his questionable treatment of the children all the more divisive.
- Elizabeth has come to Jacksonville to tell Walter that their boy tried to escape to Narnia. She couldn’t have picked up the phone because it’s reached the point now where Walter has to experience what she goes through 24/7.
- Initially, I didn’t quite get the overly emotive expression on young Olivia’s face as Walter sends the tots home, but later this made sense: she’s terrified of going home to her abusive stepfather. The creep who winds up sending her creepy hand-delivered cards on her birthday. He’s got a Dunhamnating with his name on it.
- I found it interesting trying to separate the good from the bad in Walter and Elizabeth’s actions. On the one hand they’re both invested in getting Peter home after realizing that this Peter is a bit of a wet blanket. But while they figure out how that can be done, without crippling the universe, they feel compelled to lie to him, abusing the child mentally, warping his perspective on reality. The damage this is doing is abundantly clear.
Walter: “Of course the Dodgers play for Los Angeles”
Peter: “No they don’t, they play in Brooklyn and I’ve seen them. And, the Red Lantern isn’t supposed to be green. I’ve never had a baseball before, never”
Walter: “Peter, you were very sick, for a very long time. You must be confused, you’ve mixed up your memories, son”
Peter: Do not call me that, I am not your son. You are not my father, and she is not my mother! You are not my father! You’re not my mother, I want to go home”.
- All three characters are deeply, deeply broken. That poor boy is on the brink of illness with all those lies, and all those lies are visibly killing Elizabeth. No amount of Amber to could patch this together. Just like the lies, it would only be a temporary fix.
Elizabeth: “He’s asleep. We can’t keep this up. It’s making him crazy”
Walter: “What’s the alternative?”
- I’ve got an idea, how about telling him the truth? Even at his young age, I sensed that they could have trusted Peter with this information. It may not have been ideal, but better that than driving the poor boy loop-the-loop!
- And isn’t that interesting – the idea that Peter has experienced a semblance of what it’s like to be Walter, ‘before’ (if you will) Walter experienced it himself. Of course, crazy is a term given to him because he’s powerless to get back home. Just as Olivia was, for a time, powerless to escape Walternate’s void.
- Elizabeth say it’s “been six months”. It’s clear that this is taking its toll on her more than Walter. While that might not be fair, Walter at least has his work to concentrate his mind – he’s doing something, while Elizabeth “is with him all the time”. I found that to be such an interesting point, almost tinged with contempt for having to watch over the son he stole.
- What was once an incredible second chance, a fulfillment of an impossible dream, had turned into a burden – a nightmare. So much so that she’s prepared to risk the universe’s satin sheet just to take him back. It’s gone beyond just love or morality, guilt can be a killer.
Walter: “The texture of the universe has changed from my crossing, it cannot withstand anymore damage.”
Elizabeth: “Neither can he, Walter”
- There’s something about this story that comes to life when it blurs the line between science and humanity. I love Elizabeth’s response, she’s basically equating Peter to billions of lives. In her desperation she’s become Walter, while Walter seems to more measured of the two.
- What is stopping Walter from going once more unto the breach? Is he really that concerned about the consequences, or is he finding excuses? That’s what I like about this episode, the obscurred motivations that lie beneath the skin like a vein, pumping a cocktail of emotions to the twin hearts.
- (To be fair, if he had taken Peter back using the Door device, the situation might be a bit worse than it already is in 2011. Though I still think there’s a point to be made of his unwillingness).
- Speaking of blurring, Elizabeth’s mind continues to unravel. She stresses the need to take Peter back to his real parents in one breath, and in the next she calls herself his “mother” and laments the fact that he doesn’t trust her. Bless her, how could she not be confused? She’s a grieving mother who almost lost her replacement son. Once was already too much.
Walter: “Elizabeth, you are not his mother, he’s a little boy, very much like our son”
- Interesting how Walter is able to disconnect like that, especially given his undying love for Peter in the ‘future’. While I wouldn’t say he was emotionless, I suspect that on some level he realized that this Peter didn’t quite fit, he didn’t quite match up to his original son. Elizabeth knew this too, I suspect, but she’s a mother, and he looks so very much like her little boy.
Walter: “..we saved his life”
Elizabeth: “You saved his life, I’m just trying to keep him alive”
- The resentment that I suspected we’d see. Elizabeth feels like her job is never done. It’s one thing saving a life, but how do you keep someone from killing themselves? And when that person is a child? It’s easy to see how this woman descended into madness.
- Two more important phrases in this scene: the idea of “trust” and Walter saying that “the children are the key” – themes which echo back and forth throughout the story.
- Walter says that Peter can ride on the Cortexitots feet when they take him home. Such a ridiculous thing to say, but in this almost ‘fairytale’ installment I absolutely loved that idea. I’d love to see a mock-up of that.
- Meanwhile, Olivia has her head in a book, food for the imagination. But the fear of her stepfather causes her to cross over to the alternate universe. She was also running away from him at the time, reminding me of Projection Peter’s words in “The Plateau”, “You kept on running” (paraphrasing).
- I would really like to know where the heck Mother Dunham is at this point? She allows her child to take part in these weird experiments and brings an abusive man into her daughter’s world. Was she powerless to stop it, or could she have done more? It’s hard, and perhaps unfair, to say without getting more context on that side of things.
- Elizabeth says that Peter has been asking her questions for two months, suggesting that his suspicions have become more prevalent during that period.
Peter: “He makes you say that doesn’t he? Because he’s the one who stole me”
- Peter blames Walter more than Elizabeth. These are the seeds of Peter’s resentment towards his father when they reunite in 2008 – there’s more to it, of course, but I suspect their fractured relationship was guided by Peter’s underlying distrust and resentment towards Walter for stealing him. We’ve seen that the subconscious is not something to be taken lightly. If it can save Olivia from the AU and power the Boom-Boom-Machine, you better believe it can shape relationships.
- Peter calls his home “the other world at the bottom of the lake”. Again, very storybook-esque. This is the perspective of a child – and he’s not exactly wrong in what he says.
- Walter notices the bruise on Olivia’s eye and tells her that she can trust him, yet he ignores his suspicions to further his own ends, realizing that her home environment could lead to unlocking her ability.
- He has a dilemma with wanted to use Olivia to get Peter home, but his suspicions of child abuse should out-weight that. It’s moments like this on which the characters have to be judged, and Walter loses points for knowingly allowing Olivia to be terrorized by that animal.
- While were dealing with different periods of time here, it’s useful to contrast Walter’s actions to Walternate on the other side, who plays the role of child protector. These two men of the same stock almost take turns in the hero/villain roles. I continue to wonder how much their choices/feelings are governed by themselves, and how much by the universal blanket. The moment a thread is pulled, unravelling begins.
- Olivia’s drawing represents her minds-eye. Her imagination. It’s worth remembering that Olivia can manifest things into reality (we’ve seen it on so many occasions). And that continues to beg a lot of questions about the ‘reality’ of the two universes. Though I should stress that perhaps we need to redefine the term ‘reality’. Are dreams reality? I would say they can be, in this story, certainly.
- Elizabeth and Peter drive through a field of white tulips on their way to the toy shop. This ties into the above, and, I suspect, a lot of what I’ve said about the episode “White Tulip”. In my review for that episode, I said the following:
“I’m probably taking this concept too far, but I like the idea that the world of the show is in some way constructed from our characters inner most needs, wants and desires and driven by their subconscious (or a cosmic force). I’m not discounting Peck’s existence or his story, but I reckon he was also narrative device for a larger concept. We’ll see.”
- The writers do indeed seem to be touching on the fabric of the show’s reality here, as we’d find out later.
- In the meantime it’s useful to quote Elizabeth:
“You know tulips don’t usually grow in areas like this? A professor who was working her missed them, so he imagined a tulip that would grow in this climate and he invented it”
- She tries to persuade Peter to “use his brain and imagination”, and believe that this world is his own. I suspect we have the seeds of what has to be one of my favorite Fringe quotes – “if you can dream a better world, you can make a better world” (“Bad Dreams”).
- There’s no doubt that this was manipulative of Elizabeth, she’s not truly thinking enough about the long-term damage this could do to Peter. But she also wants him to be happy, to make-believe. And Peter held onto these fantastical notions – the seeds of the Mother repeating.
- It’s an interesting contrast between Peter’s initial resistance in using his imagination and Olivia’s abundant ability to use hers. Both would unlock the other.
Elizabeth: “How would you change the world if you could, Peter? What would you wish for?”
Peter: “I wouldn’t make stupid flowers grow”
- Heeey, don’t call Olive’s flowers “stupid”. She put a lot of effort imagining them up!
- For a while now, I’ve speculated that the Boom-Boom-Machine functions as some kind of wish-fulfillment device. “Reciprocity” offered further evidence to the idea that it will create or destroy by tapping into Peter’s subconscious will. Elizabeth’s question seems to further allude to that idea. Even though the character herself is unaware of Peter’s destiny, the idea of wishing for something and making it happen is pure Fringe.
- To underscore the significance of that, Peter says he’d return home if he could wish for anything. Will this translate to Peter choosing his original universe over the blue universe some 26 years later?
- I don’t think it’s that simple. He’s feelings for Walter, Olivia and Altlivia (and the baybee) has created further entanglement – who knows which way his deepest desire will swing when the moment comes to decide? I would hope that he finds another way. Certainly, that seems to be the implication.
- I’d also like to do away with the notion of ‘time’. Yeah, I said it. This episode, as much as any other, is a reminder that time is not linear in the world of Fringe. To really see the story, we need to look at time differently, in my opinion.
- For Peter’s toy shop, see Olivia’s gift shop. It’s a place of imagination, of escapism. It was good to see him smile at the sight of the toys, I’m glad that he still experienced some positive moments with Elizabeth and that we witnessed a few of them. I thought he’d choose a G.I. Joe, but an airplane makes sense as they don’t (appear to) have them over there. He’s building attachments.
- Liz asks Peter if she can trust him not to run off. She’s trying to establish trust and wants it to work both ways. I liked the way she watches him as he fickles his way through the different toys. And then the smile – a connection is born, ring the bells, a connection is born!
Elizabeth: “It costs how bloody much?” 😮
- In all seriousness, that was a nice moment and sometimes that’s all it takes to for two people to connect, to meet each other on the same level and use it as a foundation for the future. And it’s no coincidence that Peter should arrive on safer ground just as he’s about to meet Olivia. It’s no coincidence that my ability to believe in this pair is made more possible by slowing it down and going back a touch.
- So it begins. Peter and Olivia see each other for the so-called ‘first time’ and it looks like young love at first sight. Whether or not the writers intend this to be the case, I’m able to take value from the sense that their immediate pull towards one another is driven by a sense of destiny. They do not know it yet, but they have instantly experienced a lot together.
- It’s this timeless equation that makes sense to me. We know about the cyclical nature of the story, so who’s to say that this is the first time they met? There seems to be an underlying recognition, a vibration that complements the notion of experience happening all at once.
- Whatever the message here, that’s my passport in. I can dig destiny. To me, it makes sense and increases my investment in the two characters.
Walter: “The beguiling Olivia Dunham, beguiles.”
- Look at you, match-maker.
- I’m glad William Bell got a mention. We’re led to believe that Cortexiphan was mostly his idea, with the trials beginning in the early 80s, although there’s no mention of the drug in the episode.
It looks like we’re supposed to believe that the clinical trials took place shortly after the events in this episode? (or before?) I smell the whiff of retcon but perhaps there’s another explanation in the air. We’ll see.
- That said, it was interesting to get a look at how Walter tried to mould young Olive’s mind. Calling upon her creative attributes, being fun and playful. The mood soon dimmed as Walter became more and more demanding, putting the poor girl through exhaustive tests, pushing her limits and ultimately scaring the Cortexiphan out of her with the help of Nick Lane and fake blood. I must say, Walter’s demeanor sure did change quickly. He was becoming something I didn’t like.
- How deplorable that Walter would not only endanger Olivia, but put Nick’s life in danger too! Did his science tell him that should anything happen, Nick wouldn’t be burned to a crisp? Speaking of which, how did the whispering Nick get inside the room if the door was locked? Who in class has that ability? Waaaaaalt?
- This Ashley woman, is she supposed to be the voice we heard on the infamous video tape from “Bad Dreams”? It would be kinda cool if they had used Brenner in this episode, though (although the incident should have taken place earlier). Oh Brenner, where for art thou?
- Peter is tempted to look through Olivia’s Imagination Box, but his adult self psychically tells him never to look through a woman’s draw unless given permission. He takes a peek inside her Imagination Book instead and is surprised to see the white tulip field that he not so long ago experienced.
- It’s the old chicken and egg question – what came first, the white tulip field or Olivia imagining it up? I’m a big believer in the power of the subconscious mind, so I like the idea of the field existing because Olivia thought of it.
- It depends on what the writers are trying to say. I suspect much will depend on the answer to the BBM and the First People. If reality, or one of the reality’s, is a construct, how much latitude is there for individuals within that construct to add to the canvass? Certainly Olivia is. Peter, you’d have to think will be able to when he’s hooked up the BBM. Walter has certainly taken advantage of the amenable nature of reality.
- Of course, the easy answer is that Olivia already knew about the field and decided to draw it. Personally, I think the story is far more interesting if she actually manifested it, bringing it forth into existence.
- Meanwhile, Elizabeth is doing her own snooping. I’m glad she chastises Walter for using Olivia’s domestic abuse as a cog in his experiment. If she can find a problem with this, why can’t Walter? That aside, it’s interesting to see Walter becoming more and more desperate.
- It’s also worth picking up on the dual theme of Peter and Olivia returning home. The combination of love and fear that comprises Olivia’s home is used as means to get Peter home. ‘The sins of the father’ don’t just apply to Walter’s treatment of Peter, but also Olivia’s two ‘father figures’.
- Elizabeth says, “surely there’s got to be some other way?” – somewhat echoing Peter’s words in “6955kHz”.
- The following is perhaps one of the most chilling moments of the season. The incredible close-up on Walter’s face as he admits being scared about his own other-self coming after him, “I know, because that’s what I would do”. The fact that he’s right, and we know he’s right, makes it all the more ominous.
- He’s also laying his cards on the table here, bridging the gap between himself and Walternate to zero – a marked contrast with his confession in “6B“, where he stated that for a long time he thought Walternate to be evil. Well, he probably did, but only because that’s how he felt about himself.
- This is why the alternate universe is so delicious – it’s the exploration of the self. Walter and Walternate are only different in terms of scenario. It’s the story, their perspectives that are different. The reason I’m more sympathetic towards Walternate isn’t because I hate Walter, as some might think. Rather, it’s because I feel more for Walternate. It’s difficult to support the aggressor.
- Though, this is why I’m not giving up on Walter – he needs Walternate in order to be redeemed, as much as Walternate needs Walter to be able to forgive. Again, it’s almost wish-fulfillment, a scenario manifested from the mind.
- Walter says he wouldn’t sacrifice Olivia for Peter, “but for thousands of others, or millions, it would have to be considered”
- Rarely does a bad decision get better by making another bad decision. That’s what I’d like to tell Walter if I had a time machine and a packet of Red Vines. Again, we have repetition – mistakes being repeated over and over, the pattern of the universe set not just through actions, but emotions, intent.
- For all Walter’s ills, I do love the way intuition is conveyed in this scene. It’s very under the surface, but it does something useful – it illustrates how decisions are often borne out of the thought of what we would do in this circumstance or that situation. We calculate different scenarios and probabilities, and prepare accordingly. Walter tapping into his inner Walternate, his inner self.
- I liked the way they framed the transition to the alternate universe; both Elizabeths looking through windows of time in search of their beloved Boy Wonder.
- On the other side, Walternate and Elizabeth aren’t doing much better, particularly Walternate who has turned to drink (interesting that Elizabeth should later turn to drink, the universe feeling its way to appropriate balance as best it can). He’s a mess and can’t understand why everyone else seems to have given up on finding his boy.
- He’s so much softer here, frail and vulnerable from the personal and professional pain of Peter’s kidnapping. We can see how a single event went on the mould him into different shapes of his former self.
- He’s the creator of the “Star Wars” defence system that protects the United States, giving us an indication of the climate over there in the 80s, while providing a link between his more scientific past and his future as Secretary of Defense. There’s little irony in his role as protector (or “Safety Czar”), it’s the way of the universe to throw up specific challenges one must overcome.
- There’s so much emotion in this scene, let alone the episode. Coming on the back of an episode high on the concept of ‘feelings’, blending both worlds together, Walternate’s immense desire to hold on to Peter must be doing something to this amenable construct called ‘reality’.
- I’ve long wondered what conversations Walternate and Eliznate had regarding Peter’s kidnapping. How would Eliznate explain that a man bearing Walternate’s identity came in and whisked their son away? I suspected that there would be some blame attributed to Eliznate for not recognizing the difference between the two Walters.
Walternate: “You said he was wearing a beige sweater, not a suit like I would wear. What did he sound like, his voice? I have a new theory, plastic surgery. There are a handful of surgeons skilled enough to pull off a feat like that, but not the voice..the voice would be tricky.”
- I liked this from Eliznate:
“Maybe it was plastic surgery, or an alien..able to take on any shape it wanted”
- Are these the first kernels of Walternate’s eventual affiliation of the shapeshifters? I think so. I love the idea that a throw-away comment from Eliznate could both inspire and manifest one of Walternate’s most successful creations in helping him make contact with Peter.
- The deeper into Fringe we go, the more clear it becomes that you can view the story in two key ways – as a linear telling of events, or like an ‘Observer’ – in that events are taking place all at the same time. A character has a need, and they get presented with a solution. It might not manifest in their universe, but that’s why it’s called world building.
- Furthermore, it’s rather poetic the a man described as a shapeshifting alien (Walter) would go on to be undone by the shapeshifters his actions helped inspire. That’s what this episode does, it allows us to draw further conclusions from the context of the story – again, removing the linear timeline when thinking about this show adds a deeper sense.
- Another interesting detail to emerge from this scene was that Eliznate had hypnotherapy in a bid to recover details of that fateful night. I just get this sense that hypnosis is going to reveal itself on a larger scale at some point. The green, green, green, red mythology is screaming at me.
- I’m grateful for the exploration of their relationship and the impact that removing Peter from the equation had on them. They’re clearly at breaking point. Since a parallel is made between Elizabeth and Walternate in their handling of their respective situations, I wonder whether Walternate might have ended up committing suicide, like Elizabeth, had he not received an “explanation” as to the whereabouts of his son?
- It’s interesting to consider whether the universe couldn’t feel its way to balancing out that equation, or whether Walternate’s sheer resolve canceled out any universal approximation? I guess the same question would be just as fittingly laid at Eliznate’s door. Was she stronger than her double?
- Gosh, Walternate just breaks your heart, doesn’t he?:
“Please Elizabeth, one more time..he’s my boy. I can’t lose him”
- When he sits down beside Peter’s bed, there’s a sense of emptiness. Once more we have themes of sleep being transmitted in subtle fashion.
- The following scene was so very strange. Not because it was bad, but because I had to work out what the heck was going on. For a moment, I got the terrifying sense that Walternate was going to snap Eliznate’s neck. My mind considered the possibility that the woman we saw in “Over There” was instead a shapeshifter and not Peter’s mother. Of course, I soon came to my senses, but that’s a peek behind the curtain of real-time. 😉
- I actually like this scene because it’s filmed in such an ambiguous way, the camera holding on Eliznate’s reflection as Walternate’s heavy footsteps plod closer and closer from behind. The fact she was brushing her hair at the time and looking rather emotional also created this incredible sense of vulnerability. Did the director intend the sequence to be this foreboding?
- It’s so beneficial to examine the impact of Peter’s kidnapping on the victims. I sense that many fans don’t really like Walternate – me? I love him. I wonder if this episode will change people’s perspectives?
- What do parents do when their child is kidnapped? It’s a question I’m not sure many expected to have explored in Fringe, even though Peter was taken from another world.
- I liked Eliznate’s wish that whoever had taken Peter was looking after him. This leads me to Elizabeth asking Walter whether they gave their Peter a good life (“Peter”). There seemed to be some uncertainty on that note, so it’s interesting to consider whether Eliznate’s hope is being projected through the void, allowing her double a second chance at making sure there’s no doubt this time around. Whether she succeeded or not, well, I’ll leave that for you to speculate.
Eliznate: “I can’t break, I need to be here for him. We need to be here for him.”
- I like this. Even though they end up splintering, it’s almost as though this pact made here was the foundation for their incredible strength and dedication in getting Peter back. Perhaps it was this that kept him alive? Hope.
Eliznate: “I need you, my love. I’ve lost Peter, I can’t bear to lose you too. Don’t go to work tomorrow, stay home this week. Forget the Lab, forget Florida, let’s put our marriage back together.”
- That’s just beautiful writing, acting, scoring, directing – if you’re invested in Walternate as a character, I imagine this will be high on your list.
- The fact that it precedes Walternate’s decision not to forget the Lab makes it even more significant. That was a decision he made, one that probably solidified future events. Had he stayed home making love to Eliznate, well, as we find out, things may have been a WHOLE lot different.
- Again, nice framing as we transfer back to the Blue universe
- Young Peter has found young Olivia in the white tulip field having seen her drawing. I just like the idea that Olivia is responsible for the white tulip scenario that led to Alistair Peck forging God’s signature and ‘forgiving’ Walter for stealing Peter. I’ve long speculated that Walter somehow manifested his own forgiveness, and while that still might be the case, I’m just as happy with the notion that Olivia also played a part.
- Again, to buy into any of this it might depend on your perspective of whether Olivia manifested the tulip field or whether she just imagined herself in this already-existing place. I think it’s the former.
- Moving on, I’m, also intrigued by the evident attraction between Peter and Olivia. And by that I’m talking more about the gravitational pull. There is a sense of destiny here and I like the way it’s conveyed. I can buy it because I’m a big believer in the cyclical nature of this story. I’ll say it again, I think we’re looking at the power of flux – the echoes through this constructed notion of time that causes events and feelings to constantly bleed at the same time.
- In some ways, it’s almost as though young Peter is playing the role of ‘Projection Peter’ from Olivia’s subconscious. His earlier non-coincidental trip past the white tulip field led him to her, and he pretty much put the wind back in her sails.
- I like how Peter seems to understand Olivia, knowing where she’d go because “it was the only one that looked happy”. I also like how he wasn’t scared of her ability, even though he had no real reason to even know what she meant when she told him to “be careful”. I’ll say it again, flux. Apologies for swearing, but it’s not about knowing – it’s about feeling. Anyone who’s watched the classic LOST episode “The Constant” will probably know what I’m talking about, even if you don’t agree.
- I LOVE that Olive said “Dr. Walter”. That’s just..brilliant.
- I also appreciate Peter’s stillness. He’ so still, just like adult Peter. You see, I don’t mind it here because it creates a connection.
- But there’s also some nice emotion there as he almost calls Elizabeth his mom. He then swallows and goes ahead with it anyway:
“My mom was telling me how you got to imagine how you want things to be, and then you can try and change them”
- Peter is playing the role of mentor, carrying his faux-mom’s message through the darkness to bring inspiration to Olive. This directly plays into Olivia’s ability to change reality, and (I suspect) Peter’s role with the Boom-Boom-Machine. Also, how great is it that Peter is mature enough to absorb this message and pass it on to someone who really needs it?
- There’s so much good stuff going on here. There story is at a point where there’s so much blending – here it’s being mixed with a steady hand and a wooden spoon. This is what Fringe is capable of, scenes like this which take on greater meaning because of the ‘seriable’ nature of the story.
- Olive asks a poignant question, whether Peter trusts Dr. Walter, bearing in mind Walter stole him and that they’re sitting in the field of forgiveness, I absolutely LOVE that he didn’t answer the question, but still encouraged Olive to confide in Walter. That’s an amazing quality for any person to have – to give good and honest advice even though he has his own issues with Walter.
- I sense this also represents the slither of hope, Peter’s capacity to forgive. You know, perhaps he was chosen for the BBM for more than just his DNA or whatever, maybe there is something in his human nature that makes him the best candidate for the job. Who knows where this story really begins, it’s so entangled that I really do think the concept of flux is a worthy way to view the story. I’ll flux off now.
- And then the boy goes and does it – he echoes one of my favorite Peter lines of recent time:
“You gotta try something, right?”
- So it’s not quite the same (“there’s always hope, right?“), but the writers were definitely placing an echo through story-time.
- They touch hands and it begins to snow. Surprisingly, I didn’t reach for the bucket. It was actually quite sweet, in a sickly kinda way. I like Peter’s response:
“Did you imagine that?”
- Interesting that he didn’t ask her to imagine him home. I think he was beginning to feel at home thanks to Olivia. And ironically, his comforting words would set off another chain reaction that would bring comfort to Walternate.
- Back at the Shop of Horrors, Olivia doesn’t want to go home for obvious reasons. She runs into Walter’s office and tells him about her step father hitting her, “that’s when I crossed over to the other universe”. Walter’s expression is a blend of bemusement and guilt. She passes him her Imagination Book, and something begins to register in his mind:
Olivia: “That’s where I saw the blimps, just like you said, they were in the sky in the other universe. Can you make him stop hitting me? Please?”
- She looks at Walter, Walter looks back at her with renewed sensation in his eyes, then..then..
- It’s…Dr. Walter?? Olivia had momentarily crossed over to the other universe, she had been talking to Walternate, a combination of fear and love transporting her across without her realizing (though you’d think she’d notice that the office was different).
- Crucially, she left her Imagination Book behind in Walternate’s possession, among its pages a drawing of her and Peter together (another wish that would came true).
- While Walternate digests this information, Walter walks Olive over to her stepfather (I assume Olivia decided not to tell Dr. Walter about her mini adventuroo?). Walter comes good and threatens her stepfather, although I do wish he would have done more to guarantee her safety. That said, I understand we have a storyline to preserve, and Olivia has to shoot the creep.
- Walter did the right thing here even though it would impede his ability to get Peter home. He had put the girl through enough. Well, she would still suffer immensely. But the important message here is Walter’s pledge to find a “new way”, mimicking Peter’s “there’s gotta be another way”.
- By the way, the expression on Olivia’s face when she snaps back to reality – totally out of the “LOST” scrapbook of incredulous expressions. Love it!
- Meanwhile, back at the Bishops Lair, Peter apologizes to Elizabeth. He has reconciled with the idea that he’s “never going back”. He’s disappointed, but as I said earlier, there’s an incredible maturity about this kid. He seems to have accepted the fact that he just has to make the best of his new life, and I think Olivia had a part to play in that. The connection he made with her created a sense of peace, of belonging. Without knowing it, I suspect he felt they’d meet again.
- Elizabeth makes an important choice here. She has the chance to tell Peter the truth, to reduce the guilt pressing down on her own heart. Instead she chooses to lie. Why Liz, why??
Elizabeth: “Listen to me. Sometimes the world we have is not the world we want. But we have our hearts and imaginations to make the best of it. I will promise you this, I will be the best mother I possibly can be to you. I’ll take care of you, I’ll protect you, and I’ll never let anyone take you away from me. No-one. Not ever.”
Peter: “But you’re not her..are you? You’re not my real mother”
- The big moment:
Elizabeth: “………..You were sick..you were very sick for a long, long time. And I think it confused you. YES! I am your mother, of course I am.
- Peter weighs it up in his mind and agrees that she’s telling the truth. What they’re both doing here is make-believing, they’re both using their “imaginations” to almost trick themselves into believing the lie. Why? For Peter, I think he wants to belong. He’s also feeling a little better since meeting Olive in the fields.
- Also, he’s buying into his Elizabeth’s words, which are pretty powerful if you think about it – sometimes we have all have to make the best of a situation. Remember, he’s still a child, impressionable, and his mind is being filled with fantasy-meets-reality.
- For Liz, well, I find her motivation here a little harder to place. But I would say she’s on the brink – she just gets the sense that she can pull it off, so she goes for it. She’s worked this hard to make Peter make-believe, another lie is all that’s needed.
- I also think there’s a lot more going on. Despite her earlier gestures to get him home, she wants Peter to be her real son – she actually tells him that she wont let anyone take him from her (which is VERY telling). She also needs him to trust her, another Reiden Lake incident could send her over the edge. I also think that she can’t bear to admit that she had lied to him for 6 months. And I speculate whether Eliznate’s desire for him to be looked after is somehow influencing her double in some intrinsic way?
- So there’s many reasons that underpin her decision to continue the lie. And I appreciate this because it’s all very intricate. The emotions the characters are feeling are neither red or blue, they’re multi-shaded. And, for the most part, I find it to be a realistic portrayal of emotions and underlying motivations. In terms of character development, Elizabeth takes the biscuit in this scene, and it’s a very yummy biscuit indeed.
- Oh, and should we mention Peter’s smile, hug and “mom”.. Mega creepy! Crumbs, it’s no wonder poor Liz went over the edge! Talk about having nightmares! She got what the degrees of her heart wanted, but she instantly paid the price. You can just see her unravel as he walks off like some kind of Robby the Robot.
- It’s a terrible crime that she’s just committed and once again I have to credit Orla Brady for an incredible portrayal. To come into a story this rich and layered and give that kind of performance? If she doesn’t win some gold at the Fringe Bloggers Season 3 awards, I’d be very surprised indeed.
- Peter has bought his mother’s story but there’s enough in this scene to convey the idea that deep down he always knew the truth.
- Meanwhile, in the world at the bottom of the lake, Walternate is rejuvenated, he can hardly contain his excitement:
“Elizabeth it’s me. I know where our son is! I know where Peter was taken”
- This is a celebratory end scene built on the dirty climax of Elizabeth’s Jedi Mind Trick, and we go out on the triumphant, beat your drums, sound your horns, march from Walternate’s office. Instantly, his posture stiffens, breathless, almost dizzy, a man is reborn..forged by the young girl who was forged in the rings of Saturn, prepared by the man who lost a boy, a boy he stole so he could be redeemed, so he could be forgiven, so balance could prevail. Imagine that.
A ‘Magic Box’ of page-turner. While I found parts of “Subject 13” problematic, and some of the pages were unreadable from spilled Slusho!, it gave me something to work with again and hit many right notes. I needed this episode like Astrid needs a baby-sitting course.
Best Performer: Orla Brady (honorable mention, John Noble).
Best Line: “You saved his life, I’m just trying to keep him alive” – Elizabeth to Walter.
Best Moment: Elizabeth lying once more to Peter and convincing him that he is of this world. Her reaction.
Episode Rating: 9/10
You can find all of our Fringe reviews here.