Synopsis: When a Flight 627 lands with all the passengers and crew dead, FBI Agent Olivia Dunham is called into investigate. A search for someone to help leads her to Dr. Walter Bishop, our generation’s Einstein. There’s only one catch: He’s been institutionalized for the last 20 years, and the only way to question him requires pulling his estranged son, Peter, into help. Under Agent Phillip Broyles, our trio will discover that what happened on that fatal flight is only a small piece of a larger, more shocking truth.
General Thoughts – I was surprised at how easily I slipped back into the show. It was particularly fascinating to see things from a new perspective. Knowing the characters as we now do, it was rewarding to see their fears, limitations and quirks play out all over again. The episode seemed very much like an initiation for Olivia.
In terms of criticisms, I’m not entirely convinced two-hours were needed to tell the story. At times the pace moved too slowly for a premiere showcase. I also felt that there were far too many hammy moments between Peter and Olivia – thank goodness they dialed it down later on in the season. Giacchino’s score was missed and the ‘stock footage’ was bland. The episode was not as polished as it could have been.
Below I outline my New Observations and Perspectives, Unresolved Mysteries, Closed Mysteries and provide my Final Thoughts based on my rewatch.
New Observations & Perspectives
1.) I was reminded of the subtle references electricity – from the “electrical storm”, which prefaced flight 627’s demise, to the many flickering lights seen throughout the episode – particularly Walter’s fascination with the ‘hum’ – we later see him reference the “kilovolts” in “The Cure”.
2.) I was struck by how in love Olivia and John were before the ‘compound hit the fan’. Looking back, it was a very intentional starting point for the viewers, but it’s interesting to note that for Olivia, this wasn’t really the beginning. In her own words, she had struggled with relationships in the past, so trust didn’t come easy for her. Yet Olivia clearly trusted John, and what wasn’t to trust? He was an upstanding guy and Federal Agent. So removing both Olivia’s love and trust in the space of one episode was an effective story-telling device. It left her naked, alone, scared – the perfect template for this ‘new world’ (and I don’t mean alternate realities..yet) which she had been thrown into. A world in which the advance of science and technology are only matched by the imagination of mankind.
3.) Richard and Morgan Steig – twins. I find it meaningful (even if it was unintentional on the writers behalf) that we should begin the season with twin brothers and end it with Olivia peering out from the twin towers which reside inside a twin reality. Even more powerful is the idea that Richard was prepared to eliminate his twin to prove his loyalty to the cause. Will there come a time when one world must be purged, as outlined by the ZFT manifesto?
4.) Peter tells Olivia that he could have stayed in Iraq. Olivia responds by telling him that a car bomb went off in Kurkuk and that he should probably be thanking her. This immediately took me back (or forward?) to the ‘road not taken’ themes from later in the season – especially Olivia’s near miss with the car in 1.20.
5.) Nina mentions her “replacement limb”, the result of Belly’s life-saving technology – this made me consider how technology allows us to replace the things we lose. Particularly poignant when it comes to Walter getting a ‘replacement Peter’ from an alternate reality. Clearly science can fill the void left by a loss of love or normalcy..but how far can we embrace this science thing? How far should we, as humans, reach?
6.) Nina warns Olivia: “I would say this to my own daughter..be careful………..and good luck”. Now if I was wanting to cook up a crackpot theory, I’d get a pot, a big wooden spoon, throw in this quote and see what happens. Seriously though, in retrospect there is something about that scene that makes me wonder..
7.) Peter mentions that he’s “good at reading people”. Possible foreshadowing to his own set of abilities? His knack for knowing what makes people ‘tick’ was witnessed when negotiating the pipeline deal in Iraq and again when getting Richard Steig to confess the compound ingredients. We later see Peter prise information out of other suspects, including Daniel Hicks from “The Transformation”.
8.) After rewatching Olivia’s dreamstate with John, I got the impression that the writers want to convey the idea that the subconscious is connected to a limitless hub of possibility – a nexus of all realities, perhaps? The blue lights still leave me in no doubt that all three of Olivia’s dreamstates (throughout the season) were forms of inter-reality travel.
9.) Towards the end of the episode, Broyles tells Olivia: “We’re impressed”. Olivia asks “Who’s we!?”. Knowing what we now know, it seems fairly obvious that the “we” is Massive Dynamic and/or Nina. As I mentioned in the outset, this episode resembles a test or initiation. They know that Olivia special, just as we now do.
1.) Why did Broyles send Olivia to the storage facility? Scott made this seem like a pretty important deal seeing as he used his last words in this ominous fashion rather than telling his gal he loved her, or, y’know, “I’m sorry for scratching the car”. I suspect that there’s actually no big mystery to this – the answer (should the writers feel like explicitly telling it) will probably be that Broyles knew all along that Olivia was “special” and wanted to test her..*wait for it*..”ability”.
2.) Why was Peter REALLY in Iraq? They made quite a meal of this, yet it has never properly been answered. I guess we got a partial answer when Peter mentioned the mafia/Big Eddie..yet, look where THAT story-line went. Poor Big Eddie, there he was waiting for his big reveal, instead the writers focused on William Bell. Sucks to be Big Eddie.
1.) It wasn’t clear to me when I first watched this episode back in the day, but we actually discover that Scott wanted to buy the compound from Steig (presumably to ‘keep it from falling in the wrong hands, as part of his role for NSA). However Steig received offers from “other bidders”. I doubt these other bidders were Massive Dynamic – since Steig was fired from MD for theft. Instead these bidders were probably other groups – groups like the one’s led by Jones or Conrad (Transformation), for example. In fact, this really prefaces “The Dreamscape“, where we see Scott doing deals with another MD employee, Mark Young, for company information. I’m just pleased to get this one locked down, I was worried about a potential conflict with the John Scott = good guy reveal, instead it supports the later storyline involving Scott and “Black Ops”. That said, he still killed a guy.
2.) What was the deal with the plane – why was it targeted in this way? The tape-recording between Steig and Scott revealed that it was a “demonstration” for bidders. It seems that Steig was a guy motivated by money and greed. A cautionary tale of what can happen when technology gets into the wrong hands. Good thing Peter breaks his hands later in the episode.
3.) Back in the day, there was some debate over whether both of the Steig’s were in the 627 plot together. I was never a fan of the idea because Morgan Steig seemed genuinely terrified in the opening scene. The tape recording indeed reveals that they were NOT in cahoots, and that Richard Steig killed his brother intentionally to show how committed he was (paraphrased). Morgan was not only collateral damage, but a catalyst – Richard obviously knew he was diabetic and that compound-spiked insulin would be a discreet way to trigger the melting jaw of death infection. Of course, he had no way of knowing that Morgan would DEFINITATELY use his insulin (since he only used it when the electric storm hit). Perhaps we’re also to assume that the electric storm was man-made – an intentional device to ensure that Morgan panicked and thus injected himself? Perhaps I’m going too far with that one, but I always liked the idea of man-made weather being introduced in Fringe.
For me, this episode was about 3 disparate individuals banding together to use their unique skills to solve a series of interconnected mysteries. What impressed me during my rewatch was how relevant the episode is – not just for the cautionary tale of science and freewill, but the things which make all of that matter – love, trust, family, companionship, hope. Without these things there is no right or wrong, there are no ethics – science and technology cease to matter because reality is what we make it and the glue that holds it all together are the things and people most dear to us.
As a man of faith, I am always intrigued by how writers integrate spiritual themes with scientific (albeit fantastical) storylines. So I was reminded of Charlie’s fear of (the authorities) becoming “obsolete”. Firstly, Kirk Acevedo delivered that line so perfectly. Secondly, I think this was the moment when the show hinted at more than a sci-fi drama – it tapped into something deeper – a human desire to survive, to adapt, to evolve..to answer the call. As Olivia sat silent in the passenger seat, my mind flashed forward to the moment we realised she was truly special – “Ability”, when she used her mind to dispose the bomb. Whilst still not embracing her importance at this stage, it’s amazing to think how far she’s come since the Pilot – to go from doing whatever it takes out of love, as she did in 1.01..to believing in herself so completely out of faith..well, she really has moved to the next level.
Best Performance: Anna Torv
Favourite Moment: Hasn’t changed – Olivia flying across rooftops like Hancock.
Retrospective Rating: 8/10
Our Original Easteregg Observations can be found here.
Additional Easteregg missed first time round: Massive Dynamic logo on MG car badge.
Next Rewatch Episode: The Same Old Story – Sunday (ETA)