Fringe Rewatch: 1.19 Frenemy At The Gates


Welcome to the rewatch for episode 19 of Fringe season 1 – “The Road Not Taken”. Join us as we stand at the gates to the other side with our high beams on in search of new perspectives and higher levels of perception.

We have renamed this episode: Frenemy At The Gates.

Newly Observed Perspectives

  • Is Bellie a hypocrite? He created this manuscript warning of ‘the destruction through the advancement of technology’, yet he profited from his scientific, and often unethical, developments in both universes.
  • Walter defends Bell and claims that “he would never do these horrendous things”. He’s incredibly eager to absolve Bell. I sense much of this is borne from the need to absolve himself.
  • Nina lays it out: “William Bell is not the enemy”. Could we perhaps be saying the same thing for Walternate by the end of the third season?
  • Olivia’s interactions with the alternate universe in this episode are still intriguing, but there are a couple of clues for what happened. I continue to believe that for the most part it seems that she only perceived these interactions with the other side. Either through the  medium of Altlivia, or through her mind constructing a template of the alternate universe and interacting with an accurate echo of the other side. I said “for the most part” – that’s because at one point it looks like she does more than just perceiving. More on that in a bit.
  • Notice how defensive Harris is of Bell? While he’s always tinkling on Olivia’s parade, he really got worked up over her Bell investigations. And we would soon have our answer as to why that was.
  • Olivia asks an important question:

“So where did this ability come from? Is it that she was just born different. Or is it something that someone did to her?

  • Isaac Winters. Winters, as in plural. Winters as in the end of both worlds theme? If names are clues, what do we make of September? An age-old question that is still relevant.
  • Olivia describes her glimpses into the alternate universe:

“The same people, the same places, but..bleak. The city was on fire.”

  • Walter says something which corroborates some of my thinking. He suggests that there’s a reason why Olivia’s abilities are percolating. Although we can point to recent events as the reason for her powers activating, I continue to wonder whether that’s only part of the story. Is there a larger force at work? Are these events not happening to Olivia, but in some way being caused by her? It’s a wacky idea, but I think this rewatch has picked up on enough indications to suggest that there’s something deeper at work, should TPTB be so bold.
  • Emmanuel Grayson: “Bell is trying to activate his subjects. To see which ones were successful. Some can handle the process, others can’t.”

  • Harris, once again, continues to question Olivia’s sanity. There’s a theme here. Do they really think Olivia can be broken in this way?
  • Olivia gets reaally angry and her inner mind gives her one of her strongest glimpses to the other side.  This, of course, ties into another theme – Olivia’s emotions heighten her abilities, something which is extensively explored in the second season with the whole ‘fear’ thing. This time, however, it appears that Olivia actually travelled to the alternate universe, as moments later one of her colleagues from ‘Over Here’ bumps into her, saying: “sorry, I didn’t see you”. To my mind, you’d only write that for a reason. The implication being that Olivia disappeared from her main universe while she was interacting with the other side. So it looks like this episode illustrates two levels of Olivia’s ability at work – peering in to the other side, and physically travelling there.
  • Peter’s project. Utterly disappointing and contrived. Plot Device Peter strikes again. His work here is done.
  • In Nancy Lewis’ apartment, Olivia sits by the yellow drapes (and a window, which says it all). A color Olivia hated as a youngster. No doubt this was intended to reflect her childhood in an episode where it begins to seep back into her present.
  • Interesting that Bell didn’t try to activate Olivia (although he may have gotten around to it). She essentially activated herself, either through the traumatic experiences she had faced since the pilot, or her subconscious guide, which, as I’ve suggested, seems to project itself on Olivia’s world. We shouldn’t rule out the possibility of both alternatives being a factor, which goes back to the idea that Olivia’s journey is self-created.
  • Walter receives a Drive-by Olivia Shredding, and rightfully so. I’ll just quote:

“What did hell did you people do to us?..you and William Bell, Walter. What did you do to me?”

“They were Bellie’s trials”

“But you knew. Walter, you were there. And you knew.”

“We were trying to help. We meant no harm”

“No harm!? you were drugging children! Three year old children, Walter. Why did you do it?

“We were trying to prepare you. To make you capable..able. Something terrible is coming.”

“WHAT?”

“The Cookie Monster..”

“Walter, what did you do to us?

“I don’t know”

“Damn it, Walter, you do!”

“No I don’t. I can’t remember” *sobs..hard* “I’m sorry”

*Olivia retreats, gives Walter the Eyes of Death*

*Peter returns, consoles Walter by..wait for it..touching his hand. We’ll see more of Peter’s ‘special’ touch in the second season.*

  • Funny how Walter finds Bell’s ‘Chapter of Ethics’ just as the Observer comes to collect him. It’s almost as if the September’s presence provided Walter a kind of instinctive clarity to locate the missing item.

Best retrospective performer: Anna Torv.

Best retrospective moment: Olivia’s moments of high perception.

Retrospective episode rating: 8/10

Useful Links

Next rewatch episode – 1.19 “There’s More Than One Of Everything” – TBA.

Comments

  1. FinChase says

    “Olivia gets reaally angry and her inner mind gives her one of her strongest glimpses to the other side. This, of course, ties into another theme – Olivia’s emotions heighten her abilities, something which is extensively explored in the second season with the whole ‘fear’ thing. This time, however, it appears that Olivia actually travelled to the alternate universe, as moments later one of her colleagues from ‘Over Here’ bumps into her, saying: “sorry, I didn’t see you”. To my mind, you’d only write that for a reason. The implication being that Olivia disappeared from her main universe while she was interacting with the other side. So it looks like this episode illustrates two levels of Olivia’s ability at work – peering in to the other side, and physically travelling there.”

    I am so excited that you posted this idea! I have suggested similar things on other sites about the colleague bumping into her and been dismissed. I definitely think she physically traveled (or “flashed”) over there for a few seconds. I’ve speculated that perhaps Olivia was able to interact with people such as Broyles and Charlie without them noticing a difference because she could literally insert herself into the reality and re-shape it around her, which seems to be similar also to your thinking.

    “Walter receives a Drive-by Olivia Shredding, and rightfully so”

    It really irritated me last year when Olivia took so much heat from some fans about this scene, about being mean to “poor Walter.” To my thinking, what he and Bell did was never anything less than child abuse, no matter their reasons may have been. I think she let him off too lightly.

    I enjoyed the Emmanual Grayson character, and I’d love to see him again, even if he is a little crazy.

    “Harris, once again, continues to question Olivia’s sanity. There’s a theme here. Do they really think Olivia can be broken in this way? ”

    Olivia has worried about this herself, several times, especially when she confides in Charlie. She was afraid to seek help when she thought she was going “clinically insane” in “The Dreamscape”, because she didn’t want a psych eval on her record. One of her first responses to Harris’ order that she report for a psych eval was that “My people need to trust me, not wonder in the back of their minds whether I’m losing mine!” Perhaps this is the FBI mentality of never allowing any sign of mental weakness to show through. Perhaps it’s the sign of a woman who has had to fight for respect in what is still largely a male profession. It’s an interesting question, and it appears that it may continue to be explored in S3.

    Unanswered questions:

    - Was Harris really working for Bell? When did he start? Was he ever with ZFT?
    - If Harris was really involved in activating the Cortexiphan children, why was he was he, like Loeb, so ready to dispose of Olivia so quickly? She would obviously be a valuable asset. Was it just because he really hated her and was looking for any opportunity to take her down?
    - Were the Cortexiphan subjects activated by Winters giving an additional dose of Cortexiphan?
    - Was the student in Budapest really a Cortexiphan kid?
    - Why did Susan Pratt run away from home? Was it because of Cortexiphan? As Olivia remarked, she must have been running pretty hard.
    - Nancy Lewis had a lightbox beside her, and Nick Lane had at least one of the “games” from the test kit in his apartment. If we assume that Bell and Jones were not working together to activate the subjects, does this mean that Bell designed the test kit and that Jones stole it for his own purposes? Or perhaps it was vice versa.
    -They actually kidnapped Nancy Lewis. Why? Did she flatly refuse their offer, or did they feel the FBI’s net closing in on them?

    I really like this episode a lot. It doesn’t usually get mentioned as one of the top episodes of the series, but in many ways, I prefer it to the S1 finale.

    8.5/10

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  2. number six says

    I have more problems with how badly they introduced us to Olivia’s ability to travel between universes than anything else. Normally, I don’t mind vagueness if it serves the characters or the plot, but this is one of those occasions, where the writers wanted to have their cake and eat it, too. Olivia didn’t physically travel to the other side, because the first time, she was interacting with Peter, Walter and Charlie and she didn’t disappear from their sight. They were talking to her, while she was seeing 2 bodies the other reality. She didn’t interact with the other side, because Peter was right there. This muddled way of handling Olivia’s ability, which is handled much better in S2, was probably due to the the fact, that the writers hadn’t decided yet, how this would work. It’s more noticeable on second viewing and it takes me out of the story, but I’m going to rationalize this by assuming that she was able to perceive the alternate reality and her mind constructed dialogues, that helped her deal with the information. Even if this just happened only once.
    However, just like Peter cracked the case with his unbelievable invention, she was able to determine that there was a twin in trouble, so this makes Olivia’s “travel between realities with her mind” easier to swallow.

    Peter’s project as a present to Walter was an adorable moment. I’m used to this show butchering science left and right but as long as an idea is presented and it makes sense within the show, I’m ok with it. It was a loving and cute gesture and it made Walter happy. I loved this bonding moment between these two awesome characters, which is what Fringe handles best. And the icing on the cake, Peter cracked the case, thanks to his invention. Another thing I like about Peter’s present, is that he’s been working on it since, at least, “The Equation”, which is when I started noticing him working on his project. It’s probably not a coincidence, because this is the point, where Peter starts to admit Walter back in his life and when he starts to protect him.

    Peter really irritated me during Walter’s explanation of pyrokinesis. I usually enjoy his snark and sarcasm, but this time it was too much. I just wanted him to shut up. He was back to his cool funny self soon enough, though. Peter’s interrogation of Greyson was a blast!

    Then we have Olivia being a good FBI agent and making connections, that skill she’s so proud of… NOT. She forgot Nick’s lesson in Bad Dreams and didn’t notice the “soldier” details at Susan’s apartment, for instance, the closet full of gray clothes, then they mention Susan’s ability and the possibility, that could have been experienced on (all of this presented withing the first 20 minutes of the episode) and she fails to make the connection with the Cortexiphan trials? Come on!

    Pyrokinesis. Fail science hard at work for a noble purpose: getting rid of the most loathsome character in the show. The best part is that Olivia was key in his demise.

    “You know, when he was five, he built me a popsicle napkin holder. Dreadful design. Utterly useless.”
    Hilarity aside, Walter was remembering his dead son here. It makes sense, Peter was interested in Geography, while Peternate was into technology and astronomy.

    I still can’t make sense of William Bell’s connection to ZFT. I guess they dropped this plot and it won’t be explained, because it was completely absent in S2. The real mystery for me is what happened to the twins in the alternate universe. Did they suffer from uncontrollable pyrokinesis and if so, what caused it? As far as I know, the Cortexiphan trials only happened over here.

    Ah, the power of John Noble! He plays heartbreaking to perfection. Of course, Olivia had every right to confront Walter and I approve of her anger, but my heart was with Walter the whole time, maybe because she waited, till he was alone and helpless to attack him.

    My absolute favorite moment: Peter holding Walter’s hand and trying to console him. The most beautiful scene in S1 for me.

    Other than the way they handled Olivia traveling between worlds and some minor quibbles, I enjoyed everything else. 8.5/10

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  3. Pwnsauce says

    I interpreted Olivia’s glimpses into the Other Side differently this time around. I agree that she didn’t physically travel over there each time, but I think that it was just her perceiving a different reality, which in a couple cases, fused together over here and over there. I think that the reason that these glimpses are so different than that of the Season 2 finale are just that the writers hadn’t decided the actual layout and situation of the AU.

    One question I have is who was Harris on the phone with at the warehouse? I would guess Jones? This was always a favorite episode of mine from S1, but I felt it didn’t hold up as well as Bad Dreams or Ability on a rewatch, so I’d probably give it an 8/10.

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  4. mlj102 says

    “Something terrible is coming.”

    “WHAT?”

    “The Cookie Monster..”

    I was skimming through the quote and happened to see that and I did a double take… Clever… and a nice way to make sure readers are paying attention!

    “Peter’s project. Utterly disappointing and contrived.”

    I don’t think it’s completely contrived… I think it was a nice gesture on Peter’s part, that shows how much the relationship between Peter and Walter had grown over the season. In the beginning of the season, Peter wouldn’t have been observant enough or thoughtful enough to think of a project like that that he could do to help Walter. I don’t think he would have dreamed of doing something purely to improve something that Walter cared about. But as their relationship grew over the season, he came to pay more attention and look for things he could do for Walter. I think that’s a big development. Yes, the way it was introduced and used and just happened to help out with this case was a contrivance… but I think it was more than just a contrivance.

    I am anxious to see how they develop the story of questioning Olivia’s sanity and how that carries over into season three… It has been interesting in this rewatch to realize just how many times that has been an issue Olivia has had to deal with.

    “The same people, the same places, but..bleak.”

    Looking at this quote out of context like I did, I thought it was an interesting description and insight into the other side from an outsiders point of view. It makes me wonder if that’s still how Olivia would describe the other side, now that she’s trapped over there.

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  5. Teresa says

    “I don’t think it’s completely contrived… I think it was a nice gesture on Peter’s part, that shows how much the relationship between Peter and Walter had grown over the season.”

    I agree with this. For me, I wonder if the way I watched the show had an effect on my reaction to something like this: I’m a new fan, who watched the first two seasons all in one go this past July/August. To be honest, as I barreled along, I gave no thought to Peter’s project, no speculating in online discussions, no expectations as to what important, plot-shaking, science-y thing it could be. So when the reveal came, my reaction was not disappointment, it was only appreciating the project’s emotional significance — how it showed Peter’s changing attitude toward Walter.

    I’m not saying this is somehow a superior way to watch, even if it helped me to just take things as they come in this instance. I know that now I’m on the slow path with everyone else from season 3 on that I’ll be indulging in all the speculating and online discussions like mad (hence putting this blog on my feed!), and that will enhance my viewing experience in its own way.

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    • mlj102 says

      Glad to have your insight here, Teresa!

      I agree that there’s something to be said for being able to watch the episodes back to back in the way you did, without having time in between to speculate and focus on the tiny details. Sometimes I think we as fans can get a bit carried away and too caught up on criticizing something that doesn’t really matter, only because it didn’t turn out the way we thought it should and it wasn’t as epic as we had expected or hoped it should be. In some ways, I think that way of watching gives you a clearer, less biased perspective of what happens. And yet, I also agree with you that part of the experience of a show like Fringe is watching it as it happens, analyzing the details, theorizing, and discussing. That’s one of the reasons I love this blog so much. It’s great to be able to share my thoughts and ideas, then to be able to see the perspectives of other viewers. A lot of times people point out things that I wouldn’t have ever considered. And I am sure Season 3 will be full of many amazing elements we can discuss. And I can’t wait (8 more days!).

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