Fringe Rewatch – 1.19 The Road Not Taken

Fringe Rewatch - The Road Not Taken

Synopsis: Olivia experiences “awake dreams,” seeing elaborate visions of things not really there. While investigating a disturbing case of a woman who apparently spontaneously combusted, Olivia throws caution to the wind and explores her unexplained visions further. Meanwhile, Walter discusses key information about the Z.F.T. manifesto, and Peter reveals a secret that yields unexpected results in the case.

Below the jump I share my new observations and perspectives, and take a quick look at the unresolved and closed mysteries from “The Road Not Taken”.

New Observations & Perspectives

walter1.) Looking back, I found it note-worthy that Walter was absolutely determined to absolve William Bell of any ill-intent regarding the ZFT manifesto. This the same man who seemingly left Walter to rot in a mental institution whilst he racked up his billions. (although I’ll reserve judgement on that until we get more information on Bell’s back-story). I have to think that by clearing Bell of any wrong-doing, Walter was also cleansing his own name – as we saw in “Unleashed”, he’s begun to realise the heavy debt he owes society.

2.) I always thought it was a bit too obvious when Nina said that Bell was “travelling” – obviously it sticks out like a sore thumb now.

Also, this episode went a long way in revealing the boundaries in Phillip and Nina’s relationship – they are close (she calls him “Phillip”, no-one else does), but they also have their own agendas at the end of the day. That Nina didn’t receive a courtesy call from Broyles regarding Fringe Division’s investigation into William Bell, says a lot, in my opinion.

3.) Sanford Harris asks why the ‘entire 13th floor is trying to implicate William Bell in the attacks’ – interesting that he should mention that floor, of all floors. Considering the thirteenth floor was missing as Olivia rode the elevator to meet Bell in the finale. I don’t think this is important whatsoever in the story, but it caught my attention.

4.) Harris is overly protective of Massive Dynamic, almost too keen to keep them out of Olivia’s intrepid reach – is this evidence that he was indeed working for Bell’s ZFT? As I’ve mentioned before, I have to think that there are at least two separate ZFT factions, with Jones part of the rogue arm.

5.) At times Peter is beyond belief – he is immediately dismissive of Walter’s theory about moving objects with the mind, and yet at the end of “Ability”, he was the one who was convinced that Olivia disabled the light box bomb…with her mind. Perhaps he’s forgetful.

6.) How ironic (or intentional) that Olivia once said that her emotions are what makes her the agent that she is – and it is these emotions which facilitate her travel between realities and her powers in general. This was alluded to when she was a child (starting/controlling the fire) and during the back-end of season 1 (turning off the light box, crossing over). And of course, we also saw how emotions were at the heart of Nick Lane’s ability, not to mention the fire-starting twins.

7.) Let’s assume that the alternate reality glimpsed in this episode IS the same reality that we are seemingly going to war with. If this is the case. it’s likely that the war has already started – “half of Boston is on lock-down” and “the city was on fire”. So someone on our side (either literally or figuratively) has already begun the attacks over on the other side – with our side yet to feel the overt reality of the war (though we do have “pattern events” and minor skirmishes, not openly attributed to the war as of yet).

I just find it interesting that ‘we’ may have struck first. Another possibility is that the two worlds don’t operate on the same time-line – although not according to the newspaper in Bell’s office.

8.) In our reality Susan Pratt went missing 11 years ago – separated from her twin ala Olive and Nick. Does this give us some indication as to when the Cortexiphan kids were deactivated? What I find interesting though, is that the twins where together in the parallel reality – Olivia saw them both burned to a cinder. So in this alternate world, why were the Pratt’s not separated?

9.) Walter seems sincere in his belief that he and Bell ran clinical trials on children in an effort to help our world. Olivia can’t understand this, and I find it difficult too, on a philosophical level. If only one side can survive, what gives us the right to be that side? I guess it’s only right to have a fighting chance, but I still wonder how Walter and Bell know that only one of the worlds can survive Is time-travel involved – have they seen the future? If so, does what they’ve seen justify their course of action?

10.) In one of Olivia’s alt. reality glimpses, we see a building on fire as if it has been bombed. In Olivia’s words: “the city was on FIRE” (intentional wording, I’m sure). I’m assuming this is the result of a Cortexiphan kid (or an attack on that reality from ours), which leads me to wonder..who are the aggressors? If that world is the same reality that houses William Bell (likely, due to the “He Is Here” clue), then what can this tell us about the complexion of the war?

11.) Walter’s illustration of ‘the road not taken’ analogy is still brilliant. It does make me wonder thought – who, or what, is in charge of these choices. In a broader sense, what makes the alternates different, what makes them arrive at their decisions? Perhaps it’s random chance, but surely there has to be some guiding mechanism, somewhere.

12.) Peter used his excellent people reading skills yet again – this time on Emmanuel Grayson.

13.) Grayson reiterates George Morales’ (“The Dreamscape”) firm belief that Massive Dynamic are a “cover” for William Bell to do whatever the hell he wants. How Grayson would know this is any-one’s guess, but that’s conspiracy theorist’s for you.

14.) If Massive Dynamic are working on behalf of the US government, the President isn’t being kept in the loop, but Nina does have Mr. Obama on speed dial.

15.) I find it ironic that it was Peter’s project which led to Walter finding the ZFT’s missing chapter of “Ethics” – considering the unethical way that Walter seemingly got hold of his replacement Peter.

16.) We all know that Walter finally got Astrid’s name right – but could it have been the Observer’s sudden presence that gave him the clarity he had been lacking?

Unresolved Mysteries

1.) What happened the last time the Observer “appeared with this kind of frequency”? Bearing in mind Broyles told Olivia that he had only been aware of the Observer for 10 months.

Closed Mysteries

this wont hurt....MUCH1.) I’m fairly confident in saying that Isaac Winters is the “man with the glasses” who Nick Lane mentioned in “Bad Dreams” (credit gillybee). We can see that the Pratt’s and Lane were being somewhat hastily activated, with Harris involved in the project, keeping tabs on Olivia, using her Intel and keeping her out of the loop. Sneaky bugger.

The question now is, who was Harris working for – David Jones or William Bell? I’ve gone back and forth on this, but again, it could well be that he was working for Bell, since Massive Dynamic have closer links with the government than Jones – and Harris had a ‘government’ position.

If this is the case, I find it interesting that Bell should want to activate his ‘children’ so crudely – he must be in a rush to gather his army. Question is, which side does he want to protect? It’s probably worth bearing in mind that he’s seemingly doing exactly the same thing on the other side (as alluded during Olivia’s vision of the burned Pratt twins).

2.) Peter’s (not so) mysterious project was a present for Walter – some kind of digital converter to restore his old and damaged record collection.

Best Moment: The Observer whisking Walter away.

Best Performer: John Noble

Retrospective Rating: 9.2/10

Our original “The Road Not Taken” posts can be found here.

Next Episode Rewatch: Season 1 Finale – “There’s More Than One of Everything”.


  1. mlj102 says

    Okay, so I just got around to writing up my recap for this episode and I get on here to find that you’ve posted the recap for the finale. Whew – I’ll have to save that one for tomorrow.

    Nice observation about Walter being so quick to defend William Bell and to assure the others that he’s innocent. I think your theory that that’s his way of redeeming himself, in a way, is very probable. It will be nice to get a better feel for William Bell’s character in this next season so that it will hopefully be more clear what side he’s on.

    “At times Peter is beyond belief – he is immediately dismissive of Walter’s theory about moving objects with the mind, and yet at the end of “Ability”, he was the one who was convinced that Olivia disabled the light box bomb…with her mind. Perhaps he’s forgetful.”

    Or perhaps the writers are forgetful… Or, maybe he’s thinking more generally speaking – of course people can’t move objects with their minds – unless you’re Olivia. I think part of his refusal to believe it is that, while he did witness Olivia turning off the lights with her mind, there never was a satisfactory explanation for that. So Olivia was like the exception to the rule – an unexplainable anomaly, yet one he was grateful for.

    Interesting thought that the war might have already started “over there”. But I would expect that if it had, there would have been stronger retaliation “over here” than what we’ve seen. Maybe that’s coming soon…

    You mentioned how Susan Pratt had gone missing 11 years ago, and I thought I’d point out how, when I first heard that when watching the episode, I had connected it with the event Broyles mentioned in the pilot about how 47 kids went missing in 1998. Eleven years ago would have been 1998. At first I thought she might have been one of those kids, even though she would have been an older one, but then I remembered Broyles said the kids returned, but without having aged a day, and that doesn’t seem to be the case with her. So there goes that theory. But perhaps there’s still a link with those kids who disappeared that year and her own disappearance the same year. What exactly was happening in 1998?

    “Walter seems sincere in his belief that he and Bell ran clinical trials on children in an effort to help our world. Olivia can’t understand this”

    Well, I guess this is as good a time as any to hit on this topic. It seems that pretty much everyone felt that Olivia was out of line when she confronted Walter. And it surprises me because I never saw it as that big of a deal. Maybe it’s just me, but I felt that she was really rather mild and calm in that scene. Sure, she was direct and she demanded answers, but I didn’t find her actions to be over the top or uncalled for. She kept her voice quiet and she stopped after she saw that Walter really didn’t have answers. I don’t blame her for being wary of Walter or mistrusting or even unsympathetic when he broke down. Think of the position she was in. If it were you, would you be able or willing to understand that explanation? She’s just found out that when she was a little girl, she was a test subject. And she has been witnessing many frightening results of that testing. I really don’t blame her for feeling scared and angry and defensive and violated and wanting to find out the truth about what happened all those years ago. You can’t expect her to find out that she had been subjected to unknown scientific testing as a child by a man she knows and that that won’t affect her relationship with him or won’t cause her to think differently or act differently towards him. I didn’t see anything cold or heartless in that scene – I saw someone who was vulnerable and was desperate to find answers and try to make sense of the many shocking things she’d witnessed over the last few months. Sure, I felt sorry for Walter having to be in that position, but I really don’t think Olivia was unreasonable in doing what she did.

    I’ve noticed that many people seem to be of the opinion that cortexiphan kids all have the same abilities (such as starting fires) but I don’t really see that as the case. In my opinion, their abilities vary. For example, Nick Lane had obviously been activated, but he never showed any signs of starting fires. So it seems to me that the cortexiphan affected each kid in a different way.

    “What happened the last time the Observer “appeared with this kind of frequency”? Bearing in mind Broyles told Olivia that he had only been aware of the Observer for 10 months.”

    Broyles also told Olivia that they’d been aware of the Pattern for 9 months, yet in the finale he says that cases related to the pattern go back 15 years. Slightly different… That could just be mistakes in the writing rather than directly tied back to the character, but I do think that it’s important to keep in mind that in the beginning of the season, the timeline wasn’t quite set in stone. That said, I too am very curious to find out what happened the last time the Observer appeared frequently. Nina sure seemed very rattled about that – and I get the impression that there isn’t much that is unsettling to Nina. She seriously seemed scared and I’m anxious to find out what prompted her to react like that and if that reaction was justified.

    Other thoughts:

    I really loved the depictions of switching between realities – I found them to be extremely effective. It was a brilliant way to shake things up and completely catch people off guard and make sure you’re paying attention. And it was fun to have us the viewers to be experiencing that confusion right along with Olivia. You could really feel her absolute bewilderment. It was a really great way of approaching and introducing the whole concept of alternate realities.

    Nina is extremely loyal towards William Bell – the intensity of her loyalty surprises me. She seemed genuinely surprised at the accusations towards William Bell and stood by him all the way. It’s going to be interesting to find out what side Massive Dynamic comes out on.

    The others all seemed to quickly dismiss it when Walter said he recognized Nancy, but maybe there was more to it than that – maybe he remembered her from when she was a kid. I think there’s definitely the possibility that he thought she looked familiar for more reasons than just that he’d autopsied her sister (who certainly didn’t look anything like herself at that point).

    I’m curious about why Isaac Winters paid Susan $30,000. Seriously, that’s a lot of money – what kind of arrangement did they have that prompted him to pay her that much? Was it some sort of bribe money to get her to take the tests? As far as I could tell, there really isn’t ever an explanation for that… And while we’re on the topic, it seemed strange to me that Susan seemed to be working with Isaac Winters and like she trusted him, but Nancy was obviously very scared of him and he essentially kidnapped her. What reason is there for that difference in approaches between the two girls?

    So Harris’ wall of pictures and papers really baffles me. I know it has been speculated that he was merely following Olivia and keeping an eye on all of her cases. But seeing Olivia’s picture on there, I really didn’t get that impression. To me, she seemed to be just another of the many subjects featured on the wall rather than the focus of the whole thing. So to me the people and events singled out on the wall seem to be more of something that Harris considered significant enough to follow and keep tabs on, or perhaps things that he was personally involved in. If that’s the case, it would suggest that events such as The No-Brainer and The Artist were more than the stand alone events they appeared to be.

    Favorite Moment: I think I’ve got to go with the Star Trek scene with Emmanuel “Spock” Grayson. That was simply brilliant. That whole sequence was crammed full of Star Trek references. Absoultely genious scene – and very memorable.


    This episode is actually the first one where I started picking up on the reflections. It was in the opening scene with Susan where she’s sitting on the bus and suddenly there’s this flash of light and it creates this great reflection on the window next to her. It really struck me as something intentional, and even more so with the events of the rest of the episode, introducing the existence of multiple realities. There are also a couple of really good reflections in Susan’s apartment. One is on the wall in the hallway, as Charlie’s getting ready to walk into the kitchen, you see his reflection across from him. And then when Olivia is in the bedroom, we see her reflection in Susan’s large mirror. I thought that was a really great scene. And finally, there’s a reflection of Olivia and Nancy in the bottom of the window when they’re trapped in the room and talking to Harris.

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