Fringe is often short on explanations, keen to move forwards rather than backwards. So Peter is something of a major diversion, as it sets out in one story to totally explain Peter’s origins, and a good many other things in a single stroke.
Rather than flashing back and forwards in a distracting fashion, it begins in 1985 then has a brief interlude in the present before telling the entire back-story to Peter as recalled by Walter.
For those who aren’t show regulars, they’ll be wondering what this is all about, but to Fringe fans it’s something of a gift, filling in many gaps in our understanding of the Bishops and their very personal tragedy.
To do this, they break with many of the previously defined standards for the show. There’s a retro title sequence, alternative lettering style for the location markers and no shock opening. But what really kept me fascinated throughout was the makeup work they’d done to make John Noble look 35 years younger, which, for the most part, looks really convincing. It’s less convincing on Blair Brown, but her appearance in the story is more than referential, so it’s important that she’s there.
We already know that Peter died, and we also know the Peter that Olivia likes is from the other dimension, but what they set out to do is show you exactly how that came about and, oddly, it involves the ‘observers’.
Water is desperately trying to find a cure for the terminal illness Peter has, but fails to find it in time. But, using a device he created to look into the other dimension, he sees that his double is still looking, and Peter lives longer in that realm.
The wonderful twist they introduce is that the alternate Walter finds the cure, but is distracted by the observer entering the lab and doesn’t realise he’s succeeded. But this is all seen by Walter, who then decides to travel to the other dimension to save the alternative Peter.
Through a set of circumstances, he’s forced to bring him back through the portal he created on a frozen lake, but then they fall through the ice, only to be saved by the observer (as has been previously told by Peter and Walter). When Walter’s wife sees the other Peter alive, Walter realises he can’t take him back.
Not only does this splice with many of the recollections we’ve already had, but it also explains how Nina’s arm was destroyed, as she tried to stop him going through the portal.
There are also some lovely indicators of how the other dimension is different. When Walter first demonstrates his ‘dimension window’ for the military, they look across a New York skyline and see a Zeppelin docking with the Empire State Building. And later, when three observers meet outside a cinema, which is showing Back To The Future, starring Eric Stoltz. Incidentally, Stoltz was, indeed, the original Marty McFly and was shot in the part for several weeks until a creative disagreement about the tone of the piece caused him to be replaced by Michael J. Fox.
I’ve seen a few people comment that they found this episode boring, but, for this reviewer, the running time just flew by. It proved, if it was really needed, that John Noble is the very spine of this show and he’s pretty much infinitely watchable. But it left a few questions unanswered regarding what happened to Elizabeth Bishop, and the alternate Bishops. It also suggested that Peter knew that Walter wasn’t his real father. So, how did he suppress that?
I’m glad Fringe is back. It’s refreshing to have a TV show that makes me think, when so many seem to demand you avoid doing that.
Read our review of episode 15 here.