Fringe season 4 episode 3: Alone In The World

A standalone episode in effect, the latest Fringe doesn't really address the big problem that threatens to undermine the show...

Fringe season 4 episode 3

This review contains spoilers.

4.3 Alone In The World

The talkback on some reviews I write isn’t always particularly wonderful, but with Fringe, those who contributed last time hit the nail entirely on the head. Fringe can’t go on having such a complicated timeline problem, because it’s too much to consider when they add plot points or introduce previous characters.

As if to underline this issue, the opening sequence here sees the very welcome return of William Sadler playing Walter’s shrink, Dr Sumner. The problem with this meeting is that Walter left the mental institute only because Olivia convinced Peter to take responsibility for him. Therefore should Peter have not existed, he should still be in there, but obviously he isn’t. So how does that work?

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Having such diversionary thoughts during the show is very distracting, and tells me that resolution to the Peter confusion needs to come sooner rather than later.

Alone In The World takes us a step closer to that, thankfully, but I’m not yet ready to say exactly when we’ll get there. It leaves me feeling like the child who asks ‘are we there yet?’, just minutes after leaving on a long journey.

That said, this isn’t a bad story, mostly because it contains lots of Walter, and John Noble inhabits this character marvellously. In what’s essential a standalone story, they manage to introduce a Peter surrogate for Walter in the form of Aaron Sneddon, a young boy with an odd connection to an aggressive fungal life form.

Evan Bord, who plays Aaron, is suitably understated, and delivers an excellent wide-eyed performance in his exchanges with Walter. Without which, the whole exercise would have probably failed. Child actors can generally make or break a story, and in this example he’s one of the best things about it. The bond that he and Walter develop is reasonably natural, and has some genuinely touching moments.

The concept of a bullied child befriended by a powerful organism isn’t the most original science fiction idea, but Fringe has a way of making the proceedings seems reasonably fresh and interesting, even if the core narrative is a derivative one.

That part of the narrative is however a rather lightweight and cosy prelude to a pretty horrific scene with Walter, where he takes the rather drastic step of trying to self-lobotomise, to stop the hallucinations of Peter. Having seen what this entails, it’s not something I’ll be trying, however many voices I start hearing.

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Luckily Olivia comes to the rescue, not only to remove the hammer from Walter’s hand, but also to tell him that Peter is bleeding into her reality also. Fringe often pivots on what you’re not told, and this revelation at least unhooks part of the Peter conundrum.

How long it will take Walter to work out who Peter really is, I’ve no idea, but he’ll eventually fathom it out, surely?

However, I’m pretty confident it won’t be next week’s Fringe when this happens, as we’re off again to hunt another Cortexiphan-powered murderer, again, I’m told. I just hope they don’t plan to keep the Peter problem going all season, because it’s likely to create the sorts of plot holes that you could drive an alternate universe sized airship through by the time they resolve it.

Read our review of episode two, One Night In October, here.

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