Fringe season 4 episode 4 review: Subject 9

It’s all blue light and alternate dimensions in this week’s episode of Fringe. Unfortunately, Billy writes, it doesn’t make much sense. Here’s his review of Subject 9...

This review contains spoilers.

4.4 Subject 9

There’s no easy way to say this, so I’m going to just blurt it out: I didn’t like this episode much.

The reason I didn’t care for it was that the title of the piece, Subject 9, was effectively a huge red herring, as was pretty much the first half of the story. Olivia is attacked by a strange blue form of energy that reminds Walter of a child in his Cortexiphan-injecting project, and they go to hunt the mysterious and powerful Subject 9. This turned out to be an excuse for yet another guilt trip for Walter, ground that I think has been pretty extensively covered in the past three seasons.

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But where it really fell apart was when they eventually catch up with Cameron, who it pretty rapidly turns out isn’t the source of the electric blue apparition. Except he’s not called Cameron, his name is Mark Little, but they insist on calling him that even though he explained almost immediately that Cameron was the name of his abusive father.

He also tells them that he doesn’t have a power, then confuses the matter by telling them a sob story about a date that went wrong because of the power he doesn’t have, and then they convince him that he has a power and he can use it. Just how dumb is Cameron, Mark Little, Subject 9, or whatever they mutually agree he’s called?

One of the reasons I enjoy Fringe is because it’s a show that requires its audience to think. But in this one, I felt that I was contributing more imagination to what was going on than the show itself. There were far too many plot points that we were left to fill in, and some things that didn’t actually make any sense whatsoever.

The big focal point comes when Peter dematerialises in the lake where he supposedly drowned in that reality, and doesn’t get immediately arrested for being naked in public. Except nobody else in the experiment is even aware of what’s happened. Which seems odd, because they all seem to agree that it’s over, even if there’s very little evidence that what they did see happen was a conclusion.

In the end we’re left with a situation where Peter exists, but the timeline he came from doesn’t, which doesn’t make much sense. It only makes any sense if the dimension that he’s materialised in isn’t the one in which he was previously living, and all the characters we’re seeing are alternate dimensional copies. Fringe can be obtuse, but that’s perverse.

It’s possible that the idea of yet more parallel dimensions might be explored, and I’m sure that, at some point, Fringe will attempt to explain it all, or maybe like so much that went on in this story, they don’t even bother and just let the timelines snap back into place.

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In the end I was disappointed, because Fringe can provide some wonderfully elegant plot solutions, and here they didn’t seem to be bothered that much of what went on didn’t connect together meaningfully.

While it’s been entertaining so far, I’m just concerned that Fringe is collecting copious amounts of narrative rope with which to hang itself with a ‘Bobby Ewing in the shower’ moment. I just hope that’s not what we’re destined for.

Read our review of episode three, Alone In The World, here.

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