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‘Fringe’ recap: In a world without Peter...

September 23, 2011 | 11:42 pm

Fringe_ep401_2 "Fringe" hath returned. 

It’s been four and a half months since Season 3 came to a close. "Fringe" doesn’t do cliff-hangers like most other television shows. It doesn't leave with one of the characters finding out she’s pregnant or is left bleeding on the ground. "Fringe" wraps up its seasons with grand, rule-changing events: Olivia’s first journey to the alternate universe, Olivia trapped over there and Fauxlivia taking her place, then Peter stepping into the machine to open doorways between the two universes and erasing himself from history in the process. Waiting for the next season to begin isn’t about finding out if your favorite character lived or died, but how the whole show is going to change for the new year.

Right off the bat, we get a taste of what "Fringe" has in store for us over the next 20-odd episodes. Olivia and Fauxlivia face off, while passing boxes of confidential Fringe Division files and trading shots at each other’s lives. You always wonder what it would be like to meet an exact copy of yourself. Would you get along? Or would you see all the things about yourself that you hate? Olivia and Fauxlivia aren’t the exact same people (brilliantly pulled off by Anna Torv), but it’s interesting to see them throw barbs back and forth. Olivia digging into Fauxlivia’s lies and deceit. Fauxlivia calling out Olivia for being untrusting and distant. Top that off with the observation that the cases both sides have been investigating are the results of their evil doppelgangers, and we see just how deep Season 4 is going to get.

Of course, "Fringe" can’t drastically change the show without also drastically changing the opening credits. Instead of the Blue, Red or Retro we’ve had in the past, we get the Amber credits. Complete with titillating new words such as “Psychometry,” “Philosopher’s Stone,” “Gravitons,” “Biocation” and “Existence.” Can’t wait to find out what they all mean.

After the new credits, we’re thrown in with our newest full cast member: Seth Gabel as Lincoln Lee. This is our Lincoln Lee, the glasses-wearing FBI agent we only saw for one episode last season. A straight-laced Lincoln who is such a stickler for being on time that he doesn’t like toast. Though while chasing down a criminal, Lincoln pulls out some unexpected kung fu and lays the bad guy out. Lincoln subdues the perp, but his partner gets distracted by a glimmer of Peter and ends up the victim of the mysterious translucent man, our monster of the week. 

This sets off the chain of events that brings Lincoln into Fringe Division. Only this isn’t the Fringe Division we’ve grown to love over the last few years. The changes that emerge with Peter Bishop in the mix are immediately apparent. We have an Olivia who is still as guarded and distant as she was in the first season. We have a Walter Bishop who is even less tethered to reality than he was before, so much so that he sleeps in the office and never leaves his lab. Olivia still had to get Walter released from St. Claire’s to help her save Agent Scott, but then she became his caretaker, not Peter. When Walter sees a man in the mirror and hides in his sensory deprivation tank, it’s Olivia who has to talk him down from his agitation, a task Peter would have done in the past. Probably one of the most telling moments of the premiere. 

With the help of Lincoln, Olivia manages to track down the translucent man (or men as it turns out). Walter can’t wait to get his hands inside their bodies and pulls out what appears to be a memory disc. Just like the human/mechanical hybrids that Walternate sent over in the past. Olivia decides to go ask her “evil” twin what exactly they know and brings the very confused Lincoln Lee along.

This might have been my favorite part of the episode: seeing the containment built around “the Machine.” The fact that another universe exists is still very much a secret from the majority of the world, and the building where they can cross over is more secure than Area 51. To me, it’s a symbol of how well the minds behind "Fringe" think out even the smallest details of their universe. 

So what did you think? How do you like the changes no Peter created in "Fringe?" Will you be able to live without Joshua Jackson until they find a way to return him to existence? And whatever happened to that little kid Observer they found that time?

Ah, "Fringe." It’s good to have you back. 

The New Threat -- It seems clear that the new translucent shape shifters will be the next major adversaries for our Fringe Division. They’re obviously connected to the Fringe event that kicked off the whole series. Not only do they both involve people turning translucent, but did anyone else notice that one of the men was wearing what looked to be a pilot’s uniform? Does it have anything to do with that doomed flight from Germany that led Agent Scott to be infected with the translucent virus? If these shape shifters aren’t working for Walternate, who’s pulling the strings?

Astrid Action -- With Peter gone, Astrid is way more active. Now she’s the eyes and ears of Walter in the field. Literally. Her fancy earpiece also works as a camera that Walter can watch from the comfort of his lab, armed with tunes and popcorn. Now not only does Walter get to embarrass Astrid in the confines of their Harvard basement, he can also make her uncomfortable hundreds of miles away when he tells her to have the large woman help her inspect a corpse’s anus. It’s tough work, but someone has to do it. And with Astrid in the field, maybe we’ll get to see her do a little kung fu, too.

Spot the Observer -- The Observers are all over this episode. Our main baldy September has been given the task by fellow Observer December to finish Peter off completely and erase the final traces of him from existence. I’m sure it’s going to become a big debate over why the two universes are at war if Peter never existed, but I think that opening exchange between September and December contained hints. “They can never know the boy lived to be a man.” That makes me think that in this universe Peter died in the lake after Walter pulled him from the other side. 

Whatever the case may be, September built his little Peter-erasing device (luckily there are still uses for cathode ray tubes now that everyone has switched to flat screen televisions), but in the end, September couldn’t bring himself to throw the switch. Good. I want Peter back, too. 

RELATED:

 'Fringe': Seth Gabel talks Lincoln Lee, Season 4

'Fringe' Friday: Chatting with Saturn Award winning Anna Torv

Complete 'Fringe' coverage on Show Tracker

-- Andrew Hanson

Photo: John Noble as Walter Bishop. Credit: FOX Television

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