‘Fringe’ recap: 'This is not my beautiful house'
Finally, Peter Bishop returns to "Fringe." Though saying "finally" might be a bit of a stretch. Peter has only been gone for four episodes. Four episodes jam-packed with diversions: different versions of our favorite characters, universe-bridging serial killers and a new model of shape-shifting supersoldier. Plus Peter has been appearing in reflections and dreams all season long, so we may not have had the chance to really miss him while he was gone. But it doesn’t mean it isn’t exciting to have him back.
Of course the universe completely changed while Peter temporarily didn’t exist. He splashed down in Lake Reiden, where this reality’s version of young Peter drowned right after Walter pulled him from the other universe. It’s like a creepy, disturbing version of "It’s a Wonderful Life" or the Talking Heads’ song "Once in a Lifetime." "This is not my beautiful house. This is not my beautiful wife."
Peter finds himself in a world where none of his old friends remember who he is. In fact, Broyles and Olivia are taken off guard by this stranger who seems to know a great deal of classified information about Fringe Division, the multiple universes, and Walter’s involvement in tearing them apart. I spoke with Josh Jackson about Peter’s return, and he summed it up perfectly. “He’s dropped back into this place where he is the only one that has the burden of memory. He’s meeting all these new people and seeing what the world would be like without him. Which is, psychologically, a pretty terrible place to be.”
Jackson continued, saying: “Peter’s a survivor. When you go into survival mode, you’re, generally speaking, not very empathetic. You’re not thinking about the social good. ... He’s willing to manipulate the people around him to try to navigate the situation.” While I may not have had the chance to really miss Peter this season, I definitely have missed this version of Peter. The wise-cracking, morally-challenged trickster. Watching him hack into the surveillance system of his observation room to chime in on Broyles and Olivia’s conversation? Where has this Peter been?
While Fringe Division tries to figure out what to do with Peter, they also investigate another murder linked to the new shape-shifting supersoldiers. These more biological versions are an upgrade of the shape-shifters we saw in previous seasons. They don’t need to jam a strange-looking device in the roof of their victims’ mouths to help them change bodies, and they can save the last few appearances in their memory disc to swap back later. But apparently these upgrades come with a few bugs. They’re not as stable as the old model, so they’re hunting down Malcolm Truss, a former Massive Dynamic scientist, to help.
The shape-shifter hinted at the bigger mysteries of the season (who is pulling their strings and why), and Dr. Truss was played by a favorite actor of mine, Arye Gross ("Soul Man," "House II," "Hexed"). But the highlight of this week’s episode was Walter’s reintroduction to Peter. At first, Walter is so disturbed that the man from his visions is wandering in the real world, he has to resort to some Conrad Murray-level extremes to get a little sleep. Walter and Peter’s first meeting doesn’t go so well. Walter doesn’t want to believe all the things Peter tells him, and when Peter touches Walter’s arm, it’s too much. Like Peter later tells Olivia, he tried to talk to Walter like he is the man Peter knew, which he clearly isn’t.
Walter spends the episode in turmoil, reliving all the guilt over what happened to both universes’ Peters. He breaks out old home movies, makes Peter’s favorite desserts, even puts aside his dislike of Nina Sharp long enough to talk to her about that horrible night at Lake Reiden. In the end, just when you think Walter is going to welcome Peter back into his life, he flips the script. Walter is overwhelmed by seeing the boy he lost now grown into a man, but he can’t bring himself to help Peter. He made that decision once before, and it turned out disastrous for everyone (literally everyone in two universes). It wasn’t the response I was expecting, but it made perfect sense.
Now Peter is on his own trying to figure out how to get the universe back to the way it belongs. He’d better get cracking. If the hiccups in time that Olivia noticed and the shaper-shifter’s typewriter messages are any indication, things are only going to get worse. And fast.
Don’t quit your day job: Was it just me or did this new shape-shifter seem not as talented as the ones we’ve had in the past? Right off in the opening scene, she seemed to be having trouble pretending to be Mrs. Truss. The shape-shifters in previous seasons completely infiltrated Fringe Division, killing and replacing Charlie Francis. This shape-shifter didn’t even do that good of a job of persuading Malcolm Truss to continue his research. Sometimes not having the most advanced technology makes you work that much harder. Though the shape-shifter was smart enough to pull off the old Hannibal Lecter move and pretended to be a wounded officer in order to get an ambulance ride to freedom. Smooth.
Astrid Action: Astrid didn’t get much action this week. She came along for Walter’s initial meeting with Peter, but she only watched from the observation room. She’s been getting so much screen time this season, I knew it couldn’t last.
Spot the Observer: “What’s an Observer?” That’s an interesting little tidbit. In this version of reality, the Fringe Division is unaware of the bald watchmen who record and sometimes correct history in the ‘Fringe’ universes. When they patched up reality by deleting Peter, they must have removed all mentions of themselves, but they are still around to the keen eye. I spotted an Observer in the far upper right corner of the screen, behind the police tape, as Olivia arrived at the crime scene of the shape-shifter's first two kills. I’m sure now that Peter has arrived, it can’t be too much longer before our favorite Observer, September, gets a talking to by the other members of the black suit squad.
-- Andrew Hanson
Photo: Olivia (Anna Torv), left, Lincoln (Seth Gabel) and Broyles (Lance Reddick) question Peter (Josh Jackson). Credit: Fox Television