Thursday, April 01, 2010

Fringe, "Peter": That '80s show

"Fringe" is back after a very long absence, and I have a quick review coming up just as soon as I quote Oppenheimer at you...

Though J.J. Abrams doesn't have anything to do with "Lost" anymore, "Peter" felt oddly similar in structure to last week's Richard-centric "Lost": an hour taking place almost entirely in the past, filling in the emotions behind a story where we already knew or suspected most of the details, and a powerhouse acting showcase.

John Noble was wonderful at playing the younger Walter, and at showing how what began as a noble mission (to ensure that "Walternate" and Alt-Elizabeth didn't also lose their son) turned into something else once his wife got a look at a living, breathing Peter. Walter's trip to the other side also gave us an explanation for Nina's fancy bionic arm (because the real one got knocked out of phase with our universe when she and Walter wrestled at the stargate), and showed us a younger, much less certain version of The Observer. And the '80s setting also gave the show's graphics team the chance to put together an awesome version of what the "Fringe" opening credits might look like if it were airing in 1985.

We end the episode more or less where we began, with Olivia still uncertain about what to tell Peter. But given what an important part of the show's mythology Peter's abduction is, we needed an hour to experience it, and to see it as Walter did, and also to watch John Noble be at his best.

What did everybody else think?

49 comments:

Aaron said...

Damn, those opening titles were AMAZING. Reminds me of the titles to Ashes to Ashes, which returns this week to the BBC.

Germ said...

Outstanding!

Robert said...

I consistently read about the show, but have only seen the first two episodes and the first season finale before this. I just wish the show would focus more on it's intriguing mythology because this was a great episode. I know that I will inevitably catch up on the show through DVD, but I don't dare trudge through what I've read to be mostly boring stand-alones watching week to week to get to some of these highlights.

And after listening to the podcast, I had no problems with John Noble's hair piece.

Jake Guzman said...

Am I bad for suggesting they should stay with tonight's opening credit sequence instead of their regular one? That thing was the cherry on top of a very filling sundae of mythology and drama.

Jim said...

I was pleased to see that Young[er] Walter was not the grief driven thief I feared.

I like my protagonists to be...ahem...noble.

Tom Dickinson said...

Is it just me, or did the conversation between the observers heavily suggest that they were time travelers? Is this the first time that's been hinted at?

Vic DiGital said...

I loved the alt-universe "Back to the Future" where Eric Stoltz was never replaced by Michael J. Fox.

Jen said...

I definitely agree w/ Jim: it was such a relief that Walter didn't just snatch alt-Peter due to grief. I was really amazed at the amount of mythology that got filled in in this episode. But one question, have we heard about Walter's religious female assistant before? Are we to presume she's the one to whom something horrible happens that gets the lab shut down and Walter institutionalized? I'm so foggy on what we know about that part of Walter's backstory.

And agreed, did not find Walter's hairpiece nearly as distracting as Blair Brown's

Justin said...

Nitpicky, but we had an explanation for Sharp's missing arm - she told Olivia in their first meeting she lost it to cancer.

I don't mind the retcon or anything, just that this wasn't a mystery.

Anonymous said...

The wig didn't throw me off as much as the pancake troweled on to youthen Walter. I guess I like those wrinkles...

The retro title sequence was awesome and spot on, something like Nova's Cosmos crossed with In Search Of....

And while the story was extra meta, who wouldn't get hung up on a show that was your life but not..which is what the Magic Window presented to Walter, he was even yelling at Walter-nate when alt-walter missed the cure.

That's entertainment!

Puff

Anonymous said...

Do we know what happened to Peter and alt-Peter's mother, Elizabeth?

David said...

"Nitpicky, but we had an explanation for Sharp's missing arm - she told Olivia in their first meeting she lost it to cancer."

I don't think it was a retcon at all - what we heard before was just Nina's cover story. She couldn't very well go around telling people she lost it in a dimensional gateway.

Matter-Eater Lad said...

The 1985 credits were spectacular. They reminded me very much of something from "Look Around You."

So can the Observers freely travel between universes? And does Peter's destiny that they were saving him for lie "here" or on Earth-2?

Melanism said...

Is John Noble ever going to get some award recognition? Love or hate the show, John Noble has turned in an amazing performance in the last season and a half.

Anonymous said...

In the podcast you said that Noble's performance helped to cover some of the episode's plot holes. Specifically what plot holes were your referring to, Alan?

The only things that struck me as a little random were the cure inexplicably not being able to cross the dimensional divide, Nina's arm being out of phase (haven't we seen people chopped in half when the gateway closed on them? It would have made more sense if her arm had just been sliced off.), and the Observer apparently being able to travel freely between the worlds (did we know they could do this? I don't recall.)

Also, I found the use of blimps in the alt-world pretty amusing. I guess depsite all their technical advances they didn't figure out the airplane. Is that maybe why the WTC is still standing on that side?

rosseau said...

This, Caprica writers: This is how you do a drama about losing a child, grief and the human tragedy that, ahem, metatastizes into universal tragedy with far reaching, unexpected and negative consequences. All of the plot, themes and ideas Caprica has in a far better episode of Fringe than all the other episodes of the other show.

For the millionth time: John Noble is the heart of this show and richly deserves an Emmy.

Prescient word verification: immuln. Perhaps it's in Alt-Sepinwall's blog.

LeeZy said...

science nitpick/pet peeve:

First it was Grace Augustine in Avatar and now it's Walter-nate in Fringe. Can Hollywood please consult a manual on how one uses a laboratory pipette? You can see in the above picture how he's not holding it right... I thought I was seeing things during the episode, and apparently I wasn't.

But other than that, John Noble was superb in tonight's episode... he and Nestor Carbonnel better get Emmy recognition...

Anonymous said...

"cure inexplicably not being able to cross the dimensional divide"

I assumed Walter landed on the glass vile and it broke when Nina tackled him.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Anon @ 1:22. I watched the scene more than once and wasn't able to figure it out, but that makes sense!

Derek said...

Random thoughts:

* After so much water treading, it's so great to get a mythology episode right out of the gate. I hope they stick with it.

* Blimps. Why do the alt worlds always have to have blimps?

* Loved the callbacks to things we've seen before: the coin, the lake, the dimensional gate thingie.

* Confused: Did the observer mean to distract Walternate at the decisive moment, or was it an accident?

* Was anyone else waiting for Walternate to glance up and say something to our Walter?

* When is Walternate going to show up in our universe, gunning for blood?

Anonymous said...

I liked Peter being from the other side as part of the back story.

Dramatizing the story cheapened it.

Henry said...

What a great episode! Filled in the gaps about certain details of the Fringe story and was a great character piece for Walter. One question: Did we meet Carla Warren before?

Henry said...

I liked that the writers also did their research for the alternate universe: According to imdB, Back to the Future was supposed to feature Eric Stoltz, but was replaced by Michael J. Fox.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088763/trivia

Anonymous said...

As far as I'm concerned - and I've watched every episode (and do care less about the odd one-offs that don't push the core story) - the entire season was a lead up to this very episode. It could have been a movie had the show been cancelled, but for the lack of Joshua Jackson (something I only noticed during the closing credits, so engrossed was I.) I wish John Noble were my father.

belinda said...

I agree with Aaron and Lad. I LOVE the opening titles. They really had the perfect balance of being old school but not TOO old school - and the music version fitted the graphics really well too.

It's kind of fascinating that the character Walter brings not only the science that is the backbone of the mythology and the standalone episodes of the show, but he is also the emotional center of the show (especially since both the other leads are much more of the quiet understated somewhat emotionally stunted types). Not to say the other characters don't matter, but there simply won't be a show without John Noble as Walter.

Karen said...

I find myself thinking most about Walternate and Alt-Liz, wondering if they're ever going to get some sort of explanation. (Except I suspect Alt-Liz won't be around to get it.)

Wish they had trusted the audience enough not to have to point out specifically that that was a quote from Oppenheimer.

Anonymous said...

its common knowledge that stoltz was in back to the future before being replaced

Dennis said...

I was surprised by the overall way they plotted and detailed Walter's original intentions but the clues were there once they showed how well he dealt with the death of his own version of Peter.

I liked the ep on it's own and liked how it added to the overall picture but I was surprised that last night marked it's return and maybe it's because I don't watch any Fox programming outside of Sun night but I had no idea the show was resuming last night.

You'd have to think that's a sign that it's losing or has lost some of it's ratings momentum. I know that's not important in the here and now because they've already been green-light for S3 but as a fan of show it's frustrating nonetheless.

blinky said...

Do you think that John Noble saving his son in Fringe makes up for his trying to burn his son alive in Lord of the Rings?
I still see that crazy king image in my head every time Walter gets a little crazy.

Chrissy said...

Loved it, actually clapped with glee at the credits.

One thing I can't quite work out: if I understand the sequence of events correctly, the Observer did not mean to distract Walternate. He did, which led to Walternate not being able to cure his son. For this reason, Walter goes into the other world, grabs Peter, and they fall into the lake. Observer saves them.

Obviously the Observer's major goal here was to right the ship of Alt-Peter's death; he should have survived in the Alt-verse, but apparently the Observer wasn't terribly concerned with where he was, just that he lived. So, in the original sequence of events, un-spoiled by the Observer, does Walter go to the alternate universe? Considering all of the dire predictions about what breaking that barrier would mean for the world, how is the life of one boy more important than stopping Walter?

Put another way, if the two major results of the Observer's interaction with Walternate were his not finding the cure and Walter's breaching the dimensions, why was rectifying the former essential and the latter unimportant? Was Walter always going to travel between dimensions, one way or another?

Matter-Eater Lad said...

"Was Walter always going to travel between dimensions, one way or another?"

Perhaps Peter, not Walter, was the one who was always going to travel between dimensions.

Julie said...

fantastic episode, and i really hope we get to see the ramifications for and reactions from Walternate (brilliant!) and his wife.

but there was a seemingly large plot hole i found distracting:

it was established in just the last episode that the two universes have to be in balance, that if you send something over there, like a car or a building, something of equal mass has to come over here.

so i assumed there was going to be some scene of Walter transporting Peter-1's coffin to the other side.

if Walter brought Peter-2 over here, then doesn't someone (even if it's not Peter-1 himself) of the same mass have to go to the other side to maintain the balance?

any thoughts about that, Alan and the gang?

(i realize now that the same "discrepancy" exists with William Bell, but the question remains. have they ever specifically said that rule doesn't apply to people? or am i missing an obvious reason why it wouldn't?)

Mamba's Messenger said...

Alan,

When explaining how he was going to travel to the "other side," Walter mentioned the Casimir Effect. Sound familiar? It should. Lost's Dr. Marvin Candle/Edgar Halliwax/Pierre Chang mentions this exact term in the Orchid Orientation video. Let the conspiracy theories commence!

Chrissy said...

Julie said:
"if Walter brought Peter-2 over here, then doesn't someone (even if it's not Peter-1 himself) of the same mass have to go to the other side to maintain the balance?"

That's a good point, but I think it would be easy enough to say that this did happen, but the thing of equal mass that was taken was a small boulder, or a woodland creature (they were out in the middle of nowhere). It could have even been water, right?

The problem in the recent episode on this topic was that an entire building passed through; the damage done by a small boy and an average-sized man might be so minimal as to not warrant mention.

Caz said...

if Walter brought Peter-2 over here, then doesn't someone (even if it's not Peter-1 himself) of the same mass have to go to the other side to maintain the balance?

Right, Julie, something or someone like, oh i don't know, something kinda sorta like.... a lab assistant?

I've only watched the ep once, but my impression was that Walter never intended to do anything other than administer the formula, there was no question of bringing Peter over to our side. Everything changed when the vial got smashed (dammit, Nina!) and he had to improvise. Is it possible that it was at this point, and at this point only, that Peter becomes crucial - as the only non-human to have been brought from there to here?

I think what may be an interesting reveal for the future is what the relationship is between the Observer and Walternate. Did Watlernate seem less than surprised that the Observer was in the lab at all, and therefore can we infer that they have a pre-existing relationship?

Is it just me, or did the conversation between the observers heavily suggest that they were time travelers? Is this the first time that's been hinted at?

In fact, no, Tom. The lab tech guy at Massive Dynamic has surmised as much.

None of this addresses what is always my major gripe (although, as a Lost fan, this is something to which I am finely accustomed) which is that, theoretically, wouldn't it be more likely that there are infinite alternative universes rather than just one? I worry that the whole-show finale will be this reveal.

And add me to the John Noble appreciation society. I hope that Joshua Jackson has been using his time off to take in some acting classes, in case there is ever an episode where he discovers the reason why he doesn't share all the same memories of his childhood as Walter... not that I'm not fond of JJ or his portrayal of Peter, but is he That Good?

Caz said...

Sorry, I didn't mean non-human, I meant non-Observer.

Martin said...

Dennis – I’m not sure it’s useful to extrapolate a trend from a single data point (you missing some promos).

Chrissy – according to Walter, Bell was always eager to cross worlds so I assume it would have happened eventually, just further down the track if the Observer had not involved himself.

I think the Observers knew that the barrier between worlds would be breached at some point. They also know that Peter will be (or has already been between the ages of 7 and 32) very important to the continued existence of one or both worlds.

Michael – I believe having the formula was irrelevant because, in Walter’s estimation, time was the issue. Peter had already died once so Walter knew alt-Peter was due to die soon. I assume Walter calculated that the time required to prepare more of the compound in the alt-lab (with the attendant risk of discovery) was too great when compared to the time he would spend taking Peter back to his lab.

I do agree with you on the glass vial. Although, I don’t remember using any plastic containers in my high school science classes in the mid-80s. With time pressing, Walter went with what he had.

Aaron said...

A sharp-eyed viewer caught a double-decker car in the Walternate universe: http://i44.tinypic.com/fxcutg.gif

Stellar Drift said...

Ahh, John Noble is great - he is one of those actors you can just keep watching and it remains a joy to see him. Although I dare say we had guessed most of it in advance it was a good episode.

As for the titles, it wasn't just the intro but also the (silly) ones in the episode

Anonymous said...

"The only things that struck me as a little random were the cure inexplicably not being able to cross the dimensional divide,"

He *landed* on it and crushed it when he fell through the gateway.

Anonymous said...

if Walter brought Peter-2 over here, then doesn't someone (even if it's not Peter-1 himself) of the same mass have to go to the other side to maintain the balance?

No, I think the rule is: if Walter doesn't send him back within one minute, Stephen Root's minor recurring character on whatever show he's appearing in must die. Or something along those lines.

Marlark said...

So many great touches. The doubling not only of characters, but of lines and actions (the coin trick first with Walter, then with Alt-Elizabeth).

The crack in the ice and the crack in the separation between universes.

I thought the make up was great. I kept thinking that Blair Brown was going to move back to New York and once again be.. Molly Dodd! I think the year was just about right!

Derek said...

One more unanswered question: Is William Bell in the alt universe in 1985? They seemed to imply this but never said it directly.

Kristi said...

The one thing about this great episode that has been bugging me is how alt-Peter was taken. I seemed to remember in a previous episode some sort of dream sequence where alt-Peter was nabbed from his bed in the middle of the night. That doesn't seem to match up with how he was taken in this episode. Did I miss something or was I just imagining things?

Xeddicus said...

It was ret-conned apparently. In our preview glimpse of Walter snatching Peter it played out much more sinister, you are correct. Peter wakes up in bed, says "Dad?", and then is yanked away.

Paul Worthington said...

Two things:
First, like many of you, I was pleasantly surprised at the twist here: we long ago thought Walter had simply kidnapped alt-Peter to meet his emotional need when his own son died. It always cast a pall over the character for me, and the show: if there was a war between the worlds, it was started when our main character kidnapped a child for selfish reasons.
This episode recasts that aspect: Walter's intentions were good, to simply deliver the medicine, and things spun out of control.

But --
How reliable is this story? Remember, the episode is framed with Walter desperately trying to convince Olivia of his innocence.
What if he just lied?
After all, as others have pointed out, Peter's own dream recollects a more sinister take on the events.

Anonymous said...

Peter was so young and his memory so hazy that it's very believable to me that he has things a bit jumbled in his mind.

As to the issue of whether this story was an objective take or Walter's spin, the presence of the subplot about the Observers having a conversation suggests this is an objective telling of the story since Walter can't have seen that.

And man, I thought the 80s assistant and wife added a lot to the show, they made it feel more like a fleshed out real universe than it has to date. Anyone else want to just watch 1980s Fringe?

Joe said...

@Mamba's Messenger: the Casimir effect is an effect in quantum physics where two metal plates which are extremely close together feel a force. It is not a particularly important effect in physics. It is most well-known because it is perhaps the easiest quantum electrodynamics calculation. I don't know how these writers got a hold of it, and why they seem so interested in it.

Anonymous said...

"None of this addresses what is always my major gripe (although, as a Lost fan, this is something to which I am finely accustomed) which is that, theoretically, wouldn't it be more likely that there are infinite alternative universes rather than just one?"

After last summer's finale, I speculated that the alternate universe was the result of a Bishop & Bell experiment, but this season has made it pretty clear that is not the case.

Aline said...

While I did like this episode, I felt it was a bit anti-climactic after so much stalling on this plot point. They pretty much gave away the secret of Peter's origins at the end of last season. Yet, they've spent all season hinting at this instead of getting on with the story. I've been really frustrated with this season's arc as it hasn't really gotten anywhere and I feel like the writers think I'm too stupid to have figured out Walter's secret ages ago. This episode should have been the first or second ep of the season.