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Fringe: Season 4 Spring Premiere

Fringe is back from hiatus and we start up with a recap of the last episode to refresh us.  This week’s episode opens with Nina (Blair Brown) and Olivia (Anna Torv) sitting in a restaurant.  It’s a cold open: two characters in a nondescript setting, but through dialogue the audience discovers that Olivia and Nina have met at the same restaurant every day for years and apparently Olivia has forgotten this fact.  We then cut to Peter (Joshua Jackson) talking to Walter (John Noble), which instantly ties the scene into the overarching mythology for the entire season: the fact that Peter has entered yet another reality different from the previous two that we have witnessed thus far. Peter tells Walter that he is leaving Cambridge, MA and going to New York.

One of the things that Fringe does well is parallelism and this episode is no exception. The writers use the weekly plots to parallel the overarching mythology of the show.  Two universes exist but with slight differences, and frequently the plots of the episodes mirror this idea. This week’s episode dealt more with the Peter-Olivia love arc. A disfigured character that is apparently murdering people who are in love dovetails with the fact that Peter and Olivia love each other but cannot connect because they are supposedly from different universes. 

We cut to Walter Bishop in his lab at Harvard University.  Through dialogue between Walter and Peter we find out that Walter had a teddy-cam installed in the lab just before the Observer (Michael Cerveris) appeared in the last episode.  Walter has set out to solve why the Observer wanted to talk to Peter. This episode has the familiar editing and plot mechanics of previous episodes; for example, Peter has a discussion with Walter wherein Walter reveals through complicated means that he is going to slow down the playback of the teddy cam to discern what the Observer was doing in the lab prior to the gang discovering him. Walter figures out that the Observer seems to have placed an object on Peter’s eye.  The object, it turns out, is an address that was designed to dissolve into Peter’s brain and thus his memory.  This plot device allows Walter to achieve something outside of reality but within the confines of the sci-fi genre.

Halfway through each episode there is a tendency for the dialogue and editing to speed up, adding to the urgency of the proceedings. We cut to the mystery man from the earlier murder cleaning a large tube that appears to be a cremation chamber.  The man is scraping a liquid-y substance into a tube.  He smells it, which is a hint that it may be pheromones he is extracting.

Peter arrives at the address he and Walter lifted off of his eye.  The apartment has diffused and soft lighting to indicate that it had been inhabited by September, the Observer from the previous episode, an otherworldly creature sent to ensure that certain things in human history occur. 

Walter has been making Astrid (Jasika Nicole) smell awful smells while explaining the science behind the episode. The interaction between Walter and Astrid is often played for humor, and frequently it is through this dialogue that we learn the science or pseudoscience of each week’s episode.

Later we are given a repeat scene of the scarred stranger entering a house to attack another woman.  But we discover that the wife of the deceased man in the previous scene is not the intended target; the wife reveals that her husband had been having an affair, which complicates matters because according to Walter the scarred man is only attacking people who are in love.

Meanwhile, Peter has found a hidden capsule at the Observer’s house.  Peter hears a crash above him and sees September reincarnated.  The Observer tells Peter that for some reason Peter simply could not be erased from reality; more than likely because of the love that the other characters feel for him.

The Observer himself is now “locked out” of reality by the other Observers and disappears.  Before he disappears, he tells Peter that he doesn’t need to keep trying to go home because he is home.  This is his actual timeline.  We cut to Olivia coming home; she sees Peter and rushes into his arms, kissing him, thus completing the intertwining storylines. 

This episode used the familiar Fringe trope of parallelism. The episode was serviceable from the standpoint of furthering the overarching plot and did well with dispensing with what has been an awkward storyline of Peter’s disappearance and reappearance.  And while not a particularly strong entry into the Fringe pantheon, the solution of the Peter storyline will allow the writers to return to the more interesting storylines of the multiple universes and the battle to stop David Robert Jones (Jared Harris) in accomplishing whatever nefarious machinations he has planned for what may be the series finale in May.