FRINGE 3.15 ‘Subject 13’

Flashback to the '80s as Peter meets Olivia and Walternate discovers what happened to his son.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

FRINGE 3.15 'Subject 13'

Episode Title: "Subject 13"

Writers: Jeff Pinkner & J. H. Wyman & Akiva Goldsman

Director: Frederick E. O. Toye

Previously on "Fringe":

In 1985, Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) traveled to an alternate universe and kidnapped the counterpart of his son Peter Bishop to save his life since he couldn’t do the same for his own son in this universe. Although Walter originally intended only to cure the boy and send him home, his wife Elizabeth (Orla Brady) saw that their son had been returned to them and he couldn’t break her heart by taking him away again; even though she was fully aware of the truth about who he was and where he really came from.

On the alternate Earth, Walter’s counterpart (nicknamed Walternate) became cold and cruel over the loss of his son and began a decades long plan to wage war on our universe, as his world fell prey to devastating "Fringe" events like spontaneously appearing black holes caused by Walter’s trip to their universe. As a measure of revenge and strategy, Walternate arranged for FBI Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) to be replaced by her own alternate when she came to his universe. The revelation of that deception strained Olivia’s burgeoning romantic relationship with Peter (Joshua Jackson), but they recently reconciled.

But how long do you think they will stay together once Olivia learns that Peter fathered a child with her counterpart?

Story:

Back in 1985, only a few months have passed since Walter brought Peter (Chandler Canterbury) over to our world, but he’s old enough to realize that he doesn’t belong here. With purpose, he marches out to the frozen lake where Walter carried him over and uses a concrete block to break the ice. Elizabeth realizes what he’s doing and barely arrives in time to save him from drowning in the icy water. As she pulls him to the shore, he angrily struggles with her and insists that she is not his mother. In Jacksonville, Florida, Walter is conducting experiments with cortexiphan kids, like the promising Olivia (Karley Scott-Collins) when he gets word of the incident with Peter.

Elizabeth arrives with Peter, who insists to Walter that this world is wrong. The Dodgers don’t play in LA and they aren’t his real parents. When Peter finally sleeps, Walter admits that he hasn’t been able to find a way to safely bring Peter home and Elizabeth is worried about his fragile mental state. Meanwhile, Olivia’s stepfather (Chris Bradford) catches her up late and chases her around their home. In fear, Olivia suddenly finds herself in the other universe staring up at a zeppelin… only to find herself back in our universe moments later, just in time to be struck by her stepdad.

During the following day, Peter reiterates his belief to Elizabeth that he belongs to the world at the bottom of the frozen lake. They also take notice of a field of white tulips that is not native to Florida. She also bonds with Peter when she gives him a model airplane that catches his interest. At the daycare center, Walter notices Olivia’s black eye, but she insists that she only fell. He also sees her drawing of the zeppelin and he realizes that her ability to crossover was caused by an emotional response. He tries a number of tests on her, but they all fail. During this period, Peter and Olivia first catch a glimpse of each other.

Finally hitting upon using Olivia’s fear, Walter gets one of the other children to allow himself to be covered in blood and appear dead, which leads to an alarmed pyrotechnic outburst from Olivia that scorches the room. In the aftermath, she disappears from the daycare center. When Elizabeth arrives with Peter, he flips through Olivia’s drawing pad and sees her drawing of the field of white tulips, as well as a violent representation of her stepdad. While Elizabeth argues with Walter, Peter also slips away. In the alternate world, Walternate and his Elizabeth struggle to make sense over what happened to their son as their marriage begins to crumble.
 
Back in our world, Peter finds Olivia in the field of white tulips and repeats Elizabeth’s advice about using their imagination to change their world. He also suggests that she tell Walter about her stepdad’s abusive behavior. As they leave hand-in-hand, it begins snowing… in Florida. When they return to the daycare center, Olivia is calm until she learns that her stepdad is picking her up. Frightened again, Olivia bursts into Walter’s office and shows him her notebook and the zeppelin she saw in the other world. She also pleads with him to make her stepdad stop hitting her, but it’s not Walter she’s speaking with… Walter is right behind her wondering what’s wrong.

When Olivia’s stepdad arrives, Walter makes a very unsubtle threat against his life if he harms Olivia again. And he tells her that they will try to find a new way to crossover starting the next day. At home, Elizabeth is finally able to convince Peter that she really is his mom and that his prolonged illness affected his memory. But the lie wears heavily on her and she takes a large alcoholic drink while weeping. And in the other universe, Walternate looks through Olivia’s notebook and sees a drawing of her with Peter in the white tulips. He calls his wife and tells her that he knows what happened to their son…

Breakdown:

If "Fringe" is a perennial home run hitter, than this was the grand slam.

I saw the previews for this episode and I was pretty sure that it wasn’t going to work. Sure, the same writers were behind last season’s "Peter" episode, which showed how Walter came to steal Peter away from the other universe. But I felt that all of the ground that could have been covered there was already found. And I was wrong.

Among the regulars, John Noble carries the load this week as the younger Walter Bishop and the equally compelling, Walternate. As Walter, Noble is the more lucid and yet more amoral version of his usual character. The most surprising thing about Walter was that he was still searching for a way to bring Peter back to his home safely. The more we learn about this Walter, the less he seems like the deranged man who stole a son from his family. Even his moral stand at the end against Olivia’s stepfather was a cheer worthy moment. For all of his faults, this Walter is a hero.

As for Walternate, Noble portrayed him as a brilliant, broken man completely unable to conceive what had been done to his family. His initial theory about what happened to Peter was that someone had been surgically altered to look like him. The reveal that Olivia was the one who clued him in on the duel universes was a stunning, "gotcha" moment that worked not only because of the implications, but also from the strong performance by Karley Scott-Collins as the young Olivia.

Amazingly, both Scott-Collins and Chandler Canterbury are really good as the younger versions of Olivia and Peter. Both seemed to capture the spirit of their respective older counterparts but still managed to bring their own strengths to play as well. The previously mentioned scene with Walternate was Olivia’s standout moment; while Canterbury had several, including his attempt to get home through the ice at the beginning of the episode. But most of all, it was Canterbury’s eyes and facial expressions that really sold me that he was Peter as a child.

Orla Brady also deserves notice for her role as Elizabeth Bishop. While Elizabeth openly worries about Peter’s mental state, her’s is clearly breaking down throughout the episode by the constant lies she needs to convince Peter that he belongs with them. That he’s their son and only the illness is messing with his memories. And the pressure of those lies sends her to an alcoholic release and as we know from the show, an eventual suicide.

The one thing that bugs me about this episode is that it seems like a giant retcon. I’m amazed that neither Peter nor Olivia have any memory of their meeting, nor does Olivia remember Walter standing up for her. The display of Olivia’s fire abilities also caught me off guard, as I forgot that they were hinted at during one of last season’s episodes. It’s something that Olivia hasn’t used as an adult… yet. But if she had the ability then, it stands to reason that she’ll still have it when she’s an adult.

I’ve said many times that "Fringe" is best sci-fi show on TV, if not one of the best shows on TV. Pulling off a great episode is no easy feat when two of the stars literally don’t appear in the script. And yet "Fringe" does it, week after week. Hopefully, for many years to come.

Crave Online Rating: 9 out of 10.