FRINGE 4.16 ‘Nothing As It Seems’

Peter and Lincoln investigate a strangely familiar case as Olivia faces the consequences of her memory loss.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Nothing As It Seems"

Writers: Akiva Goldsman & Jeff Pinkner

Director: Frederick E.O. Toye

Previously on "Fringe":

Episode 4.15: "A Short Story About Love"


In a scene reminiscent of a "Fringe" episode from season 1, a man named Marshall Bowman (Neal Huff) experiences a nose bleed on a plane from Paris to New York. Marshall alarms a stewardess by warning her that he needs sedatives immediately or else everyone on the plane will die. Inside the lavatory, Marshall tries to suppress his metamorphosis before an Air Marshal demands that he opens the door. But when he complies, Marshall is fine and he apologizes for the disruption. At the airport, Marshall is detained by TSA agents when he is overcome by pain and he is shown to the restroom.

As the agents find hidden vials of liquid in Marshall's bags, he transforms into a hideous porcupine-like creature before bursting through the door and attacking them. Elsewhere, FBI Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) meets with her FBI appointed psychiatrist, Dr. Anderson (Gabrielle Rose). Neither Anderson nor the FBI know what to make of Olivia's memory swap with herself from a previous timeline. But when it becomes clear that Olivia doesn't know anything about 40% of her life in this timeline, Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick) removes her from active duty.
At home, Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) immediately realizes Olivia's evaluation didn't go well from her expression. But he is soon called in with Lincoln Lee (Seth Gabel) to work the Marshall Bowman case. At the lab, Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) presents Peter with the birthday presents he bought for him over the years after he lost his Peter… and Peter is so touched that he hugs Walter and thanks him. As for the case itself, Peter recognizes Bowman's name and tells the team everything that he can remember from the case in his timeline.

According to Peter, Bowman was an undercover cop who was given a designer drug that transformed him into a creature that caused a plane crash. But in this timeline, Bowman died on the ground after transforming into the creature. As Walter examines the body, Peter speaks to Marshall's sister, Melinda Bowman (Emily Jackson) and he quickly determines that she doesn't know anything pertinent to the case. Peter finds that he can't remember the name of Bowman's infected partner in the original timeline, so he calls Olivia who tells him that the man was Daniel Hicks.

On the way to Hicks' home, Peter gives Lincoln a chance to voice his thoughts about Olivia's feelings and transformation, but Lincoln grudgingly acknowledges that Olivia clearly loves Peter. When they get to Hick's house, they find Olivia waiting for them outside. Despite being removed from active duty, Lincoln allows her to come inside and assist them. Lincoln comes across Daniel in the dark, already transformed. The creature scratches Lincoln and slams him against a wall before fleeing. At the lab, Olivia effusively apologizes to Lincoln as Walter stitches his wounds.

Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole) runs a name check on someone else Olivia remembered, but it's a dead end. However, they spot a strange, Sumerian tattoo on Bowman's arm that leads Peter and Olivia to Edward Markham (Clark Middleton); a bookseller who doesn't know them in this timeline. Fortunately, Markham is a sucker for compliments from a pretty woman and he translates the symbol as meaning "rebirth." Markham also suggests that the symbol is tied to a cult that is rumored to be obsessed with the next evolutionary step of mankind.

Back at the lab, Walter informs Lincoln that he may have been infected by the creature and he can't leave the lab. Elsewhere, Kate Hicks (Gina Holden) returns to her home and finds her transformed husband waiting for her. But rather than recoil in fear, Kate seems to be in on it with her husband as she treats his wounds and tells him that they will be like Adam and Eve. In the lab, Lincoln is pained when he sees how perfectly Peter fits into the makeshift family of the team, but Walter assures Lincoln that there's a place for him as well.

Following up a lead from Walter, Peter and Olivia visit Nina Sharp (Blair Brown) at Massive Dynamic, and Nina is noticeably icy towards Peter as she notes how Olivia is stubborn no matter which timeline she's from. But Nina quickly determines that the project that they were looking for was overseen by David Robert Jones. Back at the lab, Lincoln suddenly devours the bacon off of Walter's peanut butter and bacon sandwiches; causing Walter to realize that the creatures need fat to achieve their transformed state. Walter cures Lincoln of the infection and deduces that the people behind the transformation probably stole liposuction waste to facilitate their change.

At the rooftop of their apartment, the creature that was Daniel Hicks grows wings and carries Kate as they fly away. Back at the lab, Walter works out that Marshall's hidden drugs were used to help suppress the transformation. Using a computer model, Walter determines that the creature can fly and it leads them to a surgical center in a high rise building. Lincoln and Peter debate calling in for backup knowing that it will mean disciplinary action for Olivia, but she beats them to it and calls Broyles herself to set it up.

Lincoln and Peter lead the FBI agents into the surgical center as Olivia and Walter remain at the lab. Olivia soon realizes that the creatures are nocturnal and she calls Peter to tell him to turn on the lights. Meanwhile, Lincoln has another painful encounter with the creature that goes badly until Peter follows Olivia's advice. Momentarily blinded, the creature staggers before Lincoln shoots it dead. Kate then leaps on Lincoln and viciously attacks him before Peter shoots her in the shoulder.  

Later, the Fringe team regroups at the lab and determines that Kate didn't know who created the serum or where it came from. But they believe that Jones is trying to play God. Broyles also takes Olivia aside and puts her back on active duty instead of punishing her. Elsewhere, Marshall's sister, Melinda convinces her lover,  Marco (Alessandro Juliani) to take the serum despite what happened to her brother. Some time later, the two of them appear to be transformed and locked in cages alongside several over mutated humans on a cargo ship in the middle of the ocean.


I had some problems with the way that the "Fringe" writers treated Peter and Olivia as if they were emotional yo-yos in the last few episodes, but it was really heartening to see them back together with Walter almost as if the reboot had never happened. Notice that Walter is increasingly more and more like himself from the previous timeline and it's no longer a big deal when he leaves his lab to go on an investigation. Walter's presentation of Peter's belated birthday gifts was a genuinely touching moment and it made for some fun sight gags during the rest of the episode.

Yes, it's almost all sunshine and happiness for the Fringe team… except for poor, unloved Lincoln Lee; who is clearly nursing a broken heart for Olivia. Lincoln is very much the surrogate geek on this show. He excels at so much, but Lincoln just can't seem to get the girl no matter how hard he tries. Lincoln seemed to grimace when Peter called him a good guy, even though it was true. But who wants to be the "good guy" all the time? Especially if it means that you end up alone.

While Lincoln may be the third wheel in the Olivia and Peter relationship, Walter was right when he said that there's a place for Lincoln on the team and the surrogate family as well… even if Walter primarily likes Lincoln for his chess skills. If nothing else, Lincoln is a fresh victim for Walter's always unpredictable mix of mad science and crazy food. The peanut butter and bacon sandwiches were hilarious, as was Lincoln's initial response to learning that he was infected. I was kind of hoping to see Lincoln "Hulk out" at some point, but that may have been too predictable.

The set up for "Nothing As It Seems" was cleverly linked to the first season episode, "The Transformation." It was also a neat touch that Neal Huff reprised his role as Marshall Bowman; possibly making him one of the few returning actors (aside from the Observers other than September) to never have a scene with any of the "Fringe" regulars. The porcupine creature was well designed, but I definitely had trouble suspending my disbelief when it grew wings and flew. That seemed like a step too far.

Gina Holden was the best thing about Syfy's God-awful "Flash Gordon" TV series, so it was good to see her on this show as the woman in love with a monster… and eager to become one herself. Holden's brief screentime opposite the creature that was her husband had two really good moments: Kate's initial scene in her apartment and when Kate cried while the creature died by her side. The downside is that Kate and Marshall's sister Miranda were really under developed and we never understood why they wanted this transformation so badly. It's an angle that would have been worth exploring. Normally, "Fringe" has been very good about humanizing its adversaries and allowing the viewers to sympathize with them. The last few episodes seem to have gotten away from that.

Fortunately, the lead characters of "Fringe" are more than interesting enough to carry the show by themselves. There was some nice and subtle tension in the scene between Peter, Olivia and Nina; who seemed very unhappy to be near the man who she could rightfully blame for the loss of her surrogate daughter. Olivia and Nina had none of the closeness that they shared in the previous episodes this season and it was almost as if they were strangers again… which is probably more accurate than Nina would have liked. It's the one real tragedy out of Olivia's returning memories.

It was probably a smart decision to get Olivia reinstated quickly, but it seemed a little bit too easy for Broyles to simply forgive her for disobeying his orders. I'm not going to argue against keeping the team together, that just wasn't a very dramatic way to resolve that issue.

Next week's episode looks like an overdue return to the alternate world… and there was something more ominous about the trailer than usual; almost as if it was teasing a character death next week. And because next week looks to be Lincoln Lee centric, it makes him the most likely to perish. At least one version of him. There is a spare, I just hope that I'm wrong.