Saturday, April 10, 2010

Fringe 2.16: "Peter"

“Please, Olivia. I need to explain.”


“Peter” was quite possibly the best episode “Fringe” has produced. I think that’s pretty much thanks to John Noble, because most of the episode was a flashback, and Walter was the only regular character (besides a cameo from Nina Sharp) to appear in it. This episode took us back to the 80’s to see just why and how the kidnapping of Peter from the Other Side went down. The “Fringe” production team really embraced the 80’s-ness. Even the title sequence was made 80’s tastic with different script and a synthesized version of the theme music. Oh, and the names of fringe science disciplines that flashed on the screen were different, too. It was really cool how much thought was put into such a small part of the overall show.

Olivia shows up at the Bishop house late one night. She’s happy to find out that Peter isn’t home, because she needs to talk to Walter. She needs a reason why she shouldn’t tell Peter that when she looked at him before their “not date” night, he had the glimmer of the Other Side. Walter knows that it looks bad, but yes, Peter is originally from the Other Side, and yes, Walter had a reason for bringing him to our universe. His intentions really were good, but you know what they say about good intentions. Almost the entirety of the episode from here on out until the final scene is all a flashback to 1985, the year when Walter first traveled to the Other Side and nabbed Peter.

Walter and William Bell had built a “window” that would let them see the Other Side. Bell was off “in Europe” securing funding, so Walter was left to try to sell the technology in the States. Early in the episode, we see him showing some Army types a small cell phone- unheard of in 1985. Walter has another, more under-the-radar, use for the window. Peter is very sick with an unusual genetic disease for which there is no known cure. Walter figures that his Other Side doppelganger (hilariously dubbed “Walternate”), who has access to more advanced technology, is probably working on a cure, too. Walter has the window set up in his lab so he can spy on Walternate and perhaps discover a cure for Peter.

Walter’s plan doesn’t work quite quickly enough. Walter is spending another marathon session in the lab when his wife, Elizabeth, calls him to say he needs to come home immediately. Peter is still alive, but he is acting very different. Walter arrives home to see Peter still in bed practicing a manipulation trick with a coin. He’s not getting it quite right, and Walter tries to correct his technique. It’s then that the scene goes from kind of cute to heartbreaking. Peter tells Walter he can have the coin when Peter dies. Walter halfheartedly tries to reassure Peter that he’s not going to die, but it’s too late. Peter dies in Walter’s arms.

The funeral is a fairly typical-for-TV affair. One interesting detail is that Nina Sharp attended the funeral. Apparently she was quite close to Peter, which I find kind of odd. William Bell is still nowhere to be found. I’m fairly certain Bell has moved beyond the “window” technology without Walter, and “in Europe” actually means “on the Other Side.” As I suppose is inevitable in this sort of situation, Walter and Elizabeth spend a significant amount of time following the funeral second guessing the life they gave Peter. They both worry they spent so much time protecting him that they didn’t really let him live the short life he had. To provide some modicum of comfort, Walter sets up the window in Peter’s room and shows Elizabeth the Peter from the Other Side. He’s still sick, but he’s also still very much alive.

Walter becomes rather obsessed with watching the Other Side, particularly watching Walternate continue to try and find a cure. One night as Walter is drunkenly watching Walternate, he sees Walternate’s mixture turn blue. This presumably indicates that Walternate has found a cure. At the moment when the beaker turns blue, however, Walternate is a little distracted. He’s talking to the Observer of all people. By the time Walternate looks back at his lab bench, the mixture is no longer blue. Walter is devastated. He knows that with a little tweaking, Walternate has a cure, but he completely missed it. Walter can’t bear the fact that Peter might die again on his watch.

Walter wants to actually cross over to the Other Side in his quest to save Peter, and his assistant, Dr. Warren, thinks that’s a horrible idea. The difference of opinion tears the two coworkers apart pretty severely, with Walter even taking issue with the fact that Dr. Warren is somewhat religious. He basically insults her and everything she believes in because he just can’t take anyone disagreeing with his plan. Dr. Warren, understandably, warns Nina Sharp what Walter is planning.

The big showdown takes place near the Bishop family lakeside home, where Walter has set up a device to create a portal between the two worlds. His plan is to cross over with a vial of the cure and save Peter. Nina and Dr. Warren confront Walter by the lake, but Walter still refuses to listen. The confrontation between Walter and Nina becomes physical, and Walter successfully fights his way through the portal. Two very bad things happened as a result of this. One of Nina’s arms (presumably the one that’s robotic today) touches the portal and goes shimmery. Also, once Walter reaches the Other Side, he realizes that his vial of the cure has broken. In order to save Peter, he’s going to have to bring him back to our universe and make more cure.

Walter pretty much has arrived just in time. The same scene that played out between Walter and Peter in our universe is now playing out between Elizabeth and Peter on the Other Side. Walter bursts into the lake house and tells Elizabeth that he’s found a cure. Elizabeth wants to come to the lab with Walter, but of course that can’t happen. Walter convinces her to stay home by telling her how long the treatment is going to take. He then hightails it back to the portal. I was wondering why Peter has no memory of any of the major differences between our universe and the Other Side, but I suppose the fact that he was bedridden for much of his childhood might be an explanation.

Walter and Peter arrive back in our universe, and the lake ice promptly cracks beneath their feet. They’re instantly both in icy water. The Observer saves both their lives. It turns out that our original Observer that we met back in season 1 (as opposed to the other Observers we met in “August”) got in a bit of trouble for distracting Walternate from the cure. He was instructed to make things right and that Peter was important and needed to be protected. Those were the extenuating circumstances he mentioned in “August,” actually. It was at this moment when I really appreciated the amount of mythology we were becoming privy to in this episode. We find out the truth behind Peter’s car accident rescue story he told in Season 1, and we find out just why the Observers allowed for that to be corrected.

Walter successfully gets Peter to his lab and begins treatments. He still plans to return Peter to the Other Side once he is healthy. Everything changes, though, when Elizabeth (from our universe) arrives at the lab to confront Walter. She was angry, but when she sees Peter, she just melts. At that moment, Walter knows that he won’t be returning Peter back to the other side. Neither he nor Elizabeth could stand to lose him again.

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