Sunday, March 6, 2011

Fringe 3.15: "Subject 13"

“But how did you know I’d come here?”
“Because it was the only drawing that looked happy.”
-Olivia and Peter

I’m breaking with my personal tradition and making this episode’s Quote a double. It only seems appropriate that an exchange between Olivia and Peter would open this blog post, because this episode was about the two of them and how their lives have intertwined, all the way back to when they were children. This episode of “Fringe” was told entirely in mid-80’s flashback, without even the framing device used in “Peter” of current day Walter telling Olivia the story of what happened back then. I was excited when I heard about the concept of this episode, specifically the image of Peter and Olivia as small children sitting in a field of white tulips. It excited me because it reminded me so powerfully of my favorite television show of all time, Pushing Daisies. I just couldn’t get the image of young Ned and Chuck in a field of brilliant yellow sunflowers under a brilliant blue sky out of my head. Because this is “Fringe,” what we got here in this episode was much grittier, but I still found it intriguing because of all the new questions it raised.

A flashback episode of “Fringe” wouldn’t be complete without the 80’s version of the opening title sequence that we got the last time “Fringe” visited this time period. After the retro titles, we see that we’re picking up not long after the last flashback episode left off. Peter is not adjusting well to our universe at all. His “mother,” Elizabeth, finds a note on his bed simply stating that he “wants to go home.” Panicked, she runs out to Reiden Lake, and there she finds her new “son” standing on ice in the middle of the lake, trying to break the surface so he can sink down into the freezing water. He thinks that this is the way back to the Other Side. Peter succeeds in breaking through the ice, and the heavy object to which he’s tied himself propels him towards the bottom of the lake. Elizabeth jumps in and saves him just in time.

Walter is not at the lake while all this is going on. He’s in Jacksonville, overseeing the daycare center that is a front for his Cortexaphan experiments. One of the students, is, of course, Olivia. The kids are all standing around in a circle while Walter leads them in meditation, presumably in an effort to see if they’ll jump to the Other Side. A little boy, who turns out to be Nick (pyro girl’s boyfriend), worries about taking his teddy bear to the other side, and Olivia tells him to just put the bear on his feet. It turns out Walter is hoping he can return Peter to the Other Side in much the same way as Nick’s teddy bear. Walter’s assistant interrupts to inform him that Elizabeth is so distressed over something that she’s flown all the way to Jacksonville, so Walter ends the session early.

At their Jacksonville apartment, Walter and Elizabeth argue over what to do about Peter, given his recent outburst. Walter still genuinely wants to return Peter to the Other Side by using the children, and Elizabeth pleads for him to hurry up. She’s extremely upset that she can’t keep Peter safe. The Bishops aren’t the only ones having a rough evening. We see a brief scene of Olivia at home, being yelled at menacingly by her stepfather. Olivia is afraid, and she starts to run from him. This only enrages her stepfather further, and in her terror, Olivia briefly crosses over to the Other Side. She doesn’t realize what has happened, but as viewers, we know exactly what it means when she’s suddenly standing in a field and a Zeppelin is lazily floating over her head.

At school the next day, Olivia is very withdrawn thanks to the abuse and accompanying black eye. Walter talks to her to try to figure out what is wrong. She claims the black eye is just from falling, but Walter knows she’s not telling the truth. More interesting to Walter, however, is the fact that Olivia has drawn a picture of a Zeppelin in her sketch book. He realizes that in her heightened emotional state, Olivia was able to cross over. Thus begins a series of experiments on Olivia. Walter induces a variety of emotional states more pleasant or at least tolerable than abuse, hoping one will work equally as well. He lets her play with toys, he gives her an impossible puzzle to solve, and so on. The whole sequence is extremely clever from a visual standpoint. It’s told as a series of spliced together Betamax clips of experiment footage that Walter intends to send to William Bell for his opinion.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth and Peter are still having a tough time. Peter refuses to listen to Elizabeth or acknowledge her as his mother. He vehemently insists he’s not crazy and desperately wants to go “home.” Elizabeth decides to take Peter along with her to run some errands and get some fresh air. For good behavior, he’s rewarded with a trip to the toy store. There’s some fascinating work done here by the two actors where Peter will go up to a toy, show interest in it, but as soon as he realizes Elizabeth is watching him, stop what he’s doing. The draw of a toy plane is too much for him, though, and he keeps playing with it, making it zoom around, despite Elizabeth’s attention. She buys him the plane, and he takes it with him on a trip to Walter’s “day care.” At the day care, he sees Olivia in one of the testing rooms, just sitting there, and he’s transfixed by her. Walter notices, calling Olivia “beguiling,” and Elizabeth takes Peter away.

Walter has come to the conclusion that no emotion other than genuine fear will be sufficient to trigger Olivia to jump to the Other Side. He sets up quite the creepy scenario. Olivia is happily playing when, all of a sudden, the lights go out. The lights are out for just long enough for Olivia to start panicking, and when the lights come back on, things are even worse. She sees Nick lying on the ground, looking bloodied. All of a sudden, everything goes up in flames. At the apartment, Elizabeth hears sirens scream as fire trucks speed down the street in the direction of the day care. She calls the day care and gets a busy signal. Because dragging your “son” to the possible scene of a major emergency is what every good mother does, Elizabeth gets Peter in the car and heads to the day care to investigate. There’s been a fire and Olivia is missing. Peter looks through Olivia’s sketchbook while Elizabeth looks through Walter’s notes. In the sketchbook, peter sees a drawing of an angry man and a drawing of a field of white tulips. Elizabeth sees notes about how Walter thinks only the combination of fear and love Olivia feels about her stepfather will trigger her jumps. At that moment, Walter’s assistant says she can’t find Peter.

We flash to the Other Side and find that, not surprisingly, the Alt-Bishops are in just as much disarray as their doppelgangers. Walternate’s been drinking heavily, and he’s been watching news reports about Peter’s kidnapping. The whole situation has done quite a number on the Alt-Bishop marriage. Alt-Elizabeth begs Walternate not to go down to Florida for work this coming week and just stay at home with her. She wants Walter to try to start to heal and work on their marriage. When she wakes up the next morning, though, he’s not in bed. We see him arrive in Florida, where he runs “Bishop Dynamic,” the Other Side doppelganger to Massive Dynamic, I presume. His office has a nice view of the Kennedy Space Center shuttle launch pads, which I think is pretty much the coolest thing ever (have I ever mentioned that I’m a big time space nerd?).

Back in our universe, Peter finds Olivia in a field of white tulips which Elizabeth had pointed out to him on their car ride earlier in the day. The moment they have is a bit “Pushing Daisies,” although, as I said before, since this is “Fringe,” it wasn’t quite as charming. There was a lot more angst. How there could be more angst than Ned and Chuck having their first kiss at their respective parents’ funerals I’m not quite sure, but somehow the “Fringe” folks managed it. Olivia admits to Peter that her stepfather is responsible for her black eye, and Peter adamantly tells Olivia that he thinks she should tell Walter about it. They hold hands briefly as they take a break from the craziness and just try to be kids for a little while.

Back at the day care, police are questioning everyone about Peter and Olivia’s disappearance. The two kids choose that moment to reappear together. A fussing Elizabeth leads Peter away. Olivia asks Walter’s assistant to see “Dr. Walter,” presumably so she can come clean about her stepfather. The assistant isn’t so sure, but Olivia makes a run for it and bursts into Walter’s office. She begs Walter for help and hands a very confused Walter her sketchbook. The door opens and our Walter walks in behind Olivia. Olivia is extremely confused. It turns out she had briefly crossed over and was speaking to Walternate. This will have huge implications, because Walternate now has Olivia’s sketchbook, which contains a drawing of her and Peter. He now knows his son is in an alternate universe, and this is probably when he began to prepare for war against us.

Our Walter seems sympathetic to Olivia’s plight, and he threatens Olivia’s stepfather when he comes to pick her up, saying that he will contact child protective services if Olivia is ever hurt again. He also mentions he knows some people who are pretty high up in government, and they will make sure that any CPS incidents cause him trouble for a good long time. Olivia’s stepfather doesn’t seem very receptive to Walter’s threat. Back at the Bishop apartment, Peter finally starts to believe Elizabeth when she insists she’s his mom and he was just confused from being sick for so long. Privately, Elizabeth is devastated by what she has done to her doppelganger. She opens a cabinet, pulls out a bottle of liquor and a glass, and starts drinking. It’s very symmetrical to Walternate drinking on the Other Side.

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