Monday, December 19, 2011

Fringe 4.05: "Novation"

“I can't explain it Walter. I don't know why he's here, or where he's come from. But, maybe, you've just been given a second chance.”

“Novation” explored the implications of Peter suddenly blinking back into existence after the machine that joined the two universes erased him. The Fringe team doesn’t quite know what to make of him, and Peter doesn’t quite know what to make of his situation, either. He is surrounded by all these people who look like people he knew and loved, but they all act completely differently. In that sense, it’s appropriate that the mystery of the week (sort-of…this was a more mythology-based episode than stand-alone) involved the shapeshifters. These aren’t run-of-the-mill shapeshifters, though. They’re the shapeshifter-human hybrids we saw earlier this season. One of them is still running around and causing all kinds of trouble for our Fringe team.

The episode opens with Peter being taken to an FBI holding facility. He knows way too much classified information to be allowed out in the wild. Peter demands to speak with Walter, and Olivia goes back to the lab to try and make that happen. She finds Walter in a rather scary situation. He is hooked up to a machine that is pumping him full of powerful barbiturates. Walter is hoping it will allow him to sleep. Olivia puts a stop to it and tells Walter he has to get ready to go to the FBI holding facility. Peter has said that Walter is the only person he will talk to, and they need Walter to try and interrogate Peter.

Meanwhile, we get our first glimpse of the case of the week. A shapeshifter is causing quite a bit of havoc in a Vermont home. This particular shapeshifter is disguised as a man’s wife, and when the man comes home, she gets violent and demands that he tell her where he hid certain files that she has been unable to find. The place has been torn apart from her search. The man has no clue what she’s talking about, and it’s pretty clear that the shapeshifter is not going to take no for an answer.

Once he gets himself together, Walter is brought to the FBI holding facility, and despite being given a list of questions from Broyles, the “interrogation” does go well at all. Peter does more questioning than Walter. Peter has figured out that he was supposed to be deleted after he activated the machine, and he desperately wants Walter’s help in figuring out why he’s back. Walter just gets freaked out, though, and he runs out of the room. I guess being freaked out is understandable considering his son, who he lost twice, seems to be back yet again. Before the scene sends, there are some significant glances between Peter and Olivia, which made me happy, of course.

Lincoln calls Olivia to the scene of the shapeshifter incident from the beginning of the episode. It turs out that the shapeshifter killed both the woman she was impersonating and her boyfriend. The shapeshifter had been targeting the woman’s estranged husband, a former Massive Dynamic employee, but screwed up. The Fringe team begins a race to find the husband, Dr. Truss, but the shapeshifter gets to him first. He lives in rural Vermont, and the shapeshifter convinces him to come with her by saying that his cellular replication research has been used to cure her cancer. The treatment isn’t quite holding, and she says she needs his help.

Olivia and Lincoln pay a visit to Nina. In this universe, Nina apparently acted as Olivia’s mom once Olivia’s mom passed away. I thought that was a kind of interesting tiny change, although I’m not sure what larger implications it might have. Nina tells Olivia and Lincoln about Truss’ cellular replication research, and she says that William Bell ended up personally shutting it down. Back at Fringe HQ, Olivia hypothesizes that the shapeshifters want cellular regeneration technology because they were flawed and need to be repaired. Peter has messed with the intercom in his cell (which was a very “Lost” circa season 3 Hydra Island arc moment), so he has heard everything Olivia said. He uses the intercom to tell the Fringe folks that he knows about shapeshifter memory disks. He offers to help the team in exchange for a second meeting with Walter.

Meanwhile, the shapeshifter and Dr. Truss need to stop at a gas station. Dr. Truss tries to have a heart to heart with the shapeshifter about the fact that they both have children, but the shapeshifter is not feeling it at all. While Dr. Truss is inside the convenience store paying for gas, a state trooper pulls up and recognizes the license plate on the car. He calls for backup, but before help arrives, the shapeshifter kills him. Dr. Truss exits the convenience store and returns to his car, unaware of the violence that has taken place in his absence.

Olivia and Lincoln are having a bit of a heart to heart about Peter (Olivia is kind of thrown by the fact that this man from her dreams has suddenly appeared for real) when they get word about the sighting of Dr. Truss’ vehicle at the Vermont gas station/convenience store. Using the same kind of magical rapid transportation that allows the Fringe team to travel back and forth between Boston and New York on a whim several times in one episode, Olivia and Lincoln immediately appear at the Vermont convenience store in the next scene. They are watching the CCTV footage of Dr. Truss paying for gas in the store. They realize that Dr. Truss looks like a willing accomplice and probably doesn’t realize he’s with a dangerous shapeshifter. Meanwhile, the shapeshifter shows Dr. Truss the lab where he’s going to work. After a little investigation, Dr. Truss thinks he can solve the shapeshifter’s problem. Her genome is currently not propagating fully in the artificial tissue. Whatever that means.

In Boston, Nina pays Walter a visit at the lab. Apparently, in this universe, they don’t get along nearly as well as they did in the Original Recipe universe. Walter kind of blamed Nina for Peter’s death for a while, then when he started blaming himself, he got buried in a whole heap of self-loathing. Now Walter doesn’t think he deserves to be reunited with our Peter. Nina tries to change his mind about that. What’s interesting is that despite all the paranoia the FBI-affiliated characters are exhibiting, Walter has no doubt that the person he met is actually Peter from some universe or another. He sees it in his eyes. Which I guess is supposed to make us think about how Peter couldn’t recognize that Alt-livia wasn’t his Olivia, even when he looked in her eyes.

At Fringe HQ, Peter gives Broyles an update on his research. These new shapeshifters store the information of everyone they have been. They can shift back to any form they have taken in the past. This leads Peter to warn that pretty much anyone can be a shapeshifter now. That observation struck me as a big, honing Chekhov’s gun. Speaking of shapeshifters taking past forms, over at Dr. Truss’ new lab, he gives the shapeshifter an injection, but instead of feeling better, she turns into the form of Dr. Truss’ estranged wife (the woman from the beginning of the episode). Dr. Truss understandably freaks out about this, and the shapeshifter’s response is to attack him.

Meanwhile, Peter has discovered that he’s going to need a bigger computer to properly study the memory chips from the new shapeshifters. He figures out that the memory chips are broadcasting something, and when he gets that bigger computer, he discovers that the “something” is essentially shapeshifter Lojack. The signal can tell him where the shapeshifter is located. Before the powers that be can discover he’s broken in, he finds the location of the shapeshifter we’ve been following in this episode at Truss’ lab. At the lab, Truss is still really freaked out. He tries to inject the shapeshifter with something that will destroy her, but she recognizes what it is and stops him. The FBI raids the lab, but the shapeshifter manages to get away by disguising herself as one of the agents who participated in the raid. So I guess she’s still at large and will most definitely be back in a future episode.

After all the excitement has died down, Walter pays another visit to Peter. He tells Peter that he’s not going to help Peter get back to his proper universe. He feels like he’s meddled with the universes quite enough for one lifetime, and he paid for that dearly. Meanwhile the shapeshifter gets a hold of a typewriter. She sends word back to the Other Side that Truss fixed the cellular replication problem. More shapeshifters are going to be sent between the universes as soon as possible.

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