Monday, December 26, 2011

Fringe 4.06: "And Those We Left Behind"

“I was important to you, wasn't I? I mean, the other version of me? Because I see the way you look at me when you think I'm not aware.”

While “And Those We Left Behind” wasn’t an especially stand-out episode of “Fringe,” I did appreciate that it seemed to signal where the rest of the season is going. It’s pretty clear that Peter needs to go back to his (adopted) universe. There isn’t going to be a place for him long-term in the amber universe. And I think that’s for the best. “Fringe” became what it was because of the relationships between the three main characters. In the early days of the series which were filled with questionable Monster of the Week stories, Walter and Peter’s relationship in particular gave the show depth and an aspect that was worth watching. Last season, I appreciated the many creative risks the writing team decided to take. Some of them were a home run, and others struck out, but I applauded the moxie all the same. Peter’s disappearance and reappearance in the wrong universe without any way to check back on the characters we got to know for three years is just one twist too far. The case of the week in this episode could have been emotionally affecting, but it was just overpowered by the wrongness of not having seen two-thirds of the main characters of the series all season.

The episode opens with an idyllic scene of Peter and Olivia having the “perfect day.” They’re outside in a grassy area, and the colors are all saturated. Because this is actually a happy scene, it’s obvious that it’s a dream. It turns out to be Peter’s dream, and we see him wake up in his FBI holding cell. Soon enough, the “real” (Amber universe) Olivia appears at the doorway. The Fringe team has a case that Olivia thinks might be related to Peter’s appearance in the Amber universe. It involves time distortions. We then get our introduction to the actual case of the week. A mom and daughter are having some bonding time in an apartment kitchen while the mom washes up dishes. All of a sudden, the building looks burned out and the daughter is suddenly one year old. The mom, clearly confused, rushes her daughter out of the building. As soon as they’re safely outside, the daughter looks five years old again.

On the way to the burned out building, Olivia and Peter talk a bit, but Olivia is going out of her way to be cold and professional. At the scene of the incident, Astrid runs a test with a very strange device and confirms that there has been no bleed-through from the Other Side at this location. So this isn’t related to Walternate and his minions. It turns out that there was a fire in this particular building four years ago, and the team thinks that the building may have temporarily flashed back to that time. Walter wants nothing to do with this investigation because Peter is involved (and he’s still refusing to talk to Peter), but Broyles orders him to help out anyway. A surly Walter is certainly not going to be a fun Walter to work with, that’s for sure.

A surly Walter is also not a very effective scientist. He does an extremely quick and cursory exam of Peter because he really doesn’t want to spend a second more with Peter than he has to. Peter, who thinks there may be something to the theory that his reappearance is connected to the case, is pretty incredulous that Walter didn’t do a more thorough job. Peter therefore decides to start working the case on his own, breaking out Walter’s clear markerboard to start running some equations. He thinks his appearance may have caused time displacements to start happening, and he also thinks the problem is going to get much worse very quickly. As if on cue, a group of hipster teens almost run into a train that magically appears across a road on their way to a concert.

Olivia and Peter bond a bit while investigating the burned out building, but Walter is still being incredibly stubborn about not wanting to help with the case. Lincoln interrupts all this with the news of the train incident. I was kind of enjoying Lincoln in the early episodes this season when Peter was missing, but now that Peter is back, I see how superfluous Lincoln is and how his chemistry with Olivia doesn’t hold a candle to Peter’s. Anyway, things start to go wonky time-wise when the team starts to investigate the train. Peter is gathering stuff at the lab to help with the investigation, when all of a sudden, he skips ahead in time and is at the train site. His investigation of the scene is all out of order because he keeps slipping around in time, and it’s really starting to worry him. Peter does manage to detect a type of radiation that can only be man-made, though, which means that there must be an actual person behind what is going on.

We soon get an idea of just who this person behind the time distortion might be. A woman, Kate, is sitting in her living room furiously scribbling equations while her husband, Raymond looks on. Raymond seems to bending over backwards to help Kate with her work. He also has a watch that is counting down, and when the countdown ends, there is a time jump. All of a sudden, Kate is sitting in a different chair by the window. She seems sick, and she doesn’t recognize Raymond anymore. At Walter’s lab, the team is looking at a map of where the last two time events took place. Lincoln gets a call about two more events and adds them to the map. This leads Walter to finally jump in with a theory. He thinks the time events are patterned in a Fibbonanci’s Golden Spiral, and the center of the spiral is Brookline. Raymond and Kate’s house just happens to be in Brookline. Just to make them seem even more suspicious, we see that Raymond has some complicated machinery set up in his basement. The machine seems to allow Raymond to turn back time to a specific day so Kate can keep working on her equations before getting sick.

Raymond notices the abundance of police and FBI vehicles that have turned up in his neighborhood, and he knows it’s time for some drastic action. He finally shows Kate the basement and tells her the truth about the machine and her future condition. She has early onset Alzheimers. He needs her help in finishing the equations and making the machine more stable. As it is, it can only turn back time in short bursts, and Raymond essentially wants to live in Kate’s last healthy days forever. Outside the house a police officer accidentally walks through the time bubble surrounding Raymond and Kate’s house, and the Fringe team notices a snapping sound when this happens. All of a sudden, the police officer screams and disintegrates. Walter says this happened because you can’t just walk through a time bubble. Before he can finish his explanation, Peter jumps in to say they need a Faraday Cage. Walter begrudgingly agrees to build one.

When Walter’s “Walter Bishop Faraday Harness” arrives at the scene, both Peter and Olivia volunteer to be the one to wear it into Kate and Raymond’s house. Peter wins that argument, because he has a better chance of knowing how to shut down Raymond’s machine. Just as Kate is telling Raymond that she solved the equations to fix the time machine (but she conveniently hasn’t written down the solution yet), Kate and Raymond hear Peter enter the house. Peter decides to venture down into the basement, and once he does, Raymond knocks him out. Things are looking pretty dire for the Fringe team. Lincoln is on site at a tunnel that is predicted to be the next time distortion site. The tunnel is less than four years old, so if time is turned back, the tunnel will collapse, killing all passengers left inside. Way to add a ticking countdown clock, guys. Lincoln is trying to clear people out of the tunnel before it disappears, but it appears to be too late. A distortion has already started.

Peter regains consciousness in Kate and Raymond’s basement, and he explains what’s going on with the other distortion sites. Kate explains that the machine can be shut down, but it has to be done in a specific way to avoid mass destruction. She’ll only agree to do it if Raymond won’t be prosecuted. While Peter is outside trying to negotiate immunity for Raymond, Kate appears to finish writing down her equation. Raymond says he’s going to use it to rebuild the machine elsewhere and bring Kate back for good. When Peter gets back with assurances that Raymond won’t be prosecuted, Raymond turns off the machine. The water pouring into the tunnel where Lincoln is suddenly stops. As the FBI is taking the time machine equipment from the house, Raymond opens Kate’s notebook and sees that she crossed out all of the equations in it. She also wrote a note telling Raymond to go on with his life. He won’t be building that second machine after all.

Back at the FBI, Broyles congratulates Peter for a job well done. As a reward, Peter isn’t going to have to live in a holding cell anymore. Broyles discovers Walter has access to Harvard campus housing, and Broyles gives Peter that house. As Olivia shows Peter his new abode, we see that it’s the same house Peter and Walter lived in back in the Original Recipe blue universe. Olivia seems to have newfound respect for Peter following this mission. She tells him that she knows “his” Olivia must have been very special to him, because she’s noticed how he looks at her when he thinks she’s not paying attention. She says she hopes Peter finds “his” Olivia again. Even better, she’s going to try to convince Walter to finally help set things right. Maybe we’ll actually get back to the blue universe before this show is cancelled after all!

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