Review: Fringe, Season 2, Episode 16: Peter – part II
Before jumping into the rest of this episode’s review, the fact that the entirety of this episode (apart from the first and last scenes between Olivia and Walter) comes from Walter’s memory needs to be underlined and quite thoroughly so. After all, Walter has shown in the last year and half that his memory isn’t the best, which he himself admits in this very episode:
Walter: I invented this (the window) after William and I learned that we had doubles on the other side. Or maybe it was before. I can’t remember.
And so we must ask ourselves: how much of the information we are given in this episode is accurate? Walter has been known in the past to lie, either directly or by omission. Why wouldn’t he do it now?
On top of that, Fringe is a JJ Abrams show!
For the sake of this review (and also for that of our collective sanity) let’s assume, pending blatant, glaring contradictions, that the information in this episode is accurate, but without ever forgetting that it is all according to Walter.
Just as I wonder at Walter’s honesty, I’m fairly certain so does Olivia, an upset FBI agent who has been lied to before and experimented on as a child by Walter. However, by the end of the episode, Olivia’s face did express sympathy for what Walter went through. Perhaps what is going to make or break this relationship is how long Walter is going to keep the truth from Peter and at what cost. One thing seems certain to me: it certainly doesn’t mean the end of Olivia and Walter being friends.
The cell phone at the beginning of the episode is intriguing not only for the reasons mentioned in part I of this review, but also with regards to the show’s timeline. Walter clearly tells the generals that by then (1985), he and William had not yet visited the alternate universe. Later in the episode, Carla talks about how they had been lying about the capacity to travel to the alternate universe because of the theoretical danger of tearing the fabric between the two universes. However, in 1982-1983, Olive had already identified the ‘glimmer’ of objects from the other side. By 1986, Walter and William had the capability to bring over a car from the alternate universe with a CD player inside (episode: ‘Jacksonville’), probably with the help of the extra money they got from the military in 1985. So it would imply that the technology used by 1986 was already being used in 1981-1982 to bring over little objects, one of which Olive identified, and it would imply that Walter and William had lied to Carla. Or perhaps a crude version of the window existed in 1981-1982 and Olive identified the ‘glimmer’ in what she saw on the other side?
Another stroke of storytelling brilliance was the zeppelin docking station, the first things the generals saw through the ‘window’. The Empire State Building was built with such a docking station in mind – yes, in real life! – but unfortunately, it didn’t work out: “…for such a well-thought-out building, it was remarkably unprepared for its role as aviation pioneer. (…) Confronted with such daunting realities, Smith dispensed bland assurances that “there must be some way to work that thing out.” He insisted that the US Navy was a partner in the project and its dirigible Los Angeles would dock at the mast. (…) Passenger airship service was the province of Germany’s Zeppelin Company, and its head, Hugo Eckener, did not hide his skepticism. That’s fortunate for New York. Just imagine if the hydrogen-filled Hindenburg had exploded over midtown Manhattan instead of Lakehurst, New Jersey” (source). Needless to say, for those who knew this, it was yet another reminder of the technological discrepancy between our universe and alter-universe.
Other intriguing detail from this show’s opening is the fact that William Bell is in Europe rather than with Walter. This is rather contradictory, for why wouldn’t Bell be with Walter at this very important meeting that would guarantee funding from the US military, something that would, in Walter’s own word later in the show, “increase the power and the wealth and the legend of William Bell”?
The nerd in me totally squealed at Walter explanation of the window’s technology to the generals: “capturing errant photons from the universe beside ours. The window stretches the membrane between the two universes and allows them to see the image of alternate universe”. My knowledge of physics is quite unfortunately rather limited, I have been reading one particular physics forum (nerd alert!) and although I don’t understand most of it (yet), it’s rather quite fascinating. (here, here, here and here). And there is, as always, faithful Wikipedia (here and here).
As for Carla Warren, it’s interesting to note that not only she was awesome, 1985 style permed blond hair and all, but also that she’s not the lab assistant we thought she was, but rather a phD whom Walter describes as his colleague. Although it is shown later on that Walter is still the one in charge:
Walter: I will not be needing your assistance today, Dr. Warren. That will be all.
When Carla comes into the lab the morning after Waltnernate missed the cure, 1985!Walter is surprisingly calm and coherent despite the shock of Walternate missing the cure by mere moments and not having slept all night (yet again a reflection of the character of the man Walter used to be before being broken).
In another bout of amazing storytelling, a heavily loaded three minute exchange between Carla and Walter, when the former came into the lab in the morning to find the latter working on creating a door to the alternate universe, gave us a wealth of information:
Walter: The Casimir effect should produce a thinner and more porous region of space/time. I only need to affect the area for long enough to cross over to the other side with a vial of the cure. And then of course recreate the effect to cross back again. (…)
Carla: Walter, I’m sorry, but you can’t.
Walter: Yes. Yes, I think I can.
Carla: No, Walter, I mean you can’t. Shattering the wall between the two universes would rupture the fundamental constants of nature.
Walter: That’s a theory. We don’t know that.
Carla: It’s a good theory. It’s why we have been lying to the military, telling them that it’s impossible. Walter, there has to be a line somewhere. There has to be a line we can’t cross. (…) Knowledge cannot be pursued without morality.
Walter: You sound like a proud, southern, sanctimonious preacher!
Carla: I might go to church on Sunday Walter but I also have three degrees in theoretical physics, and I am telling you, you cannot do this. We both know the amount of energy required to create a portal will forever ruin both universes. For the sake of one life, you will destroy the world. Some things are not ours to tamper with. Some things are God’s.
Walter: My son is dying, Dr. Warren. I will not allow that to happen again. There’s only room for one God in this lab, and it’s not yours.
There are just so many reasons why this exchange was absolutely amazing:
1 – Ever since David Robert Jones identified it as a soft spot (‘A New Day in the Old Town’, 1×20), the question of what made Lake Reiden so has been asked. We finally find out that Lake Reiden was made important by Walter out of sheer coincidence, because of the simple fact of its proximity: “The lake. It’s perfect. The water will absorb the excess energy.”
2 – The relationship between the soft spots and the location of the events of the Pattern: Walter’s tearing the fabric between the two universes at Lake Reiden has become like the bullet hole in a windshield: from it irradiates cracks and, eventually, more holes, until the entire things shatters.
3 – The arrogant Walter of which we had a glimpse of in ‘Grey Matters’ (2×10) might have been born out of this confrontation, as he started making excuses for something he clearly knew was wrong: “That’s a theory”. Perhaps the weight of the responsibility for having torn the fabric between the universes and kicked off the events of the Pattern combined with the guilt at having put Walternate and alter-Elizabeth through the pain of losing a child was what did Walter in.
2010!Walter: It was the first hole, Olivia. The first breach. The first crack in the Pattern of cracks, pieces between the worlds. And it’s my fault. You can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a child.
4 – The very current discussion about The Large Hadron Collider is reflected in the discussion about the theoretical consequences of tearing the fabric between the universes. Carla’s use of a Dr. Robert Oppenheimer quote (“I am become death, the destroyer of world”) is very potent and quite apt, a simple way to make an important point in the Fringe mythology.
5 – This exchange is all the more interesting that Walter was the one who helped strike the much needed balance between religion and science in ‘Unearthed’ (2×11).
6 – Was Carla one of the reasons behind Walter not attempting previously to open the portal between the universes as William had wanted him to? And if so, could it be that the ‘fire accident’ at the lab was a way to get rid of an obstacle to, say, the increase in the power and wealth of William Bell? And since Peter and Astrid seem to have stepped into the role of keeping Walter in check, could it mean that they, too, could become targets?
Where was Bell in all of this? I would have thought that, as a long time colleague of Walter’s, and having been through so much with him (as shown in the comics), that the least he could have done was to be present at the funeral. Then again, the very reason Bell wasn’t there would have made him encourage Walter to open the door between the universes had he been there in the first place:
Nina: If William were here…
Walter: If William were here, he’d be applauding.
Nina: That’s not true!
Walter: No? Then why isn’t he here?
Nina: I… The funding, his schedule…
Walter: (…) How many times has he returned your call? You know how many times William has encouraged me to take this very risk? To expedite our espionage program? Why simply take a peek into the other side of the universe, Walter, when you can go there? Before now, he couldn’t make me try to find a way to get there. Until I had to find a way.
Nina: I don’t believe that.
Walter: No, you wouldn’t. Because you don’t understand him. Like everyone else, you’re blinded by the charming, mannerly air of intelligence, the whole damn show. All William Bell ever cared about was finding a way to increase the power and the wealth and the legend of William Bell.
Is grief speaking, or is Walter onto something? Whatever the case, this quote seems quite apt: “He who pursues fame at the risk of losing his self is not a scholar” (Chuang-tzu).
Then again, even if William had been present, even if he had been an extension to Carla’s moral compass and together, they had managed to keep Walter from heading over the Reiden Lake, there is the small matter of the Observers, whose involvement is as fascinating as they seem to find our movies:
December: Their theories are fascinating.
August: They are not theories. They are… Entertainment.
There are two important things to note here. First of all, I, like many Fringe Fans, feel sorry for the alternate universe for the mere fact of having had a Back to the Future without Michael J Fox. And no, it has nothing to do with the fact that he’s Canadian, but everything to do with the fact that he is Michael J Fox.
On a more serious note, it’s really interesting that while August is able to identify the concept of pleasure in entertainment, he had a hard time understanding the emotion of love in the episode named after him (2×08). Identifying something doesn’t mean understanding it; and observing implies understanding, as it is far more complex than watching.
While the Observers’ scene barely lasted three minutes, it was yet another short yet pivotal in our understanding of the Fringe mythology.
September: I have made a mistake.
September interrupted Walternate while he was on the brink of finding the cure for Peter 2.0. This means that Peter 2.0 was not supposed to die. But does it mean that Peter 1.0 was supposed to die?
August: The boy is significant.
Is Peter 2.0’s significance related to where he is? Does this mean that Peter 2.0 is going to have to return to the alternate universe? Or is his importance only related to who he is, with no concern related to his location? And if so, does this mean that Peter 2.0 is not meant to fight with either side, but rather is going to be instrumental in bringing about balance, i.e. peace?
December: You must take action to restore balance.
Why is the word balance used? Up to now, ‘balance’ has referred to mass between universes (like the car and the building in ‘Jacksonville’). Does this mean that there are other ways to restore balance? Does this mean that the balance December refers to is that of the old versus the new set of probabilities?
Something I noticed is that the Observers look younger. September actually exudes the air of still being a rookie at his job. This is quite odd, since they have been around at least since Marie Antoinette (late 1700s) without aging. What happened since 1985 that made September look remarkably older in the span of 25 years while he barely changed in the span of 300 years? Perhaps Observers only age when in contact with our conception of time. This would imply that, because September has been quite busy observing us in the last 25 years as opposed to the last 300 years, he has thus aged more visibly.
Something else I’m very puzzled by is the fact that September barely said anything to Walter after he saved him and Peter from the glacial waters of Lake Reiden.
Walter: Why did you save us?
September: The boy is important. He has to live.
It’s rather at odds with the relatively ‘chummy’ conversation Walter had with September in The Arrival (1×04). Honestly, I’m surprised September wasn’t more involved in Walter’s going on to the other side. I really had thought they had had more of a talk that the few lines they exchanged, and it makes me think that they subsequently met between that fateful night and in the diner in ‘The Arrival’.
After all, these two are now forever linked, as September ‘created a new set of probabilities’, thus leading towards Walter tearing the fabric between the two universes. It would mean that September and Walter are linked together in a more powerful way that the latter observing the former: September started the march towards the Pattern, and Walter actually started it.
When she realises that Walter has every intention of going to the alternate universe, whatever the cost of that action might be, for the sake of saving Peter 2.0, a worried Clara turns to none other than Nina Sharp. It seems that, way before Bellmedics was founded in 1992, Nina was already his right arm. And speaking of arm, it’s interesting that Nina not only lied about how she lost her arm, but that she also lied about the date of that loss.
Three things point to the fact that Nina and Walter’s relationship is far more than that of mere colleagues. First of all is the fact that, when Clara comes to her for help, Nina answers with : “Walter’s always been like that, he often goes off on flights of fancy”, an answer that implies she knows him well, and certainly better than Clara does. However we are not given any information about the reason for this difference: is it because Clara hasn’t known Walter as long as Nina has? Or rather, that while Clara and Nina might have known Walter for about the same amount of time, Nina somehow got closer to him?
Second of all is Nina and Walter’s body language during the confrontation at Reiden Lake, which implies a more intimate relationship than mere colleagues (leaning towards each other in confidence rather than in confrontation is the strongest hint). The question remains: is it a romantic relationship? I don’t think so. And the third indication is the fact that Peter means so much to Nina, which implies a certain history with his parents as well.
The fact that Peter means so much to Nina is quite puzzling:
Nina: I know why you’re doing this. I understand. You know how much Peter meant to me, and how difficult it will for me to admit that he’s gone.
Why does Nina ‘understand’? Did she, too, have a child that died? If so, perhaps the bond between the her and Walter is that of a child Walter desperately tried to save. And if so, it could explain why Nina grew so attached to Peter.
The last Nina-related mystery is her arm: why wasn’t it cut off, and rather, started ‘phasing’? It has to do with the method used, of course, but this question makes me wish for a theoretical physicist to stumble on my review and give me an answer.
Hey, stranger things have happened.
While Walter tore open the fabric between the universes knowing full well what could happen, I do think he is being honest when he told Elizabeth & Carla in 1985 and Olivia in 2010 that he fully intended to return Peter 2.0:
1985!Walter: Elizabeth, don’t. He’s not ours. I have to take him back.
But Walter hadn’t counted on Elizabeth coming to the lab and seeing Peter 2.0. And while Walter had the intention of taking Peter back, and while, with the right set of circumstances and the support of, say, Carla, Nina & Bell, he could have mustered the strength to lose Peter again, Elizabeth’s pain was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
2010!Walter: I realised at that moment that despite what I had promised, what I fully intended to do, that I could never take Peter back. They way she looked at me, I saw in her what I feared most in myself when I saw him: that I couldn’t lose him again.
And so, burdened with both his and Elizabeth’s inability to bear losing Peter again, he negated on his promise, thus putting Walternate and alter-Elizabeth through the very same pain that convinced him to break the moral code that had kept him from tearing open the fabric between the universes:
Alternate Elizabeth: Bring him back to me.
Walter: I promise.
This probably is the turning point between the 1985!Walter from the opening scene and the broken man we have come to know in the last year and a half; guilt from multiple sources could be what brought the behemoth down.
Had Walter had the strength of character to return Peter 2.0, how different might things have been? Could he and Walternate have, together, figured out a way of stabilizing the tear and thus prevented the coming ‘clash of the universes’? Is this still a possibility? Would Walternate and Walter be able to work together once the truth comes to light? Will Peter 2.0 be what brings these two together, thus sealing the hole between the universes forever?
The title of the episode was apt not only because Peter was the motivation behind the first step towards causing the events of the Pattern, but also because of the numerous questions regarding Peter it engendered. Why doesn’t Peter remember any of these events? Was he made to forget? Probably. Perhaps, combined with the high fever, the trauma of almost drowning gave him amnesia. Perhaps it’s the consequence of going through the portal. Hopefully when Walter tells Peter the truth, Peter will ask him why he doesn’t remember, and Walter will share either the real reason or his theories about it.
Now the question remains: what illness did Peter have? Is it related in any way to the Foutrust document showing that someone with the initials PB was tested successfully with Cortexiphan? And why was the cure so significant that September had to be there to observe it? Was it because it was going to save Peter, who is important? Or is it related in any way to the actual cause of the illness? Knowing that the Blight has nearly destroyed the alter-universe, is it a far stretch to relate Peter’s illness and his cure to it? That could explain why September felt the moment was so important that he risked being exposed.
And then there is the ultimate Peter question: why is he important? There has been a lot of speculation as to the powers that he might have, but I think it mainly has to do with the fact that Walter, by keeping him on this side, has made him important. It remains to be seen. Does Peter have powers? It would come out of nowhere; his intelligence is probably genetic, and I’m still not convince that the bullet he ‘dodged’ in ‘Night of Desirable Objects’ wasn’t just sheer luck combined with a skewed aiming by a still healing Olivia.
• The relative date of the telling of the story isn’t clear; how long has it been since Olivia saw Peter glimmer?
• When Walter meets with the generals at the beginning of the episode, was it before or after Peter 2.0 was brought back?
• We finally figure out what the importance of that red labeled record is.
• Was there a car accident, at which point September saves Walter and Peter again, or was that yet another lie?
• At the beginning of the episode, Walter explains that he and William have been doing experiments on the alternate universe for 7 years, ergo since 1978.
• Nitpicking: Carla talks about the insane amount of energy necessary to open the portal to the alternate universe, and yet Walter only needed to use one little generator?
• Walternate has a hard angle to his face that Walter doesn’t have.
• Walternate has a lot more help in his lab that Walter. So does it mean he has more funding and, therefore, more importance?
• Clara is awesome – she put Peter before her feelings on the situation and came back to help Walter once he had brought Peter 2.0 over.
• The glyphs spelled out ‘Peters’ – a variation of ‘Peter’ that was spelt out in the episode ‘Unleashed’ (1×16). Again, it makes me wonder… Are the words spelled out by the glyph related to the episode they were spelled out in, to the mythology, or somehow to both?
• Young Peter was cast very well.
• The music to this episode was absolutely gorgeous and made it all the more heartbreaking to watch. I hope that the soundtrack, which is being released on April 20th, is going to include some if not all of these pieces.