The tagline for last night’s episode was ‘Witness the Return’, and it was undeniably apropos. Not only did it mark the return of Josh Jackson’s Peter Bishop, but also the return of Michelle Krusiec’s human shapeshifter ‘Nadine’, and of the always-awesome season 1 writer J.R. Orci. And what a return it was!
In true Fringe form, I still have more questions than I do answers, but I’m more than happy with the issues that were clarified with the airing of ‘Novation’. One such clarification being that it seems as though Walter did still cross over initially with the intention of curing Peter on the Other Side, and not with the intention of kidnapping him. There was an exchange between Walter and Aaron in ‘Alone in the World’that suggested otherwise, and, while it certainly doesn’t excuse kidnapping a child, I always felt that Walter’s intentions in crossing over redeemed him somewhat. You can hardly blame a man for being unable to watch his son die twice.
I found it fascinating to see the relationship between Nina and Walter, and to get an explanation for why they are so radically different with each other. I had been quite dismayed to see the animosity, particularly on Walter’s part, because I’ve always been intrigued by the dynamic between the two. Obviously they have a long and complicated history of which we’ve only scratched the surface, but the explanation we received tonight certainly clears things up. Walter’s hatred of Nina was something of a coping mechanism: as long as he had Nina to blame for breaking the vial and setting the events of the fateful night in motion, he didn’t need to shoulder as much of the blame himself. Before, Walter could at least console himself with the knowledge that he had saved the life of a version of his son; however, the subsequent drowning death of Peter in this new timeline offers no such solace.
Speaking of Nina, I find it as noteworthy as Lincoln did that she would take in Olivia and Rachel after their mother’s death. And I find myself wondering how much William Bell’s machinations had to do with that particular pairing. Even if Walter lost track of the Cortexiphan children, I highly doubt that Belly did — especially Olivia, who was ‘always the strongest’. That much, at least, remains unchanged. There is also the lingering question as to Olivia’s Cortexiphan-induced abilities: it seems as though she hasn’t had cause to rediscover them in this new timeline, which is a little bit disappointing after the glimpse we got of a fully-in-control Olivia in the future. I’m still hopeful that somehow Olivia’s exposure to Cortexiphan will facilitate her remembering how things are supposed to be; although, perhaps Olivia doesn’t remember because she has yet to be ‘activated’in this new timeline. Reality is, after all, only a matter of perception.
Among other things, I love Fringe’s penchant for dropping little bombshells nonchalantly. In this case, the revelation that Fringe Division has no idea who the Observers are. The Observers are at the heart of something I’m still finding confusing: how did letting Peter drown fix the mistake that September made when he distracted Walternate? In case you’ve forgotten, September’s appearance in Walternate’s lab caused him to miss the discovery of a cure for Peter even while Walter, watching through his own trans-universe looking glass, noticed it: Walternate was supposed to discover the cure and save his son, which is why the moment was significant enough to warrant an Observer’s interest. Unless the two universes were supposed to end up inextricably linked, in which case it still doesn’t explain why allowing Peter to die fixes September’s error. Peter is significant, to quote our favourite Observer, presumably because he had to be alive to power the Machine which would heal — or destroy — the two universes and build a bridge between them. Yet, why would Walter build a machine keyed to a person who died decades ago, and how did they create the bridge in this timeline without Peter? It’s no wonder time-travel theory is rife with paradoxes.
One of the big reveals of the episode confirms something we have suspected since the premiere: that Walternate, or someone else Over There, is behind this new breed of shapeshifter. The appearance of a new, presumably quantum-entangled typewriter reveals that ‘Nadine’is receiving orders from someone in the alternate universe, and that this definitely isn’t the last we’ll see of the human shapeshifters. Like our characters, I too am curious about the origins of the technology which allows these metamorphs to change: it was previously established that the shapeshifting technology was designed by William Bell in his partnership with Walternate. If I were to hazard a guess it would be that Bell lived longer than he did in the initial timeline since he didn’t need to sacrifice himself to get Walter, Peter, and AltLivia back over to Our Side. This would also explain why the shapeshifters are more advanced than they were previously, and why Peter is still able to decode the device. However, if Bell died (or disappeared) before completing the work for Walternate, it would make sense to send a shapeshifter over to our universe to go directly to the source. Or, since I like to hope that we’ll see Leonard Nimoy reprise his role as William Bell, perhaps Belly simply didn’t know how to complete the project.
I did find it amusing that the new typewriter is a ‘Hermes’model: not only is Hermes the messenger of the gods in Greek mythology, but he is also the patron of boundaries and of the people who cross them. Indisputably perfect for FRINGE, wouldn’t you agree?
Honestly, the only slight complaint I had about Novation was the lack of confrontation between Olivia and Peter; that being said, I entirely understand — and fully support — the choice to explore the new dynamic between Walter and Peter first. Even though it’s frustrating to see Peter’s struggle to connect with these familiar strangers, I’m also glad that it looks like we won’t lose the new dynamic between Olivia and Walter any time soon. Besides, next week’s episode more than makes up for the lack of one-on-one time between Olivia and Peter, so make sure you check it out next Friday, November 11! A