Fringe Review: The Gathering Storm
Even as a baseball fan, I have to admit it pained me to wait an extra week for the new episode of Fringe. Peter’s back (along with his much missed dry wit), and I’m curious as all get out to see what new havoc his return will wreak on the cast, including him. This episode didn’t let me down; it’s a great hour of drama full of science fiction, complicated relationships, and implications that will plague us for weeks to come. All of that meshed into a single hour left me wishing it didn’t have to end.
This week’s case saw the return of the new, hybrid shapeshifters, and with Peter’s help they begin to understand they are more advanced than Walter had originally guessed. If the hybrids find a way to fix their design issue, they can not only look like the last person they kill…they can become any person they’ve killed ever at the drop of a hat. This will, of course, make them impossible to tack down and even harder to identify. They mirror their human victims down to a molecular level, meaning the only way to identify a shapeshifter as non-human would be to cut them open and discover a memory chip inside them.
But the shapeshifters are dying, which is why they’ve launched an all out search for someone who can help. They’re looking for a brilliant scientist with questionable morals who has experience in areas like cellular replication. Look no further than Massive Dynamic, of course. The shapeshifter finds the retired research scientist (after a rather unfortunate and mistaken run-in with the man’s ex-wife and her new boyfriend, which neither of them survive). She plays on his bitterness toward William Bell for shutting down his research, and also on his sympathies as she claims to be dying from a skin disease only his brilliance can cure. Things begin to go awry when an injection causes her to shift unexpectedly into the scientists ex-wife, who he still loves, and he realizes he’s not dealing with your average human.
The team arrives about then (due to Peter’s brilliance – we’ll get there in a moment), and saves the scientist. The woman gets away, and when they find the body of an agent in the river, they realize she’s used his face to escape. I can only imagine this will be the first of many instances where the shapeshifters infiltrate the FBI.
At a train station in Boston, the woman locks herself in a bathroom stall and injects the final product from our ex-Massive Dynamic employee, and the serum works. Her skin returns to normal and she does not, in fact, die. Afterward she pulls out a typewriter (these people need to get with the times) and sends a message, presumably to the other universe, that she has found the cure. The response? The others are on their way.
Creeptastic. It seems the problems with the shapeshifters are just beginning.
Other points of interest:
- Walter (John Noble) came to speak with Peter (Joshua Jackson), and in spite of his panic, when he looked into grown Peter’s eyes he saw the gaze of his son. So he now believes Peter is his son, though not either of the ones he killed. They’re operating on the assumption that this Peter came from a possible third universe, though as Olivia points out, that doesn’t explain why she or Walter was seeing him before he showed up.
- Peter realizes during his conversation with Walter than the Observer went back and changed everything, letting him drown in the lake instead of pulling him out. No one recognizes the term Observer, of course, because without the paradox of Peter they’ve had no reason to interfere.
- Olivia (Anna Torv) goes out of her way to avoid being in the room alone with Peter. It startles her the way he acts like he knows her, and she can’t figure out why she would have seen a man in her dreams she’s never met. I’m starting to believe Olivia will be the one to remember, to save this Peter, and not Walter.
- Because Walter is a hot mess. He feels even more guilty than he did in our original timeline, because now he’s responsible for not only the rift in both universes, but for the death of both versions of Peter. We learn this is the reason for the coldness between him and Nina (Blair Brown). She goes to see Walter and suggests perhaps this is his second chance to get to know his son, that perhaps he has suffered enough. He tells her he knows it was never her fault what happened, but he blamed her because it didn’t hurt as much as blaming himself. At the end of the episode he returns to see Peter, but tells him he can’t help because this is his chance to right his wrongs. Instead of trying to help another Peter, he’s going to do nothing and mind his own business, that this is both his punishment and his chance for redemption all rolled into one.
- Also on the Nina front, it turns out she raised both Olivia and her sister in order to keep them out of foster care after Olivia killed her father. It’s strange to realize, but in a lot of ways it seems Olivia had a much happier, normal childhood in this timeline. I hope she doesn’t have to lose that.
- At the end of the episode there is a moment where Olivia experiences a time slip of some sort. An assistant hands her some folders and she sets them down on the desk. A few moments later, they repeat the entire scene. Olivia notices but no one else seems to. I’m still noodling on that one.
- Peter. Good heavens, how I have missed your kindness and your smile and the way you can make a simple t-shirt look damn good. He’s doing a good job trying to act like his old self, pulling impish pranks and revealing information in a manner that makes him not only useful, but invaluable to the investigation, but it’s obvious he’s lost. He doesn’t know why the Observer’s changed everything, what it means that he isn’t supposed to be there, or how to make everyone remember him. I think he’s a little scared, in addition to being peeved (I mean, he just saved two worlds and they lock him up like a prisoner?). Scared at what it means that he is somehow here, even though he already died in both worlds, and what consequences that might have for the people he loved and who loved him. He’s going to get lonely very fast, and for his sake I hope Walter comes around.
This episode left me breathless in anticipation of what’s coming, and each of the above bullet points filled my head with so many questions the writer’s are going to be answering them for a while. I’m probably most intrigued by that little time slip Olivia had, and would be fascinated to hear your thoughts and guesses on the subject. I’m eagerly anticipating the resolution (or non-resolution) regarding these hybrid shapeshifters, particularly the answer to the big question, which is who made them?
Season 4, Episode 5 “Novation” (original airdate November 4, 2011)
Fringe airs Fridays at 9/8c on Fox
Photos Courtesy of Liane Hentscher and FOX