Fringe's Latest Episode Gets a Standing 'Novation' (Spoilers)

A friend of mine recently posted on Twitter that he’s become better, with age, about watching and enjoying dumb TV, the kind of shows you can just relax, and watch, and not think about. And much to my chagrin, he included Fringe as one of those shows. Particularly given this week’s episode, I don’t think I can disagree more.

Granted, it wasn’t like this was a head-spinningly trippy episode that changed the very way we think about reality (they only do a few of those each season), but time and again in this episode, the characters had the chance to make dumb decisions I fully expected them to make, given this is a genre TV show; and time and again, the writers actually allowed them to take the intelligent path, instead of the dumb one. And that, in case you couldn’t guess, is pretty smart.

The big news, of course, is that Peter is back in the mix after disappearing at the end of last season. The problem? No one knows who he is, because time has been rewritten… Except Peter remembers everything, and doesn’t know what’s wrong, or how to fix things. The split between what Peter knows, and that everyone from Olivia to Walter to Broyles have never met Peter aggravates everything that’s wrong with this new universe: they’re all in pain, more co-workers than family, and suffering from far more losses than wins.

And again, it’s to the writers credit that they don’t take the easy way out here with Peter. He tries to connect with Walter, explaining what’s wrong with the world, and grabs his arm. That’s something that would have comforted our old Walter, but for the new Walter, this is an act of aggression from an outside source, and he immediately retreats. But Peter learns from the experience. He realizes this isn’t his Walter, and decides to calm down and try a new strategy, which we’ll get to in a second.

In the meantime, the biological shapeshifters, which are coming dangerously close to X-Files territory are losing their coherence, so decide to track down the scientist who created them (unknowingly). In the process, they kill his ex-wife – always a good way of winning someone over – and then track him down to his farm. This is the second time we see a smart person acting smart, as the Doctor doesn’t try to fight, instead, he slowly tries to appeal to the shapeshifter (who he doesn’t know is a shapeshifter at all), making subtle mentions of his family, the future, and never putting up a fight. He knows he’ll get his moment to break free, and if not… Well, he gets to do science, that’s always fun.

Meanwhile, back at Fringe, the team has discovered that the scientist used to work for William Bell at Massive Dynamic, before going all Frankenstein on them. Peter hacks into the speaker system, and out of his jail cell tells them that he can help them with shapeshifters. He gets set up with a computer and some soldering irons, and gets to work, eventually figured out a way to track them through shapeshifter GPS.

Back at a makeshift science lab, the shapeshifter and the scientist are fighting – mainly because she accidentally shifted to look like his ex-wife, and he realizes the monster killed her. He starts to subtly fight back, gets his hand broken, and finishes the stabilizing formula as Olivia and Lincoln Lee break into the warehouse. A chase follows, until it turns out the shifter jumped off the roof, conveniently leaving one FBI agent alive. OR DID IT??? No, of course not, she shifted to look like him, and threw his dead body off the roof. I didn’t say this show was ALL smart.

In the end, we find out the shifter has stabilized, and is communicating via ye olde universe travelin’ typewriter. Olivia tries to connect with Lincoln Lee, who seems to be upset because his partner was killed by the shifter, and its still out there somewhere. And Walter comes to tell Peter that he knows who he is… But he can never see him, because he’ll never get over the guilt of having killed him twice.

This is another smartly written scene, actually. There’s no reason to think that Walter won’t connect with Peter, and it seems like he is – but this Walter is far too damaged to ever connect with anyone. And as he walks away, we hold on Joshua Jackson, barely suppressing his anger, sadness and hopelessness in what is one of the most heartbreaking moments of the series.

Next week? Peter has caused the world to become untuck in time. We’ll see you there.

RANDOM NOTES:

- Man, I just do not like the biological shapeshifters as much as the tech ones. I get they’re trying something different, but from the metallic mercury blood, to the gross stick-in-your-mouth device they used to steal identities, they were just a little weirder and more interesting than this translucent guys.

- So they’ve never encountered The Observers in this Universe, either? This is getting more and more interesting.

- Theory time: Lincoln Lee is a shapeshifter, right? I mean, he’s been acting like a weird robot since they fought the shifters, and there was a fair amount of time spent on saying, “They can look like anyone, and we can’t detect them.” Plus, he’s the new guy learning about everyone, so has the easiest excuse if he doesn’t know anything.

- More Other Side soon, please?

- According to Wikipedia, Novation is, “the act of either replacing an obligation to perform with a new obligation, or replacing a party to an agreement with a new party.” That pretty well described Peter’s situation in this episode, as well as the scientists, don’t you think?

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