Quick Take: Fringe, “Novation”
“If I’m not supposed to be here then why am I back?” – Peter
Review: Fringe, “Novation”
(S0405) Being put under federal lockdown is certainly not the homecoming to the universe that Peter had in mind. Olivia doesn’t believe him when he tells her who he is, and he refuses to talk to anyone else except Walter. Unfortunately, the only things regulating Walter’s sleep patterns are barbiturates and adrenaline, which aren’t particularly conducive to a sound state of mind.
It’s been intriguing to see the new Fringe “amberverse” through the eyes of altered versions of Olivia, Walter, and even Fringe’s newest agent Lincoln Lee. But it’s nice to have the exact Peter we’ve come to know for three seasons be back in the flesh, and seeing the new universe in the contrast its meant to be presented in. Peter tries to talk to Walter as though he was the same man who was on his way to psychological recovery, and only manages to scare him off with his excessive knowledge of their once-shared past. Even though his DNA presents a 97.5% similarity to Walter’s, it’s hard to circumvent the memory of your son dying – twice.
From his conversation with Walter, Peter is able to infer – as we have – that the Observer September wasn’t present the night Walter ripped open the hole between universes. In fact, the Fringe Division knows nothing about the Observers – a significant setback from their progress in season one. Peter doesn’t have long to linger on the new information, however. The new human-hybrid shapeshifters have struck again, and they’ve kidnapped the former Massive Dynamic scientist responsible for spawning the new tech on the other side. He agrees to help the shifter, under the impression that she’s a melanoma survivor who needs his medical knowledge, but her faces don’t stay hidden for long. The shapeshifter’s feeble state has it sporadically transforming into its other forms – including the doctor’s now-late wife.
Peter is able to garner Agent Lee’s support in letting him take a look at the tech recovered from the shapeshifter killed earlier in the season. He determines that the new generation of shapeshifters are able to keep a DNA record of all of their victims, allowing them to pick and choose whoever they want to look like. The real threat, however, lies in their ability to entirely replicate DNA, becoming indistinguishable from their hosts.
The doctor grows hesitant when his newest patient reveals her duplicitous (multiplicitous?) nature, allowing Peter to hone in on the laboratory conveniently set-up and equipped to the doc’s precise specifications. Olivia and company move in, but the shifter has already moved on, apparently getting what it needed. It takes the shape of one of Olivia’s backup agents, and gets away before Olivia can send out a notification to the rest of the Bureau when the real agent’s body is recovered. The escapee shifts back to a less conspicuous identity and ends up retrieving the infamous ghost typewriter; a mysterious correspondent tells her reinforcements are on their way.
It’s almost unsettling how easily John Noble sifts through the rapids of Walter’s emotions so keenly and smoothly; his many portrayals of Walter and Walternate (as yet unseen this season) are a true high point of this show, and he deserves an Emmy for each iteration of Doctor Bishop that’s appeared on Fringe so far. Though frightened, Walter remains a man of relative reason. He finally makes amends with Nina, who he’s blamed for Peter’s death for many years (her actions caused Walter to fall and break the vial of antidote). He also comes to terms that Peter’s apparent relation to him may not be a lie, or a plot by the other side to destroy him, but in fact, the truth.
The only problem, however, is that Walter still feels guilty about causing both universes to be torn asunder, and doesn’t believe himself worthy of such a miracle as his twice-deceased son inexplicably returning. But hasn’t Walter already paid his dues? He had Peter snatched out of existence, and was forced back into a life of lesser mental and psychological stability in which he never had a son at all. It never ceases to amaze me how well the writers are able to play with new themes and conventions that aren’t possible without parallel universes and alternate timelines.