When we last saw “Fringe,” Olivia (Anna Torv), who had relearned how to see objects from the other side, saw a glimmer around Peter (Joshua Jackson) meaning that she knew he was not of this world. In this powerful episode, Walter (John Noble) tells Olivia the story of how and why Walter went into the parallel universe to bring back his son.
This is the story everyone wanted to know since last year when we saw Walter visit the grave of his son. “Peter Bishop 1978-1985,” how far would a father go to give a life to his child?
Things aren’t as cut and dry as you would think going into this episode. Ultimately, we know how the story ends before it even begins. The grieving father Walter Bishop builds a device that allows him to cross into another universe and bring a child, identical to his dead son, back home. It’s amazing how perfectly everything we didn’t know is put in this story.
It all begins 25 years ago and even the font “Fringe” uses to tell the viewers where they are is retro. Walter, who in this scene actually does make him look 25 years younger (not so much afterwards), is showing off the impressive digital technology he discovered watching the parallel universe to United States military officials. Apparently, they are about 20 years ahead of us in technology, because this particular device is without a doubt one of later models of the RAZR. He goes on to show these officials how he’s gone about watching this alternate universe. On the roof of the building he’s set up his device looking at the Empire State Building. Walter explains that the original intent of the observation deck on the iconic building was to dock blimps. So of course, through the screen of his invention, a blimp is visible about to dock at the top of the Empire State Building. A literal window to a parallel world.
For much of the hour Walter is consumed with finding a cure for Peter’s illness. He spends hours in his lab at Harvard watching through his device at the other Walter to see how his parallel self (whom he refers to as “Walternate”) is fairing with more advanced technology. As expected, the Peter from our world passes before either Walter could find a cure. It was almost certainly the saddest scene in any “Fringe” episode to date. It’s been very obvious from the first episode, that despite Peter’s anger towards his father, Walter loved his son more than anything.
Without giving too much away, it’s easy to see that Peter’s death was the impetus behind Walter’s decision to stop just watching the parallel world and finally enter it. Of course the details beyond Peter’s death is what makes this episode so magnificent. One of the many bits of information we learn in this episode is how the Observer (Michael Cerveris) plays a part in Walter going to the other side. In the other universe, he meets up with two of the other Observers, including August (Peter Woodward), first seen in an earlier episode coming out of Back to the Future starring Eric Stoltz (I guess this means Michael J. Fox plays Daniel Graystone in Caprica there?), to tell them he “made a mistake.”
No episode thus far has paid attention to detail as well as “Peter.” The continued absence of William Bell (Leonard Nimoy) appears to be less of a difficulty booking Nimoy and more of a character trait. Bell has been spoken of numerous times in the series though only seen a selected few. After this episode it seems like this is more of a calculated move in developing the character, if so, it’s sort of ingenious in its own way. There also seems to be a history Walter has with Nina Sharp (Blair Brown) we haven’t seen before, and well as a possible deeper relationship she has with Bell. Finally, perhaps the most important character in this episode besides Walter, for the first time we see Peter’s mother Elizabeth (Orla Brady, “The Deep End”). Peter’s relationship with his parents in each world as a child has certainly had an effect on the Peter in present day.
“Peter” exemplifies the two constants in Fringe. First, any episode that involves the overarching story is excellent. “Peter” may in fact be the best told story of “Fringe” ever, it may even be the best episode yet. Second, John Noble deserves some recognition in the form of a trophy for his portrayal of Walter Bishop. Here, Walter isn’t the mad scientist, and he doesn’t have the innocence of a child, he’s just a father who loves his son, and his performance is as magnificent as ever. Although Fringe isn’t nearly as consistent as the excellent Breaking Bad, John Noble’s performance has rivaled that of Bryan Cranston, the winner of the last two Emmy’s for outstanding acting.
With seven episodes left in the season, there are still plenty of unanswered questions. Hopefully they can stay on track and give us more episodes like “Peter.”