This week, our assignment was to watch the episode “Peter” from Season Two of Fringe. (You can read the Television Without Pity Recap here, while the AV Club has their recap of the episode here. The post dedicated to the Season Two season premiere episode is here and the subsequent bookclub posts are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)
As always, here are the ground rules: nothing that we have seen so far is considered a spoiler, anything that we have not yet seen should be considered a spoiler. Crazy nutbar speculation is *NOT* a spoiler, but confirming or denying said confirmation would be.
Here’s my idea for spoilers: please rot13 them. That’s a simple encryption that will allow the folks who want to avoid spoilers to avoid them and allow the people who want to argue them to argue them. We good? We good! Everybody who has seen the episode, see you after the cut!
Nothing ages more quickly than a vision of the future. Which is not to say that we’re going to the future but that the opening credits use the Asimov font which tells us that we’re going back to when that was a vision of the future rather than something that reminds us of how we used to think the future would look like. (Seriously: If they wanted the most accurate vision of the future, they could have done a lot worse than Comic Sans.)
Anyway, where were we? Oh, we’re in 1985. Walter is giving a speech to a group of generals talking about technology and he holds up a dinky little mobile phone. Remember Harrison Ford in The Prisoner and how he had a car phone? Well, this is set EIGHT YEARS before that. So the idea of a telephone that you can put in your pocket is, like, whoa. He explains that it will take 20-30 years to get everything up to speed (which is a great technique on the part of the writers… just go out and find something that didn’t exist 20-30 years ago on your desk, and give it to Walter to say “this is what they’ll have in the future) until they’ll have the infrastructure to make it so that this phone will be usable here… and one of the Generals asks “Is it Russian technology?” (WHICH IS SO CUTE!!!) and Walter says, nope, it’s American… but from ANOTHER UNIVERSE. The Generals asked if Walter has been there and Walter said that visiting is only theoretically possible so they’ve had to copy stuff from over there (which makes me wonder how in the heck could you copy a mobile phone if all you had to look at was idiot teenagers texting each other). We’re on the roof now and Walter is talking about the alternate universe and errant photons and how they made something to catch them and we look at the flatscreen television and we see… gasp… a zeppelin landing on the Empire State Building.
Wait, that’s Carla Warren. She died. We met her mom in The No-Brainer.
That’s kind of sad… but also does a good job of setting the tone for the episode insofar as we will be seeing the ghosts that currently haunt us but back when they were still in the flesh.
This is Fringe.
Boom, it’s the present and Walter shows up at Olivia’s. We quickly establish that Olivia is tippling (to be polite about it) and that Walter has been trying to talk to her for a couple of days and she’s not answering his calls. Walter horns his way inside and, what the heck, better to drink with somebody, right? So Olivia pours him one as well. Better pour yourself one, because Walter is going to be telling us all a story.
He brought something with him, it seems. The television/window thingy from the flashback. He explains to Olivia that Peter had this awful genetic disorder, right? So if Walter knew that *HE* would have a double, he should know that Peter would have a double too. If OtherPeter had this same genetic disorder, wouldn’t it make sense that the Other Walter would not only be as inspired to find a cure as he, but because stuff like cell phones and cd players and whatnot were advanced, maybe medicine was advanced too… right?
So we flash back to 1985 and we hear the musical word, for the first time: “Walternate.”
Walternate is mixing up compounds to treat the disease, right? And our Walter is watching (cribbing!) from him. As it turns out, the particular formula that Walternate mixes up turns out to be a bust and Walter deflates a little and the phone rings and it’s Mrs. Bishop, asking Walter to come home. Seriously. Walter goes home to be told how awful it is that he’s always away. He goes upstairs to check on his young son and Peter is trying to do the coin rolling thing on his knuckles. Walter shows him how, again, and Peter tells him “here, I want you to have my lucky dollar, if I die”. Whoa.
This is followed by a pretty harrowing scene where our young Peter does just that and Walter realizes what has just happened and grieves… this blurry scene fades into the scene at the graveyard (and Nina is there too) and the internment fades into the walking to the car and Nina tells Walter that Bell is sorry he can’t be there and Walter takes this coldly but I don’t know if he’s ticked at Bell or if he’s always disliked Nina or what. We get home and watch Walter and Elizabeth have their first night home in the empty empty house and, dude, this episode is just too sad. Walter decides that it’s a good idea to set up the window in Peter’s bedroom and shows Elizabeth that, hey, at least there’s another Peter out there in the other universe who is loved… right?
The only thing to do is go to the lab and grab a drink and watch Walternate save Repeter. Walternate tries a new formula… wait, he turns around and chews out an Observer. While he’s chewing out, we see the formula turn The Good Color… and then back to the bad one before Walternate turns around. Walternate, of course, assumes that it never changed at all. Next. Walter, by contrast, goes nuts and throws his drink through the window… no, just at the window, which falls to the ground and breaks.
Jump to the universe where Eric Stolz was the lead in Back To The Future and HOLY CRAP IT’S THE OBSERVER. AND THE BOSS OBSERVER. “They have interesting theories on Time Travel.” “No, I think it is entertainment.” HOLY CRAP IT’S AUGUST points out that a mistake has been made. To paraphrase, the Observer says “I had to observe the moment as that’s my friggin’ job” to which the other observers point out that the boy is what’s important, not the discovery of the medicine in the lab. BUT! There is a chance to make things right.
Which brings us back to Walter making a contraption back in the lab and Carla there to be the killjoy. Walter talks about how he’s successfully made the medicine and how he’s going to open a wormhole into another universe and Carla is pointing out that One Does Not Just Open A Wormhole Into Another Universe. Walter points out that he’s Walter Frigging Bishop and this time, he is going to Save His Son.
And, really, how do you argue with that?
Oh, by quoting Oppenheimer and talking about the importance of lines that one just doesn’t cross because it could destroy the universe. Yeah, I can see that as being a reasonable counter-argument. (Though I am reminded of this particular comic.) In any case, Walter tells Carla to hit the bricks, he’s going to do this and Carla runs off and tells Nina that Walter is totally going to do this. Nina responds by taking out her Cell Phone (about the size of her head) and calling Bell.
Walter’s off to the lake and Nina and Carla are there to stop him from destroying the universe. There’s a great scene where Walter asks where William Bell is to stop him and Nina points out how busy Bell is, getting funding and whatnot, and Walter asks if Bell is too busy to stop him from destroying the universe.
This is a very good point.
In any case, there’s a tussle when Nina tries to physically prevent Walter from going through… and, yep, her arm goes through. When it comes out, it’s all… shimmery. Huh.
In the tussle, we find that Walter’s antidote that he was going to give Peter had been broken in his pocket… and we see Walter calculate and he goes for it across the frozen lake. At the house, we see the scene with Repeter and the coin all over again, except, in this universe, Repeter gives his mom the coin.
It’s the little things.
Walter shows up, waves away Elizabeth’s surprise, says he’s found a cure for Peter, and says that he needs to take Peter to the lab to administer it. There’s some great stuff where we know who Walter is but she thinks she’s talking to Walternate… and we take Peter out and start walking to the lake instead of to the garage where Peter, in a flash of insight, asks why we’re going to the lake instead of the garage and YOU’RE NOT MY FATHER!!! and Walter takes out a remote control and, fwoosh, there’s a curtain of light and they walk through… and the ice cracks… and they fall through it.
In the cold, cold water, we see Walter try to hold on to Peter and fail and we then see the Observer jump into the lake after both of them before we black out. We wake up in the car and the observer tells Walter that the boy must live. He Is (pause) Important, we’re told. The Observer pulls over and ditches them, Walter takes the wheel and drives Peter to the lab where he administers the medicine, Peter seems to be getting better already, and Walter has to have a conversation about Nina’s arm and about Peter’s future… specifically, how Walter has to take Peter back. And Walter agrees that he does and that he will… until Elizabeth shows up and sees Peter. She takes Peter into her arms and Walter makes noises about how we can’t keep him but they die in his throat and he knows that he’s not going to give Peter up. Ever.
Cut back to Olivia’s apartment where we see Walter say that, yeah, maybe he did destroy the universe… but… “you don’t know what it’s like to lose a child.”
Which, really, explains everything.
So… what thinks did you thunk?