This week’s episode of Fringe featured the team investigating a young boy that had somehow survived a deadly fungus that killed, and decomposed, those infected within hours. This episode took place “over-here”, and it is going to be interesting to see if the over-here/over-there episode pattern will keep going from last season, or if “our” universe will once again become the main focus of the show.
While this episode took on a “case of the week” format, the story definitely was told with the purpose of further developing the question of “where is Peter Bishop?” Toward the beginning of the episode we saw a young boy running from a group of bullies. The kid ran into a tunnel that quickly dead-ended, and at first it appeared as if the poor little guy was dead-meat, as the two boys who were chasing him were much bigger than he was. But before any punches were thrown, tendrils of a mysterious fungus surround the two boys, and almost immediately we see their bodies begin to decompose. It was a powerful scene, and all three of the kids did a really great job of selling the drama of what was happening. The whole thing played off as very “real,” rather than just a few kids reading their lines. It’s little things like this that really set Fringe apart from a lot of other genre shows, and helps add to its believability, despite the sci-fi craziness that regularly ensues.
After the Fringe team finds the dead and decomposed bodies of the two bullies, the young boy they were chasing was brought back to Walter’s lab to be examined to see why, exactly, he wasn’t infected by the fungus. Walter connects to the boy immediately, who reminds him of Peter whether he realizes it consciously or not. Overall, Walter seemed somewhat more lucid then he had in the last two episodes, though still not completely “together”. It seems as if the more Peter’s remnants poke their way into Walter’s life, the more the man resembles his old self. Despite this lucidity, however, Walter was definitely emotional, not only in his bonding with the boy, but in his belief that he is slowly beginning to go insane, and that the visions of Peter to be nothing more than hallucinations. The very first scene of the episode was that of Walter being examined by a therapist who asked him about these hallucinations outright, and while he deflected the man’s questions, it was clear that Walter was concerned about the state of his mental health.
There was a moment where Walter’s lucidity was broken completely and totally, as Peter’s voice beckoned out to his father, asking him if he could see him, and telling him that he needed his help. Walter briefly broke down, yelling out to an on-looking Agent Broyles that he wasn’t “losing [his] mind.” In another poignant moment with Walter, he tells the boy of his son, Peter, who died while still just a boy. Walter continues to bond with the young boy, whom we learn is named Aaron, when he invites him to stay the night with him in his lab, after learning that the boy had nowhere else to go. It was then that Walter elaborated on how his son died, and we learn how things played out concerning Peter Bishop in this new timeline. Peter was sick, Walter told Aaron, and he didn’t find a cure until it was too late. It was then, Walter said, that he discovered the alternate universe, where the Alternate version of his son was dying, prompting him to cross over to save him. It is here that we learn the key difference between this new timeline. In this version of events, Peter and Walter crashed through the ice as they returned from the other universe, just as before, only this time the Observer didn’t save them. While Walter survived the incident, Peter drowned, never getting the chance to grow into the man he became in the other timeline.
It’s just then that it was revealed that the fungus that the boy miraculously survived is a living organism, which was somehow connected to him. Slowly Walter discovered that the fungus was a complex neural network that had connected to the boy’s brain, and that anything done to the fungus-brain, affected the boy. As Aaron grew ill from the destruction of the fungus-brain, we see just how strong Walter’s connection to the boy is. “I can’t lose him,” Walter said, “not again.” It was a clear reference to Peter, and it demonstrated well how this “case of the week” is connected to the overall story of Peter Bishop that season 4 is exploring.
The episode also developed the relationship of Agent Lee to the rest of the Fringe team. Once again, Lincoln seems to be developing his own place on the team different than the one that Peter occupied. The relationship between he and Olivia is a playful one, and feels very natural. While romance doesn’t appear to be brewing between the two, it will still be interesting to see how Peter will get along with Lincoln when he inevitably returns into existence. Olivia herself seemed to have much more “heart” this episode. Overall she seemed less detached from the things happening around her. Whereas in the season premier, Olivia hardly batted an eye at a room full of murder victims, this time she was visibly shaken after two morticians are killed by the ever-growing fungus. Again, it seems intentional: the closer Peter gets to breaking through into the universe, the closer the characters veer toward their “pre-timeline-shift” selves.
As the episode came to an end, we saw that the visual and auditory “hallucinations” of Peter had driven Walter to his brink. Thinking that he was going completely insane, Walter attempted to operate on his own brain, via hammering a nail into his eye to stop the visions rather than risk going back to the mental hospital. Thankfully, Olivia found and stopped him before he managed to do any serious damage to himself. One of the most important moments in the entire episode happened right then, as Olivia asked Walter what the heck he was thinking by attempting to drive a nail in his head. Walter confessed to Olivia that he had been having visions of a man who had been calling out to him and saying “peculiar things in [his] head.” Olivia looked at Walter with her eyes wide, and asked, “Does he look like this?” She then pulled out a drawing of none other than Peter Bishop himself. Walter nodded quickly and asked Olivia where she found this drawing. She then confessed that she had drawn the picture of the man herself, from memory, and that she had been seeing the same man in her dreams. Walter realized, then, that he wasn’t crazy at all and that the man they were seeing was real, although neither one of them realized who he was, or why they knew him. “He’s real,” Walter said to Olivia. “And we have to find him!”
Overall, “Alone in the World” was the strongest episode of the season yet. Agent Lee’s place on the Fringe team was fully established as much more than just a Peter stand-in, and it appears that we are closer than ever to answering the question of “where is Peter Bishop?”
Fringe airs on Fridays on Fox at 9/8c and can full episodes can be found online at fox.com/fringe