Occasionally I like to rummage through the tubes of the internet to take the temperature of fan response to various TV shows, particularly those I’m heavily invested in. And after removing the thermometer from the rears of several web-based Fringe fans, it seems like the core response temp of the Fox sci-fi drama is fluctuating wildly. I’ve seen some people say that Season 4 has gotten off to a boring start, and I’ve seen other people say the exact opposite. I suppose that when it comes to a show as deeply layered and open to interpretation (and great!) as Fringe, that’s going to happen. It makes sense that people will gravitate toward certain aspects of the show, with each episode eliciting in a variety of opinions.
I, for one, think Fringe got off to fantastic start. Episode 1 introduced us to the Peter-free universe through Lincoln, who served as a surrogate for us viewers as we pieced things together. It also showed us how different Walter and Olivia are in Peter’s absence. Episode 2 floated the possibility of how the two universes will play with each other, and further explored how Olivia (and Faux-livia) changed in a Peter-less universe. Episode 3 gave us a close-up look at Walter, and things are not going well for him, as evidenced by his attempt at a self-lobotomy. And Episode 4, “Subject 9,” was all about Walter and Olivia working together to get Peter back.
So, back to what I was saying about vast differences in opinion among Fringe fans: I didn’t think “Subject 9″ was as great as other people did. There were some beautiful Walter-Olivia moments (root beer floats FTW), but for the most part, I got dizzy from running around in circles. We know Walter isn’t well. We could see it in the Season 4 premiere, and last week’s episode really hammered the idea into our brains when Walter hammered a spike into his own. At least there was something new in seeing Olivia deal with Walter’s crumbling sanity, which was really sweet. She’s a sweet girl, and when my brain turns to oatmeal, I hope she’s there to hold my mind and learn my secret methods for getting the most out of fountain drinks.
Also making the room spin was the “case” of the blue energy and the question of why it was pestering Olivia. It came off as a red herring, as we were led to believe that one of Olivia’s old Cortexiphan buddies, Mark Little/Cameron James, was behind it—but in the end, his importance to what was going on wasn’t important at all. I might’ve reacted differently to all this if Fox’s promos for “Subject 9″ hadn’t all but spelled out that the blue light was Peter; because of those promos, Olivia and Walter’s search for Mark/Cameron had me waving my arms at my TV screen and screaming that they were on the wrong track. Perhaps Mark/Cameron (who also played a mean centerfield–baseball “joke”) was right about Olivia “summoning” the blue energy, perhaps not. We don’t know, and I’m not sure it will matter in the end. I just really, really wish the promos hadn’t blown it for me, because I think I could have gotten a lot more out of the episode.
And that’s especially true considering the fantastic finish: the return of a naked Peter skinny-dipping in Reiden Lake, the site of one Peter’s drowning. How heartbreaking was it to see Olivia’s face not register even a clue as to who Peter was? Ouch.
Who knows where Fringe is going to go from here, but I some folks are concerned about how the timelines and universes will merge or come together at some point in the future. I don’t think that’s the point. Fringe can survive and solve its mysteries within this timeline just fine. The information we gleaned from Seasons 1, 2, and 3 won’t be forgotten just because Peter is with us. Besides, this show isn’t about how the universes and their various iterations are connected, it’s about how the characters are connected across the various universes.
– As others have pointed out, Nina Sharp wore two gloves in this universe. She’s like all machine! Or she’s just extra stylish. I loved her line, “We create nanotechnology. How it is used is not our concern. We just own the patents.”
– Don’t give guest stars heavy monologues unless they can really handle them.
– Nina and Olivia are buddy-buddy in this timeline, but Walter and Nina aren’t chummy at all. Also, I’m really getting a kick out of Astrid as a translator, though I’m not sure anything can top her request to look at a victim’s anus.
– Was The Observer at Reiden Lake just observing, or was he making sure things were going according to plan? Or was he just perving out over a naked Joshua Jackson?
– Fringe has next Friday off, which is a shame because the next episode looks GREAT. (Assuming the promos aren’t messing with my head again.)
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom