Spoiler Heavy Review: Fringe S4E1 – “Neither Here Nor There”

by Kevin on September 23, 2011

Hey, everybody, Fringe is back!

Thanks for joining me for this inaugural edition of Spoiler Heavy Reviews for Fringe, and we’ll have all the lens flares and awkward Walterisms you can handle. Ever since FOX’s decision to move the show to the dreaded Friday night death slot (9 PM EST), fans have been anxiously keeping their eyes on ratings reports for fear that the show wouldn’t be renewed (or worse, pulled mid-season with questions left dangling). Fortunately, Fringe is back for a fourth season and a full 22 episodes.

When we last left our friends at Fringe Division, we were treated to a brief glimpse of the future if Peter had used Walternate’s doomsday device to destroy the alternate universe to save ours. Destroying the other universe turned out to be problematic because the two worlds are “inextricably linked” (according to Walter) and one can’t survive without the other. Our world is slowly coming apart, with vortexes appearing randomly and causing millions of deaths worldwide.

But fortunately, we find that this future can be changed, and that Peter’s time travel was planned by Walter all along! The mystery of the “First People” was resolved (it’s us!) and the parts of the machine were sent back through portals by Walter to be built and assembled in our present day. Once Peter realizes this while still in the machine, he suddenly stops from destroying the alternate universe and instead creates a bridge between the two realities, bringing Walter and Olivia face to face with their dopplegangers. Then he disappears and no one seems to even notice.

In the last scene of the finale, the Observers congratulate themselves for being right all along, that Peter did what he was meant to do and, thus, “has never existed.” Cut to black and summer break. Phew!

Tonight’s episode picks up where Season 3 left off, only now the timeline has changed. Now that the two realities are bridged through the lab with the machine and a “truce” has been formed, Olivia and Fauxlivia are able to exchange case files and sarcasm, each reluctant to trust the other because of the damage done by both sides. But what’s unclear is why both sides are angry at or even aware of each other; the war between the two realities began when Walter crossed over to save Peter. If Peter never existed, what happened to cause the animosity?

Sadly, we won’t quite get that answer this week, although we do discover through the Observers that Peter actually did exist at some point, but never grew up. We’re perhaps assuming then that both Peters died as a boy from the same disease or through some other cause, which pushed both Walter and Walternate into different states.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This week we’re treated essentially to a Freak of the Week episode, which seems like an interesting choice for a season premiere with so many questions in the air. With Peter gone (but not completely, as I’ll get to in a bit), that’s certainly foremost in our minds, but instead of answers we get a reintroduction to a new-ish character, Lincoln Lee.

Hey guys, in this universe I'm a hipster!

In the other universe, Lee is an agent of Fringe Division who spent most of the last season recovering from severe burns and falling in love with Fauxlivia. Our Agent Lee is an FBI guy who used to know Olivia but doesn’t anymore, and whose partner (played by Joe Flanigan of Stargate: Atlantis) is the latest victim in a string of bizarre murders that’s leaving semi-translucent corpses all over Boston. Lee’s glimpse of the killer gives him an in with Fringe Division, where he hooks up with Olivia and realizes that FD both exists and deals with some pretty weird cases.

Throughout “Neither Here Nor There” we get a lot of alternate back story: Walter still works with FD, but he was released from the mental institution by Olivia to help solve murders directly related to the ones in tonight’s episode. According to Olivia, Walter is “functional, except when he’s not, but he’s often quite brilliant,” although he “never had anything to tether him to the world.” And Olivia’s previous partner (Charlie, who was killed by a shapeshifter, hint hint) was also a victim of the translucent killers, though Walter has yet to make progress on the case.

Meanwhile, flashes of Peter appear to remind us of the season’s true mystery. The Observers are aware of this, and September gets orders to make sure Peter stays gone, so builds a device to “erase someone from time”—Peter, we presume. But it’s not quite so simple, and September has always had a bit of a weak spot for our heroes.

Lee of course forces himself into the investigation out of duty to his late partner, and Olivia begrudgingly lets him tag along with Broyle’s help. She slowly fills Lee in on the rest of her story with FD, specifically as it relates to this case. With Lee’s help, Olivia realizes that the connection between the victims involves the train stations, which, along with some convenient photo evidence, leads them to a chemical warehouse and, as it turns out, multiple blood-sucking baddies and dramatic showdowns that give Lee the chance to strut his stuff again.

After some heroics, FD takes the deceased back to Walter’s lab, where he discovers technology that reminds everyone of the shapeshifters from early in the series, which immediately causes them to suspect Walternate. But these shapeshifters are human, unlike the originals that bleed mercury and were tough to kill.

Finally, while the shapeshifters are giving our heroes a run for their money, Walter is having visions of Peter in reflections. Walter has no idea who the man is, and seems to think he’s being haunted, or is perhaps simply afraid that he’s going to have to return to the mental institution. At any rate, it’s clear that this is going to be a dominant plot point over the beginning of the season.

I thought “Neither Here Nor There” was a really good start to the season, although I was surprised to see a FotW episode right off the bat. I guess we’ll get a lot of our important information in doses along the way, but it would have been nice to see more story specific to Peter. I guess this is Fringe’s way of throwing us into the deep end and letting us catch up over the course of a few episodes. Frankly, I’m just glad that the season is back and swinging for the fences.

Kevin’s Grade: B+

The Good

  • Walter continues to do crazy experiments in the lab. Today he’s reanimating dead birds. Astrid: “Walter, you brought it back to life!” Water: “No, no, it’s still quite dead.”
  • Astrid makes a good field agent, but she still needs to fetch Walter’s pants. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
  • Both Olivia and Walter are having a really hard time trusting “the other side,” but I suspect Peter’s story arc this season is going to give them a reason to work together.
  • “If you really want a story, you should look under the dome. I’m growing an ear.”
  • Walter still loves his snacks.

The Bad

  • A lot of stilted dialogue, but I guess that’s the sacrifice we make for exposition.
  • Particularly painful exchange when Lee asks Olivia “Who are they?” and Olivia replies “I think the better question is, what are they?” Ouch.
  • Not necessarily “bad,” but it seems strange that we went from “Peter never existed” to “Peter apparently existed at some point.” Inconsistent, but I’ll let it slide … for now.
  • What happened to the music this season? Way too goofy and cinematic. I never thought I’d miss the Lost-like orchestra hits.

The Weird

  • Multiple references to “reception.” Coincidence?
  • Speaking of coincidences, the witness’ name is also Olivia. Weird.
  • Why make less technically advanced shapeshifters? The originals were pretty badass and hard to kill, but these are human (and kind of gross).
  • What was the first shapeshifter writing? It looked like dollars and some numbers next to them, related somehow to injections he was giving himself. Theories?

Things to Think About

  • The big question is obviously “Where is Peter Bishop?” But there’s also a pretty significant questions like “What happened between the two realities instead of Peter?” and “How did the bridge appear in their minds if not for Peter?”
  • Is Peter also appearing to Walternate? I would be surprised, but according to this reality there’s a case to be made that both Peters are equally attached to their fathers.
  • Lee seemed quite upset with FD’s decision to hide the victims from their families. Is he going to be our conscience this season? Or will we see him slowly understand the grey area where Fringe Division constantly needs to operate?

Next Week: S4E2 “One Night in October,” which, because of how calendars work, is airing on September 30th (OR IS IT?? [Yes.]).

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

theoncominghope September 24, 2011 at 5:58 am

I’m very very excited about the addition of Lincoln Lee to the main cast. I can’t wait to see where the writers take us next!

Here’s my (snarky) thoughts on the season premiere:
http://theoncominghope.blogspot.com/2011/09/fringe-neither-here-nor-there.html

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