Spoiler Heavy Reviews: Fringe – “And Those We’ve Left Behind”

by Kevin on November 12, 2011

Last week’s episode gave us a pretty good idea how Peter’s return would affect those around him, particularly Walter and Olivia. We’ll see how Walter deals with this sudden gift, after having spent the years since his Peter’s death punishing himself, convinced that he doesn’t deserve any sort of happiness. And how will Olivia deal with the suspicion that Peter’s version of their relationship is a romantic one?

“And Those We’ve Left Behind” sheds some light on some of those questions, giving the new versions of our characters a chance to bounce off each other and see what happens. This works really well, and because of Peter’s adaptability, which I mentioned last week, he comprehends that these new relationships are going to be tricky to manage. It’s a difficult line to walk: the desire to return to normality positioned against the reality that he and Olivia have had none of the experiences that brought them so closer and Walter won’t even look at him or say his name.

Our case this week involves disturbances in time, where things and situations from four years ago are suddenly imposing themselves on the present day. Fire damage appears in a building long since repaired, trains appear in time bubbles, and generally weird stuff is popping up all over the Boston area. Olivia and Walter suspect Peter might somehow be the cause, which is reasonable and it gives them a chance to work together. But since Walter is refusing to work on any case involving Peter (“the subject”), Peter has to take the reins and work on some theories that might help.

During the investigation, Peter experiences some bizarre time jumps, which might point to some future revelations concerning how he jumped into this universe in the first place. For now, they’re trying to narrow down the source of the time disturbances, which lead them to the home of an engineer and his wife (played by real-life husband and wife Stephen Root and Romy Rosemont), a theoretical physicist attempting to finish a complex equation. Only she’s not working on it in the present day — the 2011 version no loner recognizes her husband, the effects of Alzheimer’s that has caused her desperate husband to try and finish her work.

Her work involved “time chambers,” or essentially opening a window around you that brought the past on top of the present, hopefully permanently. Root’s character builds the machine Rosemont only theorized, unknowingly causing the other disruptions. As their story unfolds and their circumstances are revealed to us, it’s extremely moving and poignant, striking a chord that Fringe often does very well. Unfortunately, I did think that the emotional impact of the story (acted expertly by Rosemont and the always terrific Root) was dulled a bit by the tunnel story, which was a necessary component but felt a bit tacked on.

When their house is located, after Root turns the machine on, the entire area is encased in a time bubble, which causes a poor FBI agent to disintegrate when he walks through it. (Apparently the universe really hates it when you break the laws of physics, so it would rather just zap you into confetti than deal with it. The universe seems childish.) Fortunately Peter suggests a Faraday Cage, protecting him from the effects of the bubble, so Walter builds a “Walter Bishop Faraday Harness,” managing to give Peter a bit of reluctant praise in the process.

Peter explains to the couple that there are consequences to the machine, and although Root explains that he’ll just build the machine again once his wife completes the equation, she realizes the problem with her theory and blacks out her work, preventing her husband from doing it again. Only once the machine is shut down and the people in the tunnel are saved does Root discover that he’ll be forced to move on, having been left a loving note from his wife, embracing her fate.

When it’s wrapped up, Olivia asks Peter if the version of her he knew was “important” to him, and that she hopes he can get back to her. They also agree to set Peter up in Walter’s old house on campus, the one he and Walter lived in together in our usual reality. He might not have his loved ones, but least he has a new flat screen.

I’m glad that Fringe has been enjoying playing with Peter’s new circumstances, and I’ve enjoyed watching the characters react to him in different ways. He’s a complete stranger (as Olivia rather coldly points out) and they haven’t been through the last three years with him doing things like, y’know, saving the universe. It’s an interesting twist on the It’s a Wonderful Life story, where a person has to simply deal with it and get his job done having never existed. I think we can get a lot of great mileage from the story and even more great character moments.

Kevin’s Grade: B+

The Good

  • Peter’s just such a laid-back guy. Jumps randomly forward and backward in time: “This is going to start getting annoying.”
  • Walter’s Spiderman fanny pack needs to make an appearance.
  • Great moments between Olivia and Peter tonight. I haven’t talked about Peter’s creepy dream that opened the episode, but when he questions Olivia about her dreams later she’s back to being the cool, distant Olivia we knew from Season 1. (Peter wasn’t there to soften her edges.)

The Bad

  • I think I’d have loved this episode more if the suspense part didn’t seem so forced. “Well, we have to show some people in danger, so let’s assume there was a tunnel built in the last 4 years and stick people in there.” I get it, but with Lincoln not even playing a big role this week I just wasn’t invested, nor did I think there was a chance it would actually happen and anyone would get hurt.

The Weird

  • I’m not sure I want to know why Walter would keep his notes on wormholes in the bathroom.
  • Sprint plugs are back! Dig that video chat.

Things to Think About

  • We knew that this version of reality is an alternate one, which I know some viewers are calling Earth-3, but this is the first acknowledgement I can recall this season that suggests there’s a version of reality (Earth-1) that could be wondering where the heck Peter disappeared to. When he originally disappeared at the end of last season, no one noticed because we immediately jumped to these events. No idea where Fringe is taking this, but I wonder if this really is the case. Maybe he’s just stuck here?

Next Week: Episode 4.07: “Wallflower,” the last episode before FOX’s annual winter break. Will Peter get back to Earth-1 using the machine? Probably not.

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