TV Review: FRINGE 4.09 “Enemy of My Enemy”

Peter brings two universes together, and FRINGE continues its bold alt-timeline experiment.

This week’s episode of Fringe, the ninth one set in the alternate timeline, reminded us that Peter Bishop is the heart of the show. Peter is the force that brings the characters together, helps them get over their issues, and unites them for a greater purpose.

In the series' pilot, which aired almost four years ago, it was Peter who signed Walter out of the asylum, kept him stable, and set him on the path to redemption. As the show progressed, Peter’s relationships with Walter and Olivia deepened, helping unite the team and create the strong family dynamic that was tragically stripped away after the events of last season’s finale. This week’s episode, “Enemy of My Enemy,” reiterated the idea that Peter is the warm, chewy center of the Fringe universe(s).

Last week, Peter hopped universes in an attempt to convince Walternate to help him return to his timeline. It was a purely selfish move, as Peter was desperate to get back to his family and leave the altered timeline behind. This week, Peter decided to do some good in the alternate timeline and join the fight against the new Shapeshifters. Peter’s decision inspired the Fringe teams from both universes to set aside their differences and work together to stop a common enemy, buggy Brit Mr. Jones. Once again, the younger Bishop is fostering connection, growth and good with his actions.

The shaky accord between the Earth 1 and Earth 2 Fringe Division teams was on the cusp of crumbling before Peter showed up. Last week, Olivia and Agent Lee were convinced that Walternate was behind the Shapeshifters’ deadly doings, and the Earth 2 folks were showing little love for their counterparts on the other side.  Now it’s apparent to everyone that both teams must collaborate to end the threat to both universes. Both sides would not have come together if Peter, the “impartial” party, hadn’t appeared to unite them, even if that wasn’t exactly his plan.

Peter’s unique knowledge of Mr. Jones’ habits and personality gives the good guys a slight advantage over the world-hopping madman, who – Surprise! -- is working for Nina Sharp. (Oh, Peter, what would we do without your wise, displaced soul?) But Jones was able to stay two steps ahead of Fringe Division with the help of the stiffer-than-ever Alt-Broyles, who could turn out to be a Shapeshifter.

This was another intense and suspenseful hour as Mr. Jones and Broyles kept Fringe Division guessing at every turn. But there was a smaller and somewhat more rewarding development amid all the Shapeshifter chaos this week: Walter, with a little help from Elizabeth, finally decided to help Peter return home.

Two of the best scenes of the night featured Elizabeth discussing Peter’s plight with two versions of Walter. Orla Brady and John Noble have a unique chemistry that feels real and right onscreen. Both actors exude intelligence, passion, regret, and love. It’s a pleasure to see them work together again this season. Watching Walter’s eyes change and focus as he looked at Elizabeth again in the lab was heartbreaking and wonderful. Their meeting, engineered by Peter’s emergence, helped heal Walter’s conscience and set him on the road to absolution. Elizabeth told Walter that she forgave him for his wrongdoings, and Walter finally began to move on from his pain when she said, “I forgive you Walter … And if I can, God can.” My heart is still recovering from that one.

Walter and Elizabeth’s tender meeting was only a precursor to the episode’s most memorable and emotional scene: Walter telling Peter he would help him, and Peter telling Walter that, yes, he is the man he thought he was after all. It was a short but sweet scene, and it proved once again that Peter is the catalyst for positive growth and connection on the show. As Season 4 continues, it’s clear that a world without Peter is definitely worth exploring, but a world with Peter is a richer and better place.

Season 4 has delivered some fine, engaging and emotional episodes. I’m enjoying and appreciating the show’s bold choices this year, but I know many fans are still struggling with the alternate timeline idea. I get it. I understand how it can be difficult to become invested in an arc that exists outside of the timeline we’ve been following for the past three seasons. Big, important questions hang over every episode this season, not the least of which is: Will anything that happens this season really matter once the original timeline is eventually restored? I don’t have the answer, but I don’t really care. Fringe is still Fringe. The stories are engaging, the science is intriguing, and the writing is great. At times, the show feels sharper and more assured now than ever. It’s exciting to see Fringe experiment with the details but remain true to the show’s major themes and to the hearts of the characters.

Other thoughts:

- I almost thought we were gonna lose Olivia again at the end there. Luckily, the closing portal only sliced her hood in half. What a cool shot!

- The scene with both Fringe teams sitting across from each other at the table was fun. The best bit was Alt-Lincoln eying his “funny looking” doppelganger up and down.

- I don’t know what Jones and Sharp are up to, but I’m not sure I’m ready to see them blow another hole in the universes. Their plan must hinge on Olivia, since Sharp has been dosing her with … something. And I’m sure that was her own blood that Olivia asked Astrid to test.

- Yes, Alt-Astrid, timeline-hopping Peter is pretty cool!