Love it or hate it, there's something very special happening on Fringe this season. When the writers decided to spin the show sideways this year, they also gave viewers a chance to witness the creation and development of a new family – or a new version of the rewarding familial dynamic shared by Peter, Walter, and Olivia.
I've enjoyed watching this new version of our Fringey family build over the last several episodes. Seeing Walter dance to life with Peter around, and watching Olivia grow closer to Walter and Peter, has felt rewarding and exciting. In many ways, Season 4 is reminding us of a theme that's been at the heart of the show since the beginning: these three people belong together – for the good of the universe(s) and for their own good. Season 4 is reiterating that theme by tearing our heroes away from each other only to bring them back together again. The process hasn't exactly been perfect or pretty, but Season 4 has been bold, complex, and interesting, to say the least. And now, as we journey into the second half of the season, it looks like the show is starting to snap back from the sideways world and restore the old dynamic between the characters.
The final scene between Peter and Olivia from this week's episode, "Welcome to Westfield," has no doubt become the most talked about scene of the hour, and for good reason. It was exciting and brain-rattling all at once. Agent Dunham opened a bottle of wine, ordered Damiano's, and kissed Peter on the lips. It was just like the old days, and it seems like the old Olivia has returned. But how and why? I'm sure we all have our theories (This is a J.J. Abrams show after all), but one thing is certain: that final scene, as well as a few that came before, gave weight to the idea that Peter doesn't need to leave this alternate timeline, because he's already home.
Since he appeared earlier this season, Peter has been concerned with the idea of returning home and leaving this "other world" behind. But it's possible that our man is not trapped in a different world or dimension after all. Perhaps Peter is already home where he belongs – the same old world, but changed somehow with no memory of him. If that's true, Peter only needs to find a way to jog the memory of a world that has forgotten him.
I've been using the phrase "alternate timeline" a lot in these reviews. It's a convenient phrase that helps describe the world we've been watching all season – a world in which history has been altered because one man was somehow erased from existence. It doesn't exactly mean that Peter is stuck in a different dimension where he doesn't belong; it only means that, perhaps, the timeline of Peter's world has been altered. Maybe the world is broken and Peter has to fix it. It's an intriguing idea that drags Peter back where the show loves to place him -- at the center of events that can change, and maybe even save, the world(s). (Many things are different this season, but some things never change.)
This was another fantastic episode. I enjoyed the swift pace and the baffling case-of-the-week mystery. Once again, the case-of-the-week presented challenges and themes that echoed the greater arc of the season. The team was trapped in a town where the two universes were merging, a strange and spooky experiment most likely orchestrated by Mr. Jones. We've seen things like this happen on Fringe before – two versions of the same person violently fusing into one and structures phasing out of existence – but "Welcome to Westfield" didn't feel stale. I liked how the episode felt claustrophobic and creepy. The windy eeriness of Westfield echoed a million other creepy towns we've seen on TV before, but that didn't bug me as much as it should have. I was invested in the mystery and itching for the team to discover exactly what was going on in Westfield and whether or not they would be affected by what was driving the townspeople looney toons.
Whether or not the Westfield phenomenon affected the team, especially Olivia, is up for debate. Walter came to the conclusion that the woman in the school was suffering because her own memories were merging with the memories of her doppelganger from the other universe. The same thing, he said, was happening to all Westfield residents with doppelgangers currently living in the other Westfield. Our team was spared this fate (Fauxlivia and Walternate were seemingly nowhere near the other Westfield, and Peter is, well, Peter) but perhaps the Westfield wackiness somehow jogged Olivia's memories about Peter. If that's the case, then why didn't the same thing happen to Walter? Maybe Olivia's Cortexiphan powers have something to do with that?
There's no telling how this season will end or if Peter will ever return home – whatever that means. But we can be certain about one thing: Peter, Walter, and Olivia will always find each other, and they'll always work together to make the world a safer place. They’ve managed to find each other, and in most cases become a family, in different universes and in different timelines. No matter what changes, I believe the hearts of these characters will remain the same and their lives will remain intertwined. It's a comforting thought now as it's looking more and more like we're watching the final season of Fringe.
- I wonder if the Westfield wackiness has ruined Walter's love of rhubarb pie.
- Driven, stubborn, and able to see the best in people. Yeah, Peter's description of the old Olivia fits the new Olivia pretty well.
- Peter said Olivia gave him a place to call home. It's fitting that Olivia might become the anchor that allows Peter to realize that he's already home.
- Butter cocktails for all!