Seriable’s Roco reviews Fringe 4.01 — “Neither Here Nor There”
Unlike LOST’s “what ever happened, happened,” mantra. On Fringe, it’s more a case of “whatever happens, happens.”
But does the episode live up to our high expectations, and what does it do for the overarching story and character development? Here’s my take..
- I found NHNT to be a good establishing episode containing several overarching story elements, call backs and references. I was expecting the reset following the events of last season’s finale, but it’s important for continuity and logic that the main story is still tackled, albeit for now from a different place in the story hive.
- The sprinkling of Peter throughout the episode was also helpful and interesting, serving as a spine for the overarching story while providing another mystery to be solved; where is he and how will our heroes figure out that he’s more than a man in the mirror?
- One of the most enjoyable aspects of NHNT was tracing the differences and similarities between the two timelines. The characters are all tweaked just enough to make their new existence believable, while accentuating the bigger concept at play.
- I’m not in love with Lincoln, but he’s a worthy addition to the ongoing story. He informs the situation while having story potential of his own that can be mined further down the line. It helps that he isn’t a brand new character, having originally been introduced in “Stowaway.”
- September contributed the stand-out moments of the episode. His perspective really fuels the ongoing mythology and the fact that he’s played with such heart doesn’t hurt.
- Although I support the reset from a storytelling perspective, at times it did play a bit contrived with occasional hand-holding issued by characters who seemed to be speaking directly to new audience members. A necessary consequence, maybe, but it was a bit distracting and took something away from those ‘deeper’ moments.
- I don’t feel as though the episode was particularly spectacular. Which I can understand; it’s an establishing episode setting up the continuing story. As a fan of gradually unwinding tales I’m not complaining, but you always hope to hit the ground running. Given what came before, it was something of a come down.
I have mixed feelings about the opening scene in the Boom-Boom-Machine room between the two Olivias. It’s effective because it instantly establishes where the story is from where we left off last season. It let’s us in on the truce between the two sides and the fact the wounds are far from healed.
We also discover some additional backstory elements that we didn’t witness, but mirror events that played out in the original timeline.
Within that we get one of our first Peter-shaped reveals: the switcheroo still happened in the other timeline (OT). However, Altlivia didn’t enjoy being in ‘Olivia’s skin’ as much as she did previously. Of course she wouldn’t, there’s no Peter — and this informs both Olivias reactions.
But I found Olivia’s response to be a bit petty, if not immature. Not the kind of thing I was expecting and completely at odds with those oh so brilliant words she uttered at the bookend of last season when she picked up the baton from Peter: “we’re here now,” she said.
And I get it, writing can be like that especially when you’re resetting timelines and develop a firmer sense of the story you want to tell. But it blemishes character continuity somewhat because the two moments are so different.
That being said I can understand Olivia’s reasons for feeling this way, especially one week after the event. I appreciate the scene for illustrating the lack of trust between the two sides. Though it’s more than that — there’s a lack of understanding. For me, this is one of the most intriguing aspects, given Peter’s ‘sacrifice’.
It’s quite logical to assume that traveling to a higher place, which is essentially what the story and characters did in that finale, would bring about a better sense of self. But that’s one way to tell that story. The clean way. The other way is to explore what such a journey means in a more truthful context.
Which is to say I’m pleased that this new timeline puts our heroes several steps ahead of where they were in some ways, but also comes with the consequence of them not knowing about the positive developments they made in the OT.
So we can already see that the grass isn’t greener, it’s just cut differently. That’s not to say one wouldn’t have a preference, but it comes back down to the knowing, not lack of it. Clearly you can miss something you’ve never had, but I sense it’s about degrees and fighting for the weird connections that make everything else make sense.
Altlivia doesn’t do much for me in this episode, but her view that Olivia is lonely, coupled with Olivia’s ‘you don’t know the real me’ retort is another interesting element. Who’s right here? Naturally, it’s a matter of perspective.
But I am more inclined to support Olivia’s stance — as we see later in the episode, there are parts of her character that are locked down, including parts she only knows exist through the gaping hole that’s been there as long as she can remember.
“It is impossible!” Anytime you hear an Observer say that you have to sit up and lean forward. We know that Peter ‘exists’ in some form, but to discover that the Observers are shocked that he’s still ‘bleeding through’ is interesting.
I must say, it does seem a bit at odds with September’s “he doesn’t exist,” smuggery at the end of TDWD, but our watchful fellows are great like that because their ambiguity affords some context latitude.
Anyhow, we see some pretty huge character development as far as September goes. He knows that the boy was erased, “and yet, traces of him continues” to manifest. I do like Michael Ceveris’ performances, he delivers those lines so expertly, playing September’s confusion and knowing simultaneously.
How do the Observers know that Peter is bleeding through? The word “traces” is wonderful, it suggests they’re noticing Peter because of the impacts and influences he is still having on his friends and the broader timeline. Or perhaps they just see him?
I love how December all but tells September off, reminding his fellow seer that this situation is his fault. We continue to get a better understanding of what transpired here. They had a job to do, one that has since taken a major detour, due to September’s confusion between the moment and the boy, in the hope of still fulfilling objective zero.
We also get an early sense that September is not crazy about carrying out the task of erasing Peter. December perceives his train of thought, and reminds him: “they can never know that the boy lived to be a man.”
This is foreshadowing — the mere fact that September’s mind was going there says a lot and contextualizes the episode’s most interesting moment. And remember, this is the guy who seemingly had few qualms about directing Peter into the BBM in th first place. Seemingly, our heroes are not the only ones affected by these new lines.
Lincoln’s arrival down the rabbit hole was sharply driven but I don’t have a real problem with it, in and of itself. Like I said earlier it did a good job at getting the ball rolling in this new timeline. We also get just enough emotional cues from his character, enabling Olivia to open up her story.
I liked their connection which is drawn through their similar experiences. We learn that she still lost John Scott, although without Peter to aid Walter’s genius it’s implied that he wasn’t saved from the initial toxin. Olivia seemingly had no reason to feel that he betrayed her.
And there’s the notion of fate. Olivia and the team may not have had much experience with Lincoln in the OT but he played an important role in a chapter that dealt heavy in destiny and fate. With Peter missing from their lives, Lincoln’s not a ridiculous substitute.
The episode also contains other moments that speak to the broader story. Moments where our heroes can almost see through to their other lives. Not just with Walter seeing Peter in reflections. Take Olivia’s calming of Walter, for instance. An interesting ‘ability’ in it’s own right, but Walter’s responds to this Jedi moment as though sensing an emotional clarity that he can’t quite understand.
We know that realities are entangled, scientifically and emotionally. It’s reasonable to think that timelines are too. And what are timelines but another experience of ‘reality’..
Who’s the new Observer in town? I’d be very surprised if it’s not the child from Inner Child. The features are spot on, and he’s clearly wet behind the ears; learning the ropes. More on that in our Observations article.
It’s fitting that Walter is the first to notice “Peter”. And I do like how this is seeded with him noticing something strange about the lab (AKA his home) since the truce/the new timeline was activated.
Walter says Walternate cannot be trusted, “I have looked into his eyes, his soul, and who would know him better than me?” A classic callback to poignant themes explored in the OT while illustrating Walter’s lack of developmental progress. There’s greater TDWD continuity here than with Olivia, I feel.
Upon the activation of the new timeline, I got the sense that Walter lacked the understanding that he grew to have for his counterpart in the OT, and not much has changed a week later. While his suspicions are not without cause it’s clear that Walter lacks self-awareness.
All those bonus level points that he acquired with Peter have evaporated — all that experience gained on the learning curve to redemption gone to waste. But has it gone to waste really? I wouldn’t think so. We’re merely exploring the impact that people have on our lives and vice-versa. It has to be truthful, there are going to be pluses and minuses in this situation.
What I appreciate about this particular story is that the connection to the other life is not completely lost. It’s still there under the surface, manifesting in ways that our heroes can’t quite explain. And who’s to say a similar mechanism wasn’t always in place in the so-called ‘original timeline’. That’s fascinating to me.
All this being said, Astrid reminds Walter that his double “has plenty of reasons of hate you too.” So the suggestion that Walter shattered Walternate’s universe is consistent. Walter’s pants are in a twist because the Silver Fox retaliated. Worse than he did in the OT? I guess we’ll soon find out.
Also, props to Astrid for pointing out Walter’s ignorance — she indulged him far too often in the OT. I’m interested to see how her character develops in this timeline. She a field agent here, operating as the remote “eyes” for a lab-bound Walter, so that will bring its own dynamic.
No one is more pleased than me that the shapeshifter mythology continues in the OT, especially since it looks like being more than a one episode deal. But what is Walternate up to? We have a new brand of shapeshifter, human shapeshifters.
Why Human shapeshifters? It’s unclear, but given the opportunity I’m sure there’s reason for Walternate to prefer more realistic shifters, particularly with the over here team already having encountered the ‘older models’. The ethical and moral questions continue.
“I need to erase someone from time.” Only the observers can get away with saying something like that with a straight face. I like the fact that September has to actually go out and get parts for his ‘erase-someone-from-time-machine,’ because I don’t think it’s something one does every day. It has to be custom-built!
“He’s often quite brilliant, he just never had anything to tether him to the world.” I like that line, but it’s also one of those that walks the line of being contrived. It’s not the line itself, but the context, and that is partially based on how much the viewer knows. A new viewer probably wont detect anything slightly forced about it, but a veteran viewer might find it a touch inorganic. Here’s another example:
“I don’t think there’s anything sadder than when two people are meant to be together and something intervenes.”
There are a few more moments like this, but I wanted to highlight a couple because I think it’s interesting to look at the way serialized storytelling relies on context, particularly under the more unique circumstance of a timeline reset.
This isn’t a criticism — I like the line and understand the emotional shaping at work. But going forward I’m intrigued to see how I respond to more moments like this because I think it eventually has to be supplemented with more show and less tell.
But that challenge is a wonderful one — there’s so much story to work with and more than one way to go about recontextualizing it.
A small point: Olivia explaining to Lincoln how they are able to experiment on the bodies of victims without their families knowing. Answer: they lie, in order to maintain Fringe Division’s secrecy. It was always a very tiny question, but one the show seemed to avoid clarifying in the past. It made sense to establish it through Lincoln’s questioning.
The shapeshifter take-down served it’s purpose, giving both the Dunhamnator and Lincoln moments to shine, while also providing the latter with a moment of poignancy. It also gives us a nice “I’ll be back,” as we see the third shapeshifter reap the rewards of all that hard work — they’ve discovered how to look more ‘human’.
Olivia’s line here worked for me:
“I know that you havent found the answers you were looking for yet. But I hope it brings a kind of closure, a closure that he deserves, because of what he meant to you.”
I interpret this as stemming from Olivia’s natural empathy yes, but also her experiences in both timelines allowing her to understand what Lincoln is going through. An example of context adding depth to a line.
And we shouldn’t underestimate the “what he meant to you.” I think that’s one of the prevailing ideas behind this arc.
The episode’s final peek inside the BBM room was useful. We got to see it through Lee’s eyes which makes sense since we’re still relatively new to the ‘joining place’ ourselves.
I’m relieved it isn’t a one man and his dog operation and that it’s heavily patrolled. It makes sense that it’s not a tourist attraction and that only vetted personal are allowed access.
Olivia’s glance of disdain at the BBM projection was a small, but noted moment.
I also liked Olivia’s line: “I know what it’s like to have a hole in my life.” This scene replaced the one shown in the teaser and I think it works eight times better due to the context and delivery. It warrants a less ‘smily’ Olivia and the addition of “this is where I knew I would find my answers,” sells it for me.
Notice how she has to reach for the appropriate word..she literally has to reach for the..answer. I love when writing is circular, and the delivery — Olivia doesn’t look at Lee while she’s making this self discovery — is spot on. From that we get another ‘bleed through’ moment. not with Peter, but because of Peter, if you catch my drift.
And then the doors open. “Sometimes answers, lead to more questions.” It’s an excellent little moment that should be familiar to the faithful viewer.
The final scene was the standout for me. Sometimes the best lines in stories are the silent ones. September’s choice to not erase Peter is a huge moment played with quiet poignancy. He’s got involved before, but largely to correct a mistake of his own doing.
Here he’s making a conscious choice, one that I believe is based on emotion. He knows they cannot be allowed to remember the boy. Why? We don’t know, but it’s a fundamental part of their objective — and September has gone against it.
I was hoping for something like this. August paved the way and now September, after all these moments watching humans, is becoming more human than we’ve seen him before.
I would very much like to explore this notion further. I assume the memory wipe/Peter eraser would have done its job, so this key choice will surely play into the overarching story.
Maybe it’s not just emotion — perhaps there’s a certain logic to September’s decision. Maybe he perceives a way to bring Peter back and still achieve their goals? Are the two inextricable? I sense high stakes, but that’s how it should be when dealing with the wibbly-wobbly.
- Which side is more “responsible” for the problems between the two worlds?
- Why is Walternate developing human shapeshifters? Who’s science is it based on?
- Where is Peter?
- What caused the BBM to bridge the universes from the new timeliners perspective?
- From the horse’s mouth, it’s established that the Observers responsibility is still “to ensure events play out as they were intended,” before September’s intervention.
- Walter is the first of our heroes to notice “Peter” in the new timeline.
- Olivia lost John Scott in a very similar way in this timeline, the events that led to his death appear to reflect those which happened in the OT — except here he died from the initial skin toxin attack.
- Walter also spent 17 years in St. Claire’s in this timeline. Olivia checked him out in an attempt to save John Scott’s life.
- New shapeshifters — human shapeshifters — have been developed.
- To the surprise of September, Peter exists in some form, appearing to Walter in reflections.
If pilots are notoriously difficult, then re-pilots can perhaps be thought of in the same vein. NHNT had a very difficult job to do in continuing the main storyline momentum, adding new dimensions and providing a rope ladder for intrigued new viewers.
The episode did a good job at bringing those parts together and raised many issues that we’ll be giving more focus to in the coming days and weeks. That being said, it’s not quite as intoxicating as last season’s “Olivia” (though in some areas it’s more measured) and the storytelling consequences of resetting a timeline were not quite avoided as nimbly as a Bad Robot in a corn field on the planet Seriable.
But I do like the episode and I love the path the story is going down. My hope is that the following instalment isn’t too case-of-the-weeky and that the overarching elements further tighten.
I’m rating this episode: 8/10 Seriable Stars