FRINGE: 4.13 A Better Human Being — REVIEW


Could “A Better Human Being” break free from its case-of-the-week structure to deliver overarching story progression and bring us one step closer to understanding some of Fringe‘s most pressing mysteries? Read our review to find out.


  • The episode picked up right where the previous one left off, building on the experiences gained in Westfield.
  • Olivia’s memory flashes were effective in conveying her evolving state and served as a nice reminder of the journey we’ve all been on.
  • The story moved forward in significant ways; important central developments occurred.
  • Peter, in particular, underwent a measure of growth and discovery that felt weighty.
  • An intriguing cliffhanger that put the episode back on track and (hopefully) signals further serialization going forward.

  • The case-of-the-week was interesting for a while but soon tapered off.
  • The melodrama was a bit too much for me, bringing the show dangerously close to certain Season 3 episodes/storylines. It’s something we probably had to go through, but it felt rather forced and overly gooey.
  • It’s a tricky one to play, but I felt Olivia was too full on in her conviction. A bit too needy. It feels as though the character that defined so much of what was great about Fringe has become lost somewhere along the way.
  • Lincoln. I’m not sure what to do with him. Is he being set up as a love interest for Olivia; has that now changed; or was he always a contrivance?

  • “How long have we known each other, Olivia?” Peter adopts the role of psychiatrist, which is really quite interesting when looking at the themes explored in the recent clutch of episodes.
  • I keep coming back to it, but in many respects this whole timeline (if not the entire journey) resembles a process. In fact, I prefer to look at it as a process as opposed to a timeline, as it seems more descriptive of what our heroes are going through.
  • Speaking of going through, I had to chuckle at Peter’s sly attempt to stay the night — a notion swiftly blocked by Olivia’s “migraine”. There’ll be no Corsexyphan tonight!

  • The case-of-the-week conveyed the scientific and psychological context of Olivia’s memory fusion, further reinforcing the idea that reality is subjective.
  • It’s this that allows Olivia to believe that the memories are hers. Whether they are or not is a matter of context, but her ownership and willingness to take responsibility for these experiences is really quite fascinating.
  • While I found the melodrama quite unnecessary and almost too aware, it’s interesting to see Olivia fighting for something that is both natural and unnatural. For me, her story is rooted in these competing elements.
  • Olivia notes that Sean “recounted the entire crime in great detail, as it was happening.” In some ways, this is what Olivia is doing; she’s observing these memories in the form of dreams and flashes, and they’re ‘becoming real.’

  • One of the ideas I keep coming back to is the role the subconscious mind has on our heroes’ realities. It was pleasing to see this episode reinforce these concepts.
  • Walter, who plays an intriguing role of adviser throughout, raises the idea that Peter is manifesting his desires to which the empathetic Olivia is latching onto, making them real.
  • This is interesting, because Walter knows all too well the power of subconscious energy. In chastising Peter for ‘re-creating Olivia,’ he’s also reflecting on his own experiences.

  • While the idea that Peter is using The Force on Olivia is eventually negated, the fact that Walter and Peter considered it possible says something interesting about the narrative and the potential malleability of Olivia.
  • It touches on Peter’s ability to intimately shape the world around him through his presence, and not just his absence — which is where the season began.
  • Intriguingly, the weight shifts from the potential malleability of Olivia to the notion that she’s finding herself. The character is still on an identity quest, and it plays into the self-actualization note I made last week.
  • Olivia offers further insight into her pre-Peter memories: “it’s hazy, it’s kinda indistinct, like an old dream.” It’s a great description that anyone who’s ever had a dream can understand.

  • It was pleasing to see Walter figure out that Nina has been dosing Olivia with Cortexiphan. To see him revisit his past with such conviction and contempt for Nina’s actions was an encouraging.
  • Perhaps he’s a bit of a hypocrite, given his own history with the potion, but he’s learned from his actions and isn’t willing to propagate further violations.
  • It’s possible that ‘Nina’ is working towards some ‘greater good,’ but that phrase is messy at the best of times and wouldn’t doesn’t change the fact that she’s been pumping the Dunhamnator with Cortexiphan without her knowledge.
  • It was a bit unnecessary hearing what Olivia and Peter used to do after they solved cases. And there was I thinking they went home to research the BBM. Little did I know it was another kind of BBM they were getting to grips with. I feel so betrayed!

  • In all seriousness, it was a bit much and I had to question what show I was watching for a moment, but thankfully it was followed up by a freaky Olivia disappearance.
  • My first suspect for the Olivia/Nina kidnapping was David Robert Jones.
  • Did a small time-jump take place, by which time Jones had kidnapped Nina, or is that actually Ninate, or some kind of Fauxina in the room? Has she really been kidnapped, or it part of a ruse?
  • If we are looking at Ninate, it puts into question which orange-haired maiden was behind Olivia’s Cortexiphan dosing.
  • Lot’s to speculate, which makes the next episode all the more intriguing.

  • Lincoln gets a lot of stick, some of it unnecessary, but fair play to him for this little observation: “there really aren’t any normal days in this job are there?” Don’t you quit on me, Linc!
  • Walter’s statement on the human mind vs LSD offers an interesting perspective on tools vs the machine. LSD, like Cortexiphan, is a facilitator, but Walter places more weight on the ‘machine.’
  • An interesting little moment, easily forgotten, came when Walter “lost the thought.” Something I suspect we’ll come back to.

  • I had to laugh at Olivia’s rolly-eyed reaction to Lincoln arriving on the scene. Is she projecting an element of the fanbase. Oh Olive!
  • Astrid’s little moment with Sean was nice.
  • All Peter’s been thinking about since he returned has been getting Olivia in her Bra & Panties — oh he’s the problem alright — but it was pleasing to hear him admit to being scared of making the same mistake after Altlivia-gate.
  • I gave him a hard time for that, but fair play to him for learning from it. In the quiet of the night when Olivia stops thinking about Peter’s ‘BBM’, she’ll appreciate that, I’m sure. Well, she would if she wasn’t kidnapped.
  • Olivia’s need to “go pee” was a bit convenient (too much Cortexiphan?). I don’t think she’s been more excited about anything, ever.
  • I LOVE the fact that Walter drank the ‘Cortexiphan’.

  • Olivia remembers her history with Peter while the pre-Peter memories have become hazy.
  • Dr. Frank was the father of the ‘subjects’. He was trying to make “a better human being.”
  • He wanted to reintroduce the “hard-wired” abilities that have long since become dormant in humans, abilities like those elicited by Olivia’s Cortexiphan trials/dosing.

  • Who kidnapped Olivia and Nina? Is David Robert Jones responsible?
  • Is that really Nina, Nina, or is something else afoot?

An interesting episode that did the all-important thing of moving the story forward. Undercut by too much sap, but steadied by an intriguing cliffhanger that promises much for the next episode.

Best Moment: Olivia and Nina kidnapped.

Best Performer: Joshua Jackson

Best line: β€œIt was so loud for you that you couldn’t even hear yourself think. And I bet you have a lot of great thoughts.” Astrid to Sean.

7.5/10 Seriable Stars

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  1. OldDarth says

    Roco, you’re so heartless! πŸ˜‰

    Seriously, I understand everyone has different tolerance levels for the softer stuff, it’s not something that excites me that much either BUT when taken from the perspective of everything the characters have been put through the entire series, those moments felt earned to me so I found them quite natural, ala Olivia, and easy to embrace in this episode.

    Excellent review as always.

    Well-loved.: Thumb up 44

    • mrflamethunder says

      Oh heartless Roco. Haha :)

      The only thing that feels not right bout this episode is the not-properly-solved COTW.
      After everything they’ve been going through, please excuse them for wanting to be reunite.

      P.S I love your rolly-eyed Olive. Haha! Thanks for the review!

      Well-loved.: Thumb up 17

    • RedVines says

      Yes Roco you are so heartless!
      At the end the Dunhamnator is human also (or maybe not); sometimes she rolls her eyes to Lincoln, falls in love and even has to go to pee πŸ˜‰

      Well-loved.: Thumb up 19

  2. JM says

    ROCO as one person, who found the season 3 P/O moments very sappy, i actually felt the scenes in season 4 have been a MASSIVE improvement and i can actually properly sit through them, i felt the dialouge was MUCH better than it has been, please give me a reply to that, cause in the end you are just going to have to get used to the idea of them as a couple, and i dont think they can really split them up again now.

    Yes again, why is lincoln on this show? lol although im pretty sure the rolling of the eyes was not meant to convey annoyance at his presence, he is just useless, i dont know his face, his voice EVEN his body shape (i dont know the **** why) annoys me, i wish he had never been made a series regular, awful addition to the show, i say that now and thats after hes no longer a love interest for olivia.

    Well-loved.: Thumb up 15

    • runthegamut says

      I was actually okay with Lincoln in this episode, at least at the end. Someone had to be with Walter to confront Nina and everyone else was busy. Peter and Olivia was off being sappy, Astrid was helping COTW boy adjust to his new life, and Broyles was probably off doing something productively bureaucratic. I admit, I cringed watching Lincoln get the door for Olivia, but in the end, he had a purpose. Sort of.

      Like: Thumb up 3

  3. YourPique says

    What couldn’t Nina (the one that Walter and Lincoln are left with at the end of the episode) be a Jones-built shapeshifter, and the one in the room with Olivia the “real” one that we all (kinda) know?

    Like: Thumb up 0

    • starg8fans says

      So far all the shapeshifters we’ve seen had to kill the person they wanted to become. Hence I suspect one is the original Nina and the other one Nina from the Other Side. Which is which – and when a switch was made – remains to be seen.

      Like: Thumb up 2

  4. Roneo says

    Besides to relate Olivia to Sean, the cotw it seems to me referred to the figure of the doctor as a manipulator, again the quasi-god who does whatever it takes for the sake of creating a perfect human being. Is not that, somehow, what are the Shape shifters of Jones? Is not that the goal of the experiments that have undergone Olivia through her different “abusers’s” hands (Bell, Walter, Nina Jones …)? Is she destined to be the perfect human being?
    Although I must admit that I enjoy greatly the “drama” that throws back many other viewers (including Roco I guess), it is true that the episode has seemed in some way forced into this “acceptance” of Olivia’s new identity. I still hope that we will be explained what happened, how she has regained it if she really once lost it, or what is really what we’ve seen (temporary lines rewritten or whatever). It is true that she had started that way in previous episodes, but really she didn’t seem too concerned about it. She reminded me of the Olivia that said, while eating a piece of toast as if nothing: “I have no fear” and “this is the man who will kill me.” She may also feel overwhelmed by the love she feels all of a sudden to Peter (which we see is really very deep), but instead of panicking she has decided to accept it, what in fact is very typical of the old Olivia. I do not see it as much as a loss of the features that have made a character so good and so appreciated, as the result of the growth experienced during this time.

    The same goes for Peter. I think his attitude during the whole episode has been really what we expected from him. I did not think that he was, however, to fall into temptation in today’s episode but I guess that on one hand, it was convenient from the standpoint of narrative: it should happen before the kidnapping, to aim to the next episode.
    And on the other hand, as with Olivia, as a person I fully understand their reactions. In fact, in both cases, I think I would have done exactly the same. Despite their doubts, evidence began to be too much, and even he does not know how or why, I think in his heart has known undoubtedly that this was his Olivia. And there will be time for explanations……I hope.

    Well-loved.: Thumb up 18

  5. Rae` says

    I’m with OldDarth on this one. I definitely feel the ‘sap’ scenes were earned, and quite frankly, if in 2026 their relationship had progressed to marriage, well, I’d like to think they shared quite a few moments behind the scenes, like they had in this episode. If not well then, I guess Peter just married her cause she looked good in the Bra and Panties Tank, and she rather enjoyed his little coin trick and his BBM.

    Honestly, I am a hopeless romantic , that being said, I’m not big into the ‘chick flicky’ stuff on serial dramas, but for this show, I crave it at times, just so we can see how invested our characters are in each other, and why it is they decide to make the choices that they do. Ultimately, I feel what defines Peter and Olivia as individuals is their own personal ‘growth’ which they find in the eyes of the other. And really, in any relationship in life, don’t you want that one person who sees you as the best person you can be. If only to make you realize who you want to be, not only for yourself, but for someone else as well?

    In my opinion, these scenes were pivotal to the series in a way that it provides us a type of ‘closure’ into Olivia’s P.O.V in their relationship. We all gathered in season three, how deeply Peter felt for Olivia, and it was just nice to see the depth of her ‘I Love You’ in TLSW, play out in this episode.

    Not to mention, I think this was a call back to one of the earlier episodes of the season where she states that ‘there’s a whole in her life that she doesn’t know how to fill’. I think her not being afraid anymore had a great deal to do with the fact that she now feels complete, through Peter and because of these memories. I can’t say I wouldn’t be more excited then terrified, if I suddenly felt that my life was suddenly full, too.

    Well-loved.: Thumb up 29

  6. lost_stef says

    Roco great review once again. Some classic one liners in there my personal fav β€œThere’ll be no Corsexyphan tonight!”

    Did anyone else notice that when Olivia was in the lab with Walter while he was reading her brain waves that there was Amber & red lights on the machine behind her?

    I also agree that Olivia came off as a bit needy and not as strong willed. Maybe she has been missing Peter and his BBM and it’s bringing out a side of her that we have never seen.

    Like: Thumb up 8

  7. YourPique says

    To be honest Roco, I’m surprised you aren’t being harder on Peter for the end of episode kiss! You think he would’ve learned his lesson from the red haired one…and even after a warning from Walter!

    Like: Thumb up 4

    • Schoko says

      That video really hooked me when it first came out. There are some things they mention, very emphatically, that I wonder if we will still see or not? For instance, the Rogue Observers? Robert Bishop? How cool would it be if we actually got these answers?

      Like: Thumb up 1

  8. MISSNETT says

    I really thought the “sap” was way better in this episode then any last year. I thought the car scene was done well. Peter admitting his fear of repeating his mistake was very appreciated. I’ve said before I didn’t want to see Peter and Olivia together so soon but it happened. I went with it. Now I’m invested in it. Give these two a break Roco! They deserve a little happiness! My fear? That Olivia isn’t really getting back these memories permanently. That this is just the cortexiphan. I don’t know. How many more things have to happen to get in their way! I did like the flashbacks to previous episodes to show the progression of Olivia’s memories. It was nice to see those connections.

    When Walter lost his train of thought, I at first thought he was remembering like Olivia. I hope we see some more on this. I feel there was more to it.

    Which Nina is which? What is DRJ really up to? Why was Mr. X’s name on the EEG? I can’t wait to find out!! Bring on next week and the rest of the season!

    Well-loved.: Thumb up 12

  9. Johnny says

    I figured that when Walter had a thought slip his mind he was about to say, “…unless that person is still being given cortexiphan.” They were talking about the drug at the time and he was giving potential reasons for what’s happening to Olivia. The logical next step would be the *DING!* light bulb going off moment, but Walter lost his thought. We are later given the conclusion that, yes, Olivia is being dosed (which we already knew, but now the rest of the characters know too).

    I seriously doubt anything more will come of that. Then again we’ll just have to wait and see.

    Like: Thumb up 2

  10. dALTnielle says

    I don’t think that Olivia being too confident now that she got her memory back can be seen as the bad. I think that she is just being herself, just like we know the dunhamnator. Plus, after being different for some time, after feeling so out of place , she finally knows who she is… she finally has that back. It’s really realistic to me that she would act like that.
    She also went from having the personal security of having Peter, to not having him and feeling his absence to having him again… of course she likes the feeling and she’s not scared.
    The Peter and Olivia moments were really great. they weren’t cheesy, they didn’t feel pushed. I really loved… considering what they’ve been through, they really deserved it. Especially since the episode ended with Olivia being kidnapped.

    The case of the week was OK… it wasn’t better than others but it delivered the message.

    I don’t know what’s up with Lincoln. I don’t think that his purpose was just to be a love interest for Olivia while Peter was away. They’ve actually been sharing their loneliness with each other, making them realize the world their living in… I don’t know how to explain, but I really think that there’s another purpose for him.

    LOL at the “Corsexyphan”

    I’m with in saying that Joshua Jackson played wonderful in this episode, but I think that Anna Torv did a much more better job… she made the transition from one Olivia to another (which are not that different at all) so perfectly. And I felt every word she said (especially in the more intense moments). I think she deserved to be chosen as best performer :)

    Great review Roco πŸ˜‰

    Well-loved.: Thumb up 18

    • Red Balloon says

      There were some fantastic moments from Anna…in the beginning when she giggles about the kiss-lovely and refreshing, the “Oliivia Dunham”-hilarious, the talk and look she gave Peter when finally realizing she’s her Olivia at the storage-goosebumps, and the whole car scene was so natural…I have so much admiration for her work!, but Josh was excellent in the very same scenes, and I think this was his finest job so far, he wasn’t faking his voice, as sometimes he does, and he didn’t covered his mouth when talking (I don’t understand why he does that)…you could see him struggling with his feelings and then openly changed fluently and that was great to watch also. I guess it can very well be a tie.

      Well-loved.: Thumb up 18

    • Jennifer says

      I agree with exactly everything you said except..I agree with Roco on Josh Jackson being the winner of the best performances in the show..hands down!

      Like: Thumb up 0

  11. Red Balloon says

    Roco!, you cold bloody heartless fringie you!…

    LOL at “And there was I thinking they went home to research the BBM. Little did I know it was another kind of BBM they were getting to grips with. I feel so betrayed!”
    …jajajaja BBM and shapeshifters can wait when is Friday Night…just like us, they just want to sit and watch some good tv for a change, only in my case is with popcorn πŸ˜‰

    Great review, I do think that Olivia has grown some confidence and should be more relax when she is in love, so I don’t mind that she’s showing her true feminine side when she’s with Petah.

    I loved Josh and Anna’s work, and John’s fatherly moments when showing care about Olivia.

    I wont get into it that much because I haven’t seen it with subtitles, but I can’t agree with your score at all…I give it a 10 and forget that I didn’t liked the freak of the week story that much…I thought it was lazy written for the guest stars.

    A lot of green happened in the background, in the mental institution and with the reporter’s name (like in 2.17 Olivia. In The Lab. With The Revolver)

    Well-loved.: Thumb up 12

  12. OliveOrTwist says

    I’m not really sure why the romantic stuff between Olivia and Peter makes so many people squirm. I think Anna Torv and Joshua Jackson pull off believable chemistry, and the writers generate pretty decent dialogue given the weirdness of the situation the characters find themselves in. Love relationships are a classic part of drama, and of life, so why not explore their meaning in the context of all the other big questions of the universe? It is rare that I experience a romantic scene on Fringe as cheesy, and they are certainly done better than most sci-fi shows.

    I for one am glad you acknowledge Josh Jackson as the best performer for a change. Anna gets some really meaty material to work with as an actress in this show, but I don’t think Josh gets enough credit for the subtleties of his performances. He can communicate vulnerability, hope, fear, tenderness and fondness all at the same time and without saying a word of dialogue.

    Well-loved.: Thumb up 24

    • Jennifer says

      THANK GOD someone else believes the same way I do & have since the beginning of season 1 about Josh Jackson! You know an actor is great when they don’t even have to say a word & you can feel their thoughts! season 3 when Peter told Olivia about Altlivia, you could feel the hurt in Josh as she turned him away EVERY time!

      Like: Thumb up 4

  13. Belle12 says

    I don’t think Olivia was rolling her eyes at Lincoln’s presence, but at the fact that when he ask about her, Peter answer something like we do not know yet or something like that, and she was like, no, I am fine and rolled her eyes.

    I love that they are back together , but some of the love scenes were not great!!!

    Like: Thumb up 0

  14. Zakray says

    I know I’m very late to the party, I can’t wait for tonight’s episode
    Great review as always Roco.
    The romantic gas station scene didn’t seem to bother me as much as it did you there are other times when I felt it was forced this time it seemed genuine to me.
    Walter’s pause and forgetting what he was going to say leads me to believe that he’s having the same memory “deja vu” moments that Olivia is experiencing just not as strongly or as Johnny said up-thread he could have been thinking about the cortexiphan.
    I really hope that we’ve finally met alt-Nina and not a shape-shifter and yes it was great to see Lincoln and Walter nail Nina, Alt-Nina, SS-Nina, the two of them work very well together.

    Like: Thumb up 1

  15. Darth Kate says


    “I felt Olivia was too full on in her conviction. A bit too needy. It feels as though the character that defined so much of what was great about Fringe has become lost somewhere along the way.”


    Like: Thumb up 1

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