FRINGE REWATCH: 1.01 Pilot – Unconscious States

Join us as we rewatch every episode of Fringe in search of new perspectives and the true meaning of Peter Bishop’s nonexistence. First up: the Pilot, or what we’re calling: “Unconscious States”.

Re-synopsis: FBI agent Olivia Dunham’s world is turned upside down in a mystery equal parts perplexing and heart-breaking. She goes in search of the only two people who can help her find the answers to save the life of the man she loves. The man she thought she knew.

Please note: these rewatches may contain references to later episodes.

In case you didn’t manage to rewatch this episode, here’s a Pilot promo to give you a sense of where the story was:

This retrospective is split in two main sections: NEW PERSPECTIVES, where I look at the episode with new eyes, and FINDING PETER, where I share speculations and thoughts – arising from watching this episode – in relation to Peter ceasing to exist and the new timeline.

As mentioned here, I’ll be making an effort to avoid going over old ground, but there will be links at the end to my previous rewatch articles.

New Perspectives

In this section I share my new thoughts and connections gleaned from rewatching this episode.

  • Olivia and John Scott. What struck me here is how easily I bought into their relationship. Such a great introduction to these characters.
  • It also makes me wonder whether they would have remained together had he not, you know, lied and died? Or was Peter’s entry into her life something that was meant to happen? I think we know the answer to that, but it’s interesting to consider how things came together and what hand our very own characters had in their own narrative.
  • Something that didn’t stand out to me last time was how effectively this scene also introduced Charlie Francis, before we even met the guy. “I think Charlie knows.” And I like that Charlie knows, yet doesn’t make Olivia feel uncomfortable about it. Charlie was such a solid, grounded, character. How much did Olivia lose when he died?
  • Olivia is so happy before all hell breaks loose. It takes me a moment to trace this character to the one we know now. But not too long. It’s easy enough to see that this episode represents the end of one phase and the beginning of another. Deeper down the rabbit hole she goes.
  • “The Pattern” – no longer relevant to the ongoing story but it sure did bring our characters together. It was like the ingredient in the soup. Interesting that our characters have the daddy of all patterns, in the time-loop: a repeating cycle of events, allowing a cumulative break-through: “we’re here now”.
  • “Powdered sugar on glazed doughnut”. Little did Broyles know he’d soon be experiencing that first-hand with Walter.
  • Peter’s reaction to the patients at St. Claire’s is interesting given his own experience with mental trauma and the way he dealt with it: make-believing, imagination. I’m tipping my hat to Subject 13 which ties in so well with this episode.

  • To this day, one of my favorite scenes from Fringe is Olivia and Walter meeting ‘for the first time’ in the Pilot – long before (or after) the time-loop. Walter, with his back to Olivia (and us), rotates his head 180 degrees, and says: “I knew someone would come..eventually.”
  • I know, I know, I commented on this before – BUT, we now have proof of TIME-LOOPS. Before I was speculating, now we know they’ve traveled this road on at least two other occasions. Throw in the fact that he experimented on her as a child and that she was unwittingly responsible for the alt-universe war, and a loop becomes a spiral – a cycle of events that get tighter with each iteration.
  • I’m also intrigued by the context of Walter’s ‘knowledge’. Was it undying faith that someone (specifically Olivia?) would come for him? Hope? Vague recognition of his repeated existence? It’s one of those great lines that become weightier the more the story expands.
  • After she pulls out all the stops to get the Bishops, Broyles questions Olivia’s root motivation, suggesting she was only this committed because she was involved with John. A fair doubt – one I’m glad the show semi-explored.
  • That said, he can’t really blame her – she’s fighting for the man she loves. And at this stage (unlike in later seasons), the entire fate of two universes don’t knowingly rest on her shoulders. She’s allowed to be a little bit selfish here, OK Broyles.

  • Peter: “Be careful what you wish for”. That takes me straight back (or forward) to Subject 13. What is it with that episode and its proximity to the Pilot? Perhaps it’s because 13 is somewhat like an origins tale in its own right? That’s something I’ll keep an eye out for during this rewatch: which episodes are naturally associated – and why?
  • “So much happened here. And so much is about to”. I don’t need to say anything really. The line always carried great weight, even more so with the discovery that our heroes have indeed traveled through all of this before.
  • There are stairs either side of Olivia and Broyles during the ‘recruitment scene’. The director made good use of the surroundings to add texture to Olivia’s awakening.
  • “I just want to go back to before” / “Dunham, I don’t think you can”. It gets better with each viewing. And I’m positive it is strengthened by the overarching story, allowing us to invest in these characters and their journeys.
  • All of this was meant to happen to Olivia, yet she wants to go back “to before”. I love that she doesn’t specify before what, exactly. We know what she’s talking about, but it lends itself to so much, particularly with the time-loop in play.

  • And Broyles’ response? Not: “you can’t go back” – but a sympathetic: “I don’t think you can”. It makes me wonder whether Broyles had faced this situation himself – the impulse to go back, but knowing deep down that he can’t?
  • Which presents a different connotation – not necessarily that Olivia can’t go back, but that she wont allow herself to. It’s not in her nature, and Broyles knows this. Of course, the irony is that they all go back eventually.
  • It also struck me that Broyles is addicted to mysteries. I find this to be a fun, yet interesting way to view our captain. It sounds frivolous, but isn’t that a large part of existence: Mysteries. Questions. Problem-solving. Fixing.
  • It slipped my mind that Olivia forced Peter to come back to the US with her by threatening him with a file. One that didn’t exist. Obviously not a direct connection, but interesting how Olivia used something imaginary to coerce the very guy who taught her the power of imagination when they were kids. Again, this is why I appreciate Subject 13 – it’s ripples are infinite.
  • “John would do it for me”. That’s how Olivia reconciles putting her life on the line. While a lot of reasons pushed her to this point, this is what solidified her decision to leap inside the Bra & Panties Tank.
  • I continue to find this interesting because it tells us so much about Olivia. It speaks of bravery, compassion, reciprocity, love, and perhaps also, obligation: because he would do it for me, therefore I must.
  • I’m not passing judgement on her character (I think “he’d do it for me” is a reasonable thing to say when you don’t want to use the words “because I love him”). Rather, I’m looking at what it tells us about her and how well it fits with the Olivia we know towards the end of Season 3. I’d say it fits pretty well.
  • For so long she struggled to fully embrace who she is – so, for John, and then Peter, to love her for being her, she’s going to fight for that, along with all the other reasons she has. Another pointer as to why Peter not knowing that Altlivia wasn’t her (later in the series) stung so badly.

  • Peter: “I’m telling you, that man will kill you!”. Well, he was kinda right. Walternate is, after all, Walter.
  • Nina: “I owe Massive Dynamic my life”. I actually think she might be telling the truth about the Cancer, with the details being different. She obviously didn’t want to tell Olivia about losing her arm at the gates of reality.
  • ROOFTOP! This is where the Dunhamnator was born. It’s not even that’s she’s fearless as she leaps from rooftop to stairwell without a single hesitation. It’s that there’s something much greater driving her. I think that’s a super message.
  • Nina’s great line right at the end: “Question him”. You know, just in case we forgot we were watching a Bad Robot show.

In this section I look at how the events in the season 3 finale, specifically how Peter not existing and the ‘new timeline’, played into my thinking whilst watching this episode.

  • Seeing John Scott again raises the question of whether he’s still alive in the ‘new timeline’? I doubt John will be returning to the story, but it would be interesting to know whether he and Olivia have a backstory.
  • It might tell us how destined their crossed paths were – and how much Peter actually played a part in their relationship. Indeed, this is what’s fascinating for me heading into Season 4 – how much of what we’ve already seen stemmed from Peter existing.
  • Destiny now has a different context in this show for me. It’s no longer about what is ‘supposed’ to happen – it’s about what happened. In some sense, destiny is repetition. And given that the new time-line is (seemingly) a break from the cycle, it will be interesting to see what this says.
  • Watching the Pilot again I couldn’t help but think: “all of this is gone, but it’s still part of their collective journey.” I find it quite profound to think that conscious experience can mean both nothing and everything in the same space.
  • How apt that the storage facility complex should be presented as a maze for Olivia to navigate. And how many times has she seen John get blown up?
  • The Pilot is largely about finding Peter (and convincing him to stick around). Will we see a similar format for the Season 4 premiere?

  • “That’s how much I want to see my father”. And now, Peter? What is Peter thinking right now? What are his desires, hopes, dreams? Can we even think of Peter as just one character anymore, given that he connected his past and future consciousness?
  • Who is Peter? Where is Peter? I thinking we also need to know: What is Peter?
  • Olivia: “What’s happening to him? Can it be reversed?” It’s no secret that so much of this story is about time and memory, and in the Pilot so much depends on Walter’s ability to remember. Will this be the case in Season 4? Will Walter remember his beloved Peter? And which beloved Peter?
  • I find it interesting that as Peter was stripped from existence in The Day We Died, Walter seemingly ‘resisted’ the most.
  • Peter becomes Walter’s “guardian” in the Pilot. Could he be a sort of “guardian angel” in Season 4?
  • “When the (brain) rhythms are in sync, [Olivia and John] will be in the same place, so to speak”. Borrowing this notion, could Season 4 see our characters syncing up – getting to the same ‘place’ – to reunite with Peter. Their Peter? Whatever that actually means.
  • And like much of Season 3, I’m thinking: LEVELS. In the pilot during her dreamstate, Olivia calls out to John, “I’m here”. Instantly reminding me of her rousing speech in The Day We Died: “We’re here now”. There’s something about the weight of that line that I love. Perhaps it’s because Olivia is saying something even more important than she realizes.
  • Initially, John Scott doesn’t remember what happened to him. He needs Olivia – who is technically from another place – to help him. Will Season 4 feature such a concept?
  • Charlie’s speech about becoming “obsolete” was always a powerful line, fantastically delivered and captured. And with Peter becoming “obsolete” after fulfilling his “purpose”, it just takes it to another level.


The Pilot held up much better than I was expecting. In many respects my enjoyment of this episode has increased over the years. Many ideas and concepts were seeded, some not allowed or able to grow, but a lot of connections and themes are relevant to this day. I’m not sure how other episodes will play, but I thought this one provided excellent ‘thinking space’ in relation to the events of last season.

Retrospective Rating: 8/10 Seriable Stars

Want more? Check out my previous Pilot write-ups:

Please feel free to share any perspectives or opinions that you had whilst rewatching this episode or reading the above retrospective. I’ve focused on specific areas, but the floor is open for you share any aspects that you find relevant or interesting.

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  1. Real1 says

    That’s really very good Roco :)

    I may have one thing … is that Bishop’s car which let Scott’s car to blow up ? if so … then … i can guess .. that … all was trying to protect Olivia by a way or another !

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    • says

      “is that Bishop’s car which let Scott’s car to blow up ? if so … then … i can guess .. that … all was trying to protect Olivia by a way or another !”

      I wouldn’t have thought it would be there, but I’ll have to check to be sure. That chase scene still rocks though.

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        • says

          Had another look and agree with Kristina – it does look like it. :) I think it’s slightly different from the Bishop Mobile we know and love, but it’s still a great catch.

          Intentional? Not sure, but well worth pointing out. Thanks.

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  2. alexis says

    i love the pilot, it remains one of my favourite episodes! it’s so powerful. every time i see it i feel as invested as the first time with everything that happens! olivia really kicks ass! she is so driven and so determined to do what she thinks she has to do, that’s almost empowering! i think it succeeds in introducing us to the very essence of these characters. the way they have evolved is very coherent with the personalities they show (except olivia in the second half of season 3, i still think she was out of character with the whole peter thing).

    and it’s very interesting to see how their relationships have evolved too! broyles calling olivia “liason” cracks me up every time. but she’s so strong and focused that she goes along and stands her ground and fights for what she believes in… “it’s me, liason”.

    like you point out, we have seen a happy olivia. she is capable of happiness, and of creating bonds with people. but she’s had quite a few punches to her face over the past three years. she has grown more and more wary of her connecting with other people over the course of the “fringe journey”, but had it all not happenned and had john scott not died, we would have met quite a different person. of course, she wouldn’t be our olivia…

    charlie: “How much did Olivia lose when he died?” my answer is: too much. i’ve said before, and i’ll never tire of saying, that killing charlie was probably the stupidest thing they’ve done. he was a very much needed person for olivia, her protector and friend.

    “Nina’s great line right at the end: “Question him”.” this is just great, only in fringe can this happen…

    ““When the (brain) rhythms are in sync, [Olivia and John] will be in the same place, so to speak”. Borrowing this notion, could Season 4 see our characters syncing up – getting to the same ‘place’ – to reunite with Peter. Their Peter? Whatever that actually means.” i think olivia’s subconcious will play a key role in “reconnecting” with peter in s4. she was able to interact with john scott when in theory she was only supposed to be able to witness his memories, and then there’s projection peter. i think olivia will somehow “be aware” of peter and thus maybe “meet with him” somewhere in her subconcious… idk, i’m speculating here. who knows what the writers have in store for peter…

    one thing that strikes me as strange is nina’s reluctance to have dunham and the bishops as a team. i mean, she knows walter and every detail of his story, and also peter and quite probably olivia too. and yet she reacts as if these were the most inapt people in the world to investigate “the pattern”, as if they were a threaten. quite a contrast with the nina we see in s3 encouraging walter and trusting him to save the two universes.

    anyway, it’s always a joy to watch this episode again, it really is quality tv!

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    • says

      Great stuff, alexis.

      “but she’s so strong and focused that she goes along and stands her ground and fights for what she believes in… “it’s me, liason”.”

      Indeed! That was an excellent Olivia moment. She was strong, but not so hardened that she couldn’t play the ‘role’ Broyles had created for her.

      “she was able to interact with john scott when in theory she was only supposed to be able to witness his memories, and then there’s projection peter. i think olivia will somehow “be aware” of peter and thus maybe “meet with him” somewhere in her subconcious… idk, i’m speculating here. who knows what the writers have in store for peter…”

      That’s a good point. Walter was certain that she couldn’t interact with Scott. She has the ability to go beyond the known possibilities, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she interacts with Peter on some unexpected level.

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  3. Pwnsauce says

    It’s always amazing to me to see the old Olivia with John in the motel, so carefree, happy, yet she can’t shake closing herself off to others and say ‘I love you too’ back to John. I felt the same way as you, Roco. This episode still really held up nicely this time around. It was just…really good.

    The line that really stuck out for me that I guess I hadn’t noticed before was when Walter tells Peter that this woke him up and he can’t be put back to sleep. Same thing that Nick Lane told Olivia in ‘Bad Dreams’.

    I also still want to find out why both Walter and William were so concerned about Peter’s health. Hopefully that stone isn’t left unturned by the show’s end.

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    • says

      “I also still want to find out why both Walter and William were so concerned about Peter’s health. Hopefully that stone isn’t left unturned by the show’s end.”

      The writers might expand on that, but I thought it was because Peter is from the alternate universe. I kinda think that Walter had some underlying memory of taking Peter and the experiments he performed to make him better, even though he didn’t consciously make those connections until much later in the season. I also think it was a case of confusing Peter with his original son who he was unable to save.

      Still, I would indeed welcome more on their backstory.

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  4. says

    I just noticed on the rewatch that Peter seemed surprised to find out that William Bell was Walter Bell’s lab partner. How is this possible? Surely they would have met at some point, right?

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    • says


      Good point. Thinking about it, I would put it down to Walter’s original son being closer to Bellie than Walternate’s Peter ever was. I’d also put it down to Peter’s hazy childhood memories, in which he also forgot (using that imagination of his and Walter’s mantra) that he was from the AU.

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        • says

          Good shout. He was supposedly ‘away on business’ at that time, wasn’t he?

          I wouldn’t be surprised if he traveled back and forth for some time (and got to know replacement Peter a little) until it became too dangerous and he ended up stuck on the other side until circumstance (or design) brought Olivia and Co. over there.

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  5. MISSNETT says

    No matter how many times I watch this episode I am always struck by how happy Olivia is at the beginning of the episode. Especially after watching later episodes and re-watching this one again. My heart always break when she listens to the tape and realizes John is involved with Steig. This is the episode that hooked me in and I’ve never looked back!!

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    • MISSNETT says

      Forgot to add.
      Love your reviews Roco!! I always get something new from them!!! You make me think!!

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    • says

      “My heart always break when she listens to the tape and realizes John is involved with Steig.”

      That’s one heck of a moment, when it suddenly dawns on her. And she actually had to go digging in the snow for it too. Symbolic!

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  6. says

    Hi Rocco!

    Just stumbled over your site and am boggled by all the articles you have written!


    I write episode reviews and do podcasts, called FBI(Fringe Benefits Inc), for Fringe both of which you can find at FringeTV . So when I say your output boggles the mind, I truly mean it!

    Really enjoying wading through all your previous posts and you have helped me crystallize some of my views.

    As to this particular article, the pilot does hold up really well. And, in my rewatches, I find that all early season episodes do for the most part as well. Especially when the series made the noticeable switch from aping a monster of the week X-Files motiff and went full on serialization, tying the characters to the mythology directly. The earlier episodes resonate much more emotionally, which was a problem for me the first time they aired, knowing the backstories when rewatching.

    You have come to the time looping concept much earlier than I did but totally agree that the S3 Finale conclusively supports that. In many ways, like Lost, Fringe is borrowing story telling elements from Stephen King’s magnum opus – The Dark Tower. Wheels within wheels.

    So much to discuss especially in terms of Peter and the full extent of the Observer’s statement that Peter has never existed!

    Look forward to continuing this dialogue with everyone here, as time permits. 😉

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    • says

      Hey OldDarth,

      Good stuff. I got your link above, so I’ll keep an eye out, when I can, for your podcasts.

      “I find that all early season episodes do for the most part as well. Especially when the series made the noticeable switch from aping a monster of the week X-Files motiff and went full on serialization, tying the characters to the mythology directly.”

      Totally. The show becomes its own thing when it focuses on the worlds and characters it has created. Like you, I’m finding quite a lot of value dotted in the early episodes, no doubt thanks to the ongoing story that has allowed me to invest in the characters and their journeys. The development at the end of last season also adds that extra dimension.

      “Wheels within wheels.”

      Well said!

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  7. says

    I am struck as to how much Olivia has evolved. Are we in store for another Olivia, a third.
    Just like the 3 Fates, who control and weave the threads of destiny.

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  8. Scully8 says

    One comment I don’t know if I totally agree with; the Pattern not being in play anymore. I think it maybe more in play than before. Bell said “a great war is coming” now we can say the war was/is between the two universes, but it seems the special talents of the cortexiphen subjects would be useful in a different type of war — human vs. non-human (shape shifters ???). Noble mentioned in an inteview that the two universes maybe fighting an outside threat. If you look at the Pattern events, they were not all about the two universes necessarily . . . Walter and Bells work, to me, impacts the universe(s) on another level. Also, even with Peter no longer existing, it is safe to say that Bell and Walter were doing some unsavory things ‘over there’ before Peter was a factor.

    I don’t know, I just believe the ‘Pattern’ remains very much in play. However, I must confess that I’m not as well versed on the timeline thing, so my oberservations are probably a bit more grounded in the ordinary. By the way, I love reading your obersavations and all of the comments. I joined this discussion only this past season, so reading the comments and observations has allowed me to understand the series from a totaly different perspective. Thank you.

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    • says

      Hey Scully,

      Interesting thoughts. Personally, I feel that Bellie was talking about the war between the two worlds, since he made specific mention of it. (at this stage the story also seemed to have moved beyond the Pattern events – although they guided Olivia to the AU). That being said, we could have a situation where the remnants of the Pattern re-emerge in different form (or are revealed to be part of a larger design).

      And then there’s this ‘new timeline’. As you say, will the Pattern still be an issue without Peter? It’s interesting to consider.

      I probably shouldn’t have said it was ‘no longer relevant to the ongoing story’, to be fair. You never know what they may issue!

      I guess it depends which story they want to tell and whether they need to revisit the Pattern in order to facilitate the end game?

      Thanks for your comments, it’s good to have you onboard sharing your views with us!

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  9. g33k says

    Hi Roco and all,

    As I watched the pilot, three things went through my head. I confess I haven’t read through what’s above so apologies if I’ve repeated anything.

    1) That we’ve seen the pattern as events on a map, but we’ve never gotten much information on the time dimension of the pattern except that the earliest recorded events all radiated from Reiden Lake. So for the upcoming season(s) I hope we get the chance to hear about the pattern in more dimensions then just a 2D map. Why are there more then one “centers” and around what time frame do those fall under. What would the pattern look like on a globe as opposed to a a piece of paper? I especially want to know if the pattern is linked to time beyond the Reiden Lake connection, and what happened at the center of the other two patterns and when. (Perhaps they were places where Belly crossed) I’m now expecting the pattern to somehow be looped in time, just like the Olivia drawing was, and that there is a cyclical nature to it that we haven’t thought about.

    2) A new theory: I wonder if the Steig brothers were actually twins or if Steig’s brother was a shapeshifter that had used him for a template. Yes his drivers license information showed a twin brother, but perhaps you would be just hacking the DMV and covering your tracks when someone that looks like you dies on a plane and you’re a super secret spy with DOD clearance that worked at Massive Dynamic. (“What don’t we do? – heh) I know we’ve seen the shapeshifters kill their human templates in the past, but I don’t think its ever been tied to the fact that they have to. Perhaps electrical storms on planes and shapeshifters don’t go together, and the diabetic pen was an opportunity to inject some sort of stabilizer under cover, which ended up being tainted with the toxin by Steig’s people? Shapeshifters are organic hybrids, and so could be vulnerable to it.

    3) All the talk of the subconscious on this episode and how they can be linked, reminded me of season 3’s LSD and made me wonder at the future implications of this comment in regards to Peter’s disappearance. All of Walter’s prescient comments made me wonder if much of this episode he was dealing with trying to piece together subconscious links that he couldn’t quite grasp for himself. Being newly back into society and not wanting to go back to the institution, he must have been doing his best to filter out between ‘crazy’ and ‘not crazy’ although some of them may well have been true, crazy as they seemed. It reminded me of Subject 13 and Elizabeth’s ‘use your imagination to make the world what you want’ quote. Perhaps making Walter yet another victim because he denied the truth poking up at his subconscious to himself in his quest for sanity. Obviously one of my lingering, niggling questions has always been “How much does Walter really know?”

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  10. YourPique says

    One more parallelism that I never caught…Walter tells Peter “A plus” when he catches on…Walternate uses the same term in OT pt. 1.

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