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.
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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