[Review] 4×03: “Alone in the World” – It’s More Than a Feeling

-By Aimee Long

 

For once in my life, I have someone who needs me.
Someone I’ve needed so long,
for once unafraid I can go where life leads me,
and somehow I know I’ll be strong.
For once in my life, I won’t let sorrow hurt me,
not like it’s hurt me before.
For once I have something I know won’t desert me.
I’m not alone anymore.

– Stevie Wonder

 

This episode was a cornucopia of references to the Fringe past. A time line in which one Peter Bishop died, but the other grew up to become a man. It was nice to see these small nods, but even among some familiarity, the viewer was treated to many differences.

A familiar face from season one was seen, however in this timeline, Dr. Sumner appeared to actually care for his patient, Walter. As Walter spoke, he tried desperately to not show that anything had been bothering him- that Agent Lee, Olivia, and Astrid may have been interpreting his behavior as odd and they weren’t used to his eccentricity. The doctor saw right through this and asked Walter about the reflective surfaces that he had been covering. Not only that, but he knew about Walter’s outbursts concerning the man in the lab that only he sees and hears. Walter claimed that these were merely the result of his “self-medication,” and that he hadn’t seen them for weeks. As he stated this, Peter was reflected in the Doctor’s shiny clipboard. I’m surprised Walter didn’t jump out of his skin.


The monster-of-the-week story began with a young boy being chased down by two bullies. He ran to an underground utility service station to hide, but his pursuers found him. Just as it looked like the poor boy was going to be beaten-up, one of the boys yelled out and both were apparently infected with some malicious organism. I immediately had a strong X-Files vibe with this episode. (Firewalker)

In a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment – I missed it Friday night – Olivia was seen drawing what appears to be a man, as she was viewing a facial recognition database search. Drawings have been very important over the course of the Fringe series, as I have noted here. Olivia asked Agent Lee to see her, and she was checking to see how he was adjusting to the new knowledge he had thrust upon him in the past few weeks. Lincoln seemed to maybe have misread Olivia’s intentions as “something more,” and he played it tough by assuring her that he was “not freaked out.” That if he did, she’d “be the first to know.”

Broyles alerted them to a new case, and upon arrival Olivia and Lincoln were shown one of two bodies in an advanced state of decomposition. Broyles corrected Lee, by informing him that the boys had only been dead for days, not months. Broyles was brusque and looking for immediate answers. Poor Astrid was connected to Walter via her ear-camera piece, and Walter went into a tirade about how impossible it was to offer a plausible theory without examining the bodies. The agents discovered a third set of sneaker tracks, an indication another boy was once at the scene.

One body was brought back to the lab, and the other sent to the county morgue. Broyles confronted Walter about his evaluation with Dr. Sumner. Walter tried to play coy, but he could hear Peter.. He argued with Broyles that he needed both bodies. Peter called his name, and Walter spoke back in an agitated manner: “What!” He acted as if he didn’t hear Broyles say something. All the while Peter could be heard:

“Walter, listen.”

“Walter, can you see me?”

“Walter, I can hear you.”

“Walter, where are you?”

“Walter, I’m right here.”

“Listen to me, Walter”

“I’m scared, Walter.”

“You have to help me, Walter.”

“I wanna come home.”

Olivia and Lincoln located the third boy, ten year old Aaron, and took him back to the lab. Aaron carried a drawing pad and was working on an odd picture. Olivia informed him that Dr. Bishop needed to check him to make sure he was OK. Aaron was distrustful of Walter at first, but Walter was able to calm him. As Walter prepared a sample of the boy’s blood for analysis, Aaron found an old G.I. Joe sitting along with some other toys in the lab. (This figure was the same that Peter gave the boy in Inner Child, remarking that he remembered “the scar being on the other side.”) Walter flipped out when he saw this, then he realized that he had scared the boy and apologized. He remarked that it had belonged to his son, who died.

 

Astrid asked Walter to look at the body. He made a discovery that gave them just enough time to cover the body with an incubation cover before it exploded with millions of toxic fungi spores released. Astrid realized that this meant danger for Olivia and Lincoln who had went to retrieve the other corpse. Fortunately she was able to warn them, but the morgue attendants were not so lucky. Clad in bio-suits, similar to those we saw in What Lies Below and Concentrate and Ask Again, the agents investigated the scene. As they searched, Walter informed them that it was a type of fungi that paralyzed its host with a neurotoxin, and the best way to kill it was heat or Ultra-violet light. Olivia suggested that flamethrowers were required to deal with the fungal source at the crime scene.

Walter gave Aaron a clean bill of health and told him that he could go home. He noticed the boy’s hesitancy, and in my mind, it may have reminded him that home was not always a good place for some children – like Olivia in Subject 13. Walter ended up making strawberry milkshakes with Aaron, and they wore aluminum-foil hats, like the ones Walter and Astrid wore in Of Human Action. Aaron asked Walter one of the million dollar questions some Fringe fans asked this summer: What happened to Peter? The answer made sense and answered another question in the process – Walter did cross universes to save red-Peter, but the boy drowned. Was Walter able to pull himself to safety, but not the boy? Or did September save him, but let Peter drown?

Olivia and Lincoln were deployed with an FBI team and the underground area housing the fungi was illuminated with floodlights. Back at the lab, Aaron complained to Walter that he couldn’t see because it was too bright. It became much worse when flamethrowers were applied to the fungi filament growths. Walter immediately called Olivia and informed her that their actions were killing Aaron. Olivia told Walter about the chalk art lining the walls of the area, exact matches to those in Aaron’s sketchbook. This let them know that Aaron had been visiting the location for quite some time.

Aaron said that when he went there, he felt like he was not alone, that something felt like he did. He thought it sounded stupid (Echoes of “it sounds crazy but” and “You might think me insane,” come to mind.) and that he was imagining it. This of course resonated with Walter, who had been seeing and hearing a distraught Peter. Olivia and Lincoln returned to the lab, and Walter explained that they were dealing with a single organism, that he named “Gus.” (Gus and Walter – how sly) Gus was basically a giant brain network, capable of a psychic connection with Aaron.

Broyles called and informed them that another victim had been found, six miles away from the initial site. They had to move quickly to eradicate the creature. Walter became very upset because if they did, it would kill the boy. He yelled into the phone at Broyles, “You’re going to kill Peter!”

Broyles decided to bring in the big guns, courtesy of Massive Dynamic and the until-now-missing, Nina Sharp. A technician tried to inject Gus with a toxin, and was killed. It was also able to paralyze Lincoln. At the lab, Walter realized that Aaron had a grip on the creature due to the limbic portion of his brain, the section that controls emotion. In an emotionally gripping scene, Walter told Aaron in not so many words that he was not alone, that Walter cared for him and would not leave him. Astrid tearfully told Walter that it worked. Aaron was able to let Gus go. Plus Lincoln was all right, although he was a little freaked out, and sarcastically asked Olivia if she wanted to talk about it. The scene is definitely a reminder of the one in Bloodline in which Lincoln held Fauxlivia.

Walter told Aaron as he left that they’d see each other again, as he saw a reflection of Peter in the glass fire extinguisher case on the wall. However, when he was alone, Walter retrieved a book and some instruments. Olivia came to the lab smiling, happy and calling for Walter. The intensity of this scene was just unreal – all I could hear in my head was No, Walter, please no. Please Olivia stop him. She found him just in time, as the initial metallic taps from the hammer and spike were heard. Walter revealed that he had been seeing and hearing a young man. Olivia pulled the drawing from the beginning of the episode – a picture of Peter’s face – and told Walter she had been dreaming about him for three weeks. Walter was overjoyed at this proof that he was not having psychotic visions. He told Olivia that the man must be real, and that they have to find him.

Some Notes and Thoughts

Fringe has explored empathic connections in the past, most notably in Inner Child and Bad Dreams. The child in the first had an emotional bond with Olivia. He could feel what she felt both physically and mentally. In Bad Dreams, Olivia had a connection with former Cortexiphan subject, Nick Lane. She had to shoot him in order to break their empathic link. Another possible connection may involve the appearances of “Projection Peter” when Olivia was trapped in the other universe. He told her that he was the part of her that she wold always hold on to.

I really feel that this episode is a showcase for John Noble’s acting talent. In Season One, Walter was unhinged, but still somewhat functional. This Walter is a wildcard. The scene at the start of the episode had me transfixed, because Walter was clearly uncomfortable. Even in this timeline, his greatest fear is going back to Saint Claire’s (It reminds me of Northwest Passage, when Walter fell apart emotionally because Peter had left, and he did not know if he would ever return.) He has had some pretty powerful scenes before when he spoke about his Peter’s death, but when he told Aaron his story, my heart felt like it had been tossed into a blender along with some strawberries. Yes, “some people die twice.” Losing a son is terrible enough, but losing a second chance is even more heart-wrenching. Aaron’s line to Walter, like so many in Fringe, may have a double meaning: “And you don’t believe that you belong in a mental institution?” One could take it that Aaron thought Walter was crazy because of the story of an alternate Peter dying. Or, one could take it that anyone that lost a son twice would probably end up insane.

Many times there have been expressions concerning the feeling of being alone. Walter was essentially along for the 17 years he spent in St Claire’s . Dr Sumner may have shown some concern for Walter, but in reality, Walter had no one that he could really turn to. However, I did find Olivia’s concern for him to be genuine. She was checking on him. Both of them had lost people that they loved, and both had the missing love of the Peter that they had known in another time. This connection between them shows that neither of them are as alone as they may think.

Everyone looks for companionship. One of my favorite past scenes about this came from Northwest Passage. Sheriff Mathis told Peter, “I was alone for a long time. But I found my place. You will too.” Peter repeatedly told Olivia that he was there for her, that he had her back – that she was not alone.

Lincoln Lee had just moved to the area, and may have felt alone, too. In my opinion, he seemed a little “just there” in this episode. I enjoyed him in the prior two. But there was just some weakness in how he was written and acted this week, and I don’t feel that this was Seth Gabel’s best effort. Everyone has their days. Or maybe I was just so wowed by the amazing work that John brought to Walter this week. Even so, I’m being patient with Lincoln, to give him the chance to progress as a character.

Broyles was so different. Here, he was unwilling to listen to Olivia’s pleas to give Walter more time to save Aaron’s life. In the timeline we know, Broyles was once in a similar situation in What Lies Below. Peter, Walter and Astrid were trapped in the quarantined building, and the CDC wanted to eradicate the building, for the greater good and most saved lives. Broyles insisted that every chance be taken to save the people “he considered family in there.” Olivia, as tenacious as she is, was able to buy enough time to turn on the ventilation to the building, allowing for a sleeping gas to be dispersed so that a cure could be safely administered to the infected.

His words about saving the life of one boy not being worth that of thousands had to hit Walter hard. Because Walter broke two universes for that reason and failed. Though Broyles did say in Jacksonville, “sometimes the only choices you have are bad ones.”

Walter told Aaron that he had to let go of the organism because it was hurting him. This reminded me of the quantum entanglement between Mrs. Merchant and the alternate version of her husband in 6B. She felt alone, but had to let him go because the rift could have caused tremendous destruction.

One of the books seen as Walter retrieved the book illustrating how to conduct a lobotomy was Astral Projection and Other Psychic Phenomenon.

Now that the question of what happened to each Peter Bishop has been answered, I still wonder what happened to Elizabeth Bishop? I follow the theory that she killed herself in this timeline for some other reason – maybe because both Peters died?

Next week’s episode looks awesome, and might be one more step in finding Peter. I do wonder what will happen when Olivia and Walter do find the man that has been haunting them. At least Olivia and Walter aren’t completely alone – Peter sounds truly lost, alone and scared wherever he is.


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