[Review] 4×05: “Novation” – A New Paradigm Shift

-By Aimee Long

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” – Anatole France

After returning back to the physical plane of existence, Peter Bishop soon found out that he was not exactly home. He was taken into custody by the Fringe Division, and placed under heavy guard, as he was transferred to a holding facility under the watchful and wary eyes of Philip Broyles. Peter stared at Broyles who looked at him with mistrust, but also some curiosity in his eyes. Peter’s look and indignant huff as he was shown his cell said it all: “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

(I’m a big fan of the music in Fringe, and loved the sound of the horns as “Peter’s Theme” played in the background of this scene)

Olivia arrived at the lab, looking for Walter. She wanted to let him know that the man brought in from Lake Reiden said that his name was Peter Bishop, and that he wanted to speak to Walter. Walter was hooked up to a device that looked like it could be part of a suicide attempt. I could not help but think about how terrible it had to be for Olivia. First, she stopped him from a lobotomy attempt. Then, she was there for his massive freak-out in the hotel room in Subject 9. This scene just built upon the fear of Walter’s instability, even though he was only “self-medicating” in order to sleep.

The shape-shifter b-plot developed nicely, in my opinion. One of the great things about Fringe is that the show takes these monster-of-the-week stories and folds them so well into the fabric of the show’s mythology. The new shape-shifter, referred to as “Nadine, and well-played by actress Michelle Krusiec, was quite creepy. I sensed a great manipulative power from her. Since we were first introduced to the new human shape-shifters, it seemed to me that the idea and concepts behind them seemed familiar. In this episode, it dawned on me that they reminded me of a creation from one of my favorite and a classic science-fiction series, Dune. In the series, there are a group of genetically manipulated shape-shifters called Face Dancers, created by a race of extreme scientists that would have given the Nazis nightmares.

In any case, I do like Fringe’s use of these sci-fi concepts. It is good that even if the outside of the shape-shifter looks familiar to the people close to the person being portrayed by the shifter, the memories are not there. Nadine had taken the form of a Massive Dynamic scientist’s wife in order to try and locate some files regarding his research pertaining to cellular regeneration/shape-shifter technology. The unlucky boyfriend’s questioning of her slight changes kind of felt like Peter’s suspicion of AltLivia in Do Shape-shifters Dream of Electric Sheep.

Back at FBI headquarters, Broyles explained to Walter that they had run a DNA test on the man claiming to be Peter, and it was highly probable that he was related. Walter explained that it was his thought that Peter was from another universe where Peter did not die. Olivia’s response that, “People from other universes just don’t show up in your dreams,” is key here. Dreams have long played a huge part in Fringe. They’ve been shown to cross the line from mental thoughts to physical action. They are transformative. If a person can think it, then he or she can try and make it reality. Olivia seemed also highly interested in the man. Like others, I wonder what exactly she dreamed about Peter.

The episode kept me feeling a varied range of emotion, and this is where Fringe reigns supreme over other television dramas.

There was great happiness when Peter was reunited with Walter. Peter’s first line in the Pilot to him was, “Hello, Walter,” and this is what he said when he met him again. For the first meeting, Walter was incarcerated at St Claires’s and sitting as Peter stood. For this one, Peter was the one being held and was sitting as Walter stood. The way John Noble and Joshua Jackson enacted this scene is one of the reasons I love these two men and their characters so much. Walter’s eyes stole a quick glance at Peter, then quickly dropped, only to slowly raise up and look into Peter’s eyes. Walter would later proclaim that, “I saw my son’s eyes in the eyes of that man.”

Peter quickly realized that no one remembered him, and asked Walter to help him figure out why. He spilled what he knew about both universes, the machine, and the bridge, which stunned the team viewing the room from behind the two-way mirror. Walter also appeared amazed at Peter’s detailed and intimate knowledge, but he got one fact wrong – Peter died in the icy water at Reiden Lake. September did not save him. It was also revealed for certain that the team had never encountered the Observers. Peter realized that he was not supposed to exist as a man – that he was supposed to die as a child. But he asked Walter the question that seems to be the one that will drive this story-arc: “Why am I still here?” In the past, Peter was shown to have a calming way about his touch, but when he clasped Walter’s arm, it elicited the opposite effect. Walter freaked and yelled to the others that he wanted to leave as distraught Peter begged him to help him.

Olivia ushered Walter out of the room and gave Peter a long, hard look before departing. This man had to be intriguing to her. Was she thinking of the dreams that he appeared in?

Lincoln Lee brought a new case to the attention of Fringe Division, involving the shape-shifters that they thought were all killed. As they talked, Olivia was shown contemplating the machine.

As they discussed Dr. Truss’ work with Nina Sharp, it occurred to me that the treatment she described to them sounded like the technology used to heal Captain Lincoln Lee from the other universe, when he was burnt to a crisp by Sally Clark on the bridge in Over There: Part One.

Walter’s trip to memory-lane while looking through some his son’s things underscored the deep affection he felt for his son. Peter brought back those feelings. And the awaited silver half-dollar made a new appearance, as Walter thoughtfully ran it across his knuckles, attempting the familiar coin trick. He was also shown making “Peter’s favorite dessert” – custard. (Which we know from New Day in the Old Town that the Peter we are familiar with “never liked custard.”) Nina Sharp visited him, and Walter revealed to her the reason he so vehemently hated her all these years. He blamed her presence for the breakage of the cure-vial for Peter, necessitating Walter bringing the boy back here, and contributing to his death. I did wonder why Walter never placed the blame on Nina, but decided it was because she was only trying to stop him from making the biggest mistake of his life. But Walter knew she was right – and so was Carla Warren. He was warned against risking the world for the sake of one life, and he caused damage in two. (Which brings up the question once again about what happened in the lab fire that killed Dr. Warren.)

Walter proclaimed that he deserved to be punished for his actions. In White Tulip, he had hoped that he’d receive a sign of forgiveness from God, because if God could forgive him, then so could Peter. But Peter died in this life, and Walter could never begin to forgive himself. So the well-played theme of forgiveness is once again strong in the show this season.

Walter had begged God to spare the world in 6:02 a.m. EST, saying that he was willing let Peter die. Here, Walter admitted that the alleged return of a long-dead son should be a miracle in his eyes, but he doesn’t feel that way due to the consequences of his actions. Recall from The Firefly a line that Rosco Joyce told Walter, after he had been visited by his long-dead son: “No one should have a second chance like that.” This made Nina’s statement to Walter that, “maybe you’ve just been given a second chance,” even more poignant.

Agent Lee surprised me in various ways. Like Peter, the man is a very determined individual, especially when it comes to getting answers. Doubly so when those answers involve the death of someone he cared for. It was also Lincoln that pushed for Peter to be included in the investigation. Peter had used his wonderful way with electronics to rewire the communication intercom in his cell so that he could hear and be heard outside of it. I found it funny when Olivia looked at his handiwork, as her thoughts seemed to say, “this guy is a massive pain-in-the-ass.”

Lincoln would not accept Broyles’ excuses for why he thought Peter should not be included in the investigation. Due to his extensive purported history with shape-shifters and skills in data decryption, Peter could get answers faster then the stalled FBI employees. This had to win Lincoln some more brownie points from Peter, who made known more than once that he tired of the slow pace he encountered in finding the answers he sought. Plus, I’m very glad to see that the shape-shifter discs Peter retrieved in Reciprocity came back into play this season. It seems the decoder key from William Bell’s office was retrieved.

Dr. Truss’ story followed a theme for ex-scientists often found in Fringe. Like Walter, Dr. Penrose, Dr. Carson, and countless others, he was a man disturbed by how far he had crossed the line. His work had cost him his wife. Also, he had echoed a sentiment from William Bell that some things were not the domain of man to mess with. This puts him at odds with the Bell that we knew – he had urged Walter to not be afraid of crossing the line. Also, Nina in this time does not seem to be very concerned with moral ethics. She had remarked in the season premiere that Massive Dynamic had no responsibility concerning how science was used. Did this put her at odds with Bell in this timeline?

I’m also glad that Lincoln was more concerned about the case, and that he declined Olivia’s offer of dinner. I really hope that we are not subjected to another love triangle. Fans of the show often made fun of the fact that previously, Olivia showed little interest in food. The poor woman seemed to subsist on a diet of dry cereal, whiskey, toast, and the occasional Thai takeout. It’s also funny that Lincoln is the one that is all about work in this timeline. Olivia now seems to at least be able to relax some. Maybe it was the posh upbringing she received from Nina Sharp, including riding lessons. (Remember that in The Cure that Nina told Peter that he was often with her at the stable where they were meeting.)

As the case wrapped, Olivia was shown being handed some files, but she stated that she had already received them from the agent. Yes! Another timeline lapse or convergence, just like the ones she experienced in Subject 9 and in The Road Not Taken. Some thought she was experiencing the other universe in season 1, but I was in the time perception camp. Seems this may be the explanation after all.

The feeling of joy felt by the meeting of Peter and Walter was muted by the powerful reverse parallel between then two men. Season One Peter was reluctant to get to know the father that he felt had abandoned him, but he grew to love the man so much through most of Season 2. But then the cat was let out of the bag that Peter was essentially the “replacement goldfish” for Walter’s “real” son. I clearly remember from The Man From the Other Side the heartbreak I felt when Peter, angry and ice-cold in demeanor, told Walter, “You are NOT my Father.”

Walter never displayed anger at Peter in their encounters. If anything, Walter was still berating himself for his choice to try and save the alternate Peter. His warm look and cupping of Peter’s face was one of the highlights of the evening for me. Walter has used such physical contact previously with Peter, most notably in August and The Day We Died. I swear I could feel my heart swell with happiness for these two. But that was swiftly deflated when Walter declared that he could not help Peter because he had tried to help a boy that was not his son, and that Peter was also not his son.

Every day… for the past twenty-five years… I’ve tried to imagine what you would look like as a man… my son. But I don’t deserve this. I don’t deserve you.

What hurts the most with this situation is a memory that we as an audience have. Peter made a clear distinction that Walternate was his father, but Walter was Dad in his heart. There are echoes of future Walter telling Peter, as he cupped his face, “It can’t be worse than this.”

The last scene with Peter underscored the idea that, yes, it could be worse. Peter had to feel complete and utter devastation at being truly alone in the world. His dad rejected him, and the woman he gave it all up for was asking her partner, Agent Lee, out for dinner. (I have a feeling Peter may have heard that exchange via the intercom he wired to hear outside his cell.) The title of the episode, Novation, has an interesting connotation. It is a legal term that partially means the exchange of one obligation for another. It is my feeling that in a nutshell, Peter has gone from being the object of desire, to being an unwanted taboo.

At the very end, a familiar situation was shown. A quantum-entangled typewriter was retrieved and used by Nadine to let someone know that the serum from Dr. Truss was made and that it worked. Who was on the other end of that typewriter? Walternate, who has yet to be seen? Or someone else, possibly a person we’ve met before? Theories abound, so I look forward to finding out the answer.

“The Others” are coming 😉

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