The wait is over.
After four long months Fringe is finally back on the air. And although I was apprehensive with all the entertainment talk of the fourth season being a great opportunity for new viewers to get in on the show, and hence regular diehard fans like myself might be discouraged with the necessary rehashing of the story line, I was pleased to see that both the story was good and that there were plenty of subtle changes that only a regular viewer could notice.
Neither Here Nor There introduced us to a world devoid of Peter. And a sadder colder world it is. For one my favourite supporting character Astrid is not as close with Walter as she used to be, rather it’s Olivia that seems better able to sooth Walter (and she used to get so short with him). I guess Astrid being in the field as Walter’s eyes, literally carrying around a camera for him due to a severe case of agoraphobia, has resulted in a more distant relationship between the two. That’s a pity because I always liked the interplay between the them, especially in the lab.
Olivia has changed as well being a more cold version of the woman we knew last season. She’s become a stiff by the books person who I don’t think smiled once during the whole episode. Contrast that with her counterpart from over there, who seems to flash a smarmy smile every time she’s on screen. Over there Olivia is different too in that she never had to suffer through a fake courtship with Peter and the resulting unwanted fiance chasing-away pregnancy. Instead she’s the cheeky relatively carefree woman we initially met at the end of season two.
Meanwhile our poor Olivia is much like she was at the start of the series, an untrusting workhorse, in part due to her duplicitous boyfriend’s death in season one. Maybe that’s why she and Walter seem to get on better in this reality. Without Peter in their lives they each had a hole that needed filling and to some degree found solace with each other. They certainly seem closer than what we saw in seasons one through three.
A highlight for me was the morgue scene where Lincoln Lee laments the fact his partner believed there was a reason for everything, but that he himself can’t see a reason in his partners (apparent random) death. Of course we know his death wasn’t so random because it’s brought Lincoln and Olivia together. Loved that Lincoln’s partner was played by none other than Joe Flanigan of Stargate Atlantis fame (yah).
On a side note, at the start when Olivia is talking with the over there Olivia she says she was kidnapped by her. And then when our Olivia meets Lincoln she doesn’t display any recognition of him. Does this mean that while she was on the other side she never got to work in the field with the over there Lincoln or their version of Charlie? For that matter did she ever get to meet her over there mom, because that was a beautifully pivotal scene for our Olivia.
Olivia and Broyles too don’t seem to be as tight as they were before. It’s much more of a distant kind of professional thing they have going. All the relationships actually between the principle characters in this reality don’t seem to be as tight knit. I guess without Peter they never had the chance to form the misfit family we had come to love. At least it seem both Olivia and Walter have in some way felt his absence. (Olivia mentions a hole in her life while Walter notes things feel different ever since the Machine was turned on.)
Lastly, why didn’t the Observer flick the switch at the end? We already know from the story of August that Observers can develop attachments, possibly feelings, for the people they watch. Has September grown to care for Walter and by extension the Fringe team?