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TV Review: Fringe – “The Man from the Other Side”

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He finally knows.

This week’s episode of Fringe was the culmination of weeks of taunting and tormenting. The cat is finally out of the bag as Peter found out about his otherworldly origins. It was in a simple and rather undramatic way that he found out, but it made for a great scene. This episode marks an important point in the Fringe mythology, as the events of the Pattern are bound to accelerate now that the alternate universe has made its first attempt to cross over to our side.


The glyphs in this episode spelled out "bridge" (kudos to Ksiquot for guessing the word after only one letter!). This word probably was chosen because of its double entendre. First, of course, is the fact that Newton and The Secretary chose a bridge as a location for their experiment. Second is the fact that, were the alternate universe planning a war on us, having a stable bridge between the two universes over which they can send troops is an incredible advantage, as they would be able to send not only the mercury-shape-shifting soldiers, but also human soldiers and strategists. There is also the fact that during wars, control of bridges can often make or break a battle, which makes me wonder what the narrative about the bridge between the two universes is going to be.

 

The Observer was really hard to spot this week; no one mentioned him during the Twitter Fringe Party, and I only saw him the third time I watched the episode. I finally spotted him by accident; I turned my head away for a split second to pick up my drink and turned back to the television just as Newton was walking into Pinetree Savings and there he was, on the far right of the screen.


I was looking forward to meeting the character David Wu, since our very own Fringemunks creator shares the same name. The Fringe Report issued The David Wu Challenge last week, and both Aaron and David Wu himself predicted the character’s death (Olivia shoots him), the latter with surprising accuracy. I wonder if there is something going on there…


The only glyph-like objects I spotted were the same butterfly montage at the Bishops’, above their mantle, and a bowl of red apples in their kitchen. Speaking of the Bishops’ mantle, there was also a metronome there, the same that Brandon used to explain synchronisation between the universes. And speaking of Brandon (whose appearance totally made Lola’s night), is it normal to have two metronomes just sitting around in a sophisticated lab like the ones at Massive Dynamic?

Did anyone else think of slowing down the electrical interference as captured on the TVs within a half-mile radius of the Worcester warehouse? Unfortunately, I couldn’t get good screencaps but Dennis over at Fringe Television was able to. Check it out; it might surprise you.

 

And did anyone figure out yet what “Call Lea and Robert” refers to? The Post-It on which it was scribbled was displayed quite prominently on a computer screen in Walter’s lab.


The code used by the two shape-shifting soldiers when they entered the camera store was to ask for an Argus A2B 35mm, which according to Levi, is a real camera, and a beautiful, old-school one at that. I wonder if the Observers ever used it in previous episodes?

Both Star Trek and Star Wars references were made in this week’s episode. The Star Trek reference was pretty obvious; while looking over a list of events happening in the city during the next couple of days, Peter remembers that he promised Walter to take him to the Star Trek convention. The Star Wars reference was a little more discreet, and came in the form of the plates on both Olivia and Broyles’ cars.



The episode opens up in Worcester, which immediately makes me think about the conversation between Broyles and Nina at the end of “Olivia. In the Lab. With the Revolver.” Does this decrepit, abandoned warehouse of sorts have anything to do with the 30 or so individuals who have been tested on with Cortexiphan in “the Worcester trial”? Most probably, yes – this warehouse could be the place where the trial was held, and, just like Jacksonville’s kindergarten, was purchased by Bell as soon as he could afford it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find any hints (yet) as to Massive Dynamic owning the place (no logos or Easter eggs). Another interesting thing is that Walter didn’t seem to recognise the warehouse at all. He didn’t display any sign of recognition, not even a song or a rhyme.

Which leads to an interesting question: why would the shape-shifting mercury soldiers cross over at this place, of all places? It can’t be coincidence. A theory made over at The Fringe Report suggests that Walter has been led to believe that he was the first one to tear the fabric between the universes, but in reality, Bell was the first one to do so. The events in this episode would imply that Bell had a second trial in Worcester he never told Walter about. Most probably, he was also trying to open up a gateway between the two universes at Worcester too, and perhaps he succeeded.

Why then aren’t the events of the Pattern centered around Worcester, the real first contact between the two universes? It might have to do with the methodology used; that while Walter’s haphazard, last minute gate tore the fabric between the two universes, Bell’s more thought out process made for a more delicate opening of a door between the universes. And so perhaps the crack made in Worcester is smaller than that of Reiden Lake, and we are going to now start seeing events of the Pattern centered around it.

There is also another possibility: that while at Reiden Lake, Walter went through to the alternate universe and came back at Worcester; Bell only went through and never came back, which would somehow explain why the tear at Lake Reiden is much more important than that at Worcester. Or perhaps the answer is a little bit of both.

 

And by the way, I would like to take the time to make a public service announcement. Kids, remember: there is no such thing as “just” checking it out. When you are in a supposedly abandoned place and suddenly something happens, it’s simple: you run.


While we have known for awhile about these shape-shifting, mercury-based soldiers, and while most of us still hold a huge grudge against them for killing FBI Agent Charlie Francis (let me tell you, those soldiers wouldn’t stand a chance again the army of angry Fringies), this is the first time we see how they come to our universe and also what they look like before ‘moulding’ into someone else. Bastian reminded us that in season one’s “The Same Old Story,” Walter had mentioned rapid aging as something he and Bell had looked into for the U.S. army, as it would allow them to clone, harvest, and bring to term a full army within months, if not weeks – wouldn’t that be the strategic advantage.

These soldiers intrigue me for another reason. Why does the person they are moulding into have to be dead? Is it only of strategic value (i.e. having two bank managers come into work in the morning might raise some flags) or is it something more? I have been wondering if the soldiers not only mould their bodies into that of their victim’s, but also their identity; they would absorb the person’s memories and mannerisms so as to appear as natural as possible.

Another intriguing question regarding these soldiers has to do with Broyles. When, at the Worcester warehouse, they discover the shape-shifting soldier embryo (adorable, as Peter would say), Broyles’ expression is very, very interesting. To me, he didn’t look surprised at the existence of such a thing; his face reflected horror, the kind of horror your face might reflect were we to see something straight out of our nightmares suddenly in front of us. Then there is the tone with which Broyles asked Walter, “You think that’s a good idea?” which led me to believe that, as always, Broyles knows a lot more about these embryos than he admits.


Another person who might know more than she is letting on is Olivia. She told Peter that she knew the police officers were shape shifters because you wouldn’t call your superior on a cell phone. Plausible enough to raise suspicion, definitely, but I’m thinking that Olivia wouldn’t shoot someone in the head because of that. Which makes me wonder: did she become suspicious because of the cell phone, focus on the officer in front of her, saw him glimmer and then shot him? But then why wouldn’t she tell Peter about seeing them glimmer?

I think we can assume that these shape-shifting soldiers are as trained as money can make them. Then how come they made the rather ridiculous mistake of leaving an embryo behind? Is it because they don’t have free will and thus can’t do anything that isn’t a direct order? I somehow don’t think so, since up to now, shape-shifters have demonstrated the ability to think independently. Which brings me back to reality, guys. Time is short, I know, but did you have to make such a rookie mistake? And to add insult to injury, did you really think that covering it with cardboard was going to help? I would have guessed that at the very least they would have torched the place. Or, if they really wanted to be efficient, they should have placed the embryo and the dead guy in the car with the girl and torched the whole thing, thus delaying the inevitable investigation. It scares me sometimes how great a criminal strategist I can be.

And just because I’m all about making X-Files comparisons, I just have to ask: is it me, but when he is moulding himself into the teenage guy at the beginning of the episode, does the first shape-shifting soldier look a little like Jeffrey Spender after he was burned?


In the last couple of months, we watched Walter struggling to become more like his former, independent self (“A well ordered house is a sign of a well ordered mind”). And while he has come a long way, he remains fragile. It felt like him telling Peter the truth was going to be his final act of emancipation from his broken self. Taking responsibility for what he had done rather than continuing to avoid it would have done him wonders no doubt, and perhaps even helped him deal with Peter’s inevitable anger.

However, Walter waited too long and lost this opportunity. Now on top of carrying the burden of guilt for taking Peter from Walternate, as well as carrying the burden of guilt for indirectly enabling Elizabeth’s suicide, Walter now has to carry yet another burden: that of hurting Peter by not being the one to tell him the truth.

 

The human tragedy of the situation (the heartbreak of a father whose son rejects him, the anguish of a son whose world is toppled) makes up for the anticlimactic way Peter found out about it. Because, let’s be honest: we were looking forward to an epic Walter/Olivia telling Peter with Astrid calming everyone down and (hopefully) Gene mooing woefully at the back of the lab.  It kind of felt like when you’re trying to pop a plastic bag but, instead of a satisfyingly loud noise, you get a little whistle of air leaking out.

The acting also makes up for it, too, as both John Noble and Joshua Jackson delivered amazing performances. I still demand an Emmy for John Noble, and will add this scene to the ever increasing portfolio backing up my demand.



Oh, the heartbreak of that last scene, with Walter running up in giddy exaltation to the hospital room and his joyous cry of “Peter!”, only to be met with a face that would shatter their newfound little “family thing,” that “they didn’t kill the man from the other side… and they didn’t kill me.” The mixture of horror, sadness, and hurt that flitted across Walter’s face, and then, the line that killed us all: “I am not your son.”

It’s going to be extremely interesting to watch Peter wrestle with his emotions in the coming weeks and in the next season, as they are probably as complex as the situation that triggered it. His anger alone is so multi-layered. There is anger directed at Walter for kidnapping him and lying to him. Whereas the first reason is quite easily explainable, the latter isn’t. I’m guessing that even after Peter finds out the truth, he will still be angry that Walter didn’t tell him.

Then there is the anger related to his mother’s death. A month or so after he went to Europe, he received a call from his father. Walter told him his mother died in a car crash; but Peter found out it was suicide (although we don’t know how he figured it out). To make this even more poignant, it’s the only time the two spoke in the 17 years Walter was at St. Claire’s.

The fact that Elizabeth committed suicide probably burdened Peter, since it happened only a month after he left her alone in the US. But now, he finds out that his guilt was unwarranted, as Elizabeth committed suicide because of her inability to shoulder her own guilt, and not because she was alone. This gives Peter another reason to be angry at Walter.

For fans who are despairing that the relationship between Peter and Walter is forever ruined, remember: as Peter tells the story of his mother’s suicide to Olivia, he doesn’t seem angry; quite the contrary actually. It seems like Peter took the time to digest the information and not only realizes but appreciates the fact that Walter lied to him to protect him. If he did it once, he could do it again; with time, Peter and Walter’s relationship can return to that of a “little family thing.” It will change, of course, because Walter isn’t Peter’s biological father. But we know Peter has the capacity to overcome his anger and understand that everything his father did, however misguided, was for his well-being. What more can a child ask for?

Peter is also going to have to deal with the fact that after all these years of pushing everyone away, his one attempt at a “family thing” blew up in his face. He even called Walter “Dad,” for the first time in a long time (at least when he wasn’t high on experimental drugs, which doesn’t really count). He knows Walter loves him “very much,” and yet here he is, hurting; why would he want to stay?

It’s going to be even worse once Peter thinks about the events of the last couple of weeks and realizes that Olivia lied to him as well. I’m certain he is going to figure it out; after all, he’s no idiot, and Olivia had a major slip of the tongue in this episode (about the water under the bridge absorbing all the excess energy). Even if Peter doesn’t clue in on this slip, certainly he is going to remember the awkwardness between him and Olivia following the events of “Jacksonville.”

Which places Astrid in quite a unique position, and an important one at that. The fact that she and Walter have been spending so much time together – so much so that she has begun parroting him just like Peter does – makes her a possible source of strength as he deals with Peter’s disappearance. By the same token, Astrid being kept in the dark makes her a possible negotiator between Walter and Peter. And because she is friends with everyone, perhaps she will be the one to get Fringe Division’s “little family thing” back together.

By the same token, perhaps Walter’s relationship with Olivia, battered by the events that happened in the episode “Jacksonville,” will heal and even strengthen.

Perhaps Broyles and Nina will have their roles to play as well. The former has earned Peter’s grudging respect in the last two years, and the latter has a history Peter might want to take advantage of to learn the truth. I wouldn’t be surprised if Peter gets in touch with Nina to learn more about his past, since she told him they spent a lot of time together when he was a child. Maybe even that’s why she made sure Peter was aware of their history.


Who is the man on the bridge? Many clues hint to the fact that it’s Walternate himself that was trying to cross over to our universe.

When the shape-shifting soldier embryo was ‘jump-started’ at the lab, it grabbed Walter’s hand, then looked up towards Olivia, asking for help. When she pushed him for information, he told her to contact Newton, then spoke of Daniel Verona (even giving her what I think is his blood type, AB negative, and was going to also give his cellular polarity). Olivia then asks him what was going to happen at 3h31 the next day; the soldier looks up at Walter, reaches for his hand and says “I’m sorry” before dying.

First of all, a well-trained soldier (I think we can agree that only an extremely capable and well-trained soldier would have been chosen for this mission) wouldn’t give away information to persons he would consider his enemy. This would imply that he doesn’t consider the people around him at the lab as such. Walter was the first person he saw, after which he felt safe enough to ask for help and give information. And it does make sense that the soldier would have known Walternate, since he’s probably behind it all in the first place. Perhaps the soldier was hoping that by giving the information relative to the mission, another soldier could take his place on time?

Does it imply that the soldier also knows Olivinate, since he looked up at her and then started talking? I’m not convinced of this, since everything else points to the fact that Olivinate and Walternate do not work together. Think about it. We know that Olivinate works with the FBI, and that there is a Fringe Division asking people to report supernatural sightings (well, we are going to know this) which would imply that they are working against one another. I have the impression that the relationship between Olivinate and Walternate is similar to the one between Olivia and Bell.

Of course, it could also be argued that, quite simply, the soldier was so damaged that he instinctively asked for help, then repeated the last thing that he remembered, i.e. his instructions: to find Newton, hunt Daniel Verona and assume his identity. But since this is Fringe we’re talking about, I highly doubt it’s that simple.



Some more clues indicating that the man on the bridge is Walternate include:

 

  • knowing that Walternate would share some of the same traits of character with Walter, it doesn’t come as a surprise that he would want to be the first one to try this new method of crossing over, especially if he is doing it to recuperate his son;
  • the shape on the bridge seem to move somewhat like Walter, albeit a more confident Walter;
  • and finally, there is the nose in the Hazmat suit at the end of the episode, which strangely resembles that of Walter, as well as the hand of an older man reaching for Newton’s hand.

Speaking of which, there was something both victorious and emotional about that handshake and the answering smile from Newton, no?


Just because I haven’t written enough yet, here are a couple of random observations.

 

Did anyone else notice how Olivia’s voice wavered when she spoke of Charlie? Which makes me wonder how she is going to react when she meets Alter-Charlie (Charlnate?).

When the triangulation rod was taken out of the case and turned on, did anyone else think of the neuralizers in Men in Black?

Because of the importance of the colour red in last week’s “White Tulip,” I just about developed a nervous tic from jumping every single time I saw red in this episode. Seriously, it’s getting on my nerves. But hey, you never know – maybe they do mean something. Or maybe I’m starting to sound paranoid – just like Mulder. Who knows? Despite all this, there was only one red object I found particularly striking: the molecule of water sitting on top of a pile of books at Olivia’s elbow while she was working in the back room.

Did anyone else cringe at the thought of Walter downing the chopped up “memory worms” Olivia had to down earlier the season?

And for the X-Philes reading this review, did any of you chuckle as the gel burned through the concrete floor in the bank vault, reminiscent of alien blood burning in quite similar fashion?

Who else is trying to figure out if anything else happened seven months ago in the Fringeverse after Newton mentioned that they haven’t had a chance like this in seven months?

And for those of you who are medically oriented, did anyone else frown when Newton, who supposedly had a heart attack, sat up in his body bag without any signs that CPR was performed on him? I’m thinking his shirt should have been open and the pads still in place until the ME had time to examine him. Thoughts?


“The Man from the Other Side” is a major turning point in the Fringe mythology. It’s an official break after which the relationships between all the major players are going to be redefined. And not only does Peter know the truth, but the alternate universe has made its first attempt to have a biological entity cross over to our side (whereas before it had only been mercury based shape-shifters who had crossed). The pace of events are probably going to accelerate in upcoming episodes; judging from the last couple of weeks, we are in for quite a ride.

It’s also going to make next week’s musical episode quite the brain teaser, as viewers will have to separate fact from fiction: what part of the fairy tale Walter will be telling Ella will be solely based on fiction, and what part of it is based on reality?

Oh, the fun we are going to have.

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About Sahar

  • http://notesfromnancy.blogspot.com Nancy

    The guy on the bridge was most likely the Secretary. Newton was tending to him as if he needed the aid just after crossing over.

  • Flo

    Very good episode.

    I liked the embryo thing because it refers to the birth which is in direct connection with the “where do I come from” storyline for Peter.
    The parents are important figures. The question of the origin is fundamental in “Fringe”. The embryo thing was cool and interesting in a very x-files-ish way (made me think of the hybrids Fetuses in TXF).
    Can’t say much right now. have to re-watch it but anyway, much better than “White Tulip”.

    Turning point indeed. Can’t wait to see the rest of this season.

  • Justine

    Firstly, I must acknowledge the brilliance of this article – it’s informative, interesting and thoroughly researched (at least to the extent I’d expect :) ).

    I’d bet my money on Walternate being the one crossing over, cause it seems only natural he’d be willing to go to great lengths to retrieve his son from the hands of his other version.

    Oddly enough what has been my impression all along is that although Peter had only just woken up, he realized Olivia knew the truth, and decided to not be angry at her since she’s obviously been sworn to secrecy by Walter, and knew it wasn’t really her place to announce the truth behind Peter’s presence. He fled the hospital because he needed time alone, and since Olivia is obviously affiliated with Walter he couldn’t stay in contact with only her.

  • http://saharsreviews.wordpress.com Sahar

    I agree Nancy – the man on the bridge is the Secretary. Now the question is – who is the Secretary? I think it’s Walternate!

    Flo, always awesome to hear from you, and really glad you liked the review! I didn’t see the metaphor for the embryo until you pointed it out – awesome! You’re so right. And yes, totally like the hybrid fetuses, although I found this embryo a lot less creepy (disappointingly so lol).

    Justine, thank you!!!! I’m really glad you like the review. It’s actually getting easier and easier to write as I get to know and communicate with the people who read it – it’s like I’m talking with you rather than monologuing 😉 I agree that it’s probably Walternate that tried crossing over.

    I like your theory about how Peter had guessed that Olivia knew and had decided to forgive her. I rewatched the scene and I can definitely see where you would get that impression. Excellent point!!!