‘Fringe’ Season 4 Premiere Review & Discussion

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fringe season 4 poster review Fringe Season 4 Premiere Review & Discussion

Fox’s science fiction staple returns for its fourth season debut tonight, with a summer’s worth of mystery and speculation behind it.

After the cliffhanger finale to Fringe season three, will the premiere answer fans’ burning questions or keep them guessing?

Fringe opens up a week after Peter created the universal bridge in the finale. The Fringe divisions of the FBI in both the primary universe (ours) and the alternate universe (theirs) have established a sort of safe house where people and objects can move safely and easily between realities. Olivia (Anna Torv) seems to be the unofficial liaison, which causes noticeable strain on her character’s much-abused sense of trust, as her alternate is also a liaison.

Back at the Harvard lab, Walter Bishop (John Noble) and Astrid (Jasika Nicole) are productively investigating the evidence gathered in Olivia’s regular duties. Long-time Fringe fanatics will notice that they’re working on cases and problems that have already been solved. When FBI agent Lincoln Lee (Seth Gabel) catches up with Olivia, they don’t recognize each other – an observant outsider notes that recent events have repercussions both forward and backwards in time.

Walter is broken, even more so than before. He’s prone to periodic breakdowns that bring the division’s work to a screeching halt. He lives in the lab with the constant aid of the FBI. Between Walter’s tedious mental state (which is presumably unanswered for the team) and Olivia’s recurring personality flaws, the more fragile aspects of these characters – the ones that had been repaired or at least helped over the last three years – are back in full force.

fringe season 4 anna torv olivia Fringe Season 4 Premiere Review & Discussion

To put it bluntly, everything old is new again. In a move reminiscent of Eureka‘s universal shift, the timelines of Fringe’s dual realities have both been greatly altered by the erasure of Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson). After the events of last year’s finale, it appears that not only is Peter not present in the, uh, present, he died as a boy in both universes, or something happened to create that impression.

This creates a plethora of questions with answers seemingly a long way off. Peter is the catalyst for almost every major event in Fringe thus far. If he never existed, why did Walter cross universes in the first place? How did the two Fringe divisions come into contact? How is Walter’s psychosis being handled if Peter was originally brought on because he was the only one who could help? If Peter wasn’t there to explain the stabilized connection between universes, why aren’t both sides shoving nukes through the doors? Why was the faithful bovine Gene so cruelly and unceremoniously recast? (That one might not be relevant to every fan.)

fringe season 4 lincoln lee gabel Fringe Season 4 Premiere Review & Discussion

Alas, no answers are forthcoming in the opening forty minutes of the new season. Without the generous prologue and brief appearances by the Observers, viewers wouldn’t have any contextual clues at all to the more pervasive reality. Peter is coming back, as die-hard Fringe fans know, but there’s no indication of it thus far. A quick glimpse (don’t blink!) is the only clue that all is not as it appears.

That said, there’s hope to be had for the overall arc of the season. Little touches, especially in dialogue from Anna Torv and John Noble, indicate that the writers are carefully reconstructing the story around Peter’s absence. The short appearance by the Observers gives some guarded clues to the true nature of events.

All in all, the episode is slow, largely retreading over past Fringe events because the characters haven’t actually lived through them yet. This may have seemed necessary to establish the altered timeline in fans’ minds, giving it weight and substance for the reality-bending events to come. The FBI agent played by the always-watchable Joe Flanigan (Stargate Atlantis) is quickly sacrificed for this purpose. Seth Gabel is effectively established as Peter’s stand-in on the primary Fringe Division for however long he’ll be needed.

fringe season 4 walter john noble Fringe Season 4 Premiere Review & Discussion

It would have been nice to be given at least one or two clues to Fringe‘s series-spanning mysteries, and their absence is felt at least as sharply as Joshua Jackson’s. But a return to the activities that make the core characters of Olivia, Walter and Astrid so much fun to watch are much appreciated, and as long-term Fringe fans know, good things come to those who wait. The monster-of-the-week, while technically a retread, provides a welcome bit of action and room for Gabel to shine.

It’s a slow return for Fringe, but certainly not an unwelcome one. The mystery surrounding the Observer’s activities are the primary take-away. Here’s hoping that the coming weeks do more to set up the arc that will drive the season (and quite possibly the series) to its conclusion.


Fringe airs Friday nights at 9:00 PM on Fox.

Follow Michael on Twitter: @MichaelCrider

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  1. So should I start watching this again? Last season I gave up on it after my DVR reset and erased the 2 episodes before the finale and I never finished the season. I was kind of bored throughout much of last season though…

  2. To bad this episode totally sucked

    • You should watch it now! It hasn’t started doing action until this episode! Peter is back and now there trying find out everything!

  3. Season opener, no audio! I

  4. that was a great episode :) even if it was just a cameo great to see Peter again. the series preview at the end made me very excited for this season!!

  5. The opener sucked. Walter and Olivia didn’t seem much different without Peter. In fact, Olivia was such a cold fish in season one, but she didn’t seem that way tonight. I wanted more evidence of Peter’s absence affecting the group. This episode was boring and lackluster. I want Peter back now!

  6. Nobody remembered Peter’s existance, therefore there was no reaction from Olivia and Walter.

    The thing I love about Fringe is that they don’t give anything away. This episode was a perfect example of that. We still have no idea what’s going to happen next. I can’t wait for next week!

    • I didn’t say reaction. I wanted to see a George-Bailey type of fall out, but their lives/personalities seemed virtually unaffected. Peter is pivotal to their group, but I didn’t get that from this ep. And Lincoln Lee bores me.

      • but this is an entirely new reality we can’t expect them to act exactly the same way as they did in season 1 even though Peter was critical it’s still been 3 years people can change a lot in that time-frame.

  7. Season 4 was a welcome return to one of my favorite shows. While the first episode was slower than some of the previous seasons, there were plenty of mysteries to keep me happy. I have a random comment for anyone who might be able to answer this:

    Prior to this season, it has been commonly accepted that Walter was responsible for the Fringe events on the other side when he crossed over to the other side and brought Peter to our side. In fact, Walternate not only believes that Walter stole his son, but set into motion a chain of events that began the gradual destruction of that world.

    However, when did William Bell cross over? We know from the Season 2 finale that Bell crossed over many times. Isn’t it possible that Bell, not Walter, may have been the real culprit, and Walter took all the blame? Just food for thought.

    • I’ve also been considering the issue of William Bell’s crossing over, and how that relates to any responsibility for the destruction of the alternate universe. Yet perhaps Walter’s experience crossing over was different, in that he brought Peter over to his universe?

      There are also the two themes of responsibility and fate that run throughout the series. Yet I wonder about the relevance of these two concepts in a universe where time travel and alternate universes allow one to change timelines and the course of history?

      Does the ancient picture of Peter in the doomsday machine and Olivia using her telekinetic powers to open the machine for Peter exonerate Walter of responsibility for what he has done in the past? Is this fate? Or does it have something to do with Walter placing the parts to the doomsday machine into the past, whereby he knew Peter and Olivia would be involved with the machine, and if so, would that not still be fate as well?

  8. That is an interesting thought.

    Remember that William also removed a part of Walter’s brain, so that he wouldn’t remember how he crossed over. What if, and I know this sounds crazy, Bell used Walter to create the machine so that he could cross over to the other side himself? What if Bell was the one who caused all the mayhem in the altverse, simply due to the fact that he did not belong there?

    • interesting point and assuming nina still made those brain healing drinks for walter he should still have 2 left to try and get his memory back.

    • I have always suspected that Walter’s trip didn’t trigger the problems on the other side. I believe that after Walter did it that one time, Bell turned around & made multiple trips between the two gathering technology to build up massive dynamics. I think Bell was cleaning up his OWN mess, but was making Walter the scape goat. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bell actually went over first without Walters knowledge. He may just have been in the alternate side when Peter died over here. It was odd for him not to be at the funeral or call Walter-actually kind of cold of him.

      • No. The reason William Bell pulled out the parts of his brain was because the portalmachine was too dangerous. He must have crossed over by other means. But if Peter didn’t exist/survive, then Walter wouldn’t have had a reason to open that portal.

        I’m kind of dissapointed, though. I wanted Olivia and Holivia to have a bitchfight/smackdown.

  9. I thought it was great, and Peter’s obviously not going to be gone for long so people just need to relax.

    And I loved the callback to S1 and John Scott, I never thought they’d mention him again so that was cool (I’m guessing a lot of people don’t know him but he was Olivia’s partner and boyfriend the first few episodes.)

    • Loved when she mentioned John Scott!

      • Not only mention, but I could absolutley SWEAR the second shapeshifter that Lee took down was Scott! The lingering closeup kn the face revealing eyes that are hard to look anything other than Mark Valley’s.

        Am I the only one to spot this??? Also, am I just nuts? Lol!!!

  10. So you know how after Walter crosses over and steals Peter, they almost drown in the lake – and the Observer saves them? Well, so when they erase time, they must erase this, right? Walter still crossed over, causing the two universes to start a war. But both Peters still died as boys, so he never existed – not the same way.
    And the Observer was supposed to erase the traces of adult Peter left behind, but he didn’t go through with it! Why?
    I want Peter to be back now too! But I have no idea how they can bring him back. And yeah, I was hoping the team would be more affected – or feel “wrong.” Olivia should remember him! Some small part of her.

  11. Um, Nick and ZC, I posted that in the middle of last season, pretty much word for word. But obviously, they didn’t choose that direction.

    Didn’t see it here, but before anyone asks about Fauxlivia’s child, think about it.

    After an abysmal end of season ep, this was heartening. I’d give this one a B+. I think one of the show’s strengths though remains compromised, IMHO. Seems like they will just pick and choose what changed and what didn’t w/o Peter. There’s no more logic and consistency to the overall arc. Despite repeated assurances that the last 3 years DID happen, that doesn’t seem the case for now. And to go back to that timeline with all the characters’ experiences intact, then this current timeline will be bogus. So which ones are the ‘dream eps’, the past ones or the ones we’re watching now? One thing for sure, with all the flack taken for killing off Charlie, Peter is definitely returning to Fringe Div., and soon. It would seem if the past is reinvented, then do we witness him and Olivia falling in love again? Wouldn’t that be so much ‘been there, done that’? Or have they already jumped the shark, and this reboot just what the series ordered? I can see that too. There’s really nowhere for their relationship to go.

    Like visiting the Altverse, this new reality is fascinating, but definitely not as welcome. Olivia has no super powers, though she doesn’t seem to me quite as fragile, she’s definitely edgier. She’s tougher than ever to compensate for an unhappy lonely existence that makes past Olivia look like a debutant. Not meeting Peter clearly is intended to make her life more miserable.

    Walter somehow still went insane, so Bell must have still taken some grey matter. Therefore, Walter must have still crossed over, but maybe not for Peter. As said though, even these central tenants are likely to be compromised by a capricious new story line. Unlike the first 3 seasons, best to just take this season in and not ask too many questions. But wasn’t that the fun part?

    Last year I proposed that there could be a third universe, quite a bit more alien and dangerous than Walternate’s. Instead of Bell, maybe who really caused all the damage. A situation that would force our two worlds to work together to defeat the third “Nilverse”. The working together part has already come about. That could be a possible origin of the “nilshapeshifters”.

    What was good? The side-by-side scene with both Olivias, bascially showcasing Anna’s uncanny dichotomy. The passage between both worlds and Lee’s open mouth revelation. The humanity of Robert’s family, not just as throwaway exposition, but real people, real poignancy, that helps anchor all the weirdness. The “deal-or-no-deal” Observer’s human reluctance to irrevocably end Peter’s existence. The guardian angel to Peter Bishop’s George Bailey.

    To the Showrunners: This is probably FRINGE’s last year guys, make it memorable, and a finale that provides real closure, not an unrequited cliff hanger. And FOX, don’t even think about reneging on the full year.

    • actually one of the top people at fox said that “as long as fringe keeps a steady fanbase it’s not going to be cancelled.”

      last nights ratings:
      Fringe (Season Premiere) 1.5/5 3.53
      if fringe doesnt get much lower than this we will have a 5th season.

      CW Supernatural (Season Premiere) 0.8/2 1.95
      however i do believe this could be supernaturals last season with such a bad start.

  12. I really enjoyed this opening episode. It was a little slow and created a lot of new questions rather than providing answers, but I trust the writers to give us faithful viewers a lot of brain candy this season.

    Thanks for clueing me in who Lincoln’s partner was (Joe Flanigan) – was bugging me that I couldn’t place him. I was SO hoping he would be a recurring character, but it was not meant to be… Damn.

    Not sure if anyone else noticed this or not, but all the main characters are a little “off” from last season now that Peter is out of the picture. The differences in personality are very slight in Olivia and Astrid. Walter is more obvious. Lincoln is relatively new in such volume, so there is not as much of a benchmark, but the others I can definitely see how they tweaked their roles sans Peter…

    Can’t wait until next week!

  13. RE Roberto’s comment, GREAT insight and open minded way to approach this season. Amazing memory, too – I had forgotten about some of the stuff you were referencing.

    And I second your comments to FOX and the show runners!!!!

  14. Remember Peter could be a young Walter in 2025 because he said he had hi tech science on his side. Walter probably went over to get Olivia as young girl, remember the cartoon ep. But he was with Bell at that time. They meet Charlie and Agent Scott again and then discover how to rebuild the machine when they are thrust back to 20 million b.c.e. where Astrid and the others are the first people fighting the tech chipped humanoids from another world or universe in this case created by Massive Dynamics and William Bell and Nina Sharpe.

  15. One of the things that struck me (and probably most others who watched the episode) is that the opener devolved back into a “case of the week” story, which is a format that doesn’t do the series any favors anymore. I think the show is at a point where it should be all mythology, all the time. On the other hand, we are dealing with a “new” world, so in a sense, some old things have to be reintroduced. Still intrigued, though.

    • Agreed. Everyone was all like, oh this type of heavy metal was the cause if all the victims’ ailments and the suspect was seen here and here’s the warehouse where – OH MY GOSH I DON’T CARE WHERE IS PETER!!?

      I adored, however, seeing how different Olivia and Walter were without Peter; because I don’t know what that person above is talking about, they are DIFFERENT, just like how this article brilliantly says.

      Also love me some Lincoln.

  16. I am still curious about the machine, though. If Peter didn’t exist, why was it built? Is there only one machine now that Peter combined universes? Also, Peter can’t be the power source, but it still looks the same.

    • If I’ve been following things correctly, there’s always been just the one machine. There were parts of it scattered between both universes so it couldn’t be re-assembled with (presumed) cooperation between the two. I don’t think its creators planned on it being a weapon so much as the bridge idea.

    • Peter DID exist. He just died as a child and did not grow to adulthood. Just Wait………

  17. Peter existed, but he drowned as a boy, rather than being saved by the Observer. In one of the exchanges between the two Observers, the higher ranking Observer mentions that the Observer (the one who saved Peter’s life), was the only one who could completely erase Peter from the timeline, because he was the one responsible for Peter existing past that moment in the timeline.

    This would suggest that Walter did cross over, did cause the rift between the two universes, and did bring Peter back. The difference between the original timeline, and the new timeline, being that Peter dies after he is brought to “our” universe. This also allows Walternate to want revenge for Walter taking his son, and waging war on Walter’s universe.

    • That’s an interesting thought! It makes you wonder how Peter can then be “brought back.” Wouldn’t Walter now have the psychic pain of losing his son twice?

      • You know, the only reason Walter went over to get Peter initially is because he saw the observer interrupt walternates finding the cure for the bird flu through his screen/portal/thing. Therefore, my prediction is that the observer is going to erase himself from time, so he doesn’t interupt walternate, Peter is cured on the other side, Walter never goes to get him, they don’t fall into the lake, the observer doesn’t have to save Peter (bcuz he never falls, and because he won’t exist). Although this seems anticlimactic with Peter just staying on the other side, and Walter never crossing over, so the universes aren’t breaking down, war is never waged, and Peter is still alive in the present. Unless the writers make Walter steal Peter anyway, pretty much everything in the present will be the same as it is, but with Peter here, so there is still conflict. Thoughts?

        • That would be a pretty neat way to wrap up the series. I think it might work if the “current” Peter were removed from time or converted into an Observer, while keeping the “original” alternate Peter in his timeline, so we can see watch effects from an outside perspective. The only problem I can see is that it would be leaving a lot of character development for Primary Olivia and Walter undone.

        • Interesting…i wonder why the observer interrupts Walternate in the first place then? that was really the ultimate cause of why Walter had to cross over and bring Peter “here”. Maybe the Observer wanter Walter to cross over, wanted the war (with or without Peter saved from the lake) and wanted the 2 universes to come together. But why? Maybe to fight together something else?

    • If he ever existed they should remember him even if he died young. No he never existed in there belief.

  18. Also, the Observer had built the device that was capable of erasing a person from the timeline. He appeared to have the device aimed at Walter’s lab, then looked to have a change of heart.

    Could this have been the final action needed to completely erase Peter from the timeline? Presumably, Walter should have drowned along with Peter. Also, Walter is the only one who has seen glimpses of Peter. Is Walter’s existence somehow the link that is keeping Peter from being completely erased?

  19. It was great seeing Joe even though he was killed too soon. Joe can come back as alternate Robert Danzig. So there is hope. I hope the showrunners do this.

  20. This show is sucking for air. It should have been canceled.

    The premiere was BORING! What a snooze fest, I’m sorry I can’t get the hour back. I won’t make the same mistake next week…

  21. The season premiere was a HUGE let down. The show is very boring without Peter in the storyline. And I don’t like the new actors they brought in either. They are not up to par with the rest of the cast. BIG DISSAPOINTMENT>

  22. Also, any thoughts on the “new-shapeshifters”? do they work for Walternate (i dont think so)? are they a result of the chance of the timeline? are they from a new enemy? anothe universe, maybe the one that continued after Peter destroyed alt-universe? maybe work for Walternate in our erased universe?

  23. i can’t believe no one has realized peter is the main shape shifter in this episode!!!
    about half way through he injects himself w/ human blood (serum) and is very pleased as he then grows a fingernail. he is later shot by lee in the train station… finally he is on the autopsy table in walter’s lab!!
    c’mon people
    walter is the ultimate dr. frankenstein. remember the quick re-animation of the bird early on in the episode? see where this is going?

  24. I loved this show initially, every episode was independent with a plot, a center and an ending. I hate this paralled universe thing. Ihate 2 Walters, I hate that Olivia with dull hair and Olivia with great red hair are talking to each other, we all know they are played by the same person. I hate they used an Australian actress for the part. I am done with this series, they have lost their way. U can’t even follow what is going on. I was hoping for at least a similar X=files redux, failed miserably.

  25. Hi guys,

    I just watched ep 2 series 4 on Sky TV here in the UK and it just struck me that there’s an inherent problem with the “two universes” proposition.

    In this episode Olivia is enlisting the help of an Our-world professor to hunt for his Walternate, a serial killer, on the basis that the professsor, in looking around the murderer’s home, might be able to see aspects of him that might help the FBI/Fringe Division find him before he kills again.

    This particular interpretation of the Parallel Universe theory suggests that the two versions of the guy started off very similarly at birth, same parents, same socio-economic background, same upbringing, and that only differing reactions to life-events and subsequent life-choices were responsible for turning one into a respected academician and the other into a serial killer.

    At birth they were quite similar and over time, as they grew older, their natures diverged.

    But surely the overall divergence between Our-world and Walternate’s has been taking place since the point when both universes came into existence and then with each small change, each evolution, over millions of years and countless generations the diferences between our world and Walternate’s would become progressively more and more pronounced.

    So the circumstances, at birth, of the two boys – one who became a killer and the other a teacher – would not – could not – have been the same at all – UNLESS we assume that the two universes followed exactly the same trajectory up to the time the two boys were born and then only began to diverge at that point.

    The show’s version of the multiverse theory seems therefore to be the ever-branching version, where each minute event/decision becomes the catalyst for the creation of a completely new universe, a new branch. Before the branching-point everything had been the same, and from that point forward everything would become increasingly different.

    Adopting this constantly-branching version requires that there are actually countless subtly different iterations of each universe. And each of these universes will have their own Olivia et al, their own Machines together with the means of travelling between universes, so why aren’t our Olivia, Peter and Walter constantly encountering characters from these numberless variant universes all equally intent on destroying Our-world?

  26. I absolutely SCREAMED with excitement last night when the “energy” was constantly appearing to Walter and Olivia. Just Knowing it was Peter was as if I was “living” it. As a senior you would think I would not get so caught up in this series but I AM. And then when he actually appeared in the water and was “ALIVE” again, I was absolutely hysterical. Good thing I was alone in the house or anyone would think I was a lunatic. I am so caught up in this series and really just love the Walter character I will hate for this program to eventually end, as they all eventually do. I am a lifelong Sci Fi lover, all my life. I really adore John Noble, and the entire cast.

  27. Is it me or do they get confused about two universes vs two earths?

    • No, it is not you. They say two universes but it certainly appears to be more like two “earths” that are constantly shown. A universe would have more in it than just our planet and all we see is the 2 earths.