Let me tell you a little something about the brilliance of Fringe. It’s audacious, really, even for a science fiction show, to essentially “erase” the major events of past seasons, then re-enact them, as if for the first time. Here’s the brilliant part, though. They do it, and not only does it work in terms of plot and character integrity, but each scenario carries such honest emotional weight, that it all feels completely fresh and new.
Take, for instance, a scene in “Back to Where You’ve Never Been” (itself a clever summation of the complexities of the alternate timeline story). Peter and Lincoln Lee have crossed over to the “other side,” with disastrous results. While Lincoln is in captivity, Peter makes a desperate attempt to contact Walter through Elizabeth. Now, we’ve seen Elizabeth “meet” Peter a couple of times now. In flashback, we’ve seen her first reject, then embrace the alternate universe’s Peter after the death of her son. We’ve also seen the alternate universe Elizabeth get her son back. So, here we are again. Alternate universe Elizabeth comes face to face with the son she lost. We’ve seen this reunion before, yet the characters and their histories are so rich, it doesn’t matter. We see yet another reunion scenario, and it’s just as powerful.
Similarly, Walter describes the suicide of his universe’s Elizabeth, and it is devastating. Peter meets Fauxlivia, and only has a moment with her, but later, when Lincoln tells her that Peter says she can be trusted, the surprise on her face barely masks the quiet longing in her eyes. It’s all so well-constructed and well-acted.
There have been some complaints about this season, I know. Another timeline, essentially starting the series over? It felt like a setback. Yet, the slow burn of the first half of the season was just building to this episode. Everything is in chaos again. Or, as Walternate so eloquently puts it, “Not everything is as it seems.”
Peter now finds himself in a universe (or universes) where Walter has rejected him, Olivia can’t be trusted, and Walternate is the only hope to save the universes and possibly restore Peter to the timeline. It’s a game changer. And building the Lincoln/Olivia relationship, keeping Peter out of the early episodes, then outside the circle of trust for subsequent episodes, all makes sense now.
The rest of this season, likely the show’s last, is guaranteed to be unlike anything we’ve seen before, even if we’ve seen it before. And that, my fellow fanboys, is what makes this show so brilliant.