FRINGE 4.03 ‘Alone in the World’

The Fringe team investigates a rapidly growing and lethal fungus as Walter takes drastic steps to escape his hallucinations of Peter. 

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Alone in the World"

Writer: David Fury

Director: Miguel Sapochnik

Previously on "Fringe":

In 1985, Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) lost his young son Peter to a rare illness. Having discovered an alternate universe where his son was still alive and suffering from the same illness, Walter found a way to cross over and bring their Peter to his universe. However, this action caused the alternate universe to begin suffering "Fringe events" that threatened the entire alternate Earth… and led Walter's counterpart (aka the Walternate) to become a much harder man and one of the greatest threats to our world. Twenty six years later, Walternate used the blood of his own grandchild to activate the Doomsday Device in his universe and cause Fringe events to unfold on our world.

To stop Walternate, Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) stepped into the Doomsday Device from our world and he tore a hole in the universes, allowing the two sides to meet in person and work together to save both worlds. However, Peter was somehow wiped from existence, with only the Observers aware that the boy had lived to be a man. Weeks after Peter's disappearance, Walter began experiencing visions of Peter in reflective surfaces as well as Peter's voice asking for his help. But because Walter no longer knew his son, he assumed he was going mad and attempted to ignore what he saw and heard.


During a consultation with Dr. Sumner (William Sadler), Walter tries to pretend that he's taking all of his medications and functioning well. Sumner then confronts Walter about his odd behavior in the lab with the reflective surfaces and his repeated claims that a mysterious man appeared to him. Walter dismisses the illusions as a byproduct of his self-medication, but he forces himself to ignore a hallucination of Peter even as he says it. In Hyde Park, a young boy named Aaron Sneddon (Evan Bird) attempts to outrun some bullies before entering a cave. Inside, the two bullies are about to attack him, when plant-like tentacles wrap around both bullies and keep them from moving.

At the FBI office, Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) attempts to find someone based on a sketch that she drew. Then she speaks with Lincoln Lee (Seth Gabel) and offers to help him adjust to Fringe division. Soon enough, Philip Broyles (Lance Reddick) assigns them to look into the deaths of the two bullies, whose bodies have rapidly decayed. Inside the cave, Lincoln spots the footprints belonging to Aaron and they quickly track him down to a local school in fears that he was infected by whatever killed the other two children. At the lab, Broyles expresses his concern over Walter's mental state and witnesses him have a slight breakdown when Peter's voice is overpowering.

When Olivia and Lincoln catch up with Aaron at his school, they find him drawing on a piece of paper. They take him back to Walter's lab, but he insists that he didn't see what happened to his classmates. It's noted that Aaron's parents are unavailable, with his mother having left him to stay with a neighbor during her extended absence. Walter initially frightens Aaron and yells at him when he picks up a G.I. Joe figure that once belonged to Peter, but Walter then apologizes for the outburst. Shortly thereafter, Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole) alerts Walter that the corpse of one of the boys is expanding. Realizing that it is about to burst, they seal it away before it explodes,

At the morgue, Olivia and Lincoln are too late to save two morticians who are with the other body as they are infected and rapidly killed. Hours later, the team examines the scene and Walter determines that the fungus was the cause of death and that it can grow at an accelerated rate. It's also able to paralyze its victims as it spreads its spores. Olivia and Broyles decide to clear out the original spot of the infestation with flame throwers. Back at the lab, Walter bonds with Aaron by telling him about his son Peter and how he lost his first son to illness and accidentally drowned his alternate world counterpart (who would have grown up to become the Peter Bishop we knew).

As the Fringe team burns the fungus, Aaron is overcome by pain and fever. Walter alerts Olivia that Aaron is somehow linked to the fungus. After getting Aaron's fever to break, Walter confronts the boy about lying to them regarding how often he went to the caves. Walter even says that Aaron lured the other boys there intentionally, but Aaron insists that he didn't know that they would be killed. Aaron also reveals that he felt something in the cave that sympathized with him and he wasn't alone anymore. Walter theorizes that the fungus has a low level of sentience and he nicknames it "Gus." He also tells the Fringe team that the link between Gus and Aaron must be severed or any attempt to kill the fungus will also kill the boy.

Broyles agrees to give Walter two hours to find a way to free Aaron from Gus, but when the fungus strikes again and nears a populated area he gives the order to destroy it now. In desperation, Walter prepares to lobotomize Aaron as the only way to save him. Inside the cave, a technician from Massive Dynamic poisons the fungus and he is killed immediately while Lincoln is immobilized by the tentacles. Back in the lab, Walter realizes that if Aaron lets go of Gus on his own, it will save his life. Walter tells the boy that he is not alone and the fungus starts to die away without Aaron's emotions to feed on.

Later, Walter gives Aaron Peter's G.I. Joe action figure and promises that he doesn't have to be alone now. But when Walter is alone, he prepares to do a frontal lobotomy on himself to escape his visions of Peter. Olivia catches him in the act and stops him before he gets too far. In tears, Walter confesses his visions of Peter and admits that he thinks he's going crazy again. However, Olivia produces a drawing of Peter which she made from seeing him in her dreams. Although neither of them knows who Peter is, they realize that he is real they resolve to find him.


Even when he's not playing one of television's best villains, John Noble can sometimes dominate "Fringe" as he did in this episode. This was a great showcase for the current incarnation of Walter and how lost he is without Peter to bind him to reality. The biggest moment of horror actually came near the end when Walter picked up the instrument to lobotomize himself and it was clear that he fully intended to go through with it. Noble also made an exposition scene compelling when he related how the alternate Peter drowned when he brought him back to this world. It's an even darker version of Peter's origin and it makes sense. If the Observer hadn't interfered and saved Walter and Peter from the ice, then they both could have died in the original timeline.

Although, if we're discounting Observer interference, it was an Observer who caused Walternate to miss the test result that would have cured his son…

But getting back to the episode, Noble had great chemistry with Evan Bird, the young actor who played Aaron. The kid even got one of the best lines of the show when he heard Walter's story about an alternate Earth and asked him if he really thought that he didn't belong in a mental institution. Likewise, Olivia and Lincoln have developed an easy rapport with each other. However, their last sequence together was pretty suspect. Why weren't they wearing hazmat suits while trying to poison the fungus? That made no sense to me.

The ending of the episode suggests that Peter Bishop's return is just around the corner; which is a good thing for the show as it will bring back one of its core players. The down side is that I think the interesting angle between Olivia and Lincoln is going to get lost in the shuffle once Peter is back on the team. On a side note, does anyone else notice that we haven't seen Walternate or Nina Sharp so far this season?
Regarding "Gus," I loved how quickly Lincoln took to using Walter's nickname for the fungus and the hilarious blank stare it drew from Broyles when he used it in conversation. The sentient fungus was also an intriguing threat and it led to a beautifully realized sequence in which the two coroners were infected. Given the tendency for interconnected plotlines on this show, I wouldn't be surprised if Gus comes up again or is later revealed to be a creation of ZFT, or Walternate or even a faction we haven't even met yet. But Gus had to come from somewhere…

Because if something like Gus can occur without outside interference, then our Earth may be more screwed than we thought.

Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.