FRINGE 4.04 ‘Subject 9’

Olivia is threatened by an electromagnetic manifestation while Walter fears an impending return to the mental institution.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Subject 9"

Writers: Jeff Pinkner & J. H. Wyman & Akiva Goldsman

Director: Joe Chappelle

Previously on "Fringe":

Several weeks have passed since Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) stepped into the Doomsday Device and created a bridge between the two alternate Earths in order to allow both sides to work together to save themselves from destruction. Somehow, that act changed history so that Peter died as a young boy when his father (from our Earth), Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) attempted to bring him to our universe in order to save his life. In the newly constructed timeline, it was that act that set off the growing cold war between the two Earths, as the alternate Walter Bishop (AKA Walternate) went on to become the greatest threat to our world.

More recently, Walter began experiencing visions of Peter asking for his help. But Walter no longer remembered the adult Peter as his son and his hold on sanity was noticeably weakened by the hallucinations. Hoping to free himself and preserve what little of his mind was left, Walter began to perform a lobotomy on himself until Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) stopped him just in time. Walter confessed his visions of Peter to her and she revealed that she had seen his face in her dreams. Walter then realized that Peter was real and told Olivia that they had to find him.

Story:

Olivia sleeps in her home as a strange magnetic event draws all of the metal in her room to one point. She awakens in time to witness a blue energy manifestation, but it dissipates after she draws her gun. Back at the lab, Walter gleefully attempts to photograph Peter during his next manifestation as Astrid (Jasika Nicole) assists him. Olivia comes to the lab and tells them what happened to her. As she and Astrid return to investigate the phenomena, Walter witnesses a second manifestation corner Olivia in the bathroom… moments before it actually happens. Now thoroughly freaked out, Olivia pushes Walter to come up with an explanation.    

Walter finally remembers that the power displayed is similar to the one used by one of Olivia's fellow Cortexiphan trial participants, "Subject 9." Walter also finds a letter in Olivia's jacket that indicates that his psychiatrist is recommending that he be readmitted to the mental institution. At Massive Dynamic, Olivia seems to share a much closer relationship with Nina Sharp (Blair Brown), while Walter angrily rants about Nina from his lab. Astrid translates Walter's diatribes into polite exchanges, tipping Nina off that Astrid is holding back. While there, they learn that Subject 9 was Cameron James (Chadwick Boseman).

When Olivia and Astrid return to the lab, they are surprised to find Walter already packed and he is ready to go confront Cameron. After finding Cameron's apartment rented under an assumed name, Walter actually charms the landlady into revealing that he will be home from work the next day. However, Walter has a mental breakdown at the hotel over his germ phobia until Olivia calms him down and she takes him out for an ice cream shake. Walter finally admits to having read the letter about him and he wants to prove that he is still useful. Moments later, another manifestation appears in the restaurant and grows in size until a car in the street accidentally strikes it.

Olivia pulls rank with the skeptical local police and she returns to Cameron's home with Walter. At first, Cameron seems willing to talk with her, but he attempts to flee when she mentions his real name. When she and Walter catch up to him in the lobby, Cameron angrily explains that Walter's experiments ruined his life and gave him minor abilities that made him a freak instead of powers that would make him special. But when another manifestation appears and corners all three of them, Cameron is somehow able to disperse it. Walter comes up with a new theory about the disturbances and says that they might grow enough to destroy the world.

Walter and Olivia manage to convince Cameron to come with them to a nearby power station, so that when the next incident occurs, Cameron can dissipate it forever. But when the disturbance recurs, Olivia recognizes Peter's face manifesting out of the energy and she fires her weapon to distract Cameron into stopping. At the moment the disturbance is finished, Peter Bishop reemerges from Reiden Lake, as a father and son help pull him into their boat. As Olivia thanks Cameron for his help, he tells her to make sure that Walter forgets about him. She then fields a call from Broyles (Lance Reddick), about a man found in Reiden Lake who knows far too many classified details about the Fringe Division.

At the hospital, Olivia and Walter learn that the man asked for Olivia by name. As Olivia leaves to see him, Walter snoops in her coat once again and discovers (to his relief) that she is not endorsing his re-commitment to the mental institution. And when Olivia sees him, she recognizes him as the man from her dreams… but not as Peter Bishop. Peter seems relieved to see her, but she can only ask "Who are you?"

Breakdown:

The long awaited return of Peter Bishop finally took place in this episode… in a much more low key way than I was expecting. I kept looking for the swerve that the case would be another red herring, so I have to give the writers credit for pulling that trigger early in the season rather than stretching things out.

It also looks like Peter's return hasn't automatically reverted the timeline to its previous state; which should give us more time to explore a world where no one really knows him. The alternate Fringe team didn't appear in this episode, but I'm very eager to see Fauxlivia and Walternate react to Peter as well.

Walter and Olivia's relationship was the primary focus here and they actually seem closer in this timeline than in the original. Here, Olivia doesn't seem to have any lingering resentment about Walter's experiments on her as a child and she showed a lot of warmth towards him while bandaging his hands and going out for ice cream together. There was even a nice acknowledgement between them that the motivations for her actions weren't that different from his own brand of madness.

Of course, John Noble can still carry important moments on his own; namely Walter's heartfelt relief that Olivia didn't recommit him and his original fear that his time as a relatively free man was over. Noble also made Walter's guilt over his actions more overt when he couldn't stand to listen to Astrid and Olivia speak about his experiments on children. Walter and Astrid both had the funniest moment of the hour when she called him out over messing up her name with one that didn't even start with an "A." 

Chadwick Boseman brought some good understated pathos to Cameron James and he was at his best when he explained how his minor abilities had essentially ruined his life. But what I found really intriguing about Cameron is that he wouldn't have hated Walter if he had been given powers that would have been special instead of a curse. That actually makes a lot of sense. Who doesn't want to have superpowers when they're growing up? Cameron was also a useful lens to view Walter as the shell of the man that he used to be. He even seems to feel some sympathy for Walter's current state. Almost… but not quite.

In the end, this was a serviceable episode of "Fringe," but it felt like a slight step down from the excellence at the end of last season and the beginning of this year. Regardless, I still have faith in the writers on this series; who haven't let me down yet.

Crave Online Rating: 8.5 out of 10.