Episode Title: "Back to Where You've Never Been"
Writers: David Fury & Graham Roland
Director: Jeannot Szwarc
Previously on "Fringe":
Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) wakes up to a nice surprise. His father, Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) is making breakfast for him and once again recognizing him as his son. Even better, FBI Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) is with them and she remembers that Peter is her lover and partner. Somehow, Peter returned home… so of course, this was just a cruel dream. But when Peter wakes up, he makes one last impassioned plea to Walter to help him return to his timeline. And in turn, Walter gives a very sad reason why he can't help Peter involving the suicide of Peter's mother, Elizabeth Bishop (Orla Brady).
Unwilling to give up, Peter visits Olivia as she unknowingly recovers from what Nina Sharp (Blair Brown) and her men injected her with at the end of the previous episode. Lincoln Lee (Seth Gabel) shows up looking to see Olivia and Peter lays out a plan to sneak into the alternate universe so he can ask the only other person who might be able to get him home: the alternate Dr. Walter Bishop, aka Walternate. Olivia and Lincoln are on board with the idea, but they want to spy on Walternate because they're convinced that he's behind the new breed of shapeshifters.
Meanwhile in the alternate universe, the police unwittingly find one of the new shapeshifters as it tries to assume a new identity. When the shapeshifter is subsequently hit by a bus and killed, the alternate Olivia (aka Fauxlivia) and the other Lincoln are called off the case on orders of the Walternate himself; fueling their suspicion that he is keeping something from them. Back in the prime universe, Lincoln has moderately disguised himself as his counterpart before he and Peter use Walter's original window device to step into the alternate universe while Olivia remains behind at the Orpheum theater.
Peter and Lincoln make it to the shore of Liberty island, but Lincoln's lack of identification eventually leads Fauxlivia and the alternate Lincoln to catch them both. As Lincoln and Peter are taken in for interrogation, one of their guards receives a phone call and he suddenly shoots his partner before attempting to murder Lincoln and Peter. The dying partner shoots the gun man, allowing Lincoln and Peter to survive and escape. Then Lincoln leads the rest of the alternate Fringe team away as a distraction so that Peter can find his mother, Elizabeth, who is alive in this universe.
Our Lincoln tells his counterpart and Fauxlivia that Walternate tried to have himself and Peter executed. Although the alternate Lincoln and Fauxlivia are openly skeptical of Lincoln, they stash him away off the books and look into his claims. At Walternate's home, Peter finds his mother, who recognizes him as her son. When Walternate's security forces show up to deal with Peter, she steps in front of their weapons and she insists that they bring them to her husband. On Liberty Island, Walternate seems to be initially overcome by emotion when he sees Peter, before dismissing his guards and his wife.
In private, Peter scoffs at what he assumes was a performance by Walternate and he says that he knows that Walternate tried to have him killed. Walternate admits knowing about Peter's existence because he had been spying on our universe, but he claims to have no links to the new breed of shapeshifters. Walternate then summons his lead scientist, Brandon Fayette ( Ryan James McDonald) to vouch for him. To Peter's surprise, Walternate than kills Brandon and exposes him as a shapeshifter. Believing Peter to be neutral in the cold war between the two universes, Walternate asks him to tell the other side that he is not their enemy. In return, he pledges to help Peter get home.
At the alternate Fringe division, the alternate Lincoln and Fauxlivia tell Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick) that they've found the origin of the incoming call that our Lincoln was talking about. Broyles gives them permission to follow up on the lead, before secretly calling David Robert Jones (Jared Harris); the twisted genius behind the new shapeshifters… and a man Peter killed years ago. Broyles warns Jones that Fauxlivia and alternate Lincoln are on their way, and Jones has several shapeshifters in tubes behind him.
In our universe, Olivia sleeps in the Orpheum theater until she is startled by the appearance of the Observer known as September (Michael Cerveris). Amazingly, September appears to have been mortally wounded by a gunshot. But before he disappears, September tells Olivia that he has seen all possible futures and Olivia dies in all of them. More to the point, September indicates that she has to die, leaving Olivia stunned.
There was something fitting about Peter telling Walternate that he had put on a great performance, because it absolutely was… both by the actor and the character. "Fringe" doesn't get the attention that it should when it comes to the acting skills of the cast. But John Noble is one of the most gifted performers on TV and he gave Walternate the one thing that he's previously lacked: a heart.
Even if Walternate was faking his reactions to Peter in front of his wife and the others, he seemed genuinely surprised and emotional when he heard the initial news about Peter's incursion to the alternate universe. Ever since the second season, Walternate has been one of the most formidable villains on TV, showing very few signs of weakness or affection towards others. And yet in this newly restructured timeline, Walternate appears to be a more complete version of himself than the Doctor Walter Bishop in our universe. While Elizabeth Bishop basically died of neglect in our world, she and Walternate seem to have worked through their pain and emerged whole. It's an interesting contrast.
Noble also had some great dramatic moments early in this episode, as our Walter shared the story about his wife's demise. The way that Noble told the tale made it compelling as opposed to mere exposition. There's a real power to this tragedy that supersedes the fantastical trappings of "Fringe." At their core, all of the main characters are relatable and recognizably human, even in an alternate universe.
Prior to the World Series preemption, this would have been the original fall finale of "Fringe," and that cliffhanger is a pretty big one. From last season, there's still the dangling plotline of the strange man in Olivia's mindscape whom she didn't know… but she thinks that he's the man who is going to kill her. If Olivia really is doomed to die in all possible futures, I'd guess that we're going to revisit that angle before the end of the year.
This episode also marked the return to the alternate universe for the first time since early in the season, and it finally brought us a meeting of the two Lincoln Lees. Seth Gabel has been terrific in both roles and it appears to have been a very good decision to add the Prime Lincoln to the regular Fringe team. As the new guy, he still gets the moments of wonder like witnessing life in the alternate universe for the first time. For everyone else, that's something that they no longer react to. It's just part of their everyday lives.
I'm less intrigued by the return of David Robert Jones than I am by the implication that the alternate Broyles is either working for him or that version of Broyles has been replaced by one of the new shapeshifters. Both scenarios are unsettling and they bring up an important question. If Jones can get to Broyles in the overly paranoid universe, who do you think that Jones has replaced in the prime universe? Broyles? Nina? Or someone we would never suspect?
In only his second episode on this series, writer David Fury seems to have captured the right narrative voice of "Fringe." This is a show that is firing on all cylinders and it easily ranks among the best on TV. The only thing that can stop "Fringe" from achieving further greatness and a long run on television is the fact that no one but the core fans seem to be watching it live.
We're running out of time to save this series. So, tell your friends about "Fringe" and keep getting the word out. There's no reason to give up yet.
Crave Online Rating: 9 out of 10.