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Fringe 3.15 - Subject 13

Fringe 3x15: In Which Little Peter Wants to Go Home and Walternate Gets a Clue

As a sequel to last season’s 'Peter', this week’s 1980’s flashback stood out as one the show’s most poignant, most revealing episodes to date. No gruesome offerings, no FBI interrogations, no lead actors save for John Noble – 'Subject 13' was a stark look back at the six months following Peter’s abduction by Walter from the Other Side.

THINGS THAT MADE ME HAPPY (and by happy I mean teary-eyed):

The Teaser – Despite the lack of gruesome or grotesque, the opening sequence was chilling and eerily disturbing as we saw little Peter trail across the icy Reiden Lake in an attempt to go home and Elizabeth Bishop racing to save her ‘son’ from dying a second time. The desperation and sadness really set the tone for the rest of the episode.

Little Peter – we’ve seen so many episodes relaying the terrible consequences of Walter’s decision to steal Peter from ‘Over There’, but never has the effect been so poignant, so devastating as having to watch the little boy in question, confused and desperately yelling, “I want to go home!” We see this eight-year old child suddenly faced with unimaginable trauma – knowing that he is in a place he is not supposed to be, yet no-one willing to take him back where he belongs. In an interesting parallel, Walter is reluctantly trying to convince young Peter that he is someone he is not. Twenty-five years later Walternate will maliciously do the same thing with Olivia. When we think back to Olivia’s trauma, it makes little Peter’s broken plea to Elizabeth, “I know that I sound crazy. But I'm not, okay? I'm not crazy”, all that more heart-breaking.

Major kudos to Chandler Canterbury who played young Peter. I wanted to adopt him about ten minutes into the episode. Not only did he play the part well, but he got all the Peterisms spot-on, right down to Josh Jackson’s intense-angry face and easy side-smile.

The Beguiling Olivia Dunham – so we finally got to understand the true source of Olivia’s ‘power’. It is not only fear, as previously suggested, but as Walter postulated, “the unique combination of love and terror stimulates a cortical reaction.” Which makes sense, when we think about the times Olivia’s been ‘triggered’. It was this combination which obviously allowed her to cross over to bring Peter back at the end of season 2 and I’m guessing that it won’t be the last time that these emotions are invoked with regards to Peter, particularly now that we’ve seen little Olivia’s mad pyro-skizilz at the sight of those she holds dear. Imagine the kind of damage adult Olivia could do if Peter was ever in any real danger (I’m thinking strapped to a Doomsday machine with fire coming out of his eyeballs kind of danger).

This episode also gave us some insight as to why Olivia is who she is. We saw glimpses of the little girl Olivia could be at the day-care centre. With Dr Walter and the other children she could be playful and carefree yet at home, she was terrorized. The simple concept of home meant fear. Is it any wonder that as an adult she questions her ability to allow herself to be vulnerable when everything in her life has cautioned her against it? This episode did a good job of peeling back the layers. And as with Chandler Canterbury, Karley Scott Collins did a great job of capturing Olivia’s nuances.

Loving you is easy when you’re beautiful - I could practically hear the lyrical chirp of Disney birds flying overhead as little Peter laid eyes on little Olivia for the first time. It was one of those magical ‘first meeting’ moments that generally occur in pilots which we had to wait three seasons to see. And by the look on his face, little Peter was definitely beguiled.

Their scene in the tulip field was incredibly beautiful and hard to believe that such young actors could pull off such a strong, emotional piece. Altlivia ain’t got nothin’ on childhood tulip-field destiny trysts.

Walter/nate – We saw Walternate, before he was Walternate and just Walter. Walter who had lost a son, who was mad with grief and whose marriage was crumbling down around him. For the first time since the introduction of Walter Bishop’s alternate, I felt true sympathy for this character. Watching him fall into despair and obsession as he tried to uncover the mystery behind his son’s abductor was pitiful. The switch (this word was also this week’s glyph by the way) between the two Walters was profoundly effective in showing the thin line between the two men. While our Walter was testing on children and desperately trying to keep his family sane, the other Walter was wearing Ray-Bans and strolling into Bishop Dynamic, effectively tearing his family apart.

I would say that this changes my perception of Walternate’s character from this point forward, but then I remember that he held Olivia captive, brainwashed her, was prepared to lobotomise her, sent shape-shifters over that killed our Charlie Francis, is currently experimenting on human beings, and I find my sympathy sorely lacking. Both men may have been cut from the same cloth, but while Walter became the root-beer loving mad scientist we all know and love, Walternate became somewhat of a sociopath, so no, I’m still not willing to forgive and forget.

TWIST! – Sooo…Olivia told Walternate that there was another universe and that Peter was in that other universe, thus provoking Walternate to start the war. Okay Fringe. You blew my mind. That was seriously one of the best WTF moments I never saw coming.

Orla “Mama Bishop” Brady – Once again, Orla Brady brought poise and grace to her role as Elizabeth Bishop. Watching the beginning of the lie and the slow unravelling of her character with the knowledge that she would eventually take her life was painful. She also delivered one of the most significant lines in the episode and ultimately, the thing that allows young Peter to move on : "“Sometimes what we have is not the world we want, but we have our hearts and our imaginations to make the best of it”.


Memories – I’m pretty certain that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of the eighties, or of young Olivia and the rest of the Cortexiphan kids. Even so, I’m impatient to learn how as an adult, Olivia has no memory of, not only the trials, but kind Dr Walter who stood up for her when no one else would. Surely such a figure would make an impression in a young child’s life. In ‘Jacksonville’, we have Olivia saying to Peter, who also has no memory of ever visiting the day-care centre, “I have a freakishly good memory, I remember everything, but not this”.

Now either the trauma from the trials was so bad that she repressed it really, really deep in her subconscious or Walter and Bell realised that having these children out there with the knowledge of the other universe and how to get there was dangerous so they muddled with their memories. As Nick Lane said in ‘Bad Dreams’, “I think they meant for us to forget.” Either way, I’m hoping this is one of the mysteries that don’t stay unanswered for too long.


“Nothing is random.” So says Mark Helprin, author of A Winter’s Tale, the book little Olivia was reading before she crossed over. “Nothing is random, nor will it ever be.” Words like fate and destiny have been thrown around in Fringe before. In ‘White Tulip’, we have this little exchange between Olivia and Peter.

PETER: Yeah, I read that déjà vu is fate's way of telling you that you're exactly where you're supposed to be. That's why you feel like you've been there before. You are right in line with your own destiny.

OLIVIA: Well, do you believe that?

PETER: Mmm... no. It's a bit mystical for my taste. I never get them, myself. Maybe that's 'cause I'm not on track with my own destiny.

Of course the dramatic irony is that at this point we know that Peter may not be in line with what was supposed to be his destiny. It would seem that these characters are following a certain path, a predetermined path. Peter and Olivia meet as children, then again as adults. They are brought together by a series of events from the moment Peter is brought over to this side. What are the chances that the Dr Walter who experiments on Olivia as a child was the same man she would need years later to save her boyfriend from a chemical attack? Or that Walter experiments on Olivia and the other children in the hope that they will be able to take Peter back, yet 25 years later it is because of these experiments that they are able to retrieve him from the Other Side and bring him ‘home’? It certainly seems as if there is a larger scheme in play.

Now destiny, isn’t a very ‘scientific’ concept, yet neither is God and in White Tulip (which this episode makes a loose reference to) we have Walter making an appeal for the existence of God. To which Peck responds, “God is science. God is polio and flu vaccines and M.R.I. machines, and artificial hearts. If you are a man of science, then that's the only faith we need.” In a similar fashion, in A Winter’s Tale the concept of destiny can be reduced to Nietzsche’s concept of the ‘eternal recurrence’, which can be whittled down to the basic phrase “All of this has happened before and all of this will happen again,” which is to say, that time is a perpetually recurring i.e. we make certain choices because we’ve made them before and will continue to make them in the future.

No matter, it all happened at once, in less than an instant, and time was invented because we cannot comprehend in one glance the enormous and detailed canvas that we have been given - so we track it, in linear fashion piece by piece.
- Mark Helprin,
A Winter’s Tale

Of course, time and the recurrence of time was the primary theme in ‘White Tulip’. All these threads are beginning to tie up. We’re starting to see interconnections not just between characters, but between themes and storylines and I’m getting more and more excited by what the writers have planned.
This episode was complex, textured and definitely one of the best the show has ever delivered, it goes down as one of my all-time favourites.


9.8 White Tulips


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