It’s a wonder Fringe even bothers with the week-to-week cases. Yes, they are part of the show’s DNA as a more approachable way to bring in viewers, but when you have episodes as strong as last season’s “Peter”, this season’s “Entrada” and now “Subject 13”, who needs them? A direct sequel to “Peter”, this episode picks up a few months after Walter’s pivotal kidnapping of Peter from the other side.
We open in what has to be the strongest first five minutes this season. It is a scene of constantly changing expectations: A little boy is walking on an icy lake. His mother finds a note in the kitchen. She chases after him, except if this were Earth 2, an eight-year-old Peter would not be carrying a cement block and a rope, trying to drown himself in the lake. That’s right, we’re on our Earth, and Peter is trying to go back to “the world under the lake”. How haunting. With Walter working long hours in Tallahassee, Peter is insistent to his “mother” that he is not where he belongs. (“The Dodgers are from New York, not LA”) Meanwhile, our Walter is discovering something it took Walternate an extra twenty years to discover: that children have a high capacity to cross over to the other universe.
Just in time for a quick cut to a young Olivia. A subject in Walter’s tests, she is reading a book at home when her stepdad accosts her and tells her to go to bed. She runs off as he yells at her and chases her, and as the two turn a corner…she’s in a field of white tulips. Looking to the sky, she’s right back in the hallway a moment later. Cut to another round of the trippy 80’s-inspired credit sequence.
If the rest of the episode failed to live up to those exhilarating first few minutes, the next couple hundred words would be quite angry. Luckily, though, what followed was an engaging, heartbreaking hour of the grips between children, the future, and the past. Told entirely in 1985, or a version of it, this episode was incredibly well done and didn’t need the crux of a bad guy to keep the plot going. (Unless you count Olivia’s evil stepfather as a villain.)
When Walter sees Olivia’s drawing pad, he discovers a picture of a blimp in the night sky, proof she had crossed over. He proceeds to run a series of escalating tests on the poor girl, trying to see what triggers a jump, but it all ends, as we’ve seen briefly a year ago, with the room engulfing in flames. This portion was shot almost entirely in study footage, and with its retro computer equipment and science bent, this section felt the most this show has ever felt like an episode of DHARMA-era Lost.
Failing to find a now-fleeing Olivia, Peter and his “mom” come to help out in the lab, the latter knowing that if they can get a child to cross over, Peter’s skepticism and suffering can come to an end and he can return to the proper universe. Peter, waiting in the cubby area, comes across little Olive’s diary, and finds a creepy portrait of her stepdad, and then a beautiful field of tulips. The boy ventures out and ends up finding Olivia, and the two have a heart-to-heart. I am sure continuity buffs are going to have a fit with this plot point, and it bothered me as well that the two had met as kids, but I’m willing to see where this goes. With as much childhood trauma as both of them had, it is explainable (by a stretch) that they could remember nothing thirty years later.
Meanwhile, in glimpses over to Earth 2, Walternate is revealed to be the U.S. safety czar and the scientist behind the recently-completed Star Wars defense system. That a man so prominent could have his only son snatched from under his nose devastates Walternate, and brings a great human element to a person we’ve so far come to think of as a steely monster. The episode also features a great turn by the actress who plays Elizabeth Bishop, who in both worlds is struggling to maintain her sanity in the face of a great lie/tragedy. Much of the episode focuses on her slow descent to madness in our world, and the resolve of Elizabeth-2. A risky focus, but one that pays off in emotional spades throughout the hour.
With Walternate struggling to resume life as normal, he returns to his Tallahassee office, in the shadow of space shuttles, and thinks of his next move. Back in our world, Olivia, now back in the center with Peter, has decided to tell Walter all about how her stepfather abuses her and that she travelled across space time. It is this final scene that provides a major piece of the mythological puzzle and the second mind-bender of the night. As she shows Walter her notebook and says her piece, Walter walks in the door behind her and asks what she is doing. Olivia turns back around, and as she does, there is an empty chair. Yes, Olivia crossed over as she ran into the room, heightened by her emotions. The only problem? She left her drawings (of a blimp and a pair of adorable stick figures labeled “Olivia and Peter”) and her thoughts on the other side. Walternate has found where his son is, and won’t be turning back.
Olivia, until now the key to crossing over, has been revealed as the key to where we stand now, with both universes at war. This battle may have been about two sides of the same man, but Olive Dunham has just stepped up to the plate. Consider our minds blown. Consider this an A+.
Article by Mark Ziemer