If you haven’t yet seen Fringe but intend to, stop reading this post.
Here we go…
Recently, the Science Channel started airing episodes of Fringe from the beginning. I had the opportunity to watch a few when they debuted em with a marathon, including the very first episode. It reminded me of what I love about this show, and what hooked me very early on. I had to watch those old episodes again, so I did.
Walter Bishop remains a favorite character. From the earliest episodes, you want to love this old, drug-addled hippy scientist who doesn’t seem to have a filter between his mouth and his brain. Hints, even in that first episode, are given that he has a very dark side. As the show progresses, we see that dark side revealed slowly. We want to be horrified by the things this man has done; experimenting on children? With drugs? That’s probably the worst of it, but not the end of it. He also stole a child and called him ‘son’, keeping him. Yes, that child was from an alternate universe and would have died without Walter’s intervention – that part is the noble bit – it’s the not giving him back that tears at your moral compass. If you’ve watched the series up to that point, you like Walter. A lot. Even with the darkness. It’s a pickle for you. Here is a man who did dark, terrible things, yet you empathize with him. He watched his son die. Then he watched his son dying in another universe. What would you do in that situation? Especially when you know you can cure him now.
All of this comes to a head at the end of season 2 of Fringe, which I recently watched – so it’s fresh in my mind. More of Walter’s sins come back to haunt him. They’ve been fighting shape shifters from the alternate universe and know, loosely, that they plan to open a doorway between universes – just not why. In the fight to stop this from happening, Olivia discovers Walter’s terrible secret; that he stole Peter from the other side. She struggles with this knowledge, wanting to tell Peter, thinking that he has a right to know. Walter, of course, doesn’t want Peter to know. For the first time in their lives, he and Peter are a family. In fact, Peter, Walter, Olivia and Astrid are all a little family unit. And this threatens all of that. Walter resigns himself to the fact that he has to tell Peter, and then Peter learns about it all on his own.
When the shape shifters manage to open the doorway, Peter tries to close it using a device Walter designed. Standing on a bridge that has collapsed in the middle on our side, yet is whole and intact on the other, Peter can’t stop the doorway from opening. He sees someone from the other side walking across the bridge to enter this universe. An energy pulse washes over Peter and another FBI agent – that agent disintegrates right in front of him, yet Peter is left unharmed. He puts two and two together, realizing that, like the man on the bridge, he is from the other side, which kept him from being pulled apart like the FBI agent when that pulse hit.
This leads to some major reveals; the shape shifters work for Walter Bishop from the other side, ‘Walternate’ as our Walter has taken to calling him. Walternate is the Secretary of Defense on the other side. What is he defending them against? Our universe. When Walter crossed over and stole Peter, he punched a hole into the fabric of their universe that continues to splinter and tear to this day, leading to a devastating global crisis. Walternate has crossed over to bring Peter back to his world – and Peter agrees to go.
Here is where I have a problem. They build up in the last two episodes, that only Olivia can cross universes safely. The experiments that Walter and William Bell did on her when she was a child, have given her this ability. (Along with telekinesis and some others that I’m probably forgetting right now.) A plan is put together where Olivia and the other ‘cortexiphan children’ Bishop and Bell experimented on, will work together to cross over safely – taking Walter with them. Walter convinces them that this is the only way, and that the other subjects will lend their strength to Olivia, allowing her to safely cross them over.
Issue 1 – this is the only reason to bring those other characters into the episode. I mean, as soon as they cross over, cancer-guy dies. Fire-girl gets very ill/sick. Empath-boy is just there to support fire-girl (literally) as she can’t seem to walk on her own. Fire-girl and Empath-boy die when she roasts Agent Lee with a massive fireball. End of cortexiphan children. Okay. Sad that they couldn’t have given us a little more, but I get the constraints of tv.
Issue 2 – and this is a major, major spoiler, so again – last chance to walk away. After Olivia takes over Fauxlivia’s identity to get to Peter, and succeeds in convincing him to return ‘home’ with her, some stuff happens. See, earlier, Walter tells Bell and Olivia that, even if they can find Peter, there is no returning home. The cortexiphan children are gone, which means they are stuck because Olivia can open a door, but she can’t keep it open on her own long enough for them to travel through. Bell suggests that what they need is a ‘doorstop'; something that, once Olivia opens the doorway, they can wedge inside to keep it open long enough for the group to cross back over.
Okay. Makes sense. I guess. The other cortexiphan children were like batteries for Olivia to draw on. Got it.
Olivia and Bell hold off Fringe Division while Walter and Peter set up the ‘doorstop’. An explosion knocks Bell and Olivia for a loop. Bell wakes up, Olivia helps him to his feet, says that she used a grenade he’d given her and they need to run. They go inside the opera house. (What is it with opera houses and scifi tv? Fringe, Battlestar…) Peter and Walter have the doorstop ready to go, but Walter says it doesn’t have enough energy, so Bell, who has crossed back and forth so many times he has become a ticking timebomb, offers to sacrifice himself in order to power the doorstop and see them safely home. Which he does.
Back in ‘our universe’, it is revealed that Fauxlivia actually switched places with Olivia, crossing over to act as a double agent!
Wow! Great twist!
However, you’ve just spent the last hour and change telling us, hammering home even, the fact that THEY CAN’T CROSS OVER WITHOUT OLIVIA – SHE’S THE ONLY ONE WITH THE ABILITY AND IT COMES FROM HER EXPOSURE TO CORTEXIPHAN!
So, they never should have been able to cross over. The doorstop shouldn’t have worked. The group should have watched William Bell go zappy-zap, and then been captured by Broyles and the rest of Fringe Division BECAUSE THEY CAN’T CROSS OVER WITHOUT OLIVIA! WHO HAS BEEN CAPTURED!
This bugged me. This bugged me a lot. Seems like a massively huge plot hole to me, and one they only exasperate in season 3 as the other side discovers cortexiphan (an argument COULD have been made prior to that, Fauxlivia, like Olivia, had been exposed during her childhood, explaining how they escaped). Also, crossing over the first time was this whole big production of Walter focusing Olivia and the kids so they could cross over. Coming back? Turn the machine on. Bell goes zap. Ugh.