Although it may look like the present with Walter still driving his beaver panel station wagon, but the cheesy hair styles and terrible clothing all point to the 80's. Fringe gets to recycle their vintage version of an opening title sequence from last season in this week's flash back episode, "Subject 13".
"Subject 13" opens it's story back in 1985, about 6 months after Walter took Peter from the other side. Peter is certain he is not where he is supposed to be and is willing to die trying (literally) to get back to home. While Elizabeth (Olra Brady) struggles to take care of a morbid Peter, Walter is hard at work trying to find a way to help him cross back over. The work being of Walter's first stages of his Jacksonville Coxtexiphan trails, including a young Olivia. Also a small glimpse into the alternate universe at the same time period and how the sudden loss of Peter has effected Walternate and his Elizabeth.
The opening scenes of "Subject 13" are probably the most exciting and heart pounding moments Fringe has every delivered. Since Peter hasn't really talked about his childhood after the switch seeing him as a kid reacting so aggressively suicidal was a huge shock. Seeing a young Peter (Chandler Canterbury) on the frozen Radien lake holding cinder block tied around his waist sent chills down my spine. Those opening moments were so unexpected, and filled with emotion, they made it almost hard to watch and impossible to turn away at the same time. The only fault I have the aggressive opening would be the lack in supervision of Peter by Elizabeth in the days after the incident. She went from never letting him out of her sight to losing him again later in the episode pretty quickly.
Even though it was nice to take another look at the Bishops during their earlier days "Subject 13" focuses on it's titled character, a young Olivia Dunham (Karley Scott Collins). Olivia becomes the center of Walter's attention after the possibility her having crossed over to the other universe. For the first time since season one Fringe expands on Olivia's abusive step-father back story, as it was a key element that helped activate her abilities. That part of Olivia's back story I always hoped Fringe would return to eventually ever since it was hinted at early in the series. Hopefully they also decide on expanding that story in the present as well. Another nice touch was having the kid versions of Peter and Olivia getting to have a small scene together. It made more the first sign of Olivia seeing the glimmer of objects from the other side when she sees Peter after an emotional moment.
Around the half way mark of the episode "Subject 13" switches to the other universe where a broken Walternate and his Elizabeth struggling to find an answer for who would take their Peter. Walternate begins to drown himself in work and booze to cope with the loss of Peter his marriage to starts to fall apart. Ironically when Peter gives in and accepts Walter's Elizabeth as his real mother she begins to start drinking to cope with her living the lie. This is another great example of the details that go into writing this show. Even though these outcomes from the after effects of either gaining or losing Peter had been discussed about for both Bishop families in past episodes, "Subject 13" presents both in the same episode making for another example of a brilliant story parallel Fringe is known for.
Lastly, one of my favourite moments in the episode was the toy store scene. I'll admit I totally geeked out when Peter's mother took him inside and I recognized some the classic 80's figures/collectables from my own childhood. Being a huge Ghostbusters fan (I think I've mentioned this before) it was pretty nostalgic seeing all the old Ecto car and zapper toys in their original packages. That jolt of excitement will have to make due for a couple of weeks until Fringe returns after a short break.
Andrew Burns loves film and comics, and can be found writing about when those worlds converge. You can follow him on Twitter at @myAndrewBurns.