The Wachowski brothers inspire Walter to capture his peanuts in 'bullet time' to see if they are out of phase with reality. Only for a show like Fringe can that sentence even begin to make sense. The show's new altered timeline continues to play fill in the blanks in this week's "Subject 9".
No alternate universe this week but we do get to see a familiar face everyone has been waiting to see. The episode begins with Olivia having a close encounter of an unknown kind as she is visited by a magnetized glowing mass of energy. Determined to prove his sanity after what happened last week Walter leaves the lab for the first time in years to help Olivia track down his best guess for who is responsible for the unknown energy source; a former patient from the Cortexiphan trails. Olivia and Walter have some bonding moments during their trip to New York to find who they think is manifesting these energy events.
In "Subject 9" there ended up being more time bonding between Olivia and Walter and less time investigating the mysterious event. Normally this wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing but the episode wastes a lot of time on reiterating Walter's regrettable past with his experimentation on children. Over the last three seasons Walter has had his guilt trip moments when it comes to him and Bell's Cortexiphan trails on Olivia and the others when they were just children. So it seemed pointless to me why to revisit this guilt, especially considering it managed to span over the whole episode. I guess the important thing is that in this new timeline Walter is equally remorseful as he was before the bridge at Liberty Island but, again, that didn't require the whole episode to do it in.
The stuff with Olivia most likely having the power to send Walter back to St. Clair's with her monthly evaluation works fine because of the almost lobotomy he gives himself at the end of the episode last week. There doesn't seem to be any permanent damage to Walter and relationship wise everything between him and Olivia looks like its gone back to normal. Whatever normal is for this timeline anyway. Walter is still likes Root Beer floats and continues calling Astrid by the wrong name (Clair this week) so the important things stay the same.
Not everything is the same in this timeline and when the episode isn't having Walter flip out "Subject 9" elaborates of some of these minor and major differences. One of the biggest differences has to do with the Cortexiphan trails during this current timeline as Olivia escaped when she was a kid and didn't return before the program got as intense. Since Olivia left the program it ultimately shut down so she doesn't have any super powered side effects like she normally had. As for the rest of the former Jacksonville test subjects, like Cameron James (played by Chadwick Boseman) from this episode who the fringe team thinks is involved with the mysterious energy, it sounds like it is a rare case for the Coxtexiphan to still have any effect.
Some of the other minor subtleties come out of Nina Sharp's first appearance this season. Nina and Olivia's relationship looks like it goes back much farther than their initial meeting in the "Pilot", most likely beginning during the Coxtexiphan trails. The two seem to have an unofficial mother/daughter rapport together as they joke about personal memories from Olivia's childhood. The flip side to this new angle with Nina seems to be her and Walter having a genuine distaste for each other. When Astrid plays Bluetooth mediator at the beginning of the episode you can tell Walter and Nina's history, this time around, has very little to do with mutual respect.
With all these little changes over these opening four episodes this season we finally get something unaltered; or rather someone. Peter is back! Like the rest of the viewers at home Peter is the only one who has any memory what actually happened. More will have to be explained about Peter's big return but I suspect it will have something to do with Raiden Lake again, the electric/magnetic charge that was going on, and the most interesting those short bleeps in time Walter witnessed. It doesn't really matter which universe takes center stage next episode because adding Peter to the mix for either is going to be a blast to watch.
I have to say the returning reveal of Fringe's lead male cast member was amusingly emasculating with Joshua Jackson standing in a short skirt style hospital gown. Having my favourite fictional Mighty Ducks' captain return was the only reason this episode gets a passing rating star wise. At times the episode seemed like watching a repeat episode from season 2 because of the whole Jacksonville discussions between Walter and Olivia. Fringe takes a short one week break and hopefully will return with a fully clothed Peter Bishop and an answer or two.
Andrew Burns loves film and comics, and can be found writing about when those worlds converge. You can follow him on Twitter at @myAndrewBurns.