Fringe “Neither Here Nor There” TV Review

Everything’s different in season four? How will the Fringe team respond?

4.01
Neither Here Nor There
Writers: JH Wyman, Jeff Pinkner, Akiva Goldsman
Director: Joe Chappelle

THE ONE WHERE
It’s a normal day at the office for the Fringe team as they investigate a series of murders that leave the victims with translucent, glass-like skin – or as normal as it can be in a world where Peter Bishop has never existed…

UNIVERSE
Over here – without Peter.

VERDICT
After season three wrapped itself up with the ultimate WTF cliffhanger, this was arguably the most eagerly anticipated episode of the US fall season. Does it live up to the hype? The answer turns out to be an emphatic yes and no – that episode title works on more than one level.

This is more from the slow-burn, set-things-up-for-later school of season openers than the explosive, hook-new-viewers-now camp – fair enough, considering any newbie tuning into Fringe would be utterly flummoxed – and that’s both a strength and a weakness. Although two universes have been turned on their heads by Peter’s unexpected disappearance, this one-week-later episode chooses to mostly ignore exploring the implications on the overall story arc in favour of a fairly run-of-the-mill (by Fringe standards, at least) case of the week. Even the potentially scintillating scenes between the alternate incarnations of the characters fail to materialise, aside from a couple of stilted encounters between the two Olivias.

Where the episode does work, however, is in establishing what a Peter-less world is like. Bringing back the alternate Agent Lincoln Lee (who has no recollection of his season three meeting with Olivia, Walter and co) proves a masterstroke, as the newcomer to (our) Fringe-verse acts as the viewers’ eyes, his questions allowing the writers to do some crucial info-dumping about what’s changed. Such as how Walter, lacking anything to “tether him to the real world”, is afraid to leave his lab; or how Astrid is now much more assertive and goes out in the field. Linc will be also be a valuable addition to the regular cast.

And for all the case’s predictability, the make-up effects are magnificent. Meanwhile, the introduction of new, fleshier shapeshifters creates all manner of new questions. Will the Observers have the answers? The fact that they’re operating in unknown timelines suggests they may not, especially given the urgency placed on October’s mission to eliminate the last remaining traces (aka Tyler Durden-style subliminal blips) of Peter. It’s good for the show that he ultimately doesn’t succeed.

SPECULATION
Are the new shapeshifters Walternate’s creations? If so, does Bolivia know anything about them? Or are they representatives of a new faction we’re yet to encounter?

SPECULATION 2
The Observers say that no one must know that Peter grew up to be a man. Presumably they mean that in this version of events Peter did exist in both universes, but died as a child in both universes – not quite the same as never existing.

CREDIT TO THE NATION
Blue for our universe, red for their universe, grey for the future: now we learn that a Peter-less universe gets orange credits.

DID YOU SPOT?
The leaf glyph from the Fringe credits appears on the palm recognition pad after Olivia and Lincoln enter the “bridge” between universes.

GUEST STAR
That’s Stargate: Atlantis’s Joe Flanigan as Lincoln’s doomed partner – his happy family life always made it likely that he was going to become Agent Dead Meat.

OBSERVING THE OBSERVER
Hiding in plain sight this week. Interesting to see, though, that despite the trouble he caused last time, October’s still reluctant to kill off Peter. Presumably, if he’d pressed the switch on his Heath Robinson machine, Peter would have been wiped out and we wouldn’t have a show.

BEST LINE
Shopkeeper: “Mind my asking what you need all this stuff for?”
The Observer: “I need to erase someone from time.”
Richard Edwards

Fringe airs on Wednesday nights on Sky1 in the UK.