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September 5, 2015

'Fringe' Season 3, Episode 15 Recap

by Jason Hughes, posted Feb 26th 2011 2:45PM
'Fringe' - 'Subject 13'['Fringe' - 'Subject 13']

Well isn't that just Olivia's bad luck to have been dubbed "Subject 13" back in 1984 when she took part in Walter's experiments in Florida. Actually, hers was sadly not a very happy existence back then, but at least she discovered that she wasn't alone in her struggles. She had a Bishop in her corner, and in fact made an impact on four of them before last night's episode of 'Fringe' was out.

This week, we jumped into the wayback machine and spent the entirety of the episode in 1984 -- we even got a sweet retro-'Fringe' intro sequence to commemorate our journey. Add to that the classic "soft lighting" filming techniques of most dramas of the era, and you can tell the producers really put some care into the making of this episode.

As for the cast, John Noble was the only representative of the ensemble, and yet there is no doubt he can carry a show on his shoulders. He was masterfully supported by Orla Brady as his wife Elizabeth and the young actors brought in to portray Olivia (Kaley Scott Collins) and Peter (Chandler Canterbury).

Let's give a shout-out to the casting director who selected these two. Not only did the youngins have the gravitas to pull off strong emotional performances, but both of them perfectly emulated their elder counterparts enough to sell the idea that they were younger versions of them. Olivia's pensiveness and Peter's earnest discomfort were perfectly captured in these young performers.

Without solid kids in these roles, much of the episode would have fallen flat. In particular, the climactic emotional connection shared in the field of engineered tulips. In that moment, Peter came to realize a love and connection to this Elizabeth who was so very almost his mother, while perhaps coming to understand a little bit his own situation.

We've not yet come to the point where he's forgotten that he's from another world completely -- I liked the explanation that he thought it was at the bottom of the lake, as well as the emotional punch of his attempt to get home in the earlier hour -- but he had a realization perhaps in that moment that Walter was trying to do right by him, but that it wouldn't be easy.

The gentle soul that Walter possesses did come out in this episode, as he ultimately rejected the idea of using the method he knew to trigger Olivia's crossing over: love and terror. His threat to her stepfather was perhaps one of the most satisfying moments of the episode. I thought it beautifully appropriate that the stepfather had no response at all, though his eyes spoke terror, shame and anger at the same time.

I'll give the creators credit for one moment where they pulled the rug out from me. When Olivia burst into Walter's office to confront him about her stepfather and the truth about crossing over to the other universe, I totally didn't catch that she'd again slipped into that universe and was addressing Walternate. Nicely played, 'Fringe,' as well as explaining how Walternate figured out what happened to Peter.

While there were some pieces of the historical puzzle of Peter and Olivia's past with Walter, this was mostly an emotional journey into the past, and it was an incredibly successful and satisfying one. My first inclination was to wonder how Peter and Olivia could have forgotten one another so completely, even after all the encounters they've had with one another's pasts in the last three years. But then I think back to my own youth and there are just huge gaping holes in my memory through which locales, situations and people have fallen.

Certainly trauma makes the forgetting even easier, and I think we can agree both were going through a tremendous amount of that at this point in their lives. I also felt for both Elizabeths. Both trying to support their husbands, both struggling with what's happened to Peter, and both getting lost themselves because of it.

"This Side" Elizabeth in particular is so emotionally conflicted. She came so close to admitting the truth to Peter when he finally accepted his situation as one of permanence, but she couldn't bring herself to. Better, perhaps, to try and convince him that this is and always has been his home. Clearly, they were ultimately successful in this endeavor, or he simply abandoned and then forgot the truth.

What did you think of this journey back to 1984? Do you like these occasional divergences into the past or do you think the writers should stick to all that story they're juggling in both present realities?

'Fringe' airs Fridays at 9PM ET on Fox.

[Follow Jason on Twitter @ultraversion21]

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Brett Alan

Don't know if anyone from TV Squad is likely to look here at this point, but if so: where's the recap of this past week's episode? (Os.) Hope you haven't stopped recapping this show...

March 16 2011 at 12:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well said Jason Hughes! Though it is always difficult to pull off a back-story episode without raising questions of synchronicity, this episode is beautifully and poignantly done. I love the details you mentioned like the retro intro and lighting techniques. And the acting was great, which is not always something you can count on when you bring in kid actors. I think having back story episodes thrown into the mix is great as long as they are able to keep the story as consistent as this one managed to, and bring back the same kids and actress who played Elizabeth.

February 28 2011 at 4:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Debbie B

I enjoy every episode of Fringe but I do have a question. If Peter and Walter new Olivia when she was a child, how come she didn't know them when the show started?

February 28 2011 at 2:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The episode was so out of focus I got a headache trying to watch it.

February 27 2011 at 8:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I absolutely love this show. My wife and myself can't wait for the blogs and to talk about it all week long. This in my opinion has brought Sci-Fi to a place never brought before. It rates amongst the best shows ever created and written for TV. The entire cast and supporting cast are magnificent!

February 27 2011 at 11:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

John Noble needs to win awards already. Everyone did a good job. The writers write seamlessly, & the twist was crazy good. Plus what everybody said.

February 27 2011 at 1:14 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Overall good episode, but why was it so out of focus? Sometimes worse than others...

And while it was some 26 years ago, Battlestar Galactica had been off the air for 6 years at that point, so why would there be a Battlestar Galactica game in the game store?

February 26 2011 at 8:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to anangelfan's comment

I think the "out of focus" quality was meant to make it look like it was airing in the 80s. I also got a kick out of the fact that the "betamax" footage was in standard def (or at least had the standard def ratio). For a moment, I thought my HD cable box was on the fritz. I actually really liked the soft lens effect, but I can understand how it would get on someone's nerves.

As for the Battlestar Galactica toy - I think it was a model, so it could've been a collectible. I know I've seen Star Trek: TNG models for sale still and that show's been off for a LONG time. Then again, I could just be reading too much into it. Maybe it was just a reference error by someone who thought it ran later than 1979.

February 26 2011 at 9:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"Battlestar Galactica game in the game store?"

Probably a subtle BSG mythological-religious reference. Earth and the people as we know it today, is actually an on going "do over" or “all of this will happen before, and all of this will happen again,”, i.e. first people plot line. Peter is somehow a direct descendant of the First People or "IS", which could explain future memory issues.

1980 - BSG TV sequel series and Movie "Conquest of the Earth", BSG Comic ended in 1981/82 or there about, this would shorten the years some.

February 27 2011 at 4:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I liked the parallel to last week's episode about how couples can differ between universes. In our universe, Elizabeth turns to alcohol as a result of what happens to Peter, while it is Walternate who does that in the other universe.

February 26 2011 at 5:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

@Steve Re date: right, and I think 1985 was also established in The Firefly (reference to Back to the Future).

February 26 2011 at 5:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

There were slow moments, but I thought this episode was absolutely awesome. To me, it had the feel of the first season, when they were free to write weird twists without being burdened by the story so far. You're absolutely right in saying that the actors who played young Peter and Olivia were well chosen. Young Olivia in the bed of tulips emulated Ana Torv wonderfully.

I didn't see the twist at the end of the episode coming either - although I realized during a subsequent viewing of the scene that I should have. They make it very obvious that Walter doesn't like wearing suits, but Walternate wears them all the time; the Walter that Olivia bursts in on is wearing a tie. Kudos to them for catching me totally off-guard the first time. Odd twists like that are what attracted me to the story in the first place.

February 26 2011 at 5:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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