Fringe recap: The U.F.O.

Unrecognized. Forgotten. Outcast. Peter Bishop tries to make sense of an alien world -- and a new form of shape-shifter -- in 'Novation' 
Ep. 05 | Aired Nov 4, 2011

"ONE DAY, I'LL LOOK BACK ON MY SAD, MESSED UP SITUATION AND LAUGH. HERE'S A PREVIEW." Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) returned to Fringe Division in "Novation," albeit in the form of an unwanted, passed-along burden/obligation, which is how I make sense of the whole "Novation" thing. You may disagree

Liane Hentscher/Fox

It was left to Walter Bishop – the only man Peter would agree to speak with – to get answers out of him. Walter was wary. Nay: Freaked. Until last episode, Peter was either a visual or auditory hallucination. Now he had flesh. Flesh made out of his DNA! (A 99.999% match.) And he called himself Peter Bishop, to boot. If I was Walter, I’d be numbing myself to sleep with powerful drugs, too. The reunion of the Bishop boys was a great, well acted scene. Walter, unable to even look at Peter; Peter, his face full of warmth and grace for his damaged father. Poignant. I am amazed by how this cast is always able to find the emotion in the material they’re given, no matter how gonzo-heady. They also know how to sell the tricky ideas, and this scene gave us an intriguing, challenging one. As Peter began to realize that the salvation machine had produced a new history in which he never survived his childhood, the unrecognizable forgotten outcast had an epiphany. “I was supposed to die,” he said. “But when I didn’t, I became a paradox for both universes. I had to be deleted.” But Peter’s theory about himself is only correct if you agree that Walter’s salvation machine produced the timeline that was always supposed to exist. Did it?

Peter was ticked about being locked up, and it stung that his father and Olivia, the woman he loved, didn’t remember him. He eventually settled into a wry regard for his surreal situation, though he wasn't going to sit on his hands and do nothing about it. I liked the beat when the crafty hustler reminded us of his ingenuity by hotwiring the intercom in his holding cell suite so he could eavesdrop on Broyles, Olivia and Lincoln Lee as they discussed the episode’s case of the week: Another outbreak of shape-shifter hostility. Peter began the work of proving himself by sharing what he knew about the shape-shifters; after all, he had accumulated quite a bit of experience with them in the previous timeline. For example, Peter was able to explain the gizmo that Walter found inside the shape-shifter in the season premiere: It was a “memory disc” that held cognitive, biochemical and mission objective data. Nudged by Lincoln, Broyles set Peter to work on decrypting the disc. In the process, Peter made a discovery about these new model mechanical-human hybrids. “These things are able to switch between every single identity they’ve ever taken, not just one,” Peter said. “They replicate their appearance down to molecular level. … They are the perfect infiltrators. They can replace any one of us. Short of doing surgery to find those memory discs, they can be anyone.” I’m wondering if we’re headed toward another Fake Charlie situation, with a shape-shifter infiltrating Fringe Division by assuming the life and role of someone we know.

I like the idea of Peter earning his place in the new world order by leveraging his knowledge of the old world. Peter should also accelerate the rate of disclosures about the differences between the old timeline and the new one. Example: When he mentioned The Observers, Astrid went: “Observers?” In this new history, Fringe Division has not encountered the hot sauce-swilling continuity cops. I also like how Peter represents us, the fan, in the show itself. He embodies our conflicted feelings about the new timeline; he keeps the memory of the old continuity alive.

The shape-shifter drama itself mirrored some of Peter’s ordeal. Nadine Park –- the shape-shifter last seen in the final moments of the premiere -- came back and abducted a former Massive Dynamic scientist named Malcolm Truss, who was separated and estranged from his wife and yearned to get his old life back. But Karen had moved on. Even fell in love with another man. (Truss = Not just Peter, but also Walter, the obsessed genius who neglected his family; Truss’ wife = Olivia, who’s moved on from Peter for… Lincoln?) Nadine needed Malcolm’s expertise in cellular replication to fix a flaw in the shape-shifters’ morphing abilities. Long story short (because honestly, I didn’t find the Nadine/Truss drama all that compelling), the dilemma facing the shape-shifters struck me as a metaphor for the problem with the new timeline. “Your genome isn’t fully propagating through the artificial tissue,” Truss told Nadine. Applied to the reboot sitch: The history of the previous timeline didn’t fully propagate into the new reality. Truss survived his ordeal, but learned his dream of reconciliation with his wife and restoration of his old life was impossible: Nadine had murdered Karen (and her new boyfriend) and swiped her identity. Here’s hoping Peter and friends have a happier ending.

NEXT: Some pointed speculation about a woman named Sharp

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