Episode Title: "Novation"
Writers: J. R. Orci & Graham Roland
Director: Paul Holahan
Previously on "Fringe":
Weeks ago, Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) used the Doomsday Device to bridge the two universes at the cost of his own existence. In this new timeline, FBI Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) met Lincoln Lee (Seth Gabel) after his partner was killed by a new breed of transparent shapeshifters. Although Lincoln helped Olivia and the Fringe team hunt down the shapeshifters, they were unaware that a shapeshifter calling herself Nadine (Michelle Krusiec) managed to escape. Meanwhile, Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) began seeing Peter's face and hearing his voice despite not remembering who he was.
Fearful that he was losing his sanity, Walter attempted to perform a lobotomy on himself. Fortunately, Olivia caught him in time and she revealed that she had also seen Peter's face in her dreams. When Olivia was threatened by an increasingly violent electromagnetic disturbance, she recognized Peter's face at the center of it and stopped the efforts to dissipate the energy. Suddenly, Peter Bishop reappeared in the flesh at Reiden Lake. Later, the director of the Fringe division, Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick) alerted Olivia that Peter was a man who had classified information about the team's activities. But when Olivia finally met Peter in the flesh, she also had no memory of who he is.
Peter is brought into the FBI's headquarters in Boston and he shoots Broyles an annoyed look as he is locked in an interrogation room. Olivia returns to Walter's lab and finds him hooked up to an IV in a wildly dangerous (and very Michael Jackson-like) attempt to get some sleep with the help of some powerful drugs. Olivia tells him that the man is claiming to be his son, Peter and that he will only speak with Walter. Elsewhere, Donald Kellen (Kurt Max Runte) comes home and discovers his lover, Karen (Lori Ann Triolo) behaving strangely. Karen turns out to be the shapeshifter, Nadine and she questions Donald about his research before killing him.
At the federal building, Astrid (Jasika Nicole) escorts Walter in to see Peter, but to Peter's disappointment, Walter also doesn't remember him. Peter then learns that his counterpart in this timeline drowned without the Observer's interference, but Walter panics and frantically leaves the room. Immediately thereafter, Lincoln calls Olivia to Donald and Karen's home; which he identified as a shapeshifter crime after the cops reported seeing the transparent skin on Karen's body. They quickly determine that the shapeshifter was looking for Dr. Malcolm Truss (Arye Gross), a former Massive Dynamic scientist who was estranged from his wife, Karen.
Unfortunately, Nadine catches up to Malcolm soon afterwards and she abducts him at gunpoint. Meanwhile, Lincoln and Olivia visit Massive Dynamic and Olivia reveals that she and her sister were raised by Nina Sharp (Blair Brown) after their mother died. Nina brings up Malcolm's projects and shows them that his cellular replication research must be what the shapeshifters want him for. While holding her target at bay in a car, Nadine wins Malcolm's sympathy by saying that she had cancer and she needs his help to find a cure for her condition; which appears to be a massive artifical skin graft on her chest. He agrees to help her, but adds that he doesn't do good work at gunpoint.
In the interogation room, Peter becomes frustrated and he begins working on the intercom. He uses it to overhear Broyles and his agents work on theories about what Nadine intends for Malcolm before Peter uses the mic to inject himself into the conversation. Peter quickly reveals that he has experience dealing with the previous shapeshifters and Lincoln successfully lobbies to allow Peter access to equipment to hack into the memory disks in exchange for another meeting with Walter. On the road, Nadine and Malcolm pull over for gas, but a state trooper notices them and calls it in. However, Nadine quietly kills the man without alerting Malcolm.
At a secret warehouse laboratory, Nadine provides everything Malcolm needs to revive his research. He quickly comes up with a potential cure for her deterioration, but after it is administered, she uncontrollably shifts back into Karen and freaks Malcolm out. At Walter's lab, Nina finds him making Peter's favorite desert to calm himself and he admits that he recognized his son in Peter's eyes. But he also states that he doesn't deserve a second chance to save him. At Fringe division, Peter has a breakthrough and he finds a way to track the shapeshifters through their own systems. He also warns the team that if the shapeshifters perfect their latest incarnations, they will be virtually undetectable except through invasive surgery.
Back at the secret lab, Nadine intimidates Malcolm into finishing his cure for her deterioration, even as he attempts to slip in an enzyme that would be fatal for her. Olivia and Lincoln arrive at the warehouse with a team of agents, but Nadine proves to be very elusive. She shoots two agents and leaves them on the roof, with Agent Warrick (Jeremy Guilbaut) as the only survivor. Warrick also tells Olivia that Nadine jumped into the river to escape. As Warrick is taken away by ambulance, the FBI divers recover a body from the river… Warrick's body! By the time the FBI catches up to the abandoned ambulance, Nadine has killed the paramedics and escaped again.
At FBI headquarters, Olivia asks Lincoln out to get something to eat and he turns her down. Olivia also experiences a strange moment of deja vu when the same agent drops off the same paperwork twice. Inside the interrogation room, Peter is pleased to see Walter return and acknowledge that he is who he says he is. However, Walter insists that he doesn't deserve to have his son back and that he won't be tempted to rip the universe another hole to help Peter get home, leaving his son dejected. Elsewhere, Nadine stabilizes herself with Malcolm's serum and reports back to her superiors; who then order her to prepare the way for the other shapeshifters.
Now that baseball is out of the way, the Fringe team can finally get back to the business of dealing with Peter's return. And it appears that holding Joshua Jackson out of the majority of the first four episodes was the right decision, as I'm getting used to the new status quo of Lincoln and Olivia as the field team with a crazier Walter in the lab. The writers have now shifted the the P.O.V. focus from Lincoln to Peter, since as far as Peter's concerned, this isn't his world. I also liked that the first theory that Walter came up with was that Peter was from a third universe.
Jackson and John Noble delivered on both of their scenes together with a pair of great performances. Noble was particularly engaging as Walter feebly tried to hold his emotions together. Walter's eventual rejection of Peter also served as an effective gut punch for his son. He's gone from savior of the universe to mysterious stranger/prisoner in the space of a couple of weeks. It's also interesting to note that without Peter, no one has successfully identified the Observers in this timeline.
Blair Brown's Nina Sharp doesn't normally get a lot to do on this show, but her scene with Walter made both of them seem emotional vulnerable about Peter's return and the role that they both played in Peter's death. I had forgotten that Nina broke the vial with the cure; which forced Walter to bring Peter back to our universe. But that was a nice callback and a believable reason why Walter hated her for so long in this timeline. It's also intriguing that Nina essentially raised Olivia, which explains their increased closeness. And yet, there's still some distance there. Olivia seems very friendly towards Nina, but it doesn't strike me as a real mother/daughter connection.
Lincoln Lee got some good character beats in this episode, particularly when he didn't back down from Broyles about his suggestion to let Peter decode the memory drives from the shapeshifter. It's good that Lincoln has some balls in this timeline, if not necessarily the best instincts with women. If this Lincoln is anything like his counterpart in the alternate universe, then he has a huge crush on Olivia. And yet when Olivia reaches out to him to spend time together outside of the office, he quickly shoots her down. Short of being gay, I can only assume that Lincoln is a moron around women. Or socially awkward in general.
Anna Torv didn't get many chances to play Olivia off of Peter this week, but there was at least a moment where Olivia recognized that something else must be happening if she was seeing Peter's face in her dreams. From the way that Olivia approached Lincoln, it seems that Olivia is pretty lonely without Peter in her life. Olivia has her colleagues at work, but I'm starting to doubt that she has any friends. And aside from the mention of her sister this week, Olivia may not be as close to her sister or her niece in this timeline… assuming that they exist.
The time skips that Olivia experienced were also very clever ways of setting up the next crisis, judging from the preview for next week's episode. If Peter himself has become some kind of walking Fringe event, it could bring down the same catastrophic occurrences on this world that are already destroying the alternate world. All this, and we still haven't seen Walternate this season. I'm curious what his reaction to Peter's return will be.
Among the guest performers this week, Arye Gross was pretty good as Malcolm and he even managed to invoke Leonard Nimoy's William Bell a few times. I really like the concept behind Nadine as a villain, but Michelle Krusiec is a little flat in the role. Krusiec isn't necessarily bad, but she's not adding much to the part either. I'm more interested in finding out who created the new breed of shapeshifters and what they want. It's been rumored that an old villain from season one is making a comeback; which might exonerate the obvious suspect, Walternate. I'd also like to see Lincoln get his revenge, but that might be further down the line.
So far, so good for the fourth season of "Fringe." This may not have been the best episode of the season to date, but the show is still holding steady.
Crave Online Rating: 8.5 out of 10.