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The View from the Bridge: The Man From the Other Side on Fringe

"You called me dad." - Walter Bishop

This week's episode of Fringe ("The Man From the Other Side"), written by Josh Singer and Ethan Gross and directed by Jeffrey Hunt, paid off many of the clues and signals we've seen building throughout the second season of Fringe, particularly those swirling around Thomas Jerome Newton and the Bishop family secrets.

It was the latter that was the most heartbreaking, coming as it did on the heels of a moment of profound connection between Walter and Peter, the first time that Peter had called Walter "dad." It was a yet another tiny but emotional resonant moment in a season positively overflowing with them, offering a glimmer of happiness that would all too easily be snatched away before the end of the episode.

So what did I think of this week's episode of Fringe? Let's crank up the Rush and find out.

This season, Fringe has wisely found a balance between creepy/gross/bizarre science-related mysteries of the week, a mythology founded on multiple realities, and an emphasis on the emotional connections between the characters. (Though I am tired of repeating myself on one front: please, for the love of custard, give Astrid something to do, a storyline, a backstory. She can't just still be the lab help in the third season.) Casting aside the possibility of a romantic entanglement for Olivia and Peter, the writers have instead fashioned the Fringe Division as a family of damaged individuals, each one carting around the ghosts of the past who have finally found some semblance of home in the madness of Walter Bishop's lab beneath Harvard University.

But that familial balance is about to become unhinged. Over the past few episodes, Walter has increasingly come to the conclusion that he has to tell Peter the truth about his identity, even though it comes with the risk of losing him all over again. But Peter does deserve to know where he came from, after all. Olivia attempts to caution Peter against stirring up old secrets, making sure that he knows that Walter loves him.

But is that enough? Is it enough to know that Walter loved him when he's faced with proof that he was taken from his home? He might have called Walter "dad" for the first time, but the hatred that burns in his eyes when he regains consciousness and sees Walter reveals that he sees this man as little more than a kidnapper: a stranger who came in the night and took him away. How on earth could they hope to have any semblance of a relationship after this?

What Peter doesn't know--and what he won't allow Walter to tell him--is why. Which is perhaps their relationship's one saving grace. Walter didn't cross over between the worlds to take him but to save him. Fate intervened and then Peter's mother fell in love with him. Which is why, when he left for Europe, she killed herself. The choice she had made--to rob another mother of her son--was too much to bare once she was all alone.

Peter has long wondered why he had such fuzzy memories of his childhood, why he was often skeptical of stories that Walter told him of his formative years... and why he could survive the vibrations unleashed by Newton on the railroad bridge over the Charles River when a nearby FBI agent was atomized next to him. In that instant, everything was clear and the bridge that was appearing before his eyes wasn't just a physical one to another world by a metaphorical one to his own past.

He might have stopped Newton's plan but it also meant that the scales fell from his eyes. He saw Walter for who he really was (or who he believes him to be) and saw himself for what he was: a tourist from another place, someone who doesn't belong in this world and never did. The coming war is a direct result of Walter's efforts to save the life of his son and at the heart of this battle is Peter Bishop himself. No wonder Peter checked himself out of the hospital and took off for parts unknown.

And then there's the matter of the man on the bridge, the one who was meant to be brought through the veil between the worlds along with the bridge and who was making strides directly towards Peter Bishop. Newton went through a lot of trouble to bring him to this place and to engineer a major scheme in order to bring that bridge to this place.

Just who was he, that man from the other side? Could it be that Newton is allied with the other world's Walter Bishop? After all, the shapeshifter embryo grabbed Walter's hand and apologized with its dying breath. What if the central conflict has always been not just inside Walter Bishop but between Walter Bishop? Could it be that this entire war is really about that fateful night Walter tried to save Peter's life?

And then there's the matter of the Secretary, the mysterious person whom Newton speaks to after he crossed over to this world. He sedates him and tells him not to talk, but Mr. Secretary grips Newton's hand in a sign of solidarity... one that sharply echoes that between Walter Bishop and the shapeshifter embryo. Hmmmm...

Which means that there's a strong case to make for Mr. Secretary being Walternate, the other universe's Walter Bishop. Did he find another means of crossing over after the bridge experiment failed? After all, as far as we know that universe's Walter Bishop never crossed over before and has never visited this world. And it would make sense why the embryo apologized to Walter for failing his mission. Curious, no?

What did you think of this week's installment? Who is the man on the bridge? Who is Mr. Secretary? Head to the comments section to discuss.

Next week on Fringe ("Brown Betty"), Walter deals with some very upsetting news, he tells Olivia's niece, Ella, a fairy tale that includes musical performances by Olivia and Agent Broyles.


rockauteur said…
Great show. I definitely thought the Secretary could be Walter Bishop as well... I think losing his son in the alternative world set him on a path of trying to start the war with our side. Plus, it could have been Altern-Walter who really did visit Walter in the asylum.

I still am pretty mad at the writers for dropping most of the mythology from last season. What happened to ZFT? The manifesto? Mark Valley's whole conspiracy group? The bank vault theft with the other FBI mole? All unanswered. Plus the religious FBI chick from earlier in the season.
Anonymous said…
That's right because ZFT, the manifesto are the ONLY storylines this show has to offer.
mck said…
I don't think they dropped any of those stories, just wrapped em up, possibly for later viewing. ZFT still exists, perhaps fractured since season one's finale, but Fringe Division was sent on a separate course by William Bell. Why would they focus on science experiments in their world that harm a few at a time, when they can stop a catastrophic war from destroying their world altogether? As for Mark Valley's conspiracy group, that was wrapped up when Olivia got the job done and arrested the arms dealer.

To be honest, I'm glad we're passed all of this. ZFT and the manifesto should be background information now, sometimes explaining the cases they take on, but they should not remain the focus when you have stories like Alternate!Peter to tell.

Speaking of which, bravo to the whole cast. The hospital scene between Peter, Olivia and Walter was amazing. Can't wait for the musical episode!
Anonymous said…
Thanks for another great review. I think the man on the bridge is indeed the "Walternate".

Amie Schantz
Page48 said…
If Olivia ever gets a minute, I hope she remembers to ask Broyles why he sent her to the storage facility? It was important enough to John Scott that he used his dying breath to suggest that she do so.

Unless she just assumed that Scott meant wait a few years and then ask Broyles. He coulda meant that, I suppose, I mean he was dying at the time.
OldDarth said…
Enjoyed the episode but found the reveal between Peter and Walter not very dramatic.

Hopefully a better payoff will be forthcoming.
Unknown said…
Oh, cruel "Fringe" writers; to have Peter and Walter take such a significant step forward ("You called me dad."), only to yank it all away at the end of the episode...

This season continues to be awesome. "Fringe" has officially become my second favorite show (after "Lost").

I'm convinced we'll learn that Walternate is behind much of the technology from the parallel universe, including the shapeshifters. Imagine what Walter could have accomplished had he not spent 17 years in an asylum. Add to that the motivation of retrieving a son that was stolen from you, and I'll bet that Walternate has become one obsessed, scientific bad-ass (make that "Secretary Bad-Ass!).

I can understand Peter's shock and anger, but I don't get the disappearance act. I would demand answers - from Walter, from Olivia. But that probably wouldn't be as interesting as whatever is about to happen next.

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