"Fringe," Season 3, Episode 15

Season 3, Episode 15


“Subject 13” functions both as a sequel and a prequel. It presents a follow-up to events of last season’s clever, context-placing episode “Peter,” which also flashed back to 1985, and also opened with the kitschy early-1980s-style “Fringe” credits, with techno music and a font worthy of Omni Magazine. In “Peter,” Walter brought the alternate version of his son in to our universe, ostensibly to save his life, and “Subject 13” spins off from the consequences of his actions.

By presenting Peter and Olivia as children (very played by Chandler Canterbury and Karley Scott Collins, respectively), “Subject 13” offers some hitherto unknown early chapters of their relationship. There’s a prequel problem here, because given how closely Walter and Olivia knew each other, and how young Olivia and Peter had a fateful meeting, it’s impossible that the characters wouldn’t have remembered these things, or at least mentioned them before now. (“Weren’t you the kid I met in the tulip field that time?”) At least Walter has the excuse that he had parts of his memory surgically removed. Maybe something else happened to Olivia and Peter, like the droids getting their memories wiped at the end of Revenge of the Sith. But is that what the producers really want us to think of?

While “Fringe” usually has fun with its flashbacks and alt-universe episodes, and this week included a few jokes based on 20-20 hindsight, “Subject 13” proved almost unbearably sad. Young Peter and Olivia come across as immensely sorrowful children, with Peter distraught over his (accurate) conviction that he’s in the wrong universe, and Olivia facing physical abuse from her stepfather and scientific abuse from a potential father figure, “Dr. Walter.” And in both universes, Walter’s marriage to Elizabeth (Orla Brady) is falling apart under the strain.

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