Last week’s episode of Fox’s Fringe — the fourth of the sci-fi drama’s fourth season — saw the return of Joshua Jackson’s character Peter Bishop, MIA since last May’s season finale. After a time-travel adventure that culminated with a reboot of history, Peter was forgotten by those who knew him as an adult, because in the new version of time, he had died when he was a child, not just in one world, but on two parallel Earths. (The show makes this easier to understand than the previous sentence might suggest.) Yet Peter’s essence endured somewhere on the ethereal plane, and more, his spirit was trying to break back into the realm of flesh and bone, brick, and mortar. He accomplished the mission last week, splashing down like an astronaut falling to Earth. Or rather a naked astronaut. Because he was naked.
Yet Peter’s return to a more conventional semblance of human existence brings with it some unconventional problems — like the fact that the timeline is alien to him and no one “remembers” him. Peter’s return puts fans of the show in an interesting position, too. The first four episodes of the season — a solid, emotionally affecting bunch, highlighted by a serial killer that sucked happy memories from brains and a lonely, sentient fungus — have done a pretty good job of encouraging us to invest in the new timeline. Enter Peter, a refugee of the old timeline, i.e. the Fringe of the past three years. What to root for? Do we want to see the restoration of the original timeline, reconciling Peter’s relationships with Olivia, Walter, and the rest of his Fringe Division family? Or do we want to see Peter come to grips with his new world and build new, possibly better relationships with these people? Here’s hoping the drama remains rich and the ideas stay strange, whichever option Fringe chooses.
The following preview sets the stage for the show’s next act, which begins Oct. 28 at 9 p.m. — which is to say, next Friday, not tomorrow night. Get ready to do some frame-by-frame analysis in the final seconds. There are several cryptic images to be captured and studied. I’m already obsessed with Machine Gun Girl. After you take a gander, let us now what you think of the season to date, and what you want from the show moving forward. Some food for thought: Check out Ken Tucker’s appreciation of the season’s first act.