Mark Watches ‘Fringe’: S04E03 – Alone in the World

In the third episode of the fourth season of Fringe, the Fringe division in our world investigates a fungus that can decompose a body in a matter of minutes while Walter deals with the ever-increasing signs that Peter is trying to communicate with him. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Fringe.

God, THIS SHOW. What a thrilling and emotionally compelling episode of this show’s mythology, one that intertwines both a “monster” and a heartbreaking story for Walter Bishop. As we learn more about the world that’s popped up without Peter, we find out HE ACTUALLY DID EXIST.

And this is what I want to focus most of my discussion on: Peter existed, and now we have found out how the Observers went about “erasing” Peter Bishop. I genuinely don’t see many people talking about this at all and it fascinates me. Did we just get a huge answer that was basically glossed over in just a minute or two? If we think back to “Peter” in season two, the Observer named September was integral in setting into motion everything that happened for our characters past that day in 1985. He saved Peter and Walter from that icy death and said something incredibly specific: Walter must fix Peter because he is important.

We know the Observers can see most, if not all of time and space, so could it at all be possible that they knew the two universes would eventually collide and that Peter needed to be the one to bring them together? Did they also know that if Peter did this, they would then “erase” him by not saving him from that lake? Sure, the timeline is all….well, it’s rather timey-wimey, isn’t it? Is this an alternate timeline we’re actually seeing? If Peter snaps back into place, do things revert back to the old one, or are they forever stuck in this one? Will Peter remember the old timeline or adapt to this one?

I know that’s a lot of questions that won’t be answered now. Hell, we still haven’t even addressed the weird shapeshifter technology found in the season’s premiere yet. But so much of this episode has forced me to look at the past of this show and draw these parallels to what has already happened. At the center of it is Walter Bishop and I was so happy that he was the main star of “Alone in the World.” Let’s just get this out of the way: We need to invent an award for John Noble that somehow encompasses every award that has ever existed, and then we need to hand it to him for his performance not just for the entire run of this show, but for the unbelievably shocking and heartbreaking show in this specific episode. Perhaps it should be called the “All The Awards Award.” Then we can say we gave John Noble All The Awards and it would be factually correct. Because look….you may not have liked this episode. (Which is blasphemy, but I don’t judge blasphemy.) But you cannot deny that John Noble is Walter Bishop, and this was one of the best performances in the four seasons this show has been running.

The parallels between Walter’s predicament with adult Peter and the fungus are undeniable, and praise must be given to David Fury for writing this with such love and care. (Also, dude….you wrote “Walkabout” in season one of LOST. That will forever be one of the greatest hours of television in the history of the universe. I LOVE YOU SIR.) Fury used bullying to show how degrading it makes a person, how alone it makes them feel, and then took that sense of loneliness to show us what life was like for Walter without Peter around. I know I bring it up a trillion times, but this is how you write about abuse and loneliness, not like “Fear Her” did in Doctor Who. (LOL WHO KNEW I WAS GOING TO SAY THAT everyone did.) It’s also not at all surprising that there was a direct parallel between the fungus desperately trying to connect in the world and using a lonely, bullied boy to protect, and the idea that Peter is drifting somewhere, desperately seeking out some sort of psychic, emotional connection with both Walter and Olivia.

The truth is, this episode was heartbreaking to watch after spending three years with Walter Bishop. And I think David Fury knew that and he knew that writing so much of this would be challenging and upsetting, and I’m still glad that he did it. Walter’s journey to accept his own mind has been a long one, and I’m happy that we got to see it over the course of the first three seasons. And while Peter certainly played a part in that, ultimately Walter had to accept himself, and I find that message incredibly powerful, especially as someone who suffers from clinical depression. I don’t know that the show ever addresses it in the most problematic-free way, but I can’t ignore that ultimately, this show is telling us that a mind, no matter how weird or “broken,” is still a beautiful, beautiful thing.

But in terms of Walter’s past, you also can’t ignore that Peter helped his father, and because of him, Astrid and Olivia helped Walter on the road to acceptance as well. Now, Peter is out of the equation. He died in that lake back in 1985, and Walter has never had that moment of epiphany, or that emotional catalyst, to bring him to where he was at the end of season three. The Walter Bishop we see throughout “Alone in the World” is one who is close with Astrid and Olivia, but it looks like it’s never reached the same emotional intensity as before. He is a man who feels, to put it bluntly, alone in the world. We’d been given the idea that he had no “anchor” to bring him back down to reality, and as Peter’s presence becomes more and more intense, Walter starts to accept that perhaps this is true. I mean…sweet christ, that scene when Broyles brings Walter the first body and Peter starts yelling into Walter’s head? UGH THIS SHOW. THIS SHOW.

Yet even with the fantastically relieving and exciting end to “Alone in the World,” I was impressed with how fascinating the story with Aaron was by itself. It felt so much like a classic episode of The X-Files and you know I have absolutely zero complaints about such a thing existing. I think it helped that the monster-of-the-week was so intricately tied to Walter’s story, sure. But that fungus (named Gus, which I can only hope is a Breaking Bad reference) was frightening. David Fury utilizes one thing that makes it so terrifying: speed. It’s scary because an “infection” means death just a few minutes later. Oh, and that gigantic tentacle thing that kills the technician? What the fuck was that? And how great was that special affect???

This is what I want from this show, and “Alone in the World” feels both like a great introduction to someone who is a new viewer and acts as a reward to those of us who have been watching along and paying attention. Half the fun is in the details. It was great to see the parallel to Fauxlivia’s Chinatown birth scene back in season three, only to have the roles reversed between Olivia and Lincoln. Of course, that just made me think WHERE THE FUCK IS BABY HENRY.

But I can’t close this review without talking about that phenomenal final scene. Seeing John Noble exclaim, “I am perfectly sane!” with tears and blood in his eyes, after Olivia stopped him from giving himself a self-lobotomy, is certainly one of the most heartbreaking moments in all of Fringe. The show isn’t telling us that without Peter, people no longer have choices. That’s too simple of an explanation. Without Peter, Walter is alone in the world. He does not have a son to love, and he does not have someone with which to have a deep emotional attachment. It is a powerful statement about how those two characters are attached so deeply and so fully, and it makes me miss Peter Bishop more than ever. I want him back, and I want him rolling his eyes at his father’s absurd theories, or giving Olivia that look (YOU KNOW WHICH ONE), or teaming up with Astrid to tease Walter for another idiosyncrasy of his.

I really do love what this show is doing. And I want Peter Bishop back.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
This entry was posted in Fringe and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to Mark Watches ‘Fringe’: S04E03 – Alone in the World

  1. Karen says:


    And then I wanted to cry when Walter called the kid "Peter". AND THEN HE TRIED TO GIVE HIMSELF A LOBOTOMY. I just want to hug him and bring Peter back and make everything better.

  2. monkeybutter says:

    We need to invent an award for John Noble that somehow encompasses every award that has ever existed, and then we need to hand it to him for his performance not just for the entire run of this show, but for the unbelievably shocking and heartbreaking show in this specific episode. Perhaps it should be called the “All The Awards Award.”

    Or the Noble Prize?


    It's funny you mention Breaking Bad and Gus, because if John Noble went with Supporting Actor, he'd have to compete with Giancarlo Esposito and Aaron Paul. That'd be a helluva category, and I'd honestly be torn between wanting Walter or Gus or Jesse to win. Lead Actor would cause similar complications with Cranston. Why are these actors all so damn awesome?

    For some reason, I thought it was mentioned that both Peters existed and died earlier in the season (didn't Walter say he lost his son twice?), but it was sad to get confirmation about when it happened. This entire episode was devoted to breaking my heart. And I like seeing how this universe has subtly changed without Peter. I'm dying to know how he can fit back in with it. Where IS baby Henry? Do Fauxlivia and Walternate hear him? That'd be kind of awful. Will he simply cease to exist if Peter joins the current timelines and nothing is reset?

    As soon as "Fear Her" was mentioned in the liveblog, I thought you would devote 3000 words to how it is the worst thing ever, and how this episode does loneliness so much better. Though I wouldn't have minded if Walter went to the Olympics instead of resorting to DIY lobotomy.

    • @lula34 says:

      Your last paragraph is the greatest comment I've ever read on Mark's site (that wasn't written by Mark himself.) I'm so unworthy of even participating on this blog.

      Also: I'm down with the Noble prize. I didn't hear crickets…no, that was applause.

      • monkeybutter says:

        lol I'm guessing you hate "Fear Her" more than Mark does? I didn't think that was possible!

        • @lula34 says:

          An episode about an abused child, portrayed as super annoying and super clingy? And then some mess about the Olympic Torch thrown in just…because…hey, let's make it a plot point! COOL! Or something? Was that the writer's thinking? And now the fandom is all OMG, DAVID TENNANT MUST CARRY THE TORCH IN THE OLYMPICS THIS WINTER OR LIFE WILL HAVE NO MEANINGGGGGGGGGGG.


          Yeah, I have strong opinions about "Fear Hear." As in I've seen it once and that was enough, thankyouverymuch.

          (But I did dig the whole "I was a dad once" line. Hoping it wasn't a throwaway line…keep waiting for Moffat & team to expound upon that one.

          • Kit says:

            Well, we know his first companion was his granddaughter, so I think we can assume he was the dad of one of her parents… ;p

    • psycicflower says:

      Though I wouldn't have minded if Walter went to the Olympics instead of resorting to DIY lobotomy.
      You get all the upvotes for that sentence alone but then you add in a Noble pun.
      <img src="; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">

  3. Coughdrop01 says:

    Augh Walter breaks my heart so much but I am loving what its allowing John Noble to do! Holy shit…

    Also, Our Lincoln continues to be ridiculous charming. I don't laugh at tv very often but his "You look really freaked out. Wanna talk about it?" made me laugh out loud. Way too funny.

    And I had this weird feeling that I had a reason to worship David Fury but I couldn't remember why. BUT WALKABOUT. That explains it.

  4. Coughdrop01 says:

    Oh and also! I was wondering that if August/September/October/November (I can't keep track of who is who, sorry) had chosen to "erase" Peter whether he would not exist at all (as in never been born, not remembered as a child). I mean I thought they were referring to the Ghost Peter, but could they mean this too?? I dunno. Just throwing that out there.

    • psycicflower says:

      I thought he was just going to erase the parts of Peter that are still lingering. I don't think they could erase Peter from time completely because then the conflict between the two universes never would've happened.

    • Hotaru_hime says:

      "They must never know the boy grew to be a man."
      No adult Peter allowed.

  5. @lula34 says:

    I'm incapable of commenting because I am crying all over again.

    DAMMIT, MARK. Milkshakes and tinfoil hats forever, MY CREYS.

  6. NB2000 says:

    Then we can say we gave John Noble All The Awards and it would be factually correct.

    It's been less than ten minutes since I finished watching this episode (curse you slow downloads!) so the only thing I can really say is THIS THIS THIS! I'm going to be SO pissed if he doesn't win any awards next year.

    I think this episode just encapsulated everything I love about Fringe, one minute I'm freaking out at how incredibly gross the monster of the week is and then a few scenes later I'm bawling my eyes out. OH SHOW NEVER STOP BEING THIS AMAZING.

  7. psycicflower says:

    Oh Walter. This episode was excellent at showing the different sides to Walter, especially in this new reality. He’s just perfect with Aaron but his loneliness is nothing short of heartbreaking. The difference of him living by himself alone in the lab has gotten to me the past few episodes but this episode just made it so much worse. I kept wanting to reach through the computer to hug him and make milkshakes for him while wearing tinfoil hats. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see Olivia as I was at the end of the episode when she found Walter just in time.
    ‘I’m a little freaked out. You wanna talk about it’ I love Lincoln and how he’s just accepting everything that’s thrown his way. I really hope both Lincolns get to meet. (Also where is Nina?)
    I’d assumed that Peter had died as child because of things said in past episodes so this episode really just confirmed that for me. I’m really interested to see what happens when Peter comes back (because I refuse to accept he’s not coming back) and how it’ll affect the timelines.

    I know I bring it up a trillion times, but this is how you write about abuse and loneliness, not like “Fear Her” did in Doctor Who. (LOL WHO KNEW I WAS GOING TO SAY THAT everyone did.)
    I love and adore your hatred of Fear Her.

  8. xpanasonicyouthx says:

    Wait, can we all talk about how goddamn cute Olivia/Lincoln are? Goddamn it, I know Olivia/Peter is perfection BUT NOW I AM FULL OF EMOTIONS.

  9. I like how this is a show where everyone just rolls with the idea that they are dealing with PSYCHIC FUNGI.

    • psycicflower says:

      I love that a kid making an emotional connection to fungus is not only a perfectly valid plot but makes for an amazing episode. NEVER CHANGE FRINGE, NEVER CHANGE

  10. SecretGirl127 says:

    My version of Peter's death was that he was brought into our world by Walter, but Walter's treatment didn't work and he died anyway. Now, it's too obvious that he died when September didn't save him when the ice broke.

    There can't be a baby Henry. That would mean Olivia had another man and I prefer to think of her as a spinster waiting for Peter or Lincoln.

    Nina! When do we get to see Nina!

    Astrid crying, I never want to see that again, she deserves some happiness.

    Walter seeing Olivia's drawing of Peter. "I'm not insane." So happy that he didn't lobotomize himself before then or he wouldn't have been able to express that joy.

  11. knut_knut says:

    AGH!! I thought you were going to post this on Monday!

    I was actually really really sad when I realized we'll probably never see Aaron again. I hope he gets a chance to visit Walter, but if he does it'll probably be off screen and I JUST DON'T WANT HIM TO BE ALONE!!! 🙁 🙁 🙁

    This show needs all the awards. ALL. They had an episode on FUNGI and it was REALLY FUCKING GOOD. That takes serious skill on everyone's part and it's time they were recognized. Do I have to make pathetic paper plate awards and send them to everyone who works on Fringe?

    • monkeybutter says:

      I have glitter pens around here somewhere that may or may not be dried out. I'll help.

      • knut_knut says:

        Ooo, I love glitter pens! These will be the most fabulous paper plate awards ever! Who needs an emmy when you have a glittery plate?

    • Hotaru_hime says:

      I thought the same thing, when Walter told Aaron that he'll see him again soon, I was like, "LOL, HE'LL NEVER COME BACK."

  12. @Whyk0 says:

    "If Peter snaps back into place, do things revert back to the old one, or are they forever stuck in this one? Will Peter remember the old timeline or adapt to this one?"
    Yes, I was thinking about what will happen when he comes back just the other day. The things you said plus, will others remember him? Or just Walter and Olivia? Or not even them (real memories, not hallucinations or dreams)? etc…

    Also, I just realized: Gus because funGUS. Yes, my acumen is noteworthy.

  13. akacj18 says:

    1 – i was horrified by the idea of walter giving himself the labotomy. as soon as i saw those instruments… i wanted to shrink into oblivion.

    2 – i was watching this episode with my mom who has only seen the first season, so naturally she didnt understand anything, and i remained appropriately cryptic, but i couldn't help but feel a little self conscious as i FLIPPED OUT over the final reveal that olivia had been dreaming of Peter. SOOOO GOOOOOOOOOD!!

    • Shiroikami says:

      In response to your point #1: Me too. As soon as I saw the book I knew what he was thinking (I'm a Psychology major and recognized what the diagrams were showing) and was like "Oh no. No no no. Don't do it Walter." And then when Olivia came in both me and my sister started telling Olivia to GO IN AND FIND HIM RIGHT NOW before he could do anything.

      In response to your point #2: My sister and I both reacted like that at that final reveal, although I had started wondering about it much earlier in the episode when I noticed Olivia running facial recognition on her computer. Because of moments like that, and those subtle hintings at what is really going on, I will love Fringe FOREVER.

  14. BSGfan1 says:

    I thought John Noble was fantastic as he usually is, but I just didn't find it as engaging as other episodes. Naming the fungus, "Gus", was so very Walter. But I'm tired of the lack of actual Peter. I didn't hate it or anything, just was a bit bored until the final reveal of Walter's DIY lobotomy and Olivia's dreams of Peter, which were jaw dropping.

  15. mkjcaylor says:

    I was kind of hoping they would make a parallel to White Nose Syndrome with that fungus. Or chytridiomycosis. There are actually a lot of flesh-eating fungii out there!

  16. Kit says:

    Did anyone else notice that Olivia was wearing *A Color* (green jacket) o.O?

Comments are closed.