Mark Watches ‘Fringe’: S04E05 – Novation

In the fifth episode of the fourth season of Fringe, the Fringe division deals with the appearance of Peter Bishop and the return of the shapeshifters. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Fringe.

Oh, Fringe. The things you are doing to all of us! The return of Peter Bishop to this show is awkward, frustrating, and wonderfully fantastic, while at the same time showing us that the premiere episode of this season had a lot more to do the mythology than we’d previously thought.

But let’s just jump right into discussing what’s arguably the most interesting thing about “Novation”: how the people in this universe react to Peter Bishop. I can’t believe that, yet again, this show how found a credible and coherent way to add another dynamic to this batch of characters. From parallel worlds, future visions, and possessions, now these people have to deal with someone who was a paradox and disappeared from time. It’s clear that the first three seasons were always leading to this point, where the Observer who pulled Peter from the lake in our world was never supposed to do that, that a single action by Walter Bishop and a single action from September were what ripped apart the two universes.

So the question changes, as do a lot of other ones by the end of “Novation”: How is it possible that Peter Bishop came back? And why doesn’t his arrival trigger the universe correcting itself to account for him? It seems that he now exists outside of all of history, despite having an entire lifetime of experiences. Which, interestingly enough, haven’t disappeared either. “Novation” doesn’t really address how Peter is going to “fix” this, but that’s okay. Instead, it concerns itself with how Broyles, Walter, and Olivia react to a man who claims to be someone who died as a child. Once again, we get to see how all of these characters (Lincoln and Nina included) all make subtle changes to how they are portrayed. I think my favorite in the bunch is Broyles’ complete unwillingness to give Peter one goddamn second of his time. Have we ever seen him don such a ridiculous hate stare before?

Olivia’s reaction is quiet confusion, something which Lincoln picks up on later in the episode. She’s stoic when around Peter, mostly because she doesn’t understand why this man has such a marked attachment to her when she’s never seen him before in his life. What I love about “Novation,” though, is that it doesn’t ignore the fact that Walter Bishop would be affected by all of this more than anyone else. The writers also remind us that Walter just had a breakthrough in terms of dealing with his own anxieties and fears, and now he’s dealt this, so his frustration is two-fold.

But the presence of this man is upsetting to Walter Bishop in a way that I didn’t anticipate, and as frustrating as it is, I’m excited to see how Fringe deals with it. We get more insight into how Olivia came to live with Nina Sharp, and in the process, we learn that Nina was a lot closer to Walter in this version of the universe, too. Obviously, Walter’s going to be intrigued by Peter, since Peter died all those years ago. But the writers choose to do something totally different with this, and it’s something that is unbearably brilliant when you give it a moment of thought: Walter feels undeserving of Peter.

It was something I didn’t understand initially. Your son is right there, I thought. There’s that moment when it looks like Walter is just going to accept Peter finally, just accept the weirdness of this all. But then we are reminded of what he said to Nina Sharp earlier in the episode:

“I saw him, Nina. The man. I saw my boy in that man’s eyes. The way he looked that night in the ice…floating away from me. God help me, I…saw the eyes of my boy in a man’s face. That filled me with…indescribable joy. But I don’t deserve joy. For anyone else, this would be received as a miracle…to get a glimpse of their dead son. Why should I be rewarded for what I’ve done?”

This version of Walter is much more aware of the ill-effects of the tests he did on children, on the horrible thing he did all those years ago on Reiden Lake. The other versions of Walter always ran away from their guilt, but this third version of the man accepts it. (I think the events of “Subject 9” certainly affect this mentality as well.) So even though I believed that Walter might accept Peter and just go with it, Nina Sharp was unable to convince Walter to accept a second chance. For Walter, this is a punishment, and one that’s certainly going to carry into the future for a time being. Of course, now I’m going to wonder if we’ll get some moment that will change Walter’s mind in the future. Or, better yet, is there still a way to restore the normal timeline?

Threaded throughout this plot is the story of a rogue shapeshifter who visits a former Massive Dynamic scientist in order to repair the technology that makes them function. In hindsight, the plot is a whole lot more interesting given the final reveal, which I’ll address in a second, but I must admit that I found myself wishing to spend more time with Peter, Olivia, and Walter more than with the shapeshifter and Dr. Malcolm Truss. I don’t think the story is boring or poorly written; I was actually impressed with how the writers gave us these intimate portraits of both Dr. Truss and the shapeshifter. We even got quite a few references to William Bell! I think this is just a case of one of the plots just paling in comparison only because the other is just so goddamn wonderful.

To be fair, I am totally enamored with how shapeshifters are being introduced without it feeling like familiar. Without Peter Bishop, we wouldn’t even find out half the shit we discover about them in “Novation.” (True story: When Broyles asked Peter how he knew so much about the shapeshifters, I thought he was going to reply that he had killed a bunch of them.) We learn a pretty terrifying fact when Peter’s able to decode their memory disks: these shapeshifters are so advanced that they can not only replicate a human down to their genetic make-up, but they store all past versions of themselves. So basically, Fringe just introduced Cylons and I can only hope that Katee Sackhoff or Mary McDonnell or Tricia Helfer will appear on the show soon. BUT NO SERIOUSLY HOW COOL IS THAT.

I’d sort of been developing an idea of where season four would go, if we’d see an overarching mythology to it all. And in the last five minutes of “Novation,” I realized I hadn’t even scratched the surface of what this show was going to do to us. With the introduction of the fact that shapeshifters are no longer detectable, Olivia has a bewildering moment at the end of this episode where….jesus, I don’t even know what truly happened. Was that deja vu? Did she repeat time? Or was that agent (Wiki tells me her name was Jill) possibly a shapeshifter? Like Battlestar Galactica, it creates this instant distrust and paranoia on our part.

And then. But. But okay. Okay. Why is the shapeshifter sitting down with a typewriter? Oh, it’s like the quantum locked typewriter from the past? Oh, so they’re talking with Over There. But. But. WHAT. WHAT.  WHAT THE FUCK. THEY’RE SENDING MORE?????

so NOW I HAVE A BILLION QUESTIONS. But of course none of them will be answered. Is this another parallel world? Or is it Over There? And WHY IS THERE EVEN THE NEED FOR MORE SHAPESHIFTERS? WHAT IS THEIR MISSION.


About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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36 Responses to Mark Watches ‘Fringe’: S04E05 – Novation

  1. Nikki says:

    Actually, as I understand it, September was supposed to save Peter from the lake.

    The mistake that September made was distracting Walternate from seeing that he'd found a cure. THAT is what set off everything. Walternate missed the cure and Walter had to cross over to save him. Peter was important and the Observers wanted him alive, but without the cure he would die. September pulled Peter and Walter from the lake to repair his mistake and allow Peter to live.

    I feel sorry for pretty much everyone in this episode. I can't wait to see where this goes.

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      omg YOU ARE SO RIGHT. Holy shit.

      • msosa01 says:

        Yes, Nikki you're right, the Observer needed Peter alive so he could save both worlds, but only so that they could delete him afterward… It's like they needed to groom him so he could get into the machine and then he was done… My question is why do they need to erase his existence????
        Think about it….
        If September's mistake was distracting Walternate, then that means that Peter was supposed to live, but if he was meant to live then why the need to delete him???
        What would he prevent or cause in the future that it was important for the Observers to use him but get rid of him after he fulfills his mission…
        All this time we think the Observers just watch, but they clearly have a larger agenda… what is that and who are they working for…
        Also, that typewriter is different than the ones we've seen before, leading me to believe that it's another world aside from the one we know of.
        OMG sooo many questions…

    • SecretGirl127 says:

      I am so sure you are right, I'm' going to save this date on a post-it on my bulletin board and write you a congratulatory email when we finally see it come true.

  2. NB2000 says:

    We learn a pretty terrifying fact when Peter’s able to decode their memory disks: these shapeshifters are so advanced that they can not only replicate a human down to their genetic make-up, but they store all past versions of themselves.

    I got so worried during that scene. The way Broyles was reacting I was so scared he was going to assume that Peter was a shapeshifter who had somehow copied the Peter from this version of reality who had died and was now pretending to be him. I don't know why my brain went down this track, and I realise it doesn't make much sense, but it did. I spent the rest of the scene yelling at Peter to STOP TALKING because I was expecting Broyles to call a guard to drag him off so they could search him for a memory device.

    • @Whyk0 says:

      No, it makes sense, I totally thought the same thing.

    • BSGfan1 says:

      Yup I thought the same thing. And then I thought well,crap Peter might be thinking Broyles is one.

    • monkeybutter says:

      Yes, that scene was too damn tense. I love how Kennedy tells Olivia that the mystery man seems to be always confident, and it feels like that'll get Peter into trouble because nobody knows him.

    • TreesaX says:

      I was scared too, especially with how Broyles was looking at him while Peter was talking. But then my mom (yes I watch Fringe with my mom, she rocks) said that it wouldn't make sense because no one knows Peter in this universe, so why would a Shapeshifter waste his time with someone no one knows. It made me feel a little better.. but still, ack, I'm still scared for Peter.

  3. BSGfan1 says:

    For all we know, anyone in the AmberVerse could be a shapeshifter and Peter might be the only non shapeshifter. How bout them apples?

    • NB2000 says:

      Oh good god, now I'm going to suspect everyone.

      • BSGfan1 says:

        I certainly thought Olivia might be after that weird Matrix black cat skip with the hourly report.

        • NB2000 says:

          I did worry about Lincoln in that scene. He seemed kind of evasive, not wanting to hang out with Olivia (I just rewatched that scene and oh god her face breaks my heart, she looks so upset that he doesn't want to hang out). Oh god that scene is so confusing.

          • Hotaru_hime says:

            I just interpreted Lincoln not wanting to hang out because he was thinking about his partner being killed by a shapeshifter and how one of them could be walking around with his friend's face.

  4. BSGfan1 says:

    So maybe this song is appropriate now for Peter (and us)?

    [youtube -4pjrmH967c youtube]

    "Paranoia in B Flat Major"

  5. psycicflower says:

    Everything is Fringe and nothing hurts! I seriously spent most of this episode just thinking about how much I love this show, even during the scenes where Walter kept breaking my heart. I know we say it every week but John Noble (and everyone else) deserves all of the awards.

    With the time jump/skip/whatever we're calling that was, more of these new form shifters, Peter, the changed universe, and the Fringe team not knowing about Observers, I'm excited to see where this series is going and we're only five episodes in.

  6. monkeybutter says:

    Walter's scenes were all so sad, but I like what you say about him feeling more responsible for his actions. He and Olivia may have different backgrounds now, but they're still changing as characters, and I think the differences are an interesting way to reflect on how they're supposed to be. I know Walter feels guilty that he doesn't deserve Peter (touching his face melted my heart, and the refusal stomped on that heart goo) but Peter needs him. He should help this Peter to absolve himself, and to unbreak my heart.

    I'm really enjoying this season. I don't know what to expect, but I also feel like the writers are going somewhere with all of this. They're getting through all of backstory of these characters pretty quickly and nonchalantly (Nina raised Olivia! And Olivia inherited her love of slightly mismatched foundation! They look sorta amber, ha) which makes me think that this Peterless timeline isn't going to last very long. So excited! I also liked that Lincoln refused Olivia, because he seems to know that there's something going on between her and Peter and he doesn't want to step into that mess. It's like a sign from the show that there's not going to be another love triangle. Or that he's the final Cylon. Whatever.

    I guess I should preface this with CRACK THEORIES ABOUND, but I would die of excitement and horror if one of the Fringies ended up being a shapeshifter. I thought Broyles snapping at Kennedy was suspicious, but then I realized that Kennedy is a ripe candidate for being a shapeshifter, too, especially if he's been following up on them. He could have had a run in with one! I know only the one other tracker showed up, but it was plugged into the network directly. What if there are RF blocking mechanisms in the Federal Building? Also, since the preview for next week counts as publicly aired, time loops! What if the universes are collapsing, or Walternate is masterminding things, and this is how everything is going back to normal?

    • NB2000 says:

      Or that he's the final Cylon.

      Why don't I have a TARDIS so I can retroactively make this happen?!

      • monkeybutter says:

        I dunno, but once this community finally acquires one, we're going to need to draw up a schedule for TARDIS-sharing to fix all of these pop culture mistakes.

    • Ida says:

      I seam to be the only one who interpreted the scene where Lincoln refused Olivia as him doing it because he was upset about the case. He lost his partner and friend to the shape-shifters after all, and the one time they had the opportune to catch one they missed it. I didn't see anything that might signify that he has romantic feelings for her in the exchange, but maybe that's just me. :/

    • ldwy says:

      Lincoln and Olivia and Peter and the strange dinner invite did seem slightly romantical to me.
      And I mean, if there was a Lincoln in my life, romantical things would be happening all the time, so that's pretty normal.
      But I kind of like and agree with your idea that his unspoken answer to Olivia's question about why Peter was so attached to her when she doesn't know him at all (or something like that) was "duhhhh."

  7. TreesaX says:

    I was looking at Peter when Walter was walking towards him about to touch his face, and OMG his expression looked like a little boy. MY HEART. ;__;

  8. fieldofwhitetulips says:

    When Olivia repeats time at the end of the episode, it seemed like the same experience that was happening last episode whenever Peter's ball of energy would show up. I've seen some people guessing that it was deja vu and that she's seeing the alternate universe again, but I think (especially based on the promo) that Peter's existence is causing the two timelines to collide. Though I have no idea what that might cause, perhaps we will return to the original timeline.

    I am also SO EFFING EXCITED to see what comes of the shapeshifter story line (I definitely agree with Mark, that part of the story seems a lot cooler in hindsight but during the episode I just wanted MOAR Peter). The typewriter moment gave me chills!

    This season just keeps getting better and better.

    <img src="; />

  9. @lula34 says:

    My heart full of emotions aside (basically I cried anytime Walter was on screen), what I loved most about "Novation" is the feeling that, for the viewers, Peter is a "bridge" between the two timelines. Lest we get so caught up in sussing out the WTF? aspect of this universe in which he never existed, Peter reminds us of the past three years–he's serving as our continuity, so to speak.

    And it's breaking my heart. OMG, PETER IS BACK. Rejoice.

    Also: MORE ASTRID.

  10. Dent_D says:

    Yeah, where was Astrid this episode? 😐

    When Fringe stormed the shapeshifter's lab, I said to my husband, "I just want the Fringe team catch a break." It was PRETTY DAMN SUSPENSEFUL, actually. I really wanted that shapeshifter to somehow be killed or for that serum to not work. I'm now terrified by what could happen next. Peter's look as Walter rejected him at the end was horrible. He looked lonely and scared. Gah. I am suddenly longing to give a fictional character a hug.

    Also, did anybody else think Peter's line to Broyles about needing more CPU cycles was kind of unnecessary? It sounded stupid to me. Just say I need a faster computer. Dialog like that makes me think the script writer(s) thought this would make Peter sound really smart. But to me it was simply clunky.

    • I love all the computer stuff – especially something like this, where Peter was talking about needing more CPU cycles and then we cut to him plugging in a USB cable. The idea that he has daisy-chained a bunch of Fringe computers together with USB2 and that sped their processing shit right up is amazing so I take all the computer geekery with a pinch of salt.

      They've done it with Astrid a few times – 'this looks like their secure FTP!' – so I feel like maybe it's some kind of shorthand for letting us know these people know what they're doing ('listen to the clever-sounding words!')

  11. I just have to say as well, my husband and I just watched all 3 seasons plus these 5 new eps in the last few weeks and I'm so happy to be continually surprised and excited by the writing, the story, the acting and the direction.

    I started fairly skeptically (as a massive X Files fan I couldn't help but compare it unfavourably with the mastery of that programme) but as the days have gone by, I have fallen head over heels for this show. I'm also pretty excited to share it with the MW community. Let the keyboard smashing commence!

    • monkeybutter says:

      Yay, I'm glad you're enjoying it! I was skeptical when I started, too, but I fell in love with the characters and the story pretty quickly.

  12. ldwy says:

    Olivia has a bewildering moment at the end of this episode where….jesus, I don’t even know what truly happened. Was that deja vu? Did she repeat time? Or was that agent (Wiki tells me her name was Jill) possibly a shapeshifter?

    Hmmm, I didn't think of it in tems of the shapeshifter plot of the episode. I related this instantly to the Peter plot of the episode. You even wondered about it, Mark:
    How is it possible that Peter Bishop came back? And why doesn’t his arrival trigger the universe correcting itself to account for him?

    I interpreted this moment as time having a little blip. A small meaningless event happens to Olivia, and then , it happens again, as though it didn't happen the first time. Peter doesn't currently exist in the other characters' past timelines, and if he's a paradox, shouldn't the universe be trying to correct this somehow? I think, YES, yes it should.
    And now small strange timey-wimey things are beginning to happen? I think this is involved with the universe sorting out Peter and his relation to these people and their timelines.

    So I predict the wierd timey-wimey things will begin to happen to everyone and will also get bigger and bigger, and will somehow culminate in things changing such that Peter fits back into the universe.

  13. Alex says:

    Calling it now: One or more of the main cast is a shapeshifter. I think it would be cool if it was alternate Broyles, since that would also explain how he is alive again (I don't think they've explained that yet?). Or regular Broyles since his position would allow him leverage over the other characters to cause shapeshifter-y mischief.

    • psycicflower says:

      I'm assuming Alternate Broyles is alive because the whole Olivia swap storyline played out completely differently. This is largely theorising from the little snippets we've gotten but it seems to me like Olivia was just kidnapped and replaced instead of Walternate and Fauxlivia taking advantage of Blue universe going over to save Peter, since that can't have happened. So the whole memory replacement Olivia working on the Red verse team never happened, so I think alt!Brolyes never had the bonding with our Olivia over helping his son and later helping her to escape, which ultimately led to his death in the previous timeline.

      I love theorising about alternate universes/timelines. Love you so much Fringe.

  14. msosa01 says:

    I thought the most heartbreaking part was when Walter tells Peter that he's not his son… It's such a heartbreaking parallel to the future world when Peter tells Walter that he's his dad that it's just tooo heartbreaking for me.
    How hard must it be for Peter to deal with all this. Just as he was starting to cope and feel like he belonged to this world it all goes and changes on him. He clearly tell Olivia that she's not the woman he knows, it's like dealing with Fauxlivia all over again, and now Walter refuses to acknowledge that he's his son.
    It's too much, and Joshua Jackson knocks it out of the park in that final shot by subtly portraying all the frustration, hurt and confusion his character is feeling
    I love this show so much

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