Mark Watches ‘Fringe’: S04E07 – Wallflower

In the seventh episode of the fourth season of Fringe, a man who is able to blend into his surroundings, rendering him invisible, causes the entire Fringe team to examine themselves and their identities. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Fringe.

Are you full of feelings? How many of you are just full of things that are making your heart want to burst? It’s the one thing I find that Fringe does extremely well every time: give us characterization that is deeply emotional and, regularly, goddamn heartbreaking. I’m interested to see what they’re going to do with Peter, and if we are truly experiencing a third universe as opposed to the original one being warped. I’ve found myself increasingly intrigued by this new Peter-less world and the stories the writers are telling.

In that sense, I almost hope that this is really a third parallel world, that his Olivia and his father and his Astrid are all somewhere else. I want Olivia’s relationship with Nina, which is now drastically more intense and shocking, to be developed. I want to see more of Lincoln and Olivia. No, the whole world needs to see that. Oh my god they are SO ADORABLE. I want to see more of the way this show forces people like Walter and now Nina Sharp to be held, at the very least, emotionally accountable for the things they did in the name of science.

That’s also something Fringe has done particularly well, introducing the theme much more explicitly in season two during “Jacksonville.” It’s interesting to see it in a new context; this time, Nina Sharp is drilled pretty ruthlessly by Olivia over Eugene and the ramifications of what she had done. (For the purpose of this review, I’ll use “Eugene” to refer to the young man, since it’s just easer.) While we didn’t really have an episode quite like “Jacksonville” in this universe, Olivia is still coming to terms with what was done to her, and it explains why she’s so persistent with Nina. In this version of Olivia’s life, it seems migraines are one of the manifestations of her treatment with Cortexiphan. Well…yes, that’s what we’re meant to think. However, much more important than this, Olivia struggles mostly with the idea that those treatments broke her.

I’ve spoken in the past about how much Olivia’s character is very familiar to me, how traumatic childhoods can lead a person to question how they developed, and how one can wonder if they’re normal by any meaning of the word. I love that this new version of Olivia arrives at the exact same question. Is she broken? Is she missing the very human reactions and feelings that others come to? She turns to Astrid for emotional support, running through the same inquiries. These are very real questions that I’ve asked myself time and time again. (And if I may take a moment to just be all squishy and fluffy, a lot of my writing for Mark Reads / Watches has helped me realized that while I do have a lot that’s different in me, I am not so alone in all of this.)

Like many of these episodes in season four, the “monster-of-the-week” manages to be either creepy, emotionally insightful, or, in the case of “Wallflower,” BOTH AT THE SAME TIME. Once we already have the emotional weight of Nina Sharp’s connection to Eugene, the writers decided to take us away from experiencing him through others and we switch to more and more to his point of view. One of the best written moments of this whole season is near the end of this episode. Which, first of all, when Olivia falls and the UV light reveals Eugene behind her glowing pale, I just started screaming NO. NO THANK YOU. NO. NOPE. NO. NO. Legitimately one of the creepiest shots in the entire show.

But that creepiness is offset by the writers’ brilliant decision to give Eugene motivation, to give him an emotional depth that most shows would never give to an antagonist. Fringe is especially great with ambiguous foes, and Eugene’s actions are hopelessly depression:

“All my life…I’ve been watching them live theirs. Watching them…fall in love. To be looked upon by the right person, to connect, and to see in their eyes kindness. Happiness. And…recognition. That’s when you exist.”

In just a few sentences, the writers are able to communicate such a basic staple of human existence that so many rely upon and take for granted, and show us that Eugene has never had that. He never even had a real name growing up. No one could recognize him; how could he even build any sort of identity without that crucial factor?

And while this is all unfolding, it’s easy to see how this episode is about identity. We watch Olivia speak with Nina about who she is and what she’s become and her inability to feel like she belongs anywhere. We watch as this collides with Lincoln, who we learn has been unable to sleep since joining Fringe Division. In his case, his identity was so tied to understanding the natural world, and Fringe has pulled all of that out from under him. What can he believe in if all the constants he used to depend on are ever-changing and fluctuate randomly? And then we have Peter Bishop, the man who wants to be seen and recognized by anyone, trying desperately to get either back home or to find his place in the world.

How “Wallflower” resolves these ideas (or at least starts to) involves transformational moments of clarity. For Eugene, the very first moment he is recognized and has a name that someone else can refer to him as, he decides to let go. I mean…that scene in the elevator is SO FUCKING DEPRESSING. Well…wait, it is a bit creepy because dude you spied on Julia. Symbolically, though, it’s a powerful moment.

For Lincoln, it turns out that Peter is the one to help push him in the right direction. Peter’s just accepted he’s in the wrong universe and instead chooses to find some way to take him back to the world he knows. (Is he seriously thinking of activating the doomsday device again? OH GOD OH GOD.) That means that the Olivia in this world is not the Olivia he knows and loves, so he makes it a point to help Lincoln. HE BUYS LINCOLN NEW GLASSES. Look, I love the black-framed ones more personally, but…he seriously is trying to make Lincoln and Olivia happen. HE’S A SHIPPER. THIS IS BEAUTIFUL. And it’s why I need further development in this world. I don’t want it to go away! That’s what this show has done, and that speaks volume to how well this is done.

Given all of the character development we see, it’s why the final couple minutes of “Wallflower” are so shocking. Just as people are starting to come together, just minutes before Olivia was going to meet with Lincoln, her apartment is gassed. And it’s Nina Sharp who’s behind it. What? What???? When she tells one of the agents that the formula Olivia’s being injected with will give her a “migraine,” I feel gross and betrayed. How long has this been happening? What is she doing to Olivia and why?


About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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15 Responses to Mark Watches ‘Fringe’: S04E07 – Wallflower

  1. ldwy says:

    This was such a gut wrenching epsiode.
    I love that Peter feels so comfortable in knowing that this isn't his Olivia (I really think I hope he's right) that he's helping out Lincoln!
    I love this, because I love Olivia and Peter.
    But holy wow, do I love Olivia and Lincoln.
    Now I can sort of have both. Thank you Fringe.

    Eugene was heartbreaking. Fringe has a knack for making you empathize with the villains that I'm not sure I've ever found before. It makes for amazing stories. Love love all the love.

    • Ashley says:

      Agreed about Olivia/Peter/Lincoln. I also like that this storyline is a way to acknowledge how Peter has learned form his mistakes. He's not going to fall for the wrong Olivia ever again.

  2. katherinemh says:

    Whether it's a slightly different blue universe or a third universe, I want to keep it! I miss our Fringe team, but if we get them back, I know I'll miss this Fringe team. Can't we just get spin-off shows? One show that's all redverse all the time, one show that's all blueverse all the time, and one show that's this universe (and its slightly different redverse) all the time, with occasional super crossover episodes of epicosity! I'd be totally up for watching three hours of Fringe per week.

  3. Hotaru_hime says:

    It seems like every episode this season is just straight out determined to break my heart.
    It's so hard to see everyone so different and disconnected. It seems like the only person who hasn't changed is Astrid (need more Astrid ASAP) which is a little comforting.
    Eugene! In the elevator, looking at the woman he loved and knew could never love him back, who turns around and says she's glad he's not sick! He's killed like four people by the end of the episode and terrorized that woman during it, but oh my God, good-bye heart.
    Poor Peter. He's just like, "Nope, this isn't gonna get better. This isn't where I belong." Ughhhhhh. But I want a Peter/Lincoln bromance and damn, this show is making me ship Lincoln/Olivia and NO STOP WRECKING MY SHIP GUYS
    The saddest thing about all of this is that we have to wait 8 weeks before we get anything new.

  4. firelizardkimi says:

    My biggest question is actually about this weeks coded word: David. Who (or what) is David? How does that word relate to the episode? I don't understand.


  5. Ida says:

    While the new dynamic is interesting, I really miss the old timeline version of everyone. Rewatching the first season made me realize how much Olivia has gone back to her old self in the fourth. It's sort of frustrating that the new Olivia and Walter haven't gone through the character development the old ones had. That said I'm exited to see how this alternate timeline plot will end.

  6. Rhyscurrency says:

    Super Woman just defeated Skeleton Girl in Fringe Fest arm wrestling.

  7. SecretGirl127 says:

    I really don't have anything new to add. We all see to be in the same place. I guess I will just try to wait patiently until January.

  8. Waffles says:

    The problem I have with talking about Fringe is that there is just so much good stuff in each episode. I often find all of our regulars interesting, as well as the guest characters, and then they all have relationships with each other, most of which are interesting or affecting in some way. The ep plot is interesting for itself, and also often for how it ties into the bigger plots, because Fringe doesn't seem to have just one overarching plot, is has several. Most episodes also have some interesting sci-fi device or theory to add to the mix. Add all that up, and you have an episode that is so dense with things to talk about, that I find it difficult to know where to start.

    Fringe is <3, I guess.

  9. msosa01 says:

    Ive always been a little uncomfortable with Nina, especially in this world knowing that she raised Olivia and her sister. By the end of this episode, all I could think of was the episode in Season 2 "Of Human Action" where the kid with mind-control abilities is also raised by a Massive Dynamic employee who is just posing as his dad but is really just keeping an eye on the company's experiment. This is what I think Nina is doing to Olivia, and that's just mind-blowing.
    I love this show so much and I really need more people to watch it because I don't want it cancelled. I can't live without my weekly Fringe binge 🙂

  10. monkeybutter says:

    I really wish that the next episode had aired during this half of the season, because from the promo, it seems like things would have fallen into place, and we'd know where Peter thinks he is, and how he plans to get back, and what the hell is going on with Olivia. I guess I'll preface this with THEORIES ABOUND Is it possible that Nina is limiting Olivia's cortexiphan powers? Either through drugs or a brain lesion? Olivia's powers manifest when she's in a heightened state of emotion, usually when she's scared, and so maybe Nina limiting her is why she isn't terribly affected by their cases. The thought of that makes me really sad, but Nina could at least claim good intentions that way. :/

    More frivolously: I love that Peter misses the our Olivia, that this Olivia and Lincoln could potentially have something going on (if, you know, Nina stops knocking her out), and that Peter and Lincoln are making friends. I think the plastic tortoiseshell frames worked for creating the image of a fastidious Lincoln, but come on, they were a little small for his head (he would look good wearing anything, though.) And maybe this is just me, but glasses with nose pads stay put so much easier than just bare plastic/acrylic. Peter is just looking out for him!

    I still think a Hug and Blueberry Pancake initiative would save the Fringe division a lot of time they spend on disgruntled loners. Now to wait two months.

  11. Emgett says:

    Oh, I love this show so much. I can't believe that there are so few comments on Fringe entries on this blog!

    Another thought– are we sure we know what universe the Nina that we saw at the end was from? If we're sure that it's amber-'verse, then I agree with monkeybutter that it's likely to limit her cortexiphan powers– after all, they've not been referenced yet this season, and the headaches suggest that this treatment has been going on for awhile.

    8 WEEKS. WHY!?

  12. Hotaru_hime says:

    I'm rewatching the first season and here's some stuff I noticed.
    1. Broyles was an ass in the first episode!
    2. Why did John Scott tell Olivia to ask "why Broyles wanted her in?" Is it because of Cortexiphan?
    3. Holy crap, I didn't even noticed that the Peter/Olivia ship started so early. I clearly was not paying attention when Peter said, "I care about you" in that episode where she got kidnapped.
    4. What did Massive Dynamic do with John Scott's body? Frankly, that was a weird plot line.
    5. First season feel so different from this one, but I am loving Charlie.

  13. SecretGirl127 says:

    NEW EPISODE NEXT WEEK!!!!!! I'm so excited!!!!!!!
    Also, enjoyed the meet-up in San Diego.

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