Mark Watches ‘Fringe’: S04E12 – Welcome to Westfield

In the twelfth episode of the fourth season of Fringe, Walter, Olivia, and Peter get stuck in a town that seems to exist as an endless loop. Then shit gets so real and everything is painful and oh my god. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Fringe.

I think what I came to like most about “Welcome to Westfield,” outside of the obvious mind-melting implications for Olivia, is that it felt like a loving mash-up of The X-Files and The Twilight Zone. I think I’ll always be impressed by the way the writers are able to combine monster-of-the-week style episodes with huge chunks of the serial mythology in the process, and this is no exception. This story, though, was fun because it was so thrilling and weird. I LIKE WEIRD. In this case, that weirdness seems to be centered around Olivia.

But before we get to her, let’s talk about the set-up for “Welcome to Westfield.” That cold open just has so many things in it. We get Olivia’s dream of Peter. We get Walter’s attempt to make another lovely cocktail. We get A GIANT PLANE CRASH. I think I was blown away by how destructive this episode was, especially since it was in a way that isn’t erasable. The writers commit to the damage that is caused by the devices planted by David Robert Jones, and they don’t try to write these realities out of existence. When the Fringe team arrives to investigate (with Walter in tow!!!), I couldn’t help but notice how much this felt like those alien abduction plots during The X-Files, and I think that visual reference was deliberate. It’s also a way of giving us a red herring. Even though the high electromagnetic fields really do have something in common with what happens to Westfield, I was so focused on trying to figure that out that I was caught off guard when Peter and Walter visit the diner.

God, what an amazing scene. A lot of Fringe episodes have a long set-up, but this one starts off early. I mean, first we get to witness the joy of Walter eating pie. THERE’S SO MUCH JOY ON HIS FACE! (PS: Oh my god, I love rhubarb pie so much.) For a brief second, I thought the episode skipped or something. Yes, I realize now how irrational this thought is, but I was so confused when the waiter asked Walter about his pie again. This moment turns so rapidly to chaos, and it’s what I found intriguing about “Welcome to Westfield.” This episode is not a slow build. This is a story about how Peter, Olivia, and Walter have walked into a disaster, and how the three of them cope with it. It only gets worse, of course, when they find out they physically cannot leave town.

I personally love small-scale settings. While the town of Westfield isn’t exactly the tiniest city in the world, I’m obsessed with stories that take place in places like this. It was a joy to see the people behind Fringe give us a glimpse of a town that’s both deserted and slowly disappearing, too. But it’s the personal stories that this show tells that I love the most, and this is also a chance for the writers to delve further into Peter/Olivia. I think the show generally treats concepts of mental illness well. We’ve seen some fantastic episodes on depression, sanity, self-worth, identity, and the stigmas that might come with them. Is the show perfect? No. I think “Welcome to Westfield” used the concept of insanity in a way that didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me at first. However, once the writers got away from the use of delusion to tell the story, this was so much more fascinating to me. This wasn’t an issue of the characters in Westfield losing their minds as much as it was of them gaining another one.

It made me think of what we’d seen in Olivia in this episode. “Welcome to Westfield” opened with a dream of Peter and Olivia together. Was this just her imagination, or did the other version of herself start bleeding through? At the heart of this is the idea that parallel and prime universes were sitting on top of one another literally. (PS: Draw more venn diagrams, Walter.) It explained why some people were affected by the in-pouring of their doppleganger’s life, and why some weren’t. I picked up pretty early on that it made no sense why Olivia would experience this sensation because her double clearly wasn’t in Westfield. So why would she feel like another Olivia was inside her head? Was this just a way for the writers to torture us some more?

No, for real, let’s be honest here: I miss Peter and his Olivia so much. That doesn’t mean I dislike the direction of season four. On the contrary, I adore it, and I love the way we get to explore these characters in such an exciting and rigorous way. But Olivia and Peter were just beginning to be happy with one another, and then they were torn apart because THAT TIMELINE NO LONGER EXISTS. Well, actually, that’s not true, is it? It has to exist somewhere, though, in order for that Olivia’s thoughts to show up. Truthfully, I was starting to wonder how the show was going to deal with the fact that we’d still not seen anything from the original timeline at all. I’m beginning to think that they weren’t replaced outright anymore, that perhaps these might actually be the same versions of the characters. What if this is all the work of the Observers? What if they tampered with memories to make it appear that Peter never existed?

I don’t know that that makes much sense, but the truth is that I can’t figure out where this is going. This is so exciting! I can tell that the next episode probably has to address the fact that the old Olivia is returning, right? Does that mean all the old timelines can return, too?

I wanted to end this with a compliment that I think was largely ignored by most people I’ve seen talk about this episode: I was just so happy that the writers did not take the issue of the colliding worlds and find a way to joyously save everything. The fact that Westfield was razed to the ground and that this is an immutable fact is so fucking fantastic to me. It is so rare to see a commitment like that, and the image of that barren wasteland is one of the more haunting things this show has provided us. In including this, the writers have upped the stakes of David Robert Jones, and if he’s willing to kill people in hospital for a flash drive, or destroy an entire town just as a test, then that means the writers are desperately trying to tell us that shit is going to get so fucked up.

Oh god, forever unprepared.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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31 Responses to Mark Watches ‘Fringe’: S04E12 – Welcome to Westfield

  1. I loved this episode – the small town setting and the suspense had my heart pounding at times. I don't know if other people felt this way, but I thought that it was obvious where the episode was heading from the second we discovered that it was Olivia's dream. The "Olivia might have the issue of the week" misdirect felt reminiscent of the story in Bloodline, and "parallel worlds colliding" is my go to answer on this show, but that didn't make the episode any less enjoyable.

    I pretty much have the same questions as Mark. But surely if the observers had only altered memories, things like Alt-Broyles still be alive wouldn't be the case. But then with this show, who really knows.

  2. katherinemh says:

    When Peter got erased, the Evil Queen placed a spell on the universe and now they don't remember who they really are. That is my theory and I am sticking to it.

    I mentioned this before, earlier in the season — I do miss the original timeline, but I really like this timeline, too. As much as I want to know what the hell happened, I'm not sitting here thinking, "Alright, come on, let's get back to our Walter and our Olivia already!" I really love this Walter and this Olivia and I'll be sad to see them go. I kind of want to keep them both, which wouldn't really work if (THEORIES ABOUND I guess? for the rest of the comment) that theory that this is Peter's timeline is true.

    Plus the idea that there was the amberverse timeline and Peter's original recipe timeline made it a lot easier to ship all the things. amberverse-Olivia/Lincoln! original-Olivia/Peter! All the Altlivias/all the AltLincolns! As much as I love Olivia/Peter, I was love love loving Olivia/Lincoln and it would be so sad to see Olivia being like, "Sorry, I don't really remember working with you, why is everyone acting so weird?" and Lincoln being like, "We were going to go on a date to a diner but then you never showed and YOUR BOYFRIEND EVEN GOT ME NEW GLASSES TO HELP ME FLIRT WITH YOU whatever fine go be with Peter I'll just go make out with my altself."

    Wait maybe that wouldn't be so bad after all.

    • Avit says:

      1. OUAT? 😛

      2. No, that wouldn't be so bad after all….

    • Ellen says:

      EXACTLY. Three seasons of somewhat passively shipping Olivia/Peter, and then Olivia/Lincoln sneaks up out of nowhere and steals my heart.

      I think this reverting-universes twist is really the best thing the show could have done (four universes is two too many, IMO), and I do love Olivia/Peter (he wins points for that "place to call home" speech)… but I'm hoping for some amped-up Alt!Liv/Alt!Linc to compensate for this tragedy.

  3. SecretGirl127 says:

    Let’s not forget that Nina is working with David Robert Jones. What are they up to?

    Next Nina Theory: Olivia seemed like she had a stroke right before she gave Peter her gun. She could not even speak properly. That didn’t happen to anyone else. Something is happening to her related to the new drugs Nina gave her.

    I love this show.

    • Shiroikami says:

      I second this theory.

      In fact, as soon as it was made clear that Olivia's blood was normal, my thoughts immediately went to "Phase 2"… which I now desperately want to know more about because OH GOD, WHAT IF OLIVIA AND DRJ ARE TRYING TO BRING BACK THE ORIGINAL TIMELINE?!? What would happen to the amber-verse? Would it just poof?

      Also, does anyone else remember back in season 2 when (I forget which character, Nina, maybe?) was explaining about the two parallel universes and what would happen if they collided? Where only one could survive? And then they demonstrated this with two identical snow globes by shoving them into each other, and one broke, but the other didn't? I'm… kind of thinking that that's what happened in Westfield. DRJ was bringing ANOTHER universe in, and the two ANNIHILATED each other…

  4. Karen says:

    I just want to roll around in this episode forever. The story in and of itself was pretty great. It had a great disaster movie type atmosphere and maybe this is just me being squeamish, but like the two rows of teeth REALLY FREAKED ME OUT.

    I think I loved this episode so much just because it felt like a season 2 episode. I've missed the old Walter/Olivia/Peter dynamic and this episode brought it back. It was comforting and familiar and made me feel better about season 4 as a whole. Like I don't know how the two timelines are going to be reconciled, but now I feel like no matter what happens, it'll all be ok in the end.

    • maybe this is just me being squeamish, but like the two rows of teeth REALLY FREAKED ME OUT.
      I thought I was imagining things. I was like, wait, is that two rows of teeth? Does she have TWO ROWS OF TEETH? WHAT THE FUCK. WALTER WHY AREN'T YOU SAYING ANYTHING? WHAT IS WRONG WITH HER GODDAMN TEETH??

      Seriously, it wasn't until Walter talked about doubling organs that I believed I'd seen what I'd seen because I figured one's first reaction to seeing two rows of teeth would be to yelp in fear. But then again, this is Walter Bishop.

      • Avit says:

        Two full rows is weird, but people with mischievous dentition (ME) can definitely have partial double-rows! Sadly for my novelty factor, orthodontics intervened. And of course, in children, adult teeth may come in while the milk teeth have not yet fallen out.

        • monkeybutter says:

          1) "Mischievous dentition" is the best phrase ever.

          2) adlkhfg;ng the thought of having a double upper row (even partial, even temporarily as a kid) to clack and smash against the lower teeth horrifies me.

  5. @sistinas says:

    Right before the last scene I commented to my room mate that i thought the original V1 Olivia was merging with the post-observers-null-out-Peter-Olivia, then turned to her & said 'see what I just said?" Maybe other characters are merging in more subtle ways (walter seems a lot more comfortable around Peter)

    hmmm…. someday after Buffty/angel, have you ever considered "Mark watches the x Files"???

  6. BSGfan1 says:

    Best episode of the season IMO. I loved every moment of this episode. If this is Peter's timeline my brain will explode.

  7. leebea says:

    The teeth…..THE TEETH

  8. Kat says:

    Oliviaaaaaaaaaa! Coherent thoughts desert me. >< I want Olivia and Peter to be back together SOOOOO bad.

    I like amberverseOlivia, but she seems so restrained all the time, even though Olivia Prime has never been a particularly outgoing character either. In fact the whole amberverse seems so …muted… Olivia, Walter, even the colours. It makes sense for their characters and stylistically too, but I just wanna see them get to relax and laugh and be properly, full on happy for bit. Just a little. Its something I feel we haven't really seen from the amberverse yet.

    There are so many other good things to talk about in the episode but that last section just wiped it all from my mind. Olivia!!!!!

  9. monkeybutter says:

    Yeah, echoing everyone else, this episode was fantastic. I've loved this entire half of the season, and each episode is better than the last. I loved the horror movie feel of "Welcome to Westfield." It had me from the diner scene on (haha, who am I kidding, I was hooked with Olivia's dream.) I really like the new-old dynamic between Walter and Peter, and seeing Ourlivia poke through at times was really exciting, but also a bit scary. I don't know what this means for their relationship in the future but I was so glad to have it back for a moment, even if things are super-awkward now. I don't know if it's Olivia's powers, or DRJ's machinations, or Peter's advances with the machine, but everything is coming together, and I LOVE IT. I think that's why what you mention about the destruction being permanent is so important; there's no turning back, and we're gonna get our universe back.

    I'm…slightly conflicted if this means that I have to root for Nina and DRJ to bring the universes/timelines crashing back together.

  10. Ryan Lohner says:

    This is one where it was very obvious to me what was going on, but that was still such a neat idea that I didn't mind waiting for the characters to catch up to me.

    Also, I cringed a bit thinking how much it was probably setting Mark off. A lot of I and C words in there.

  11. g_aurelia says:

    So this idea that the timeline is sort of self-correcting because of Peter's presence is really interesting, but I keep getting stuck on what happens with alt-Broyles, Olivia's stepfather, and baby Henry. And David Robert Jones. Could the old timeline relationships be restored without changing the vital statistics of the new timeline?

    (I have a new user name. I've been posting as aurelia but I had to alter it to get an actual login)

  12. Avit says:

    Oh no Walter is growing to love Peter just as they are on the supposed brink of sending Peter back home???

    Oh no Olivia are there universe-merging nanodevice thingies being injected into your bloodstream or something???

    Oh no???

  13. cjeffery7 says:

    if the observers "corrected" the timeline by erasing peter, and if, say, nina and DRJ are somehow trying to merge timelines or universes or something of that nature, could nina/DRJ & co be responsible for shooting the observer who prophesied olivia's death? AGHK no, i dont know, my brain hurts. the fringe writers have woven such a subtle and intricate web of clues that i shouldn't even TRY to unravel it. i'll just have to wait i guess. *sigh*

    • SecretGirl127 says:

      If Nina and DRJ are trying to merge universes to correct the timelines, could they really be the heros in all of this? And the reason Olivia always dies is because she is trying to stop them from doing the right thing, but she just doesn't realize it?

  14. @mairywo says:

    Finally I caught up too…
    From the beginning of this season I thought (or was afraid) that this is maybe the same universe as the original one. That there is no universe for Peter to go back to. That him and all memories of him were erased and therefore people were different. But maybe not, because not every detail fits or makes sense if that's the case. And as someone else mentioned, the biggest question for me is also where is baby Henry? Was he simply never born? Well, how could he have without Peter.

    On the other hand it could be true because how else would Olivia start remembering things she experienced with Peter in the other universe? My brain hurts, I'm confused…

    This show is just so amazing and I love how much it makes me think and speculate and analyze every little bit that happens. And I need more, NOW! Especially more happy Walter, Olivia and Peter.

  15. monkeybutter says:

    Oh, and because I finally figured it out and I'm so proud of myself, Cliff was played by Tim Kelleher, who has been in everything, including a tiny part in Inception. From now on, I'm just going to assume that any eerily familiar actors on Fringe have popped up in Nolan films.

    • Sadie_TARDIS says:

      Oh, gosh, I knew he looked bizarrely familiar. According to IMDb, he also had a small part in Dollhouse. Nolan and Whedon, where can you go wrong?

  16. Esther says:

    "What if they tampered with memories to make it appear that Peter never existed?"

    This is what I've thought all along!

    I was so happy to see Walter back on the field, and to see Peter, Walter, and Olivia interacting the way they used to.

    (Also, why am I not logged in after repeated logins?)

  17. SecretGirl127 says:

    Hey gang, is there going to be a live blog tonight even though Mark is travelng?

  18. dbmacp says:

    Nerdy catch here: The song playing in the diner is "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" by the Shirelles. One of my favorites, and you can hear it here:

    It fits this episode and this season SO PERFECTLY, with the whole theme of forgetting and uncertainty, and specifically the back-and-forth nature of people's memories in this episode.

    Fringe is fantastic.

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