Fringe Review: "Subject 13"

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It seems that what we learned last week in “6B” about the heightened emotional state playing a very important part in the ability to safely travel through universes has, in fact, been the basis of Walter’s research from the very beginning.

He knew that by using a device to cross, such as he did to save Walternate’s Peter from dying of the same disease his own Peter did, created such havoc on the fabric separating the universes that it was unwise to attempt to do so again, even if it meant Peter couldn’t get home.

For some reason, it was lost on me, when we first learned about Walter saving Peter from the other side, that he had every intention of returning him.

I’m not saying that it wasn’t made perfectly clear to other people, but in my mind’s eye he had intended to keep Peter and to save his wife, Elizabeth, grief. I’m embarrassed to say I have no idea why this was my impression, because I couldn’t have been farther off base.

A Trip to the Past

"Subject 13" was filled with familiar characters with unfamiliar faces.

The entire episode takes place in 1985, and we see concurrently the consequences of Peter’s kidnapping in both worlds. As an aside, I love the retro beginning they use when doing a flashback scenes. It really taps into what we (the world) thought would be coming in the future.

We had ideas of rounded corners, groovy colors – an interesting take woven in someone’s imagination. The only thing it represents these days what we expected of the future in the past.

Walter, before he asked William Bell to remove a part of his brain, was still a goofy, fun sort of fellow. He worked well with the children. But you could also see his scientific side, when he told Elizabeth that Peter was not her son and basically not to get too attached.

Easy for him to say when he walks off to work every day leaving her to deal with a grieving Peter, lost and unsure of this world into which he has been thrust, frightened and lacking trust of faces that look otherwise so familiar.

After Peter tries unsuccessfully to get back to his own world by plunging through an icy Reiden Lake, Elizabeth’s packs she and Peter up and they go to Florida, where Walter conducts his research. In her desire to give him something to do and get a breath of fresh air, Elizabeth takes Peter to the research facility and it is there that he sees Olivia. As Walter says, “The beguiling Olivia Dunham beguiles.” There is no doubt that Peter feels some sort of connection to Olivia, perhaps because he can sense in her the same doubts he himself is facing.

In 1985 the past of our future story begins. Walter devises a series of tests to determine just what type of heightened emotional response causes Olivia to flash through the universes. He is unable to determine the exact formula until Olivia comes to school with a black eye.

Knowing that Olivia has a fearsome home life, where she suffers abuse at the hands of her stepfather, and that she is close to another young boy at the school, Walter arranges for her to be trapped in a darkened room, and when the lights go on, she is faced with the image of her friend, beaten and bloodied on the schoolroom floor. She immediately flashes and is gone.

From Subject 13

As the call to arms to find her begins, Peter finds her book of drawings and following the only picture in the book that looks happy, tracks her down. Karley Scott Collins plays young Olivia with such grace and maturity, that even the subtlest of looks can be felt right in your heart.

As Peter approaches, she tells him stay away as all of the flowers around her have died due to the heat of her flashing. He says he is not afraid, and they hold hands. She thinks of being cool and it begins to snow. When she admits it was she who created the snow, Karley plays the scene exactly as Anna Torv would have played it. There is no mistaking the woman she is to become. This IS young Olivia.

This is important, because in last year’s flashback episode, Peter wasn’t played by the same chap he is in this episode. And, I don’t recall anything special about him. But Karley Scott Collins has a genuine spark, the gift of acting. When Walter was subjecting her to the many tests of heightened emotional response, it was just her and a room, and never did I question what she was feeling.

I felt like I was watching a young Jodie Foster, and if we have another flashback episode and Karley is not the one to portray young Olivia, her presence will be sorely missed.

In spite of all of Peters doubts and fears, he does have some trust for his erstwhile parents, and talks Olivia into trusting Walter with the situation with her stepfather. When they get back to the school, her book of drawings in hand, she demands to see Dr. Walter. When she is told it isn’t possible, she runs into his office, tears streaming down her face, admitting she had seen the blimp she drew in her book when she flashed to the other universe, begging him to help her with her stepfather, to please step in to make things right. Walter is stunned into silence.

Until he walks into the door behind her. Olivia had flashed, and the person she just trusted with her darkest secret, the real person Peter wanted her to trust, Walternate.

The Young Walter

For six months, Walternate and his Elizabeth had been grieving over the kidnapping of their son by a man who looked exactly like Walternate. A part of him blamed Elizabeth for not judging by his clothing, anything, that the person who held their son was not him. No theories made sense. Not until a little girl infused with so much pain appeared before him, handed him her book of drawings and shared her secret and disappeared again.

It was a chill inducing moment, to imagine Walternate, no doubt completely befuddled at what was happening before him, but hardly immune to the words and pain being delivered by our Olivia. She left before him the book of drawings, inside of which is one of her holding hands with Peter. He had found his son.

So much of this episode was gut wrenching and difficult to watch; both children in such states of distress, but finding one another in the end. We know they don’t remember this interaction, but it had to have left an impression never to be lost to either of them. I wonder, given what we learn in “Subject 13” if Walter (or William Bell) had anything to do with Olivia ending up in the FBI. Did Walternate pursue Fauxlivia in the hopes that she would somehow lead to his son? Knowing the way in which these entanglements unfolded leaves even more questions.

The executive producers have said that as the story unfolds, they themselves are taking steps they didn’t expect on their way to the finale. Certainly our reaction to the episodes are having an influence, and it’s wonderful to know how in tune they are not only with their characters and story, but also how they are received by the public.

What did you think of this week's Fringe? Discuss!


Editor Rating: 4.7 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (104 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter and on Google+.


Did no one else notice that the puzzle Walter gives Olivia to make her angry is the exact same puzzle that Sydney Bristow solved as a child, proving to Jack that she was gifted? Not my favourite episode by a long shot, but am interested to see where they take this.


No, I think you had it right. I think returning Peter was somewhat a white lie Walter had told himself. When he saw his wife could not give him up, even he no longer believed it. BUT, when Peter saw through their lies, was almost suicidal wanting to go home, I think both realized that was the right thing to do, with one caveat, 'if possible'. So being confused on their double flip is warranted. There were some scenes this episode that I believe you read absolutely correct, but which didn't make sense. Olive was actually seeing her friend dead. She didn't just "flash" away as you say, creating heat, she torched the room except for where the kid was laying. Because Walter was fiddling with wiping the kid's makeup off and no one seemed aware Olive had disappeared, I had assumed she had just run off after the experiment, while they were dealing with the fire. Knowing the fire she started would bring her enraged stepfather. I could not answer however why the tulips next to her were smoldering. This was a place of peace for her, why would she be frightened? But if she had traveled there, and created heat doing so, as you said, that would explain it. Plus that seems to be a set up for her making it snow, which I didn't believe until I watched more closely. But this creates all kinds of continuity problems. #1 Whenever someone transits to the other side, there was no movement in space. You came out the exact same coordinates in both universes. Olive goes from her home to a field, because there is no home there in the altverse. So, despite the apparent writers' confusion, Olive should NOT have transported to the tulips. She ran there. Also, except the overheating of the former test female on the Peter rescue mission, it had never been established that transiting caused fire. We know Olivia can transit under the right circumstances, is a great shot, and was pyrokinetic as a child, but making snow just by thinking of it? That seems a big stretch, especially as she's calmed down in the tulips at that point. But it was, I agree, at least implied. I think however this is drifting into hack writing territory where stuff is just made up as they go. I would urge them to show the same care with continuity they have all series.... The potential is there for Olivia not to be just somewhat a superhero, but an ultimate breakthrough in human evolution. Think Wesley in STAR TREK TNG, Phoenix in X-MEN 3, or Dalroi in TRANSFINITE MAN. The last was fascinating as early humans had tapped into their whole brains (like the first people?), had pillaged most of the known universe, until combined civilizations all but wiped us out, confined us to Earth, and suppressed our abilities and racial memories. Until those barriers broke down in one man. They even had, not parallel universes, but different levels of transfinite space. I would LOVE such a cosmic series finale. But for now, let's not turn Olivia into a god.


Great episode!


i think the asian woman we saw walternate with is also his wife, since in the news about peter disapearing they said "doctor bishop and his only wife" ONLY wife, as if it where normal to have more than one, and they had to clarify, whos wife´s son it was (hope you understand, english is not my first language, so sorry for any mistakes)


We get the general sense that Peter and Olivia sort of belong together. Refering back to an earlier episod this season. The universe in which the Olivia that Peter chooses will supposedly be the one that survives the collision of two universes. I can imagine a face-off between the two Olivias:
Olivia -
"He was meant to be with me!"
Fauxlivia -
"And how do you know that?! How do you know that he wasn't meant to be with ME?! He doesn't belong in your world. He belongs in my world. He belongs with me." Oh, I can't wait for that face-off, or one with the two Walters.


You gotta admit, if you added a couple years on her, that woman could be an older Olivia... as to the other comment - Igues i red won, thought she wrote Waler - Mate, and to be honest I never realized that they were saying Walternate, I thought they were saying WalterNET, it never made sense to me either, but thanks for clearing that up Walternate, makes a lot more sense.


@Quinn - Carissa has it correct throughout. Walternate, as in Walter's Alternate. WalterNET doesn't make any sense.


@ Quinn, Orla Brady was the actress who portrayed Elizabeth Bishop.. Aside from great individual performances.. I was kinda bored have way in. Considering a hiatus, thought they give something new. The old revelations are important but not as entertaining. I would have showed this episode (subject 13) last week and finish with previous episode (6B) this week..


Also, does anyone know if the woman who played Dr. Bishop's wife in this episode was Anna Torv? It looked a lot like her with some extra makeup and what not.


it's WalterNET not WalterMATE

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Fringe Season 3 Episode 15 Quotes

Walter: The texture of the universe has changed from my crossing. It cannot withstand any more damage.
Elizabeth: Neither can he, Walter. He is in constant distress.

Getting him back wasn't as easy as I thought.