Is Season Four of Fringe beginning in the sideways reality of Lost‘s Sixth Season?
Short thoughts on the Season 4 premiere of Fringe follow.
Fringe begins its fourth season in a strange, and possibly unnecessary, place. (*Spoiler Alert from here forward for both Fringe and Lost*) Peter Bishop is gone. At the end of Season Three, Peter jumps into the doomsday device and bridges the two previously feuding universes. Much like Ryan McGee, I thought that the “bridge” Peter built actually merged the universes together. In reality what has happened is that the device has actually created a sort of crossroads where the two universes meet and the inhabitants can move between them. (Whether this is something everyone knows and doppelgängers will abound in either universe is yet to be seen. I’m guessing that only the Fringe teams will cross, though there may be later cases where people are “sneaking” through.) It’s a really interesting way to take the world structure, though the necessity of removing Peter Bishop is yet to be seen.
Bridging the two universes could make for an intriguing story for the entire season without Peter missing. Though he is flickering into and out of the picture, he is gone for all intents and purposes. No one remembers him at the FBI. The basic backstory is that Peter was still stolen by Walter, but he died in Reiden Lake instead of the Observer saving he and Walter. So, Walternate and the rest of that universe developed as we have seen, but this universe has been changed. Olivia is the cold character we met in the pilot episode, Astrid’s rapport with Walter is less loving and more professional and Walter is effectively crazy. The impact that Peter had on each of these people is gone and we are getting a theoretical glance at what the show would be without Joshua Jackson’s Peter. The episode is hampered by constant reminders in the dialogue of each character reminding each other that something weird is going on and there is something strangely missing from their lives.
As these people kept talking about what was missing from their lives and we are seeing flashes of Peter or seeing him in mirrors and televisions, I could not help but think that this is the sideways timeline from Lost. As time moves forward this season, Peter will be reintegrated into the show and the lives of the people of this show. As he is moved closer into being fully integrated, I expect that the characters will begin “flashing” and remembering the moments of their lives where Peter had the greatest effect. (I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same over-saturation and the quick cuts that Lost utilized.) Much like the final sequence in Lost, once all of the core group we know is aware of Peter’s existence, just as once everyone knew they were in the after-life following their time on the Island, they will then move on to the next stage of their lives. Ideally this will be the point at which the universes have found a way to work together.
I am wholly uncertain on the point of having the universes linked right now as well as whether the link will be broken when Peter returns. It will be important for the show to have a purpose in linking the universes as well as Peter being missing. If those two things can be purposefully explained, I will look back on the Season Three finale more favorably as well as having complete trust in the show going forward in what might be its final season. The speed with which the resolution of these threads comes will be important as well. Without a relatively quick resolution and without clear reasons for the decision to remove Peter, the incredible amount of goodwill the show has earned will evaporate quickly. Much like the impatience of viewers in the final season of Lost, the viewers of Fringe have come to expect smart, efficient storytelling that is free of grabs for viewers or stunts solely to create conversation. Purpose is important to both shows and their ongoing legacies. Spending too much time in Fringe‘s alternate reality could be a regrettable decision, but I’m expecting that it will pay off much like Lost‘s and play an important role in establishing the show as one of the great genre shows in television history.