Normally I dislike it when a TV show or movie series writes its story so that all the major events in a world center around a handful of people who've been interconnected throughout their lives -- "Alias" was a particularly bad abuser of this, getting much worse as the character backstories got more complicated in the later seasons -- but somehow I had no problem with last night's episode of "Fringe", which added some serious connectivity to the backstories of Walter, Olivia and Peter, but did so in remarkable fashion.
The episode took place entire in 1985, much like Season 2's masterpiece episode "Peter", and we saw more of the fallout of Walter's kidnapping of Peter from the alternate universe, as well as the starts of the Cortexiphan trials. As the episode progressed, we got a glimpse of just how important Olivia has always been to not only our universe but, in a remarkable twist, the other one as well.
At first, I was a little concerned when I saw in the promos that young Peter and Olivia would be interacting, but they only met briefly, and there wasn't really much there for either of them to connect the other one to Walter. It's completely understandable why 30-something Peter would have completely forgotten Olivia from their one chance encounter. And it's just as understandable, given how much of the Cortexiphan trials Olivia has repressed (or had removed, we don't know yet) that she wouldn't remember Peter. So in that regard, this episode avoided what would have been a massive retcon problem.
But the ending was more important than any other piece of the episode. All along, we've been told that Walter started the Cortexiphan trials to prepare an army to deal with a war with the alternate universe. However, as we saw throughout the episode, Walternate wasn't even considering an alternate universe among the possibilities for his kidnapped son (though alien shapeshifter did hilariously come up at one point). At least, he wasn't until Olivia, pushed by the emotional fear of being sent back to her step-father, confronted who she thought was Walter, but turned out to be Walternate, spilling just enough information for Walternate to put the pieces together.
In the end, Walter was preparing for a war that was never going to come, and his preparations actually planted the seeds for that war. It's an incredible paradox that adds another layer of pathos to an already complicated character in Walter Bishop.
Also, I feel that if "Fringe" does get picked up for another season, we need one more flashback episode to kind of complete the story in both universes. We need to see this universe's Walter end the Cortexiphan trials, and we need to see what the other universe's Walter did with the information presented to him, specifically as it relates to Olivia Dunham. I'd imagine now that it's no coincidence that Olivia ended up as one of Fringe division's best agents over on that side too.
For more coverage of the 2010-11 television season, visit the AdamReisinger.com TV Reviews home page.