It’s been just days since our worlds collided — and the opening credits are a pale orange (or perhaps amber?) — and Olivia and Walter especially are still suspicious of the other universe’s Fringe team. “If you can’t trust the people you’re dealing with, what then?” Olivia asks Fauxlivia, as they exchange files in an attempt to sort out various universe-saving methods. But the casework continues as well, and it seems somewhat strange for the episode to perfunctorily deal with the collided worlds and then proceed into a Freak of the Week episode.
Lincoln Lee over here gets dragged in after his partner in Hartford is killed by a man with translucent skin and Fringe division picks up the trail. Lee has no memory of his previous work with Fringe; that’s because with Peter erased from the time-stream, Lee apparently never came into contact with Olivia et al. Peter’s absence manifests itself in certain ways, although for the most part it’s as though details have changed while the overall picture remains similar; Olivia still first came into contact Walter seeking his help on a case, which then became a long-term Fringe assignment, but without Peter around, Walter has remained frightened of the outside world. He’s spooked by sudden noises, he sleeps in a makeshift bedroom in his office, and he doesn’t go into the field on cases, using field agent Astrid instead to relay data via camera to the Harvard lab, where Walter’s experiments seem a little more creepier: ear-growing and dead-bird-reviving.
We see a fleeting glimpse of a blurry Peter, like a brief vision of a taped-over movie on an old VHS cassette (ask your parents). The Observer (easy to spot him in this episode) knows Peter hasn’t been completely erased from this universe, and jerry-rigs a machine to finish the job — because “they can never know the boy lived to be a man,” as December puts it — but the Observer doesn’t actually do it, for reasons we’re not privy to yet. Walter keeps spotting Peter — not that he knows it’s Peter — in mirrors and television screens, but no one believes that crazy ol’ Walter is actually seeing anything.
Lee worms his way into Fringe through tenacity and stick-to-itiveness — and seems to fill a moral conscience role that the cold Olivia and nutcase Walter can’t perform as they are in this affected timestream — and helps Fringe run the translucent man to ground. He’s killed 30-odd people, and it’s discovered that he’s some sort-of biological-mechanical hybrid shapeshifter. Hey, where did those come from? Walternate, of course, and Olivia takes Lee to meet Fauxlivia and pass on the shapeshifter information to her in a bridge between the two universes. Lee manages somehow not to lose his mind when he sees dark clouds out one window and blue skies out another (and oh yeah, a zeppelin).
So: some groundwork laid, not as much as you might think. But look back on this hour of television and ask yourself if there wasn’t a moment where you weren’t anxious to see what was going to happen next, or looking for Peter in the background and the shadows. Welcome back, Fringe.
Daniel is a writer in Newfoundland with a wife and a daughter. He plans to put off finishing his recap until he knows for sure that that falling satellite is not going to hit him. Follow him on Twitter (@DanMacEachern) or email him at email@example.com.