FRINGE 4.15 ‘A Short Story About Love’

Peter learns the truth about his attempt to return home as Olivia hunts a killer who is obsessed with love.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "A Short Story About Love"

Writers: J. H. Wyman & Graham Roland

Director: J. H. Wyman

Previously on "Fringe":

Episode 4.14: "The End of All Things"

Story:

Some time after the events of the previous episode, Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) meets with her surrogate mother, Nina Sharp (Blair Brown) as they go over what the alternate Nina Sharp did to them. Olivia explains that she somehow has two competing sets of memories: her own life in this world and a life with Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) from the previous timeline. Olivia reiterates that she's in love with Peter but she can't explain where the memories are coming from. Olivia also alarms Nina when it becomes clear that Olivia's memories of this timeline are rapidly fading away.

Elsewhere, a woman named Jane Hall returns home after the funeral of her husband, Mark. Inside her house, Jane finds a hideously scarred man named Anson Carr (Michael Massee) waiting for her. As Jane moves to flee, Anson dabs a scent on his neck that causes Jane to passionately kiss him before bewilderment is apparent on her face. Then Anson suffocates Jane and he retrieves a sample of her skin. The next day, Olivia goes to Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) for help in retaining her memories, but he is too wrapped up in his borrowed tech so he can review the footage of the Observer known as September (Michael Cerveris); who disappeared in Walter's lab.

Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick) soon assembles the Fringe team to look into Jane's death, as her dead husband's DNA was found on her neck where Anson touched her. It seems that Mark died under mysterious circumstances that left him completely dehydrated and that Jane and Mark were not the first couple to be killed in this way. Back at the lab, Walter sees the Observers retrieving a badly injured September in super-slow motion, but the Observers didn't see that September planted something in Peter's eye.

Walter quickly recalls Peter to the lab despite his attempt to leave town and stay away from Olivia for her own good. Walter commends Peter for doing the right thing before he finds the foreign object in Peter's eye: a small disk that contains an address. Peter goes to the address and he discovers that it was September's apartment, which was filled with a closet full of identical suits and several devices that Peter can't identify. When one of the devices beeps repeatedly, Peter takes it out and he begins following where it leads.

Meanwhile, Walter determines that Mark's pheromones were extracted from his body before he died during the process that fatally dehydrated him. Privately, Olivia shares her memory problems with Walter and he promises to think of something to help her be herself again. In a nearby park, Carr trolls for victims but he seems to pass on one couple after seeing that they have a child. Back at the lab, Walter identifies a unique ingredient of Carr's pheromone mixture, which allows the FBI to uncover Carr's identity. Unfortunately, Olivia and the team are too late to save Carr's latest victim, Andrew Sutter.

Out in the woods, Peter follows the Observer's device until it triggers a strange cylinder object that bores its way to the surface. Meanwhile, Olivia and company race to save Dianna Sutter (Ona Grauer), Andrew's wife. They set up a sting for Carr, as Lincoln Lee (Seth Gabel) and Olivia wait inside for the killer. In her grief, Dianna admits that she and Andrew had grown apart and it strikes a chord with Olivia. She realizes that Andrew was having an affair and she urges Dianna to tell them the name of the other woman.

Carr catches up to Andrew's lover and he exposes her to his pheromone as well. But before he can kill her, Olivia and the FBI arrest him. Shortly thereafter, Carr tells Olivia that he was only trying to give the world the love that she has… which he says that he can smell on her. Back at the Observer's apartment, Peter figures out how to activate the cylinder and September reappears. He thanks Peter for helping him return to the universe after being locked out by his fellow Observers. In return, Peter asks September for his help returning to the original timeline. 

September tells Peter that he has been home all along and he shares his theory as to why Peter was never fully erased from history: the love that Peter had for the people in his life and their love for him. September also states in no uncertain terms that Olivia IS Peter's Olivia… shortly before September disappears and the cylinder reburies itself. Across town, Olivia meets with Nina and tells her that she recognized some of her old self in Dianna's cynical view about love and she doesn't want to go back to that. Olivia opts to let her memories run their course even if it erases her memories of this timeline.

However, Olivia tells Nina not to give up on her if she can't remember their shared past and she tells Nina that she loves her. Later, Peter and Olivia encounter each other outside of his home and they reunite with a passionate kiss.

Breakdown:

As a long time fan of "Fringe," I can't deny that the ending of "A Short Story About Love" was satisfying and it was great to see Peter and Olivia finally and definitively back together. The problem is that the "Fringe" writers went to that well once too often this season.

It was only two episodes ago that Peter recognized his Olivia in the Olivia of this timeline and one episode since Peter abandoned her because he became convinced again that his original timeline still existed and that it was possible for him to go home to his Olivia. There are only so many times that the writers can keep pulling that trick before it loses its impact. If either of Peter and Olivia's emotional reunions had stood alone without being rehashed then the moments would have been far more powerful and had a greater resonance.

September finally confirmed what I've believed all year. This wasn't an alternate world and Peter has been home the entire time. I've read reviews from other TV critics who have blasted the current season of "Fringe" because it didn't follow the characters and worlds that we've loved since the beginning of the series. But that is the very reason why this new timeline had to be Peter's home. The audience would have felt cheated if the original Olivia and Walter were gone for good or if we hadn't seen them for well over half a season.

The Olivia that currently exists is a synthesis of her two incarnations and it's telling that she sees the Olivia that loved Peter as the superior version of herself. In this timeline, Nina was the only person whom Olivia seemed to have a real emotional connection with. In this regard, the case of the week did a nice job of informing Olivia's decision to essentially let her persona in this timeline fade away in favor of something better. The downside is that Olivia seemed kind of callous about throwing away her memories of her life with Nina and Olivia is still blind to the obvious romantic feelings that Lincoln Lee has towards her. I guess that Lincoln is doomed to never be with Olivia in either universe or either timeline.

Peter's side quest to find September's apartment and then September himself were probably the most entertaining aspects of the episode. It was pretty fascinating to see how an Observer lives when they aren't being mysterious and cryptic. September also had an oddly threatening vibe about him when he reappeared in our world and the entire affair raises some key questions: How could the other Observers have hidden the universe from September? Why would they save September's life only to send him into permanent exile? Who shot September and why?

The case of the week with the hideously scarred Anson Carr was a little weak compared to other episodes of the series. Usually "Fringe" does a great job of making their antagonists understandable or even likeable. But Carr was just too one note and his desire to bring love to the world was very underdeveloped. The one thing I really liked about Carr's story was that it was never about his facial scars or how he got them. Presumably Carr's scars and subsequent shunning from women led to his deadly research into chemically recreating love. However, nothing like that was established in the episode itself.

Ultimately, Carr was right about one thing. Everyone in the world does deserve to know love, it just can't be artificially recreated and bottled up or else Axe Body spray wouldn't have to greatly exaggerate its affects. And that's assuming it has any affect at all.

Now that the question about whether Peter is home has been settled, it's time to deal with another lingering issue: David Robert Jones. Would the timeline be healthier if Peter could reinsert himself into history and kill Jones before he unleashes his plans on both universes? Is that even possible at this point? One thing that hasn't been touched on lately is that even if Peter is home, he still has no history in this world and everything he ever had is gone.

Except for Olivia and Walter. But if Peter has them, then what else does he really need?