Fringe Novation TV Review


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Even shapeshifters need help sometimes...

4.05 “Novation”

Writers: JR Orci, Graham Roland
Paul Holahan

THE ONE WHERE Peter doesn’t quite get the homecoming he’d been expecting when he’s chucked into custody by a Fringe team which has no idea who he is. Meanwhile, one of the new-look biological shapeshifters hunts down a scientist who may hold the key to fixing her glitchy body.

UNIVERSE Over here – orange credits version.

VERDICT This is more like it. After falling into a Peter-less holding pattern over the last couple of episodes, season four springs into life with a fantastic episode that lays the series mythology on thick – and that’s what Fringe does best.

Peter’s return is what the show needed and luckily it doesn’t disappoint. Bishop Jr having to deal with the fact that no one has any idea who the hell he is adds an intriguing new dynamic to a show that’s never been afraid to evolve, while his knowledge of the shapeshifters and the Fringe universe hints that he’s soon going to convince Broyles that he’s less a danger than a worthy addition to the team. It’s Peter’s scenes with Walter that really stand out, however, as the father’s journey from disbelief, to joy at finding his lost son, to deciding that he doesn’t deserve the happiness that Peter could bring him is an excuse for another tour de force performance from John Noble.

The case-of-the-week, while not exactly up there with Fringe ’s compelling best, does have its moments. The relationship between shapeshifter Nadine and Goss, the scientist she kidnaps, is nicely nuanced: it’s interesting to see his shifting sympathies towards her, and the way she lies and manipulates him into helping them. It’s also great for the show’s big storyline. The upgraded, superhuman shapeshifters look like they could evolve into a truly scary villain – how will the Fringe team catch them? – and that final typewriter sign-off about sending reinforcements sets the rest of the season up nicely.

ANOTHER WORLD Plenty of revelations about the things that make the orange version of our universe different: Walter despises Nina because he blames her for Peter’s death (the scene where this comes to light is brilliantly played); the Fringe team is way behind their its blue-credits counterpart in its understanding of shapeshifters (they haven’t even worked out how to use the data packs yet); and Olivia and co have no knowledge of the Observers. However, without the paradox-creating Peter being on the scene, it’s possible that the trilby-wearing watchers weren’t that fussed about what the Fringe team were up to.

SPECULATION William Bell shut Dr Goss’s research down for ethical reasons – and ethics were rarely something that got in his way. Was he concerned about the project’s potential use with shapeshifter technology? Interesting to note, though, that the new biological shapeshifters are dependent on tech from our universe. Indeed, maybe they come from here – or somewhere entirely new? – rather than Walternate’s world. The fact that the typewriter shapeshifter Nadine uses to communicate with her handlers doesn’t need to work through a mirror suggests that some different technology is at play.

SPECULATION 2 An agent appearing to give some files to Olivia twice at the end of the episode is rather odd – does Fringe Division now have a shapeshifter in its midst?

THE SEX FILES You’ve got to admire a show that’s so determined to keep its central couple apart that it goes to the lengths of sending one to a parallel universe, and then erasing the other from existence. There’s no hint of Olivia falling for Peter in this timeline, however – in fact, it’s Lincoln she asks out for dinner, even if her new partner shyly spurns her advance.

OBSERVING THE OBSERVER He’s lurking outside the police corden when Olivia arrives at the murdered couple’s house at the beginning of the episode.

NITPICK As great as “Novation” is, the lack of trips to the other side this year is getting frustrating.

BEST LINE With Walter in a subdued mood and not displaying his usual gift for standout dialogue, there’s really not much to mention – John Noble’s as great as ever, but we are missing the chirpier Dr Bishop of previous seasons.

Richard Edwards

Fringe airs on Wednesday nights on Sky1.

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Richard is a freelancer journalist and editor, and was once a physicist. Rich is the former editor of SFX Magazine, but has since gone freelance, writing for websites and publications including GamesRadar+, SFX, Total Film, and more. He also co-hosts the podcast, Robby the Robot's Waiting, which is focused on sci-fi and fantasy.