Fringe has always kept my attention by constantly re-inventing itself with original and exciting twists as it grows and matures. Each season, the game is changed in a drastic way. This year is no different.
Last season we saw the introduction of a whole new cast “over there” in the parallel universe. The “over there” counterparts to the “over here” cast are in many ways the same, but also incredibly different in small, important ways.
With both universes fracturing at the seams and both Fringe teams racing to find a solution, the action shifted back and forth between realities, usually switching storylines every other episode. In the season three finale, Peter created a bridge between the two universes and subsequently phased out of existence (I have no good explanation for this.)
In the season premiere, which will air Friday night, we are dropped into a new timeline in which Peter never existed, but the universe bridge still exists. Because of this, Fringe members on both sides are now free to travel between the universes safely, and bring anyone else along with them. The other important change is that because the timeline has changed to exclude Peter, we cannot assume that anything we saw happen in seasons one through three actually happened. This manifests itself in curious ways. Characters we knew to be dead are now still alive and certain characters who had already met are now strangers.
To fill the hole left by Peter, the show re-introduces Lincoln Lee (played by Seth Gabel) to the Fringe team “over here.” His doppelganger “over there” has been an important cast member since season three, but up until now he only played a small part “over here.”
Lee learns about the Fringe team when he and his FBI partner (played by Joe Flanigan of "Stargate Atlantis") get caught up in a Fringe event. Naturally, I was excited to see the guest appearance of an actor from another of my favorite science fiction shows, even if it was short-lived.
The rest of the cast continues to provide stellar scenes, especially the incredibly talented John Noble, who plays Walter Bishop, brilliant scientist and father of the now non-existent Peter Bishop. Noble has always and continues to give the most captivating and convincing performances in the show.
Perhaps the most compelling and mysterious element is that Peter does not seem to have been completely deleted. Shadows and flickers of him appear throughout the episode. We get one scene in which two Observers, the mysterious and smartly dressed men who seem to operate outside of the normal laws of reality, discuss the importance of making sure everything happens the way it was “meant” to.
Par for the course, the Fringe premiere answers a few questions and asks a dozen more. And as always, it just keeps getting better. If I could watch this show in two universes, I would. One should suffice for now.