Fringe 4.04 "Subject 9" Review

A tv review article by: Paul Brian McCoy

Walter is forced to leave the lab for the first time in years when he and Olivia go to Massive Dynamic to examine files that may connect one of Walter's Cortexiphan test subjects to a new series of crimes.

Fringe airs Friday nights at 9:00 on Fox.


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It's been a couple of weeks since this aired, but with the new episode finally coming up this Friday, here's a few thoughts about "Subject 9."

First of all, I found this episode to be a bit off. There were clever bits (naming a character Cameron James and tying him to time distortions and electromagnetic energies made me chuckle) but overall I wasn't very satisfied.  Which is strange because the creative talent scripting this episode, Jeff Pinkner, J.H. Wyman, and Akiva Goldsman, usually do pretty strong work.

And all three are producers on the show, signaling this as an important episode.

I suppose it was. Peter (Joshua Jackson) does return, after all. But it still felt like something was missing.

Maybe it's just that I wanted to see a little more Fringe without Peter before jumping into that mess. I was really getting interested in this version of Walter (John Noble). Our old familiar Walter is great, but this interpretation was much more tragic and haunted, which really created a nice contrast to his more whimsical moments.

Don't mess with Olivia!

Similarly, I'm enjoying this Olivia (Anna Torv). Our version was getting a little too happy and well-adjusted. Yeah, she's a bit of a bitch, but that works. And it was kind of nice watching her start to come out of her shell again, only this time with Lincoln (Seth Gabel).

Anyway, as I said, this episode brings Peter back into the mix and it's done in a way that managed to be both cheesy and suitably strange at the same time. It helps that it allowed us to get a little more back story on how things played out in the New Peterless World.

We discover that as before, Olivia was the star pupil in Walter and Bell's Cortexiphan tests on children. Only this time Olivia ran away and a couple of years later the program was shut down, much to Walter's dismay. It's not clear if Olivia ran away before or after she murdered her abusive father.

As our story opens, Olivia is asleep when a strange light appears in her room and all the metal objects begin moving. Like a good Fringe Division Agent, she wakes up and immediately goes for her gun as a blue plasma energy ball hovers creepily at the foot of her bed. It disappears and all the metal objects in the room (sans the gun) are piled in the spot where it had been.

This mystery isn't bad, but it's marred by a clumsy attempt to address the fact that this Walter isn't under the same looser restrictions as we're used to. In fact, he has monthly evaluations, the result of which can send him back to the asylum if he isn't careful. After not-so-sneakily discovering a letter asking for Olivia's evaluation, Walter volunteers to leave the lab for the first time in ages.

The excuse? While he doesn't think Olivia's childhood Cortexiphan experiences are to blame for the blue plasma ball, he does remember another child who exhibited similar powers. But being the bastard that he was in this version, he can't remember the name; just that the kid was "Subject 9."

Yes, it's Nina!

Which allows for the introduction of this reality's version of Nina Sharp (Blair Brown).

Having gotten kind of used to Walter and Nina's friendly relationship in the past season or two (and Walter's inheriting of Massive Dynamic), it was a bit of a shock to find that in this reality, Walter hates Nina passionately. We're not given any real explanation, but he's positively venomous. And I like it!

This Nina is also extremely friendly – almost motherly – with Olivia. That kind of creeped me out, to be quite honest.

Chadwick Boseman does a pretty good job with what he's given to work with as Subject 9. Or Cameron James. Or actually, Mark Little, as Cameron was his deadbeat father's name. He enrolled his son in the program under his own name so he could cash the checks. Did all the kids in the program have bastards for dads? Was that a requirement?

To cut a long story short, Cameron's not responsible for the blue plasma balls that keep appearing around Olivia. Actually, it's kind of obvious what is actually causing them, even if there's no real explanation. It's Peter trying to rematerialize corporeally.

Blue Plasma Peter

There's a nice little penultimate scene as Walter urges Cameron to use his powers to disperse the plasma, but Olivia sees a face forming in it and stops him. Cut to naked Peter dropping into Reiden Lake and being taken to the hospital. The Fringe gang are called in because this naked guy seems to know all about super-secret Fringe and keeps asking for Olivia and Walter.

But Olivia has no idea who he is.

It's a nice ending and hopefully means that Peter's return won't just be a reset button. I'd like to see that play out.

I'm also curious about the fact that Peter's return, the blue plasma ball, was causing a temporal anomaly, allowing Astrid (Jasika Nicole) to record an event before it actually happened. This lends credence to my theory that Peter's restructuring of reality may have echoes back beyond the point of origin.

He actually may be responsible for the Observers. That would be awesome.

Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor to Shot for Shot. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is on sale now for Kindle US, Kindle UK, and NOOK, or can be sampled and/or purchased at Smashwords. He is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy and blogging occasionally at Infernal Desire Machines.

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