Fringe Episode 3.22
"The Day We Died"
Written By: Jeff Pinkner, Joel Wyman, and Akiva Goldsman
Directed By: Joe Chappelle
Original Airdate: 6 May 2011
In The Grey Universe...
...Which is what I am calling this setting because the episode opened with a title sequence in black and white. We are 15 years in the future, and technically this is our blue universe, but it looks more like the red universe. Fringe events are destroying the universe - a giant wormhole in Central Park took months to secure. Peter is now a full agent with Fringe division, as is Astrid and Olivia's niece Ella. Peter and Liv are married, she has full control of her telekinetic abilities and is now the head of Fringe division - Broyles is a senator. Walter is the most reviled person on the planet after he was found responsible for destroying the other universe. He now faces lifetime imprisonment.
The red universe has been destroyed, thanks to Walter's doomsday machine. As the red universe was crumbling, Walternate came to the blue universe looking for mercy, in a last-ditch attempt to save his universe. While over here, the red universe crumbled completely, trapping Walternate on this side. He is filled with rage, which he blames solely on Peter. Walternate has joined with a doomsday terrorist named Moreau to set off electro-light bombs at soft spots in the universe in order to accelerate the disintegration of the blue universe.
At the site of the most recent of these bombings, Walternate left a hide-a-key box behind. Peter finds a house key inside, the key to the old Bishop cabin. Peter slips away to investigate, and finds Walternate waiting for him. Walternate holds Peter wholly responsible for destroying the red universe, despite the fact that it was Walternate who activated the machine. "I was simply acting in self-defense." Walternate doesn't care. "You will experience loss the way I did," Walternate promises. "I am going to destroy your universe - but not all at once." Infuriated, Peter lunges at Walternate - and finds he is a hologram. The flesh and blood Walternate is in a blacked-out car in Central Park, where Fringe division is responding to another wormhole. He steps out of the car and quietly shoots Olivia in the head.
After Olivia's funeral, Peter returns home to drink himself into oblivion while Ella escorts Walter back to prison. But he has a brainstorm, and insists on seeing Peter. At Peter's house, he desperately tries to explain the paradox. The wormhole goes back through time. The First People did hide the pieces of the mystery machine - because Walter was technically The First People. He went back in time to hide the pieces. His decision has already been made, so he cannot go back and change it (I guess because he can't go back before the beginning of time, but if time travel is possible then time just loops around so there is no beginning and no end... time travel hurts my brain). If he can somehow make Peter's consciousness remember all he has seen in 2026, Peter can still make a decision while in the machine and hopefully change the outcome. Peter, grief-stricken and drunk, just goes along with it - how could it get any worse?
Back in 2011, Peter is in the machine. The Fringe team is worried that he has been in there too long, but Walter worries that if they remove him forcibly, he will be injured - or worse. But the machine stops. He smiles when he sees Liv, but a noise draws their attention away from each other. The universes have merged. On one half of the hangar is Walter, Olivia, Astrid, and Broyles. On the other side: Walternate, Fauxlivia, and Brandon. The two sides eye each other warily. The Walters face off, but Peter steps in before violence can erupt. He explains what he saw of the end of the world, worse than anyone could ever imagine. If one universe dies, so does the other, so he tore holes in both in order to join them so that everyone has to work together. The kumbaya moment is over when Peter blinks out of existence - and no one seems to notice.
Outside, all the Observers have gathered around the hangar, now housed within the Statue of Liberty - the green one. "They don't remember Peter," says one. "He never existed." "He served his purpose."
Dig It or Bury It?
Mind. Blown. Kablooey. The episode in and of itself was not shocking or surprising. It followed the basic trajectory I expected, that the world Peter fell into would essentially act as a Christmas Carol-type device. I've said it before and I will say it again: time travel makes my head hurt. It just doesn't click for me. But the episode was just so well-structured that, other than a few moments, the time travel stuff didn't bother me. I just went along for the ride.
I know that the show likely didn't get its season four order until production this season was wrapped, so I can see how this episode could have been a series finale had the winds blown the other direction. Instead of wiping out Peter's existence, the episode would have wrapped up with the two sides working together to save the universe. This was a satisfying finale: all the major stuff was wrapped up, but there is just a little something to bring you back in the fall.
Walter didn't get much of a chance to babble in this episode. Peter gets special permission from Senator Broyles to spring Walter from prison because he is the only one who could help them figure out what the bombs were all about. He asks Peter if Astrid will be working with him. With a smile, Peter tells him that Astrid is now a full agent and needed in the field. Walter is glad that she is taking care of other people now. He plops down in a swivel chair and spins, realizing how much he missed swiveling. Olivia shows up a few minutes later and Walter lights up like a five-year-old at Disneyland, rushing towards her and sweeping her up into a huge hug.
Thanks to Back to the Future, I understand how temporal changes can wipe out a person's existence. So now the only question is, how will they bring Peter back next season if no one remembers him? Observers, I'm looking at you. Also, I have to imagine that Brad Dourif, who played Moreau in tonight's episode, will return next season. Why would you hire a cult icon and give him less than two minutes of screen time if you weren't going to bring him back?