With all the recent attention on Peter getting home to Universe A - Timeline A (or whatever you'd prefer to call it), Universe A - Timeline B's cold reaction to Peter, and Lincoln's hair in any universe, it's forgivable if you'd forgotten that Fringe can go full-blown procedural at times. That's exactly what happened in Friday's "Forced Perspective," a standalone installment that ignored the season-long mysteries that've been kicked into high gear over the last few episodes.
At the center of the case was Emily Mallum (Alexis Raich), an artistic teen who could foresee deaths. Rather than warn those about to be killed to not walk so close the zoo's polar bear habitat and stay clear of piano movers, she drew images of their impending deaths and gave them the artwork so that they would have a chance to say their last goodbyes to loved ones. Obviously, that plan didn't work and she just got odd looks from people until a stray construction site I-beam impaled them! That was rad.
But things got progressively less interesting after Random Guy #1 met his maker. Emily had a big vision of several people dying, leading the Fringe team to stalk a madman intent on bombing a courthouse. From that point on, it was pretty much straight-up stop-the-bad-guy police antics; the episode even ended in a fizzle-out when Olivia talked the bomber out of flipping the switch with the old "think of everyone's families" trick, reducing the man to tears and convincing him to acquiescence to the authorities. Oh, and in the end, Emily had a stroke and died.
"Forced Perspective" did brush its fingertips against some of Fringe's long-term mythology: Olivia butted heads with Nina regarding Massive Dynamic's poking and prodding of Emily, painting Universe A - Timeline B's Nina in a darker light and setting up a future showdown between her and Olivia. And Peter had a quick discussion with Olivia about Observers; the bald-headed weirdos haven't been charted much in this timeline, and when Peter asked Olivia if one had contacted her (remember, September said he'd seen her in all possible futures and she dies in each one), but Olivia lied and said, "Nope." The old Olivia would never have done that!
I'd probably rank this as the weakest episode of Season 4 so far, and slap the deadly "filler" label on it. It wasn't terrible, it just wasn't up to Fringe's lofty standards.
With such little progression of the overall Fringe mystery in "Forced Perspective," now's a great time to try and clear things up about what's going on. I've touched on this in the past, particularly after "Back to Where You've Never Been," but now I'm ready to give it another shot after an email exchange with my pal Michael, who's better known around these parts as Arch_Angel88.
My firm belief on the universe situation is all theoretical science. I see these two universes, A and B let's call them, linked together no matter what timeline we're in. But simultaneously, these two universes also exist on multiple planes, or timelines as we've been referring to them, creating sets of pairs of universes. There's still the chance of a third, a fourth, or even a four-thousand-eight-hundred-twenty-seventh universe, but we haven’t seen them yet.
Think of the idea of multiple universes as fourth dimensions, and think of the timelines as fifth dimensions. We (normal humans) are just learning to see/take advantage of the fourth dimension, as we've seen when Olivia and others cross over (Seasons 1-3). The Observers, however, are able to see and move through the fifth dimension, which is across timelines. It's probably a misnomer to call them dimensions, but that's the easiest way I can think of to label them.
I have a feeling that there is only one Peter who made it to adulthood across all timelines because he's some sort of chosen one, whereas there are multiple copies of everyone else. Peter is instrumental in keeping the balance in the existence of everything, and the Observers are trying to make sure he seeks out his destiny and keeps existence as we know it from imploding or whatever else sounds incredibly ominous. But September dropped Peter back in the wrong place (oops!), and now he's got to fix things. But how do you fix something that's already happened?
Now let's hear how YOU are explaining these multiple universes to your friends.
– Pretty cool effects on that frozen bomb scene. It's incredible Fringe can pull off something that on its budget.
– I don't know why it is, but I'm having a hard time seeing the streets of Vancouver as anything but Vancouver. It doesn't look like Boston at all.
– I miss nice Nina. Don't eat the soup, Olivia!
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom