Fringe is back for its fourth season, and now tells us what the universe is like if Peter Bishop had never existed.
That's what I thought, until I watched this episode. It turns out, the Observers just returned the time line to what it would have been had not our sympathetic Observer not saved Peter's life immediately after Walter brought the boy back from the alternate universe. Observers are not supposed to act in our universe, just to observe. By acting, the sympathetic Observer saved Peter, but altered the time line - Peter was never supposed to survive, in either universe.
So, everything is the same - Olivia works for Fringe Division, Walter uses his scientific genius to solve mysteries, and Astrid minds Walter. But, things are different too. Olivia is colder, and is not allowed to say what division she works in. Walter is agoraphobic, and has less control over his emotional responses. Astrid must go on the scene to observe for Walter, because he can't leave the lab.
Of course, the other difference has nothing to do with Peter's disappearance from the time line, although his actions in the finale of Season Three set this in place. There is now a bridge between the universes, so Fauxlivia and Olivia can trade insults as they swap files. However, the bridge may have also allowed some shapeshifters from the alternate universe to come over.
That was the mystery of the week, and we were introduced to it when Lincoln Lee's partner was killed by a shapeshifter. It turns out that if Peter died as a child, Lincoln and Olivia never met. He served as our introduction to all the changes wrought by Peter's absence. Although not allowed, Lincoln inserted himself into the investigation, and proved himself an able agent. Plus, he and Olivia have a lot in common, not least of which is the loss of their partners in fringe events.
Unbeknownst to Olivia et al, the Observers were closely watching them, and they didn't like what they saw. Although they rewrote the time line, Peter's presence wasn't completely erased. He phased in and out while Fauxlivia and Olivia argued. But mostly he haunted Walter, who didn't recognize the man in the mirror and television as the son who died as a child. Previews indicate the haunting will worsen in future episodes. Walter is clearly terrified by these apparitions, and could reasonably presume they are hallucinations.
It was a good episode of Fringe, but with the absence of Peter, it lacked the one thing that makes Fringe delightful - the connection between and among Olivia and the Bishop boys. We didn't get to see much of the relationship between the universes, other than the fact that our universe doesn't trust the alternate universe. So no answers as to who the father of Fauxlivia's baby is, assuming she still has one. But I liked the way Lincoln Lee was introduced (his portrayer, Seth Gabel, is now a full time cast member), and it's hard to argue with any episode which shows us Walter in full form. I'm a little concerned as to what's next, and how Peter will return. I do hope he returns soon. Without him, the show is missing a third of what makes it extraordinary.