Catching Up On ‘Fringe’

Everything you need to know to get up to speed on Fox's brilliant sci-fi drama.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

On Friday, September 23, "Fringe" returns for its fourth season on Fox after a mind blowing season finale left the series with a massive, game-changing cliffhanger that may have wiped one of the lead characters from existence!

Described by some critics as the modern day "X-files," the first season of "Fringe" introduced us to FBI Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), whose partner and lover, John Scott (Mark Valley) was critically injured while investigating a lethal flesh-dissolving toxin. Desperate to save him, Olivia learned that the toxin resembled the work of Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble), a brilliant scientist who was institutionalized for twenty years. And the only way that Olivia could get access to Walter and his hidden knowledge was to track down and convince Walter's son, Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) to have him released into his custody and attempt to help his father regain some semblance of sanity.

But Peter wasn't a willing participant in Olivia's plans and she blackmailed him into returning to the U.S. and giving her access to his father. With his help, Olivia and the FBI became aware of "The Pattern," a series of nightmarish incidents orchestrated by unknown scientists who were using the world as their laboratory. Using one of Walter's nearly forgotten techniques, Olivia was actually able to enter the mind of the comatose John Scott and retrieve vital information that helped them lead to a cure for the toxin.

However, Scott's actions after he awoke from a coma implicated him as a traitor to the FBI and Olivia was forced to pursue him before he was killed in a high speed chase. Scott's body soon fell into the hands of Nina Sharp (Blair Brown) and Massive Dynamic, the billion dollar corporation led by the enigmatic William Bell, Walter's former partner.

Attempting to run from his past, Peter attempted to leave Olivia and his father behind, but he soon came into contact with a mysterious individual nicknamed The Observer (Michael Cerveris), who was spotted in the aftermath of several Pattern related incidents. This led Peter to realize that the threat of "The Pattern" was real and he committed to seeing the investigation through to the end. To combat their unseen adversaries, the Fringe Division was officially formed under the leadership of Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick) with Olivia, Peter, Walter and Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole), an FBI agent who acted as Walter's aide in the lab and as his occasional caretaker.

Over the course of the first season, several signs indicated that "The Pattern" was linked to William Bell and possibly even to Walter himself. Olivia even came to remember that Walter and Bell had experimented on her and dozens of other children when they were living in Jacksonville, Florida, possibly giving her physic powers that she could barely understand or control. Olivia also came to learn that Scott was secretly working for the NSA and that he wasn't a traitor before his lingering memories and persona faded from her mind.

Olivia and the team also slowly became aware of an alternate universe, in which there were subtle differences between the two worlds. For example in the alternate world, Olivia's friend and partner, Charlie Francis (Kirk Acevedo) had a prominent scar on his check. And when a terrorist went to extraordinary lengths to find and kill William Bell, Nina Sharp confessed that Bell was living in the alternate universe and couldn't be easily reached. Around the same time, The Observer lured Walter away from his laboratory and eventually, Walter came to the grave of his only child, Peter!

After the terrorist was killed attempting to cross between the two universes, Olivia was transported between the two worlds herself and came face-to-face with William Bell (Leonard Nimoy) himself! And in the last shot of the first season, we learned that Bell's office in the alternate world was in the World Trade Center, which never fell in the alternate universe.

The second season saw Olivia's return from the alternate world leave her gravely injured and with little memory of what she had seen or heard. From Bell, she learned that the alternate universe considered itself at war with our own and that several artificial shapeshifters had been sent from the other side to infiltrate our world. Even Olivia's friend Charlie Francis was killed and replaced by a shapeshifter before Olivia gradually realized the truth and killed the impostor.

As their cases became more deadly, Olivia and Peter began to get closer. During a flashback episode, we learned the truth behind Peter's origin and the grave that Walter visited in the first season. In 1985, Walter's young son Peter died of a rare illness before he could devise a cure. Using a device he and Bell had created to watch the alternate universe, Walter realized that the alternate Peter would soon die as well if he didn't take action. Walter successfully used a window to crossover into the alternate world (costing Nina Sharp her hand in the process) and he retrieved the Peter of that world.

Both Walter and the young Peter nearly drowned upon their return until an Observer saved their lives and told Walter that Peter was important. Walter even intended to return Peter where he came from until he saw that his wife couldn't give her son back once she had him again. Unknown to our world, the loss of his Peter made the alternate Walter (or Walternate) into a much harder man and the greatest enemy our universe would ever face.

Tapping into her mental abilities to solve a deadly case and recognize objects from the other universe, Olivia learned the truth about Peter just when they seemed poised for a romantic relationship. Walter begged her not to tell Peter, but Peter soon figured it out for himself when Walternate crossed over to our world and convinced his son to return home. Walter was devastated by Peter's decision and he became even more alarmed when one of The Observers slipped him an ancient drawing that depicted Peter stepping into a Doomsday Device with flames coming from his eyes.

Olivia and Walter staged a rescue mission to the alternate universe where they encountered William Bell once again… and an alternate Fringe team with the alternate Charlie, a man named Lincoln Lee (Seth Gabel) and even alternate versions of Olivia, Astrid and Broyles! Although Peter seemed determined to stay in the alternate universe and thwart his father's destructive plans for our world from there, Olivia kissed him passionately and told him that she wanted to bring him home to pursue their relationship.

But before that could happen, Olivia was kidnapped and replaced by her alternate, hereafter referred to as Fauxlivia. With the apparent sacrifice of William Bell, Peter, Walter and Fauxlivia returned to our world where she began acting as a double agent within the Fringe division.

In the third season, our Olivia underwent an experimental procedure to make her believe that she was Fauxlivia. Olivia attempted to escape, but her actions only triggered her false memories and she came to accept her identity. Working alongside Lincoln and Charlie, Olivia joined the alternate Fringe team as they attempted to hold a dying world together from increasingly deadly "Fringe events."

Meanwhile in our universe, Peter and Fauxlivia became lovers even as she lied, murdered and worse to protect her cover and feed information to the other side. On the alternate world, Olivia hallucinated an apparition of Peter who attempted to help her remember her true self. But before she could realize the implications, Walternate convinced Olivia to help him attempt to use her abilities to cross over into our universe. Those attempts helped trigger Olivia's latent memories of her identity and she lied about the results to Walternate.

Although she was only in our world for seconds, Olivia managed to get a warning to Peter about Fauxlivia, who was forced to incapacitate Peter in order to escape. In the alternate world, Olivia was captured and prepared for vivisection to learn more about her abilities. However, the alternate Broyles freed her because she had saved his son from a serial killer and because she promised to find a way to save both worlds. The alternate Broyles bought Olivia enough time to cross over at the cost of his own life. Back on our world, Peter and the FBI caught Fauxlivia, but when she was loaded onto a truck she was transported back to the alternate world, with the alternate Broyles' dismembered body left in her place.

Olivia struggled with her return as she realized that Fauxlivia had completely stolen her life and her relationship with Peter. At the same time, Walter was tested by The Observers to see if he was willing to sacrifice Peter if it meant saving a young girl. Although Walter was relieved at Peter's survival, The Observers noted that if he was willing to let Peter go once, he would do so again. And just when Peter and Olivia began fixing their relationship, she found herself possessed by the mind of William Bell.

Bell disclosed that he had dosed Olivia with "soul magnets" during their initial meeting, but he was eventually forced to relinquish control of her body in order to save her mind. Afterwards, Peter and Olivia resumed their romance… although he was disturbed by Olivia's casual revelation that a menacing figure in her mindscape was the man who would eventually kill her. In the alternate world, Fauxlivia realized that she was pregnant with Peter's son and she was forcibly brought to term by Walternate's secret agents. Using his own grandson to reactivate the Doomsday device, Walternate began destabilizing our world just as his world was weakened years ago.

Even Fauxlivia realized the horror of what Walternate was doing and she attempted to cross over to warn Peter. To stop his true father, Peter stepped into the Doomsday Device in our world and experienced a vision of the future in which our world survived and the alternate world was destroyed. However, our world was collapsing from Fringe events just like the alternate world had been and Walter was imprisoned for his role in unleashing the Doomsday Device. Peter was also married to Olivia, who ended up dead at the hands of his father, as part of Walternate's ultimate revenge.

Returning from the vision of the future with a newfound purpose, Peter used the Doomsday Device to rip a hole in the universe and bring the two Fringe teams together. Peter explained that the room was a junction between universes… and then vanished completely without anyone noticing. The two Walters traded blame for the war between worlds, but Olivia noted that they had a chance to work together to save both universes now.

Outside, a number of Observers watched with great interest as they noted that because of Peter's actions, he no longer existed.
And that brings us back to the upcoming fourth season, with the two Fringe divisions now reluctantly working side-by-side to prevent a catastrophic fate from overtaking both worlds.  Although Peter never became a part of their lives, his absence will have left large holes in the hearts of both Olivia and Walter.

But Joshua Jackson hasn't left the show, so the question now isn't "who is Peter Bishop?", it's "Where is Peter Bishop?"
The quest for answers begins this Friday, September 23, only on Fox!