"The Road Not Taken" (1.19)


What better time to review this episode than shortly after the season 2 finale, "Over There," a two-part epic show. Before I begin discussing this episode, though, I will warn those who have never seen Fringe but would like to see it to not read any further, as this does contain spoilers. I really like the first scene of the episode, since it pays tribute to earlier episodes in the season, such as "In Which We Meet Mr. Jones," "Ability" and "Midnight." A major question that this episode asks is who removed the Ethics Chapter from the ZFT Manual. My theory is that when Walter and Bell wrote the ZFT Manuscript, their intention was for it to exist for good, but someone removed the Chapter Ethics in order to use it for evil, to experiment the effectiveness of science and technology on this side. Anyway, Walter is seen in this episode drinking Slusho, and whenever I see Slusho in this series, I feel the need to say so, because for those of you who don't know, Slusho is a fictional drink created by J.J. that is featured in many of his works, including Alias, LOST, Cloverfield,Fringe and Star Trek. Something that I think poses even a bigger question than who removed the Ethics Chapter from the ZFT Manual. Olivia sees into the Other Side and sees that both of the "twins" (we also have to consider the possibility that they're clones) died instead of one, and here, Susan Pratt's death was due to her having been Cortexiphan, and Nancy Lewis was a Cortexiphan subject, as well, so since they died on the Other Side from the same cause, does that or does that not confirm that Cortexiphan trials occurred on the Other Side, as well? That is definitely worth thinking about, I think.

As far as Olivia seeing into the Other Side is concerned, many questions are now raised after "Over There" has aired. First of all, in this episode, Olivia sees a Boston building in flames, and back then, we had no idea what that meant. I theorized that since the Other Side is more technologically advanced than this side, perhaps, their technology is destroying their world. Then, I brought up the possibility that efforts on this side to destroy the Other Side were proving fruitful, a theory that I developed after we learn of the Blight in "Grey Matters" (2.10). However, in the finale, we learn that the burning building in this episode as well as the Blight are caused by Quarantines, efforts made by Fringe Division to stop the spread of Soft Spots in the Universe, if I am not mistaken. This doesn't answer everything, though. What causes a Breach? Is a Breach caused by someone trying to cross over, and if so, who was crossing over in this episode when Olivia sees the building on fire? Is it Bell? Is this side using technology against the Other Side like the Other Side is doing with Shapeshifters? In "The Ghost Network" (1.03), we see people on a bus frozen in an amber encasing much like we see outside the Harvard Lab on the Other Side in "Over There," so was what happened on the bus an experiment, and when it worked, it was used against the Other Side?

Secondly, in this episode, alter-Broyles is seen dressed in a white shirt and a tie, much like this Broyles wears, yet in "Over There," he is seen dressed in a short sleeve black shirt and dark pants, much more casual but, at the same time, more militant. Also, the Fringe Division that we see on the Other Side in this episode is very similar to ours, even though in "Over There," we see that Fringe Division is
much more technologically advanced than Fringe Division on this side. Lastly, we see Scarlie in this episode (why does he have that scar?), and not only does he not question Olivia as to why she has blonde hair instead of brown, he isn't bald. I don't know if I should see these observations as continuity errors, though. As far as Fringe Division is concerned, it could be that after the Boston Quarantine, the government supplied Fringe Division with further funding, which led to it being more technological and militant, which could explain alter-Broyles' difference in attire. As far as Scarlie is concerned, it's possible that whatever the reason is for him having to inject himself is also the reason why he shaved his head, or maybe he shaved his head when Fringe Division became more militant. Lastly is Olivia's hair, for which there are a couple of possible explanations. The first is a rather simple one; some women due tend to dye their hair frequently, so perhaps either Altlivia's hair was blonde at the time or Scarlie didn't question her hair being blonde, since he just assumed that she dyed it. The second possibility is that Olivia had actually transferred over as Altlivia, yet we see her as Olivia, kind of like the situation with Nick Lane in "Bad Dreams" (1.17).

I find it odd how Walter just now reveals knowledge of the alternate universe. In "Ability" (1.14), he reads from the ZFT Manual, the part about the alternate universes, as if it is news to him, as if before that moment, he didn't know that the Alterverse existed. That begs a question; was he hiding his knowledge all that time, or had he forgotten? In episode 1.10, "Safe," when Walter tells Peter that he nearly died when he was a boy and that he became obsessed with saving him, does he
thinkthat he was telling him the truth when he tells him that he miraculously recovered? Did he sincerely not remember until September reminded him by taking him to Peter's grave, or was he simply hiding what he knew? If he had forgotten, then how is it that he seems to remember what happened in such detail in "Peter" (2.15)? Did September seriously help him remember that well? I linked Cortexiphan to this episode very early on, as I did in "Bad Dreams" (1.17), knowing that Olivia had to be experiencing the "dreams" due to her having been exposed to Cortexiphan. In this episode, I had a feeling that her "visions" had something to do with the Cortexiphan trials, and, of course, I turned out to be right. Lewis says to Winters in her voicemail message left to him that she took the tests, which is interesting, because when Olivia rescues her from captivity, we see a lightbox in the room, one that is not unlike the one that Olivia is given in "Ability" (1.14).

Speaking of Nancy Lewis, does she have the same ability as Sally Clark, I wonder, the pyro from "Over There, Part 1" (2.21)? I definitely feel the need to mention the cultural references in this episode. Emmanuel Grayson makes a
Star Trek reference (which is funny, because this episode, if I remember correctly, originally aired the same week that J.J.'s Star Trek film premiered), and Peter mentions "little green men," an X-Files reference. I do find Grayson interesting, though, despite the fact that he thinks that he's Spock (does anyone, I wonder, question the extreme resemblance between Spock and William Bell?). He says that "Massive Dynamic is a cover for all manner of unethical behavior." His sentiments are very similar to those of Hicks in episode 1.09, "The Dreamscape," who says that Massive Dynamic is Hell and that William Bell is the Devil. Anyway, I love Peter's sarcasm directed toward Harris ("Always a pleasure seeing you, sir."), and I am so happy that Harris dies in this episode, which is part of the reason why I rank this episode so high. Olivia tells Lewis to focus on anything, which I find so hilarious, because if she has free reign on anything, then why not Harris? That scene is so epic, when Harris stumbles backward, knowing what is about to happen, and then bursts into flames and explodes. I have never been so happy to see someone die.

How the team discovers that Harris is a member of ZFT annoys me, though. Peter uses a disc of glass from the window, claiming that the glass would have recorded the last sound that was made in the room, which just seems a little bit too far-fetched to me, even for
Fringe. Then, after the team successfully captures Lewis screaming and the sound of a number being dialed, Olivia conveniently has an app on her phone which allows the phone to automatically dial a number based on dial tones that the phone hears, an app that she uses. It just seems way too bogus for me for a number of reasons. First of all, does that kind of application even exist, and if it does, who would need that? I suppose that in the rare situation, an FBI Agent could use it, and perhaps, if such an app were to exist, the FBI would supply Olivia with the app, but that's assuming that it could even work; I'm pretty sure that some dial tones make the same sound. Just because of that scene, I want to lower my appreciation for this episode, but I can't, because between the heavy investment in the show's mythology, Harris dying, and the scene between Olivia and Walter at the diner near the end of the episode, this episode is one of my favorites, my second favorite of season one (my first being "Ability"). Besides, during this scene, Peter giving Walter the turntable that he made him is very sweet and is memorable. Walter, obviously heartened by Peter's kindness, says, "Thank you, son," and, of course, he then goes on to talk about a napkin holder that Peter made out of popsicle sticks when he was a child, which was "utterly useless," which he finds amusing. The question is, was it this Peter who made it?

As has been previously mentioned, the scene near the end of the episode between Olivia and Walter is beyond epic. That scene is probably the most intense drama that we see during season one, and even though I totally understand Olivia's frustration, I feel so sorry for and want to hug Walter when he begins to cry, insisting that he can't remember. He tells Olivia that something terrible is coming but that he can't remember what, which we now know is a war that involves shape-shifting soldiers from an alternate universe. What could possibly be more terrible than that? Peter, after Olivia gives up and leaves, comes back from the bathroom and holds Walter's hand, trying to comfort him after seeing him in tears, which is so adorable but heartbreaking. Shortly afterward, Nina makes a trip to Broyles' house and shows him photographs of September, reminding Broyles of what happened the last time that he showed up so often, which, of course, in classic J.J. style, has still not been explained. Walter, when he sees September (after assuming that it was Astrid who walked into the lab, actually calling her Astrid for once) says, "Is it time?" which obviously means that he was expecting September to remind him of something at one point or at least pay him a visit, something into which, at this point, we have gotten a little bit of insight. The episode's final scene is of Nina being shot (which, at first, I thought was with a tranquilizer gun), which is quickly resolved in the finale. I honestly think that this episode is better than the finale, and despite the "window scene," I remember having chills for a good half-hour after it was over, and I give it 9.5 boxes of artificial sugary sweetness.

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