Walter Bishop becomes an animal-human hybrid, in this ludicrous scene from last night's Fringe. But he's not the only one confronting a monstrous side of himself — last night's episode found a scary new spin on the theme of dopplegangers.

Spoilers ahead!

Walter's transformation, we're told, is temporary, but what about Peter's?

At the start of the episode, Peter comes into contact with "our" version of the ancient superweapon from the First People, and his mere presence sets it in frenetic motion. But the weapon also changes Peter somehow — it turns him into a psychotically proactive version who's willing to do whatever it takes to get answers. So this newly dangerous version of Peter tracks down all of the shapeshifters whom Fauxlivia had identified in her notes, kills them and takes their data discs.

(There are a lot of things about this plotline that I'm still unclear on — like:

  • how Peter deciphered Fauxlivia's "code" before anyone else,
  • how he got access to her files in the first place,
  • what info he specifically wanted from those data discs,
  • why he didn't tell his teammates what he was up to,
  • why he only killed one shapeshifter at a time,
  • why he stuck to the order in which they were identified in Fauxlivia's notes.
Okay, so maybe that last point is a bit frivolous — but if I ever have a list of people whom I'm killing one by one, I am going to make sure to kill the last person on the list first, just to confuse everybody.)

Anyway, it's not clear what Peter's real agenda is, or exactly how he's been changed — but this new Peter is scary and manipulative, and Joshua Jackson is doing a great job of making with the shark eyes when he thinks people aren't paying attention. Walter says at the end of the episode that Peter has been "weaponized":

So between the "Walter becomes part chimpanzee" storyline and the "Peter becomes a maniac" storyline, there's a disturbing implication — it doesn't take much to change our behavior. And as much as we'd like to think our essential self-hood is something apart from our bodies, it's not true at all — all you have to do is snort some chimpanzee serum or come into contact with a superweapon that's genetically keyed to your DNA, and suddenly you're a totally different person. As Walter says at the end of the episode, all relationships are reciprocal, and you can't touch something without being touched by it.

(Or to put it another way — if the Observers themselves weren't capable of observing without influencing the thing they observed, then what chance do us regular humans have?)

The third strand of the episode also had to do with someone's monstrous other — but in this case, the shock wasn't the differences in the "monster" version, but the similarities. I'm referring, of course, to Fauxlivia — everybody builds her up in their minds to be this horrible person. And I think PsychoPeter might even be sincere when he says that he thinks she conned him and probably thought he was a fool.

It's comforting to think that Fauxlivia was just a calculating fiend — but then when Olivia finally reads the forbidden diaries of her doppelganger, she discovers that it's weirdly familiar. Not only did Fauxlivia have genuine affection and maybe even love for Peter, but in general she thought like Olivia. The two Olivias see things the same way and use the same language to describe their feelings — because their similarities aren't just physical but deeper and more essential. Being physically the same makes them the same person, in some important ways.

(And no, I'm not going to gloat that the term "Fauxlivia" has apparently become the canonical term for her, after we coined that nickname back in May. Not even remotely gloating. You do have to admit it's better than "Bolivia," anyway.)

So it's a cautionary tale for the next time you want to imitate Walter Bishop and start injecting yourself with random chemicals. Changing your body changes who you are, in some fundamental ways — and conversely, if you met someone who was physically the same as you, they would most likely share more than just a resemblance with you.

Other random things that jump out at me: neat bit of misdirection by making Brandon such a prominent character this time around. The last time we saw him, alt-Brandon was trying to dissect Olivia, so of course we're quick to jump to conclusions. (And Olivia didn't even flinch when she walked into a room with him. She is too cool.)

How to become a monster, the Fringe way

Also, Walter is showing serious signs of starting to throw his weight around at Massive Dynamic, and since he happened to be right about Dr. Falcon being a bad egg, his demands for random people to lose their jobs are only going to get more strident.

Apparently Fauxlivia went from not knowing who Bono was to being a huge U2 fan!

Somebody needs to write a thesis, or a food blog, about Fringe and food. You can tell Peter's turned evil because he's eating peanut butter and jelly late at night, while Walter's personality transformation is expressed through bananas, culminating in what looks like the greatest banana split ever.

And.... that's about all I can think of right now. Let's hope that the "evil Peter" storyline is going someplace cool and isn't just a random diversion to keep the wheels spinning until we actually meet the First People and discover Walternate's plan. All in all, though, this was an episode that kept me going "damn!" every few minutes — and it's really amazing that for a series with just three major characters, Fringe manages to keep startling us over and over again.