Entertainment Magazine

Review #3057: Fringe 4.3: “Alone in the World”

Posted on the 10 October 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Written by David Fury
Directed by Miguel Sapochnik

With the major changes to Fringe Prime and Alt-Fringe now more or less explored, it was time for them to delve into one of the really big questions: what happened to Peter to “erase’ him from existence, and what did that mean to Walter? The answer to both questions is pretty much what every fan could have guessed, but that doesn’t make it any less devastating.

Review #3057: Fringe 4.3: “Alone in the World”

Walter has never been entirely familiar with sanity; even in his younger years, he was a driven mad scientist, despite his apparent kindness. The loss of Peter was a crushing blow, so it was perhaps all too predictable for him to use his genius in an attempt to save another version of his son. To lose that son a second time, in relatively short order, has left Walter a shell of a man.

The Walter we knew in the original Fringe Prime timeline was a man with some measure of hope. He saved Peter, but then couldn’t bear to give him back in the end. They eventually became estranged, especially once Walter went into the mental institution. But all those years, Walter had the benefit, however small, of hoping for an eventual reconciliation. And it was that very reconciliation that restored him more and more over the course of three seasons.

This Walter is not that man. This is a man holding onto the last fleeting strands of sanity, and John Noble imbues every scene with his desperation. While longtime fans are perfectly aware of Walter’s history, the recap at the start is a welcome reminder. So when Aaron comes into the picture, needing Walter to save him, Walter is pushed to the brink even more completely than we’ve ever seen before. Walter’s association of Aaron to Peter is perfectly obvious, yet it is more a lever than a hammer; it’s Walter’s descent and investment that communicates, more than anything, how this association opens old wounds inch by inch.

It helps that the threat posed by the fungus is insidious enough to pose a real challenge, both to Walter’s genius and the team’s survival. It couldn’t be something too conventional, after all, like a latent infection that forced Walter to race against time. This was a force of nature, brutal in its efficient propagation. It was no less than an analog for the illness that took Peter from him. It could have been resolved far more quickly, but the stepwise approach was designed to give Walter time to loosen the ties biding his fragile sanity. This was a glimpse at the man broken by his son’s slow decline, and how that experience played out so many years earlier.

All of this may seem justification for the slow pace of the episode, but the final moments drive home the message. Walter has been on the brink due to Peter’s constant cries for help, and this is just what it takes to push him over the edge. Walter’s attempt to conduct a self-lobotomy is absolutely spine-chilling (perhaps more so because of how close he came to actually doing it). For all that Olivia saves him on more than one level, by admitting her own visions and dreams of “that man”, Walter’s assurance that he’s not crazy sounds more desperate than confident.

Events are driving to the point where Peter must soon return, and frankly, a long absence was never in the cards. But I’m glad that the writers waited long enough to add this tour de force for John Noble. It’s ridiculous that he wasn’t nominated for an Emmy for his performance on this show, and after this, it would be a crime against humanity. It’s a fine first entry for Whedon-verse alumni David Fury as well.

Writing: 2/2
Acting: 2/2
Direction: 2/2
Style: 2/4

Final Rating: 8/10

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