Two episodes into the new season, and it’s already clear that ‘Fringe’ is going to ease us back into the swing of things with a series of case-of-the-week stories, rather than provide answers to last season’s big plot twist cliffhanger right away. I suppose that’s to be expected. Fortunately, the case in this past Friday’s episode is pretty interesting.
In ‘One Night in October’, Olivia and Broyles have been asked to travel to the other universe to help their alternate versions track down a serial killer. The suspect is a man named John McClennan. Fauxlivia believes that the best way to find him is to bring the John McClennan from our universe over to theirs to assist the investigation and provide insight. Our John McClennan is a professor of forensic psychology whose specialty is profiling serial killers.
This is no coincidence at all. John describes himself as having a “darkness” in his mind. He might have gone down the path of becoming a serial killer if not for the love of a motherly woman who rescued him as a child from his abusive father. She taught him how to suppress his demons and “step into the light.” Now he studies other serial killers because he understands how they think. Unfortunately, the alternate-John wasn’t as lucky as ours. He had no one to help him, so he built a device that somehow connects his victims’ brains to his so that he can steal their happy memories. This is the only way he knows to quell the voices in his head. The process is, regrettably, fatal for the donors.
After asking for his assistance with a minimum of detail, Olivia drugs John and brings him to the other universe. At first, he believes that he’s profiling a typical serial killer, until he spots a photo of his own father in the man’s house, along with a chair from his childhood home. John freaks out a little. He thinks that this is some sort of practical joke and runs out of the house, only to encounter both Olivias together and see a section of town that’s been ambered. At this point, Olivia has to tell him the truth.
Because John feels a great sympathy for the man he almost became, he sneaks off to find him in a secret storm shelter on his father’s old property. He believes he can teach the man what he knows. As you’d imagine, alternate-John is more than a little weirded out to meet his own doppelganger. When good John tries to explain who he is and what he knows, alt-John knocks him out and hooks him up to the memory-snatching machine. He’ll learn these secrets the direct way.
Olivia manages to rescue John before alt-John can kill him. Having stolen some of the memories, alt-John realizes what a horrible thing he has done, and kills himself. The good John survives, but has significant holes in his memory. He doesn’t remember the alternate universe, which is convenient. But he also doesn’t remember the woman who helped him as a child. Olivia and Broyles worry that this means he’ll have nothing to stop him from becoming a serial killer himself. However, it appears that, even if he doesn’t remember the woman, he does remember what she taught him. The storyline is very thematically interesting and emotionally strong.
The episode also drops a lot of fascinating details about the various changes to both universes that have resulted from Peter’s disappearance. For example, the alternate Broyles is still alive. Fauxlivia makes a reference to still being with her boyfriend Frank (the one who dumped her when she got pregnant with Peter’s child). Also, Fauxlivia was apparently never abused by her stepfather. That last one may not have anything to do with Peter, and may just be a typical variance from one universe to the next.
Amusingly, gas is only $.99 in the alternate universe.
In our world, Walter is still upset about the vision of Peter he saw. He covers all the reflective surfaces in his house and lab. As the episode ends, he hears Peter’s voice begging for his help.
If you pay close attention, the episode also has at lease one subliminal appearance of an Observer watching Olivia.