First, the shapeshifter’s return is very effective and the fact that she gets away helps centralize a villain for the first part of Season 4. Michelle Krusiec is great as Nadine (wasn’t that a character’s name on Twin Peaks? I think so), and provides a striking balancing act between likeability and flat-out villainy. We also learn some of the rules of this new, superior shapeshifter, and it’ll be interesting to see where that leads down the road.
Peter’s return is the focal point of “Novation,” and I have mixed feelings about how that was handled. Naturally, it’s great to see Joshua Jackson return to Fringe but I was surprised at Peter’s smug attitude - he seemed oddly out of character. If everyone you knew suddenly forgot who you were, wouldn’t you be a bit more concerned? Perhaps Peter’s play-it-cool attitude is only a front, but it surprised me nonetheless.
There are plenty of other great reveals in “Novation” that hint at the different world of Season 4. Many of these changes involve Nina Sharp, giving her a larger role this season (thank God - she’s awesome). We learn that Nina took Olivia and her sister in when they were young, acting as a foster mother: definitely a cool twist that will have some interesting ramifications down the road.
We also find out that Walter blames Nina for Peter’s death. It turns out the Observer never stepped in to save Peter back in 1985 (as seen in the wonderful Season 2 episode, “Peter”). Oh, and the Fringe division never even heard of the Observer? Yeah, I know, it’s a lot to take in.
This points to my biggest concern of the season: the show is getting so damn complicated. Remember back when there were two of every character? That was a walk in the park compared to what’s happened this year. The entire timeline and mythology has been erased and replaced by a new, different world. And on top of everything, the entire other universe and all the alternate characters still exist and are now connected to this altered timeline.
The longer we stay in this Season 4 universe, the more I wonder how things can be resolved. If we go back to the way things were, what was the point of all this? And if we stay, what was the point of the first three seasons? Maybe I’m over-thinking things but it certainly raises concerns.
And let’s not forget about Olivia’s surreal time-slip at the conclusion of “Novation.” Perhaps the line between the old-world and the new is wearing thin. For now, we have to wait and see what Friday night’s episode brings us. For all my concerns, as Fringe grows increasingly complex, it continues to captivate and entertain... what more could you ask for?