The alternates of Fringe

The second half of season four of Fringe picks back up in January, having left us in a period of dramatic tension among the characters.

The newly recovered Peter, after struggling to reconnect with his father and lover, has seemingly given up, deciding that he is living in a world in which he doesn’t belong, and so it must be his quest to return to his own world.

Essentially, he’s treating it like he’s found himself in another alternate dimension, one in which Peter died as a child after being kidnapped from yet another alternate dimension, though the audience knows, and really, Peter should also know, that this is not the case, as the world has been altered in the past.

The life he knows never happened, and there is nothing to go back to. What he’s really wishing for then is to change the past again, something which would destroy all of the people and relationships he’s found in this new world.

Frankly, it all seems a bit forced, and the stakes are disappointingly low. Last season was about saving not just one, but two whole universes from complete erasure.

This season is about Peter’s reemergence, and all of the characters dealing with that. It feels unimportant compared to what they could be doing with the plot-line at this point.

There is a new potential romance, one which Peter strangely supports, between Lincoln and Olivia, but it’s weird after seeing the dynamic of Fauxlivia and Fakoln last season, a dynamic which Olivia should be aware of since it was established early in the season that there is communication, and even cooperation between the parallel worlds.

This might be the most disappointing thing about the first half of this season. They’ve established that there is this one building where the worlds intersect, and that there is an exchange of information between them, but then it just gets dropped. A few episodes in, when the Peter reappearance stuff gets going, the other world is simply forgotten about. What’s going on over there? How will they react to the appearance of Peter? Does Walternate want Peter on his side? What kind of cases is the dirigible-overseen Fringe Division dealing with? Are the new shapeshifters under their control and to what end?

There are so many questions and sub-plots they could really be focusing on, but they’ve all been pushed to the back-burning in favor of exploring Peter’s feelings. Hopefully, the second half of the season gets us back to some higher-stakes aspects of the story.

Fringe returns from its mid-season break on Fox January 13, 2012.