'Fringe': 14 Key Plot Points to Get You Up to Speed
1. How are Olivia Dunham, Peter Bishop, and Walter Bishop connected?
Olivia (Anna Torv) is an FBI agent leading a task force called the Fringe Division to investigate ''The Pattern.'' Walter Bishop (John Noble) is a brilliant scientist, a pioneer in so-called ''fringe science,'' whom the FBI believes to be one of the few people with the intelligence to figure out the meaning of the Pattern and other paranormal phenomena. Unfortunately, Walter's memory has been shattered and he's been institutionalized for years. At the start of the series, his son, Peter (Joshua Jackson) — a mysterious jack-of-all-trades, not always on the right side of the law — reluctantly agreed to help Olivia bring Walter back into the everyday world to help the FBI.
2. What is ''The Pattern''?
''The Pattern'' is a series of unexplained, often violent or bizarre events that have occurred all over the world. Walter believes these incidents are the result of experiments being conducted by the visitors from an alternate universe.
3. Why does Walter behave so eccentrically?
Walter had a breakdown and spent 17 years in a mental institution. He retains his scientific brilliance, but the social part of his brain seems a bit fried. (He's also had bits of his brain removed by his partner, William Bell, at his own request — because of ?what he was becoming.?) He tends to say whatever he's thinking without regard to politeness. He has an insatiable sweet tooth and enjoys coffee cake and Twizzlers in particular. He has a poor sense of direction and gets lost easily. In many ways, Peter has to take care of his father as he would a child, which is not the kind of father-son relationship either of them wants.
4. Does Olivia possess extraordinary powers? If so, why?
Yes, she does. We saw in the first-season episode ''Ability'' that, as a result of being injected with Walter and Bell's experimental drug Cortexiphan as a child, she was able to rapidly complete a series of extremely intricate memory tests that prevented a bomb from detonating. Over the course of season 2, she learned to revive those powers, and used them to cross her team to the parallel universe — as well as save lives during a terrorist attack on her home world.
5. Who are the Observers?
The Observers are stoic bald men who have appeared in every episode, sometimes just observing in the background, sometimes as active participants. They seem to be on our heroes' side. They have said that Peter ''must live'' and ''is important''; one helped save Peter and Walter when they crashed through a frozen lake and might have died. Another Observer helped Walter find a device that ''plugged'' or closed a portal to the alt-universe.
6. What is Massive Dynamic and who is Nina Sharp, its boss?
Massive Dynamic is a vast, billion-dollar corporation founded by William Bell. His chief operating officer for the company is Nina Sharp (Blair Brown). She lost part of her right arm while reaching into a ''soft spot'' in our world that connects to the alt-universe, and as a result has a mechanical prosthesis. Massive Dynamic is active in developing technology that can help explore the alternate universe and help protect this world. Or destroy it. We don't know yet.
7. Who is William Bell?
Bell (Leonard Nimoy) was Walter's former lab partner. They conducted many highly questionable experiments including drug trials on a group of children that included a young Olivia. Where Walter's experiences led him to a breakdown, for Bell, they led to a path into the alternate universe, from which he has communicated with Olivia and warned her of a coming battle, a war to end all wars. In season 2?s finale, Bell sacrificed himself by generating enough energy to send Olivia, Walter, and Peter home from the parallel universe.
8. What's in the parallel universe?
The parallel universe is nearly identical to ours, but something happened to make it evolve differently. Certain events on our world never occurred there — most dramatically, at the end of season 1 we saw that the World Trade Center still stands in what is over there known as ''Manhatan.'' Ominously, parts of alt-Boston and all of alt-Madison Square Garden are under quarantine, and there are suggestions that at least part of that universe is ruled by a military state. We?ll learn more about this world in season 3's first few episodes. Apparently, John Lennon is still alive.
9. What were they all doing in the parallel universe?
Stay with us: The Peter from our world died when he was 7 years old. The Peter we know and love is the alternate-universe Peter, something he was unaware of until Olivia saw him ''glimmer? — give off the radiant energy of objects that have crossed over from the alt-universe. She pressured Walter to tell Peter the truth, but he soon learned it for himself and returned to the parallel universe with his real father (a.k.a. ''Walternate,'' who is the other world's secretary of defense). Walter and Olivia crossed over to bring him back.
10. Who are the bad guys?
There is an unnamed faction — who have taken over the bodies of other people and are therefore knows as ''shape-shifters'' — that has tried to kill Olivia and prevent her from meeting with William Bell. The shape-shifters are led by Thomas Newton. Another antagonistic force is ZFT, whose members believe that technological advances will lead to the Apocalypse. And now that Walter and Olivia sprang Peter from the parallel universe, their alternates are pretty pissed too.
11. How pissed are they?
Pretty pissed. Currently, real-world Olivia is locked up in the parallel universe, and alternate Olivia is pretending to be her in our world — presumably to kidnap Peter and return him to Walternate.
12. Why do the Alternate Universe folks need Peter so badly?
While Peter was on the other side, Walter and Olivia received a note from an Observer identifying Peter as part of a prophecy that would end the world. It seems his real father — Walternate — is building a machine to destroy our world, and Peter's genomes will complete it. Luckily, Peter realized this would be, as they say, bad, and decided to come ''home'' before fulfilling the prophecy.
13. Are Olivia and Peter romantically involved?
Yes. The two kissed in the season finale, and it was Olivia's feelings for him that in part persuaded Peter to return to our world. But like everything else on this show, it's gotten complicated, primarily because Peter doesn't know that the Olivia who traveled back to our world at the end of last season is the alt-Olivia. Will she continue the romance as part of her strategy to capture Peter? Will Peter notice he's not kissing the correct Olivia? And should Olivia ever get out of solitary confinement in the alt-universe, will she take up with alt-Olivia's boyfriend, Frank?
14. What's up with the cow in Walter Bishop's lab?
The cow is named Gene. Walter requested a cow for ''experimentation'' purposes, but has ended up thinking Gene adds a nice calming element to the lab. We're really, really hoping Gene is not from the alternate universe, and that this cow is not a mole for Massive Dynamics.