FRINGE in Focus: Peter’s Journey From Hero to Villain

For fans sitting in front of their television sets last Friday night, there was a universal feeling of shock as the shape-shifter killer was revealed.  It was not some peripheral guest-star unmasked in this killing spree.  Rather it was one of our own.  From day-one, the show has been about a mad scientist, his son and the FBI agent assigned to work with them.  Yet as the mask slipped, we all discovered a harsh truth we never expected to see:  Peter Bishop was the killer. 
As our emotions sent us reeling in after-shock, our brains struggled to comprehend what had just happened.  In the four years the show has been on, has there ever been a doubt that Peter was the good guy?  He may have started off as a bit of a shyster and he was reluctant to aid his father, Walter Bishop, in his release from the mental institution and to be the babysitter that Walter needed so that he could work with the FBI.  But as time went by, we all succumbed to the ultimate con: Peter was never the good guy, he was the villain. 
Perhaps Peter himself did not know to what depths he would venture to accomplish his goals.  Yet in “Reciprocity,” the world shifted.  Not because there is an alternate dimension, or because Peter was stolen from that dimension; but because Peter may be a willing participant in the destruction of our universe as we know it.  Did he always know?  Did he always plan to be the one to bring down our universe?  Or was he merely a sleeper-agent that was activated once Peter was brought into the presence of the doomsday device?  Walter certainly wishes to believe that Peter was “weaponized” by the device.  But there is so much we now look back on and wonder about.  Was Peter blind to Faux-Olivia’s charade or was he merely playing along in a double-con of his own?
With one shift of the kaleidoscope and all our perceptions about the man we thought we knew are gone.

It is a rare day when a television show can pull off such a magnificent illusion.  It was as if we had sat through the entire film “The Illusionist” and still did not understand that the entire story had been intended to fool the audience as much as the players in the story.  It is conceivable that the writers will attempt to mitigate the uncertainty and pretend as if Peter had only changed recently — and perhaps only due to some latent programming or instinctive response to the doomsday device. 
But for some of us, we will now always wonder if we were the intended victims.  Were we, the audience, intended to be fooled along with everyone else?  Was the ultimate game merely an illusion so that Peter would gain everyone’s trust until he was in position to unleash an explosion that would eliminate the very fabric of our universe?
It is enough to make one’s brain explode as we try to comprehend what is happening and how far back the treachery goes. 
When Faux-Olivia arrived in our universe, we were privy to the switch.  We knew perfectly well that she was not our Olivia.  Olivia had been replaced and captured on the Other Side.  Our sympathy and outrage traveled wherever she was — we were there with her.  We rooted for and supported her struggles to retain her identity; and we prayed for her safe return. 
Yet in this latest masterful stroke, we sit back in both shock and awe.  Imagine such a trick as to fool the audience for 4 years.  Is it possible?  Is Peter truly the villain that he now appears to be?  It is wondrous to behold if it is true.  It is equally horrifying if it is true. 
How dare the writers take our beloved hero and turn him into a villain?!  Yet, even in our outrage, it smacks of sheer genius. 
The outcome is not certain or determined.  But one thing is:  fans everywhere will be glued to their television sets to find out.  Will the series that has built up our expectations dare to defy the fans and allow Peter to be the villain he has proven to be? 
Suddenly so much makes sense, if they do.  In the episode “The Firefly,” the Observers were testing Walter to find out if, this time, he would allow his son to die.   The test proved successful as Walter wrestled with his love for Peter and yet still chose to let Peter go towards a fate that meant certain death.  The Observers knew what Walter had not yet realized:  Peter should not be saved.  Peter will bring about the destruction of everything we know and love — he is the weapon that will destroy our universe.  And, after this last episode, Walter finally sees his son as the deceiver that he is.
Peter is but a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  He has fooled us all.  It sent shivers down our spines as we slowly realized the depth of the deception.  But what will haunt us more:  Peter being the villain, or if he succeeds in destroying our universe?
As intriguing as the possibility is that our universe would be destroyed and our remaining heroes (Walter, Olivia, Broyles and Astrid) stranded in the alternate-verse to continue their adventures and survive, it is still hair-raising.  “Fringe” may exist in a sci-fi realm, but it still feels like home for most of us.  It would be devastating to lose our home and be thrust to into making a new beginning in a new universe.
But would it be any stranger than learning that Peter is not the hero we believed him to be — and that he was the villain all along? 
Whatever the future holds in store, it will be heart-breaking yet enthralling simultaneously.  Never before has the future been so highly anticipated.  We had always hoped that “Fringe” would deliver upon its promise of something mind-boggling — and now that it has, we are captivated.

Tiffany Vogt is a contributing writer to TheTVAddict. She has a great love for television and firmly believes that entertainment is a world of wondrous adventures that deserves to be shared and explored – she invites you to join her. Please feel free to contact Tiffany at or follow her at on Twitter (@TVWatchtower).

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  • John

    I think you may be over reaching in your view of Peter. I don’t think he is the VILLIAN bent of destroying our universe, but a peson using extreme measures to fight the enemy.

    The shapeshifters aren’t human or even alive. They are contructs desgned to infiltrate our universe. He is destroying machines, not killing people.

  • TonyKay

    Wow! So quick to toss Peter under the buss there!

    I admit, I was as shocked as the next person, but maybe he’s just REALLY desperate to get all the information possible to help save *our* universe, and he doesn’t think the normal methods will produce results.

    Unless, of course, you are privy to some information that the rest of us commoners are not …

  • I actually agree. I thought the analysis was interesting, but I don’t think that’s what’s happening. You never know, though.

  • Either way, it isn’t going to take long to find out 🙂

  • It’s like seeing a crack in the universe as we know it. The possibility is there and it is fascinating to consider. It would be risk-taking as the fans are clearly do not want Peter to be the villain, but it would open up so many great storylines and make us re-think everything we thought we knew about Peter. Can’t wait to see what they do next!

  • Interesting… the thought hadn’t ocurred to me that Peter might have been bad from the beginning! I thought this episode just showed that he’s got a bit too much of Walternate in him, in that he won’t let anything get in his way, the ends justify the means kind of deal. In this case he felt completely justified in killing the shapeshifters -“they’re not even human” he tells Walter- in order to find out what they know about the machine, about him, about how to avoid being the cause of the end of our Universe.
    I’m holding on to that Peter! I don’t believe he’s truly evil, just humanly flawd.

  • Fridayfringefan

    It is only a possibility. If Peter turns out to be THE VILLAIN and we were all fooled for two and a half years (not four), it will be a shocking twist. But after the twist: what? A big twist does not always make an enduring story. It’s much better for things to be grey than simple-minded black and white such as: WOW! Peter’s agenda was always to destroy the universe. The rest of the season will tell us whether the writers are going for one twist or deep-seated questions about morality and right and wrong.

  • JAR

    I agree that this was a well written article, but also that it takes the demonizing of Peter a little too far. If this was a long-con as Tiffany suggests, I would have to both applaud the writers (had me fooled – although I thought that it was fairly obvious from the beginning of this particular episode that Peter was the shape-shifter ‘killer’) but also condemn them on making one big mistake. Peter is not a villian and should not be a villian. I think as a writer you would know that Peter is a beloved character and changing his role in the show so durastically could cost viewers, as we want Peter as our champion, not our undoing.

  • Charles Carmichael

    Very interesting article but Fringe has only been on since September 2008.By my count that would be 2 years and 5 months.

  • Gio22castillo

    just finshed the whole thing and the girl the one that made everyone now awere of the heros thats how it ended or is there something i missed

  • I really think you missed the mark and overanalyzed something into a ludicrous theory that will never ring true. Peter is not a villain. And he was never a strict hero to begin with. This entire article had be WTFing. I don’t agree with anything, and I think you missed the point of this episode. And Peter as a character in general.

  • You’ve made one mistake in your observations. You stated, ” The Observers knew what Walter had not yet realized: Peter should not be saved.”

    Except that was not true. Our Peter died as he should have. However, remember that in “1985” The Observer who was there to witness Walternate discover the cure was seen by accident. All the Observers discussed the problem, but agreed that there would be a chance to remedy the mistake. And there was – the Observer saved Peter and Walter from drowning. If the Peter we know was meant to die, it wasn’t in 1985.

  • Beautiful piece! Who the heck knows? How fun to ponder everything you imagined…I would explore the consequences of Peter’s heart, broken by Fauxlivia. I say it was her that he fell in love with, not his idea of Olivia. Heart break is responsible for more than a handful of villians in this universe……and I think we should go back to calling them all the multiverse. Here’s to Friday night in North America.

  • As another commenter mentioned, I think Tiffany didn’t take into account the emotional trauma that Peter has endured over the past year. He found out that his father was a fake, that his real father was a sadistic psychopath bent on destroying the only home Peter knows as well as the woman he loves, and that his real mother was still alive. He also found out that his real father wants to use him to destroy the world! Subsequently, he was deceived by a woman who appeared to be his true love but was really an enemy spy. Then the real woman comes back and doesn’t want anything to do with him because he was deceived by her look alike. Holy crow! That’s a lot for a guy to take in. I think anyone would get a little desperate in such a situation. It’s just as possible and maybe more likely that Peter is taking matters into his own hands as he has become the center of this new potential calamity, and desires to bring it all to the best possible end. However, I don’t believe that the writers will give us any sure evidence either way until the big moment so that we can spend the rest of the season wondering if we can or can’t trust Peter. I agree with Tiffany, the writers are genius, but I also agree with the commenters – let’s not throw our hero under the bus…you know until he really does willingly destroy the universe or clearly tries to kill our heroine. Until then, he deserves the benefit of the doubt. 🙂

  • Rosadorocio

    We are divided! Men are up to believe anything that leaves Peter out of the hook! It’s the device!!! Is they best explanation.
    The girls are still struggling with Peter notrecognizing the faux-Olivia and will follow any explanation that help them make sense of that; even if that means that Peter was assimilated by the machine from the first touch while in the other dimension!!!
    What absolutely enchanted me about Fringe is that the whole family watch a one hour episode and it will give us a theme to discuss for the whole week!!

  • Shellypage91

    over-analyzing just a bit. this isn’t lost, it’s fringe, and peter isn’t the villian. yeah he probably had some sort of realization while he was over-there but he cares about the ppl in this universe and he’s not going to intentionally harm them. Remember when he said he didn’t fit in either universe, well he’s right. He’s just trying to figure this whole thing out like the rest of us.

  • Phariad

    It actually didn’t catch me off guard, though I think that’s because our interpretations differ. I feel as though Peter does not want to destroy both universes, and that he was instead just going much further than any of us would to get answers. This makes sense as A) Peter has always acted on his own accord, and been on his own, and, B) He was a con-man! He was a bad person, and still is.

    That being said, I don’t believe that he is actively trying to destroy both universes, but that’s an interesting perspective that I hadn’t thought of. Only time will tell.

  • Lostchildslife

    I want to know how he was able to think so much like the Olivia’s that he broke the code long before the real Olivia could. Does he know her that well?
    I don’t think he will turn out to be a villain I think he is just more willing to do “dirty work” to get to what he thinks he needs. Look back to the first episode when he went into the interview room and bashed the info out of the suspect with only a coffee cup to the hand. He will do what he thinks he needs to, especially if it helps Olivia.
    Right now he has what this machine might be able to do and how he fits into it looming over his head, over the heads of everyone he has become close to. I didn’t expect him to sit back and do next to nothing as Olivia runs around trying to piece things together.

  • Dotty_dot2009

    honestly i’m not sure, while i would love for peter to be the villian as of yet he hasn’t really been the type to get the job done wether it be for good or bad. he doesn’t go into anythin whole heartedly. he faked to get into MIT, has a very shaded past that he runs from, he even walks out on walter when it gets to much, but on the flip side he’ll do anything for olivia or to solve a case and seems to really care about what they are going in fringe division so i’m on the fence, just gonna sit back and enjoy where the show takes me for now. not gonna try to figure out anything just yet.

  • Wow. I found this article to be seriously upsetting, and a huge overanalyzation. I agree that it would be incredibly sloppy writing to have made Peter the villain all along. It not only doesn’t make sense, it would alienate countless viewers. We definitely need to keep in mind what Peter has been through and the fact that with Fringe, there is no way to know the extent to which the machine, combined with Peter’s trauma, affected him in this episode. I don’t even necessarily think it was bad of Peter to kill the shapeshifters. Peter may be flawed, but he is good.

  • Hakatani

    I think you’re jumping here. I see it as him being disturbed at the fact that he’s a component to a weapon of mass destruction and he’s doing whatever he can to try and solve the mystery of the machine. And he’s doing it through whatever means necessary – in this case, hunting down these shapeshifters and taking their ‘black boxes’ to see if they have any info on them. Dude is disturbed, angry, and maybe even desperate.

  • Patch

    Villian? Peter’s actions were right! Even if the FBI managed to capture those mercury-bleeding, walking/talking toasters, they weren’t going to give up anything. Peter’s pre-emptive strike has blinded the OtherSide’s intel capabilities, making it easier for OurWorld to mount a counterattack.

    Give the guy a medal!!!

    “You’re either with us, or you’re against us!” – some famous American leader

  • Okay SPOILER ALERT or SUGGESTED … so if you do not want to know, STOP Reading.

    After watching “Concentrate and Ask Again” … I was like what do you mean ‘he still has feelings for her’ and Weiss being all ‘depends on which Olivia, he chooses’. To the first I was like that’s just some melodrama being thrown in to keep it spicy, so whatever (by the by, I love the melodrama … it’s what keeps me hooked on the show). To the second, I chalked it up to the anagram board ‘Don’t trust ‘stupid’ Sam Weiss’ and I don’t. I mean no matter what a telepath says or a Fringe Yoda might suggest … there is no fracking way I would even for a second doubt Peter or that he would ever choose Bolivia over Olivia … he loves our Olivia. And then I just read a spoiler and now I can see how Peter might be forced to choose Bolivia over Olivia … and that sucks and it puts me on edge. Stupid producers of Fringe … leaking this one spoiler, you really know how to keep us fans on our toes … don’t ya?

  • Ruth Sharp

    I never felt comfortable with the actor who portrays Peter. I felt the part was miscast. I even felt uncomfortable when Peter started to develop a closer relationship with Olivia, thinking “not him”. Now I wonder if it was just brilliant casting.