Alone in the World (Fringe)

Last updated
"Alone in the World"
Fringe episode
Episode no.Season 4
Episode 3
Directed by Miguel Sapochnik
Written by David Fury
Production code3X7003
Original air dateOctober 7, 2011
Guest appearance(s)
  • William Sadler as Dr. Bruce Sumner
  • Evan Bird as Aaron Sneddon
  • Connor Stanhope as Matthew Mitnovitz
  • Matteo Stefan as Brian O'Toole
Episode chronology
"One Night in October"
"Subject 9"
Fringe (season 4)
List of Fringe episodes

"Alone in the World" is the third episode of the fourth season of the Fox science fiction drama television series Fringe , and the series' 68th episode overall.

<i>Fringe</i> (season 4) season of television series

The fourth season of the American science fiction television series Fringe premiered on Fox on September 23, 2011, and concluded on May 11, 2012, consisting of 22 episodes. The series is produced by Bad Robot Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television. The show was officially renewed for a fourth season on March 24, 2011.

Fox Broadcasting Company American television network

The Fox Broadcasting Company is an American commercial terrestrial television network that is a flagship property of the Fox Corporation. The network is headquartered at 1211 Avenue of the Americas in New York City, with additional offices at the Fox Broadcasting Center and at the Fox Television Center in Los Angeles.

Science fiction Genre of speculative fiction

Science fiction is a genre of speculative fiction that has been called the "literature of ideas". It typically deals with imaginative and futuristic concepts such as advanced science and technology, time travel, parallel universes, fictional worlds, space exploration, and extraterrestrial life. Science fiction often explores the potential consequences of scientific innovations.


It was written by David Fury and directed by Miguel Sapochnik.

David Fury writer; Producer

David Fury is an American television writer, producer, actor and director.

Miguel Sapochnik British film and television director

Miguel Sapochnik is an English film and television director and former storyboard artist of Argentine origin. He is best known as the director of the feature film Repo Men, and as a director for the HBO epic fantasy series Game of Thrones, for which he won the award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series at the 68th Primetime Emmy Awards and Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Drama Series at the 69th Directors Guild of America Awards.


Walter (John Noble) is struggling with the hallucinations of Peter (Joshua Jackson), but refuses to talk about it to the Fringe team or to his psychologist (William Sadler), fearing they will consider him insane and put him back in the mental institution.

John Noble Australian actor and director

John Noble is an Australian actor and theatre director of more than 80 plays. He is best known for his roles as Dr. Walter Bishop in the US Fox science fiction television series Fringe, and Henry Parrish in the Fox action-horror series Sleepy Hollow. His most high-profile film role was as Denethor in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He also provided the voice of the DC Comics supervillain Scarecrow in the 2015 video game Batman: Arkham Knight, where his character served as the main antagonist. In 2015, he joined the main cast of the television series Elementary as Sherlock Holmes's father. He was also cast as a doctor in the Australian TV series All Saints. In 2012, Noble was diagnosed with osteoporosis. His charity, Noble Bones, helps to raise awareness for the disease.

Joshua Jackson Canadian actor

Joshua Jackson is a Canadian-American actor. He has appeared in primetime television and in over 30 film roles. His well-known roles include Pacey Witter in Dawson's Creek, Charlie Conway in The Mighty Ducks film series, Peter Bishop in Fringe, and Cole Lockhart in The Affair. His other film roles include Cruel Intentions, The Skulls, and Shutter. Jackson won the Genie Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in the Canadian independent film One Week.

William Sadler (actor) American actor

William Thomas Sadler is an American film and television actor. His television and motion picture roles have included Chesty Puller in The Pacific, Luther Sloan in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Sheriff Jim Valenti in Roswell, convict Heywood in The Shawshank Redemption, Senator Vernon Trent in Hard to Kill, and the Grim Reaper in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey and Bill & Ted Face the Music, a role for which he won the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor, and his role as Colonel Stuart opposite Bruce Willis in Die Hard 2. He played the character of President of the United States, Matthew Ellis, in Iron Man 3, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and WHIH Newsfront, all set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He also recurs as Steve McGarrett's murdered father, John McGarrett, in the 2010 remake of the 1968 television series, Hawaii Five-O.

The Fringe team is alerted to the discovery of the bodies of two teenage boys in a service tunnel; though only missing for less than a day, their bodies show signs of long-term decomposition and fungal infection. As the bodies are moved to Walter's laboratory and the nearby morgue, the team discovers evidence of a third boy, Aaron (Evan Bird), who may have been present at the time the other two were infected, and he is taken to Walter's lab. Walter, while examining Aaron, finds that the boy lives with his neighbors, his father having died and his mother being away on business travel in Europe. Aaron, however, appears unaffected by the fungus. Walter allows him to stay with him in the lab, bonding with him and explaining how he lost his own son Peter as well as the Peter from the parallel universe.

Walter observes that the fungus on the corpse in his lab continues to grow rapidly, but he is able to contain it just before it expels a deadly cloud of spores. The same happens to the body in the morgue, but they are unable to evacuate the facility in time, and two hospital staff are killed by the expelled fungal spores. The spores leave a network of tendrils that cover the morgue, and which continue growing towards the drains in the room. The Fringe team is able to kill the spores using ultraviolet light. They subsequently discover a much larger fungal network in the service tunnel. When they try to expose this network to ultraviolet light and high temperatures, Walter observes Aaron suffering from a high fever. Walter quickly surmises that the fungal network (which he refers to as "Gus") is actually part of a single organism that functions like a giant brain. "Gus" has been able to make a psychic link with Aaron, who had spent several days previously in the service tunnel, and if the organism is killed, Aaron will likely die. The Fringe team finds that the organism is growing rapidly, spreading out over several city blocks and to public places, and give Walter limited time to find a solution before they will be forced to kill the organism regardless of Aaron's health.

Ultraviolet Electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength shorter than that of visible light, but longer than X-rays

Ultraviolet (UV) designates a band of the electromagnetic spectrum with wavelength from 10 nm to 400 nm, shorter than that of visible light but longer than X-rays. UV radiation is present in sunlight, and contributes about 10% of the total light output of the Sun. It is also produced by electric arcs and specialized lights, such as mercury-vapor lamps, tanning lamps, and black lights. Although long-wavelength ultraviolet is not considered an ionizing radiation because its photons lack the energy to ionize atoms, it can cause chemical reactions and causes many substances to glow or fluoresce. Consequently, the chemical and biological effects of UV are greater than simple heating effects, and many practical applications of UV radiation derive from its interactions with organic molecules.

Walter races to find non-invasive ways to break the link between Aaron and the organism, ultimately concluding with reluctance that lobotomy may be the only answer. However, with the organism having breached a subway station, Broyles (Lance Reddick) orders its immediate destruction. As Olivia (Anna Torv) and Lincoln (Seth Gabel) prepare to destroy the fungus network by injecting a toxin (provided by Massive Dynamic) into its heart, Walter finds that Aaron has become emotional, fearing that there is no one that cares for him. Realizing that Aaron's emotions are feeding the organism, Walter comforts the boy. Aaron becomes tranquil at Walter's display of affection, and the organism starts to die out. The Fringe team is able to destroy the remaining organism without harming Aaron. Walter gives Aaron one of Peter's old toys as Aaron is taken off to a hospital.

Lobotomy Neurosurgical operation

A lobotomy, or leucotomy, is a form of psychosurgery, a neurosurgical treatment of a mental disorder that involves severing connections in the brain's prefrontal cortex. Most of the connections to and from the prefrontal cortex, the anterior part of the frontal lobes of the brain are severed. It was used for psychiatric and occasionally other conditions as a mainstream procedure in some Western countries for more than two decades. This was despite general recognition of frequent and serious side effects. While some people experienced symptomatic improvement with the operation, the improvements were achieved at the cost of creating other impairments. The procedure was controversial from its initial use in part due to the balance between benefits and risks. Today, lobotomy has become a disparaged procedure, a byword for medical barbarism and an exemplary instance of the medical trampling of patients' rights.

Lance Reddick American actor

Lance Reddick is an American actor and musician. He is best known for playing Cedric Daniels in The Wire and Phillip Broyles in Fringe. He is also known for portraying Detective Johnny Basil on Oz and Matthew Abaddon in Lost. Additionally, he provided both the voice and likeness for video game characters Martin Hatch in Quantum Break, Sylens in Horizon Zero Dawn and Commander Zavala in the Destiny franchise.

Anna Torv Australian actress

Anna Torv is an Australian actress known for her roles as FBI agent Olivia Dunham on television series Fringe (2008–2013) for which she was nominated for the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series in 2011 and as Doctor Wendy Carr in Netflix's Mindhunter (2017–present).

In the epilogue, Walter determines that the only way to stop seeing visions of Peter is to perform his own lobotomy. Olivia arrives in the lab in time to prevent Walter from seriously hurting himself and learns that he has been seeing an unknown man for several weeks. Olivia pulls out a sketch that she drew of a man, the same person that Walter has been seeing, and Walter realizes that he is not insane. Olivia admits she does not know who the man is, as he does not appear in the FBI database. The two agree they need to figure out his identity together.


"Alone in the World" was the first Fringe episode written by co-executive producer David Fury, well known as a producer/writer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel , and a writer of several episodes on the television series Lost and 24 . Fury joined the series after the end of the third season, in May 2011. [1] Miguel Sapochnik, a collaborator on House and the 2010 film Repo Men , served as the episode's director. [2]

<i>Angel</i> (1999 TV series) American television series (1999-2004)

Angel is an American television series, a spin-off from the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The series was created by Buffy's creator, Joss Whedon, in collaboration with David Greenwalt. It aired on The WB from October 5, 1999, to May 19, 2004, consisting of five seasons and 110 episodes. Like Buffy, it was produced by Whedon's production company, Mutant Enemy.

<i>Lost</i> (TV series) American television series

Lost is an American drama television series that originally aired on ABC from September 22, 2004, to May 23, 2010, over six seasons, comprising a total of 121 episodes. The show contains elements of supernatural and science fiction, and follows the survivors of a commercial jet airliner flying between Sydney and Los Angeles, after the plane crashes on a mysterious island somewhere in the South Pacific Ocean. The story is told in a heavily serialized manner. Episodes typically feature a primary storyline set on the island, augmented by flashback or flashforward sequences which provide additional insight into the involved characters.

<i>24</i> (TV series) American television series (2001–2010)

24 is an American action drama television series produced for the Fox network, created by Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran, and starring Kiefer Sutherland as counter-terrorist agent Jack Bauer. Each season, comprising 24 episodes, covers 24 hours in Bauer's life using the real time method of narration. Premiering on November 6, 2001, the show spanned 192 episodes over eight seasons; the series finale broadcast on May 24, 2010. In addition, a television film, 24: Redemption, was broadcast between seasons six and seven, on November 23, 2008. 24 returned with a ninth season titled 24: Live Another Day, which aired from May 5 to July 14, 2014. 24: Legacy, a spin-off series featuring new characters, premiered on February 5, 2017. After the cancellation of Legacy in June 2017, Fox announced its plan to develop a new incarnation of the franchise.

Some television critics speculated that Walter's nickname for the fungus, "Gus", was a reference to Gustavo "Gus" Fring, a character from the television series Breaking Bad . The following day after the broadcast, Fury posted on Twitter to address this, explaining that Gus was simply short for fungus. [3]

Guest actor William Sadler reprised his role as Dr. Sumner, Walter's therapist from St. Clair's. Sadler last appeared in the season one episode, "The Equation". [2] [4]

Cultural references and music

Folk singer Bob Dylan's song "Quinn the Eskimo (Mighty Quinn)", covered by Manfred Mann, plays in the background while Walter examines Aaron. [2] [3] Because covers of the song have been "slightly altered and reinterpreted" for years, Entertainment Weekly writer Lanford Beard noted its use "seemed [a] particularly on-point metaphor for the cult show’s current season." [5] Walter says to Aaron that "Toys are meant to be played with", a reference to the film Toy Story. He then acknowledges this by saying he saw the movie with the talking toys and that he found it quite disturbing.



"Alone in the World" was watched by 3.2 million viewers, earning a 1.3 rating for the adults 18-49 range. This was an increase of 8% from the previous episode, even with a decline in the preceding Kitchen Nightmares episode. [6]


"I wish there’d been a little more to the plot of 'Alone In The Dark,' and more to do with the series’ master-plot. But I can’t fault Fury and Sapochnik for the many memorable moments and images in this episode: the eerie glow of Gus’ tendrils seen through night-vision goggles; the morgue guy refusing to answer the phone, and ending up frozen and decaying over an exploded corpse; Walter dumping another exploding corpse into a container just in the nick of time; and of course Walter sitting alone in the dark with a hammer and a spike and a book on lobotomization."

The A.V. Club reviewer Noel Murray [2]

Andrew Hanson from the Los Angeles Times expressed uneasiness that the victims were children, and was skeptical that Olivia and Lincoln would have removed their hazmat suits when encountering the center of the fungus. [7] IGN writer Ramsey Isler rated "Alone in the World" 7.0 out of 10; he praised John Noble's performance and the special effects, but explained "the first 90% of this episode is basically 20 minutes of material stretched out over the majority of the episode. This story could have been told in a half-hour show, with much more exciting pacing." [4] Isler did however enjoy the final minutes of the episode, calling it "an uplifting note to a rather depressing story, and for the first time this season it leaves our characters with an explicit purpose and direction." [4]

The A.V. Club 's Noel Murray gave the episode a B-, explaining that while the writers did a "solid job", it was "a big step down from last week’s magnificent 'One Night in October'". [2] He continued, "The problem is that the way the episode plays out requires Walter to save the day by talking Aaron out of the mental/emotional clutches of Gus, which isn’t exactly the most visually dynamic climax to an action-adventure show. (Plus, the “talk down” has become kind of a cliché in genre fiction...) I liked the moment between Walter and Aaron earlier in the episode where he got the kid to admit that he intentionally led the bullies to Gus, but the big final moment between the two was less affecting." [2] Murray concluded that he was surprised little was mentioned about the parallel universes. [2]

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  1. Goldberg, Lesley (May 19, 2011). "David Fury Joins 'Fringe' as Writer-Producer". The Hollywood Reporter . Retrieved May 29, 2012.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Murray, Noel (2011-10-07). "Alone in the World". The A.V. Club . Retrieved 2011-10-07.
  3. 1 2 Jensen, Jeff (2011-10-08). "'Fringe' recap: The Fungus Among Us". Entertainment Weekly . Retrieved 2011-10-08.
  4. 1 2 3 Isler, Ramsey (2011-10-08). "Fringe: "Alone in the World" Review". IGN . Retrieved 2011-10-08.
  5. Beard, Lanford (2011-10-14). "TV Jukebox: 'Dancing With the Stars,' 'Fringe,' 'Jersey Shore' feature our favorite songs on TV this week". Entertainment Weekly . Retrieved 2011-10-14.
  6. Hibbard, James (2011-10-08). "'Fringe' ratings improve on Friday". Entertainment Weekly . Retrieved 2011-10-08.
  7. Hanson, Andrew (2011-10-08). "'Fringe' recap: Gus Busters". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved 2011-10-08.