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This is a question about episode 4x16 of Fringe.

This episode, titled "Nothing as It Seems" takes place in the

alternate timeline, after the

return of Peter.

The episode begins with Marshall Bowman on a plane. The same scene occurs at the star of 1x13 ("The Transformation"). The events on the plane in the new timeline occur differently, in that

Bowman does not transform into a maniacal beast on the plane.

However, the same air hostess attends to Bowman and checks on him while his is in the washroom, and Bowman is seated next to exactly the same elderly passenger, despite a difference of three years. (The timeline has changed but not the date.)

It seems highly improbable that Peter's absence (the divergent event between the two timelines) should cause Bowman to make his flight (for the same purpose as the original flight) three years later than he did originally, and also highly improbable that three people with no connection to one another should appear again on the same flight (in particular, that Bowman and the same random passenger should be seated next to one another again, three years later).

Is this a plot hole, or is there a genuine in-universe cause for this highly improbable arrangement of events?

marked as duplicate by SQB, Shevliaskovic, Jason Baker, Null, Ward Feb 18 '15 at 15:08

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  • 1
    I remember noticing something like this too; it seemed bizarre to me that all of these cases, which never happened in the Amber Universe, would suddenly start happening shortly after Peter re-appeared in the timeline. Maybe it's a case of the Universe course-correcting, as it did with Olivia and her memories? – Jason Baker Feb 16 '15 at 0:56
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    @JasonBaker : That's an interesting thought. Still, it seems to the only incident of its kind in the entire season, where such details are copied so precisely. If the timeline were correcting itself, it would seem more logical for it to start picking up from where it left off near to Peter's absence, rather than repeat events from three years before it (and repeat them so exactly). – Praxis Feb 16 '15 at 1:00
  • @Praxis it's been a while since I watched S4 but I thought there were one or two other similar events where Peter already knew what was going to happen because he'd been through it once? e.g. the David Robert Jones escape happened the same way, except w/out Peter there, he escaped into the alternate universe... – KutuluMike Feb 16 '15 at 1:51
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    @MichaelEdenfield : I think you're right. I just found the "Nothing as It Seems" events particularly jarring because I saw no reason for all of the passengers to be the same, three years on. I think there were enough differences in the events surrounding David Robert Jones that they didn't raise any red flags for me. – Praxis Feb 16 '15 at 2:04

As I think has been mentioned in other similar Fringe questions, the show never delves very deeply into just how much Peter's absence changes the timelines. So no, there is never any explicitly in-universe explanation for why so many things happen the same, but others happen so differently, just due to Peter's disappearance.

However, I think that we are expected to place the blame primarily on The Machine. In particular, I think it's a mistake to think of Peter's disappearance starting back when he was a child and rippling forward. I think, instead, we should imagine that his disappearance started the moment The Machine went online, and rippled outward.

Remember why The Machine existed in the first place: Peter's presence was causing two worlds to rip apart. Walter creates the Machine specifically to prevent the catastrophe that was about to happen. But if Peter's disappearance caused too much of a change in the timeline, then Fringe division may never exist, Walter may never build the machine, and a dangerous paradox may occur. So, essentially, the Machine had to fix the timelines so that they remained as close as possible to the original.

In other words, I think you should imagine the Machine started at the point of activation, working it's way backwards through Peter's life, removing him from it, and "stitching up the holes" by replacing him with other available causes.

From this perspective, it makes sense that little of any significance would change, but obviously the timelines cannot be exactly the same. Certain things would just naturally have to occur differently in order to remain internally consistent. As far as any specifics about those particular events, it's never explored.

  • 1
    I like the angle regarding The Machine. I agree that the "The Machine had to fix the timelines so that they remained as close as possible to the original". But it seems to me that having those exact people on the plane three years later in the new timeline than in the old timeline is actually a creating a larger difference between the two timelines rather than bringing them closer together, depending on how you view it. – Praxis Feb 16 '15 at 5:09

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