This is Fringe, episode 303 titled "The Plateau." I am submitting this episode as a contender for the single camera picture editing Emmy.

Fringe has had an incredible third season with critical acclaim and fan satisfaction. It has been tremendously difficult to achieve these rewards due in part to the fact that this season, the storyline embraced the idea that two universes exist side by side, each containing a different version of each character. These doppelgängers represent the consequences of different choices and different life experiences. For example, what if your mother died when you were young in one world but were alive and well in the other. How would that change you as an individual?

“The Plateau” takes place in the Alternate Universe and was the first episode set entirely in that universe. It is a different world from ours. In this world, the World Trade Center towers still stand, the Empire State Building is still used as a docking station for zeppelins, coffee has become extinct and avocados are rare. Additiionally, this world has been ravaged by a series of rifts between the universes caused by an initial violation of the fabric of the universes by Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) in the normal universe. In 1985, he found a way to cross universes so that he could steal his son from the alternate universe and bring him back to the normal universe because in the normal universe, his son has died. It was a selfish and ultimately tragic choice, and it caused the alternate universe to start breaking down bit by bit. A task force called FRINGE DIVISION was created in the alternate universe to protect its citizens from all sorts of dangerous interdimensional portals, wormholes and inconsistencies.

“The Plateau” is an episode with two cores and one basic theme. The first core is the hunt for a killer who is using ballpoint pens to start massive chain reactions to kill certain individuals. The Alternate Universe has become digital much faster than ours, and it has reached a point where the ballpoint pen is obsolete. Readers, tablets and touchscreens are the norm. The second core is the gradual reawakening of the lead heroine, Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), who has been captured and brainwashed into believing that she is the alternate version of herself. Olivia is from the normal world, but she crossed universes and was captured. Memories were transplanted in her to make her remember all of the things that her doppelgänger has experienced—and behave accordingly. This is all to serve the purpose of discovering how she can cross universes unharmed so that this world can figure out how to save itself from imploding. The theme of the episode, as I saw it, was that an individual person is greater than the sum of his or her parts. The soul is unique, what makes us human is not tangible, and no amount of data exists that can recreate a person.

The experience I had editing this episode was unique, to say the least. The idea came from the young son of one of the executive producers of Fringe and was written by two writers new to the show, Alison Schapker and Monica Owusu-Breen. This was also my first episode on the series. The script was nothing less than completely daunting in what they wanted to achieve and how we were going to achieve it. I worked closely with director Brad Anderson, helping to design a technique for the episode that would allow us to tell a story visually about a man who has become so smart that he can predict what is going to happen in the future for every possible data point he sees. The killer in question is Milo Stanfield, played by Michael Eklund. Milo used to be mentally deficient. He had a very low IQ and never fully developed emotionally because of that. But in the Alternate Universe, science had advanced far enough that Milo was given treatments to increase his intelligence. It turned out that his treatments worked far better than anyone expected, and he became exponentially smarter than anyone thought possible. He is uniquely able to parse data and create sets of probabilities that allow him to create events via chain reaction. He learns that the scientists who were treating him want to regress him back to his original state, so he starts to fight back.

The opening of the episode featured the second time Milo had used this ability to kill one of the people who was trying to regress him. (Please note that this and the following clips may not work on smartphones but should work on all computers as well as tablets.)

This was the first time that slow-motion was used on Fringe. Normally, the series does not use any kind of camera enhancements due to the fantastical nature of the story itself, but in this situation, everyone felt it was the best way to achieve Milo's unique perspective and show how he parses the data required to know everything about each data point. He knows exactly how fast the cyclist is going, how long the light takes to change and how long it takes that specific bus to get to the stop light, and he predicts that an old man would find a ball point pen amusing—much like we might find an 8-track tape a happy relic of our past, something we might bend over to pick up.

I started to include some visual tropes in this sequence that reflected the concept that, when we look into a mirror, we see an alternate reality of ourselves and have been obsessed with that for our entire history. So I sought out as many pieces of film that I could that would bend the light of anyone in the frame—usually through glass windows of cars passing by. In my mind, it was a visual representation of a fractured universe, and I wanted to emphasize that as much as possible.

I also started utilizing Milo's blinks as a means of him processing data. This lends itself incredibly well to cinematic storytelling since the eye blink is one of the foundations of editing.

But the one aspect I wanted to include in this sequence was that Milo was not nefarious. He was doing this because he was in survival mode. In his mind, these people had to die so that he could remain smart. So, the first time I wanted him to feel his humanity was when the woman smells the flowers. He is affected by this because it is a very human and emotional vision to behold. He knows he is about to kill this woman, but this simple act gives him pause and remorse. But once she enters the flower shop to purchase the bouquet, he disconnects and starts parsing data again.

What follows is the result of Milo's careful planning. He knows exactly what is going to happen so when it does, he stares straight forward, knowing that he accomplished his goal—but not celebrating.

The next sequence showcased Olivia's first day back at work. She has been given the memories and experiences of her doppelgänger, and she seems to be doing just fine integrating back into her life. In the Alternate Universe, Olivia, or Bolivia (for B-Olivia versus A-Olivia) was much less guarded, much more vibrant. She didn't have an abusive stepfather in this world, and her mother is still alive. So A-Olivia is functioning with those traits. However, when Olivia shows up at the crime scene, she is haunted by an image of someone she believes she knows on the scene. It is Peter (Joshua Jackson), Walter's son, the boy who was taken from this universe and brought back to ours, causing all of the problems to appear. Olivia is confused by this apparition. In this sequence, I specifically removed frames from the moment when the car passes in front of Peter to emphasize the surreal nature of the encounter. It was the continuation of the visual trope from the opening of a fractured image that may not be real. This is the first step in Olivia's realization that she is not from this world.

The development of the theme of the episode came in the next sequence. B-Olivia had a relationship in this universe that A-Olivia is now placed inside of. Her boyfriend, Frank, is a virologist on his way to north Texas to deal with a smallpox outbreak, but before he leaves, he tries to engage Olivia in a discussion about her ability to do her job. In the midst of the discussion, Frank tells Olivia that he loves her. This was key in my mind as something that would not feel right to Olivia. Being told that you are loved would bring about feelings of reciprocity, but in this case, Olivia is starting to realize something is wrong—why doesn't she have the same feeling of love for this man? This was the second step in Olivia's realization that she is not from this world.

The next sequence was the intersection of the two cores of the story that had been spinning on their own for a while. Olivia and her team discover that the ballpoint pen is the common thread and signature of the killer they are after, and they receive news that yet another bus accident has happened. They speed off to the scene of the crime. Once there, Olivia realizes that the killer is still there when she sees the pen still in play. The excitement of this sequence from an editorial stance came from merging the operatic with the procedural. I wanted to create a passionate procedural—something that had the feeling of a heart-pounding, tension-filled procedural but somehow also like a dance between these two characters. Milo calculates early what he needs to do to escape his predicament, and in a calm yet cocksure way, he defeats Olivia by positioning the elements in the world where he needs them to be to escape.

Milo returns home to see his sister Madeline, who has been very worried about him. The scientists are calling for him, and it turns out she is the one who authorized the experiments that made him super-intelligent. Milo speaks for the first time and reveals a thought process that is starting to verge on the mechanical. He is calculating and starting to disconnect from the emotional part of him that made him human. Madeline uses a small pewter horse, a favorite toy of Milo's from his childhood, to try to coax him to return to the scientists so they can regress him. It was a powerful element to build on, a symbol of Milo's connection with his humanity and with his sister. Michael Eklund specifically ad-libbed a lot of his dialogue in this scene, and all of it stayed. He created calculations for the streams of water and added self-satisfied grace notes to the dialogue that I felt enhanced his growing hubris. I liked playing a lot of the scene on Milo's back—trying to get a read on him from his body positioning, wanting to see more of him—and when we did, he was still making calculations on his finger. I ensured he never once looked at the horse. The last cut of the scene was nice because Michael exited on the right in his side, but on the left on Madeline's side. However, I felt we would be so focused on the eyes of the two and the symbol of the horse that it would be a simple cheat.

Olivia and her partner Charlie (Kirk Acevedo) discover a possible connection to the killer at a hospital and venture there to meet with the chief medical director. While they are there, Olivia once again starts to see fractures of reality and starts to see someone she thinks she knows, Dr. Walter Bishop, in a ward for mentally deficient patients. This is a further progression in her realization that she is not this person. Editorially, it was fun to allow Charlie to sneak up behind Olivia off-camera and frighten her.

After meeting with the chief medical director, Olivia learns exactly what happened to Milo, and she realizes why he is killing people—to protect himself. She and Charlie head back to their headquarters to relay this information to their superiors. Only then do we see Milo up in the rafters, now clocking Olivia's every move. She is now the target. This sequence was the most complicated I have ever attempted. The goal was to finally see Milo's mind at work, parsing out all of the different scenarios for the future, so that it would make sense that he is actively targeting Olivia's future encounter with him. I was lucky enough to work on the series FASTLANE about eight years ago and knew in general how to split the screen in numerous creative ways. I was also a big fan of the show 24. But this was seemingly impossible. The screen was to be littered with the possibilities of Milo's brain at work. I designed a workflow that made sense based on the images I wanted to see on the screen—the first images were of Olivia with and without Charlie. This was the beginning of Milo's calculations and predictions. But what it also was doing was creating a parallel in my mind to the two universes as well. Milo was seeing all of the choices that we make and creating alternate realities in his head. I created 24 layers of video (the maximum allowed by the AVID in the software version we were using). Then, I mixed those down once I got to a certain point into one layer (containing 24 boxes). I then mixed down another sequence of possibilities into THIS layer, creating even more possibilities. The process continued until I reached the desired final number. The goal was to make it feel tactile and organic. Our VFX supervisor created a version that was 3-D, and all of the possibilities were swimming in an undefined space. But for some reason, it always felt too digital, and the goal was the opposite—Milo was a relic in a modern world. he was using ballpoint pens to create bus accidents while the rest of the world was busy forgetting about all of those things. The way he thought needed to feel old and homespun. We all came to that conclusion and ultimately did some VFX cleanup, but the temp VFX comp is very similar to the final version. The last piece of the puzzle was for Milo to pull Olivia out of the pack of these images so that we understood she was indeed the target. In one shot, Olivia looked up ever so slightly, and I used this piece to connect them. Even though Olivia was not looking directly at Milo, it gave the effect that she was being targeted, and that was the mission.

Olivia knows where to go to find Milo's sister Madeline. In this scene, it was extremely important to me to guide the body language that Olivia conveyed to Madeline. Madeline is harboring a secret, and in order for Olivia to extract that secret, she must be careful not to threaten or intimidate her subject. Olivia must allow Madeline to make the decision to give up the whereabouts of her brother. Charlie is less delicate with the situation, and Olivia gets him out of the room so she can talk one-on-one. At this point, Olivia smiles at Madeline, but Madeline looks away. Olivia must find a way to engage the girl, so she uses the photo of her and Milo as young kids to try to break the ice. This is an intersection of the two cores of the story—Madeline asks Olivia if she is close to her sister now. This once again triggers an unnatural feeling within Olivia that she doesn't know the answer. She spits out what happened to B-Olivia's sister—that she died a few years ago, but that is not what she knows to be true within her soul. The mirror's bevel shows two sets of Olivia's eyes. This replicates the fractured state of Olivia's consciousness and enhances the visual trope of this fractured universe. There was never any reason to make an edit here. It all perfectly happened in one shot. We are completely enveloped within Olivia's dilemma. The subtext of the scene connected Milo's dilemma to Olivia's. Neither belongs where they are, and Olivia is beginning to comprehend that this is not her life. I added a beat before Olivia replies for the first time because it seemed as though she might break at this point. But then, on a dime, she is reinvested in the case and continues to interrogate Madeline. Olivia has to extract the information from Madeline, but instead of demanding the answer, Olivia simply asks her to protect her brother. She waits, leaning back to allow Madeline to feel safe enough to break and give Olivia the answer. I wanted to add a grace note at the end of the scene to indicate the regret that Madeline felt about giving up her brother. I stole it from another part of the scene and it reinforced the idea that this episode is about decisions and how they affect the future.

After this sequence, there was an entirely fun scene that involved the infinite probabilities that exist if you take that idea to its extreme. The idea behind the doppelgänger of Astrid (Jasika Nicole) is that in this universe, she is a high-functioning data analyst with an Asperger's-type syndrome that keeps her from connecting to other people with her eyes. The fun with this editorially was to prevent Astrid from taking a breath until she runs out of possibilities.

And then there is the trap. Milo knew that Madeline would give up his location. I specifically included that as one of the boxes in his prediction matrix. He knew that, ultimately, she would give him up to protect him. So he waits for Olivia to show up and begins planning the chain of events that will lead her to her death. This was also another scenario where I designed the entire look of the prediction matrix. In this matrix, I started to layer images on top of other images with Milo's eye in the background until Milo was able to pinpoint the ONE image he wanted to back-trace to discover which sequence of events would lead to this outcome. I cut out of the matrix for an ECU shot of Milo's eye blinking, indicating that he has found the image he needs. Then, the matrix disappears and becomes one singular image—that of dead Olivia covered in cinder blocks. Milo racks his brain to create the sequence of events needed to generate this end game. It made sense to reverse print these images so later on it could play in real time. I also never wanted to see a full motion shot of Olivia being crushed by cinder blocks until just before she is about to encounter that to keep the threat level at its highest.

Because of the degradation that has happened to this alternate universe, there are times when the air quality becomes so bad that you must take out a mini oxygen tank in order to breathe. In this construction site, it was highly probable that there would be such a breach, and it became crucial to the timing of Milo's sequence. Once Milo has the sequence in his head, he knows that at exactly 4:00 PM, he must have Olivia on the chase in order for this to work. The only problem is that in order to make the point that the clock changing to 4:00PM is the trigger, that shot had to play in forward motion. It was a small price to pay to make the point.

Olivia shows up with Charlie, as predicted. Milo is revealed on the ground waiting for Olivia. I added a final flourish of Milo analyzing Olivia's movements in great detail before he leads them into his sequence. Milo's hubris was at its zenith at this point, and the smirk he gives Olivia was the perfect touch to indicate that he had lost his empathy. And when Milo snaps his fingers, it was indicative of the start of his sequence.

For the final chase, it felt better to keep it playing in real time. I designed one last sequence for Milo to check on his progress as he leads Olivia into the construction site. Each of these images was chosen to indicate each decision that Olivia would make. And only here did I want to show the image of the cinder blocks coming down on Olivia in forward motion. The chase continues in real time, and Milo looks back to check off each link in the chain. As each image happens in reality, I used the off-speed footage to parse that data as part of the matrix that Milo had built to create Olivia's death. Milo pulls out his oxygen tank as the alarms sound for compromised air quality. And at this point, Olivia should, too. But Milo could not have predicted that Olivia is not from this world. Therefore, she has no idea what this alarm means in a moment where her adrenaline has kicked in. She has successfully broken from the brainwashing for this moment, and she continues forward, bypassing the cinder blocks and heading straight for Milo. She starts to wheeze, and Charlie appears in the nick of time to save Olivia.

Charlie asks Olivia why she ignored the compromised air quality alarms, but Olivia has no real answer for him. She doesn't know why.

Milo is captured and placed in a government facility. One of the more interesting facets of this scene was that the dialogue was reordered so that the facts of Milo's new condition were given out, and the emotion of how it affects Madeline was saved for just before she enters the room. The aspect of this scene that I felt most passionate about was that the story was told by a single finger. As soon as I saw Madeline grasp Milo's hand in an effort to reclaim him from the organic computer he had become, I knew that this was where the emotion was. Not in the face of Milo, but in what his finger would do. I allowed Madeline's hand to come in unannounced and take Milo's. And, for a moment, you wonder if this is enough to break Milo from this state—but the tragedy is that it might be too late for Milo. The finger drops, and he continues to interface with the machine, ignoring his sister entirely. And Madeline's final gesture is to leave the pewter horse—a symbol of who he once was—with Milo. This resonated with both cores of the episode because Olivia's trajectory is the opposite. She is breaking out of the science that has brainwashed her, and Milo has gone the opposite direction.

The penultimate scene was originally scripted in the first act of the script—it was scene 11, to be precise. This scene involved Dr. Walter Bishop's doppelgänger, Secretary of Defense Walter Bishop. This scene did not make any sense where it played in the original cut because it had no stakes. I had seen all 43 episodes of Fringe in the two-week period before starting this episode, and I knew that putting Olivia Dunham in an immersion tank was incredibly dangerous since she had been placed in the tank many times, and the corporeal threat it posed had been made clear in previous episodes. So I moved this scene to the end of the episode so it would spell out the threat to Olivia for the future—the people in this alternate universe have no idea she has been in an immersion tank and experimented on before. They do not know the threat to her is real. And that created the tension in this scene that it lacked when it landed 25 minutes earlier.

The final scene involved Olivia seeing her alternate-reality boyfriend off on his trip and being visited by a final apparition. She sees the same person she saw on the street—Peter Bishop, but, this time, up close and personal. It was incredibly important to me to prevent Olivia from blinking her eyes in any shot here. I felt that if she blinked her eyes he would disappear, so I made sure that every shot before Peter kisses her she is fixated on him and never breaks. The only time she closes her eyes is when she is kissed by Peter. And it makes sense that he doesn't exist after this moment. But this true feeling of love for Peter is what ultimately breaks her of the brainwashing. She sees Frank and knows that he is not the man she loves. She is not from this world.

In the end, the message that a moment of pure love breaks all aspects of science and reason allowed the two cores of the story to come to a close around one idea—that each soul is unique, and no matter how one tries to shield oneself in another cloak, it is impossible to hide who you are. Perhaps Milo in the future will look at the pewter horse and realize who he really is. Because, in the end, we are all entirely unique. And that was the point I wanted to ensure was made in this episode.