Regularly throughout the television season, fans are pushed to the side to fulfill the needs of sports geeks. This left Fringe fans hanging last week, but while many were not happy to be given a week off from the show, I was quite happy to have an extra week (and a couple of rewatches) to figure out if I liked this episode or not.
As first, I felt like “The Recordist”, the third episode in Fringe’s fifth season, made no sense at all. There were too many plot holes (why didn’t the Observers just apparate, wizard-style, in the general vicinity of the location they believed the Fringe team was, just like they did in the park?). I also did not feel like the main story advanced at all; how could the team not have gotten the quartz rock in a more timely manner and we could have gotten a little more action to boot?
I realized pretty early on that these were the thoughts of a passive aggressive fan, the consequence of pent-up frustration. You see, I am torn. When I think of what Fringe was like before, I do not like these new episodes. I understand that people change according to what they live through, and I did not expect to find gracing my screen the Olivia of five years ago. That, too, would have annoyed me to no end. But this Fringe team is just so different from the old one that despite the fact that the difference makes sense, timeline hopping and all, it’s at times just too much. I get the same feeling as when I go to a familiar restaurant to order a specific meal I love, only to find out that it is not part of the main menu anymore.
But then are the times when I just let go of my expectations and watch for the sake of enjoying the show, and that it when I remember why I liked it so much: despite the slower episodes when not that much seems to happen (like this one), so much character development happens and so many other layers are explored that I am left well satisfied. Even though the meal I end up ordering is not what I came to the restaurant for, it is still amazingly good.
Which brings me to my verdict: it was a good episode.
Last episode, we left the Fringe team digging at the amber in Walter’s old lab for what they thought was the first tape in the series left behind by the mad genius himself, only to find out that it is actually the third. This tape leads them to rural Pennsylvania, where they find a form of quartz that, through some sort of process, is supposed to be a very large source of energy.
The glyphs spell out A-N-G-E-R, and reflect Olivia’s anger at the dissonance between who she thinks she is, and how she is perceived by the two people she loves the most, Peter and Etta. In light of this self-anger, one can only imagine the anguish she must have felt when Etta admitted that her long lost mother was much more than she had imagined.
River’s hero worship of Olivia, depicted as the hero she thinks she isn’t in his comic books, must have been just as hard. Of course River thinking she is a hero because she did not hide from the Observers makes is even harder for Olivia to deal with the fact that while she might have been fighting the Observers, it was to hide from her duties as mother. I was intrigued by this perceived choice between being a mother and fighting the Observers. In my opinion, they are one and the same. Shouldn’t a mother want the world her child is growing up in be the best one possible? And is Olivia not a unique weapon that can be wielded against the Observers? Olivia was not fleeing from her duties as a mother; she was using her best talents to be the kind of mother Etta needed, rather than to be the mother she thought she should have been.
This rings all the more true when one considers the entire family unit; from what we are seeing, Peter is a great father, and could have easily taken over household duties while Olivia fought the Observers. It would make perfect sense if one considers marriage as a stronghold within which a family is raised; if one considers each family as the building block for society; and if one considers humans as being created to carry forward an ever advancing civilization. Based on these, there is no choice to be made; one can carry forward human civilization by, say, fighting the Observers and raising one’s child.