It is becoming harder and harder for me to review episodes of Fringe, knowing that the end is nigh. I realise that the writers are doing a good job with the time limit they have. But I worry that I will be so disappointed by the finale, scheduled to air on 18 January, that it will ruin the entire series. It seems that I am not the only one, as more and more Fringies are voicing their discontent on Twitter, one even posting an interesting commentary about sexism on the show as a comment to my last review.
But there are signs that perhaps my pessimism is not warranted, such as the glimpses of the Dunhaminator, in the shape of the pneumatic gun Olivia fashioned while being held prisoner. Although it’s still a far cry from what one would have expected from her after the experiences of the last four years, I can’t help but hope that it implies that Olivia will very soon be back full force to save the world.
Olivia’s speech to Peter at the end of the episode is another reason why I struggled for so long with this review. On the one hand, of course it would be his love for Olivia, for Etta, for Walter and even for Astrid that saved Peter. I also know and love the fact that Fringe is not only about the science; what it means to be a human has been a constant exploration, particularly through Walter’s struggle with the consequences of his decision in 1985 to cross universes. But, with this less than impressive finish, I find that the Peter as an Observer storyline fell a little short. How can Olivia convince Peter to take this drastic change after only one conversation? I realise that the limit of thirteen episode for this season set by the network is not working in the favour of the writers, who have to squeeze everything in, but the excuse is getting a little old. Fringe writers are known for some amazing writing; this scene was not one of their best attempts at surpassing themselves.
As it so often does, the science in this episode of Fringe both impressed me and made my skin crawl. To be able to enhance our brains by creating new ridges in it would be incredible – I personally would not have minded a couple of extra ridges during college finals. However, it also underlines the danger of science becoming an ends rather than a means. Humans – I am assuming here that Observers are humans – should not become machines, by erasing the very thing that makes them human – in this case, the part of the brain that deals with emotions. The fight to save humanity seems to have much higher stakes; the Fringe team is not only fighting to liberate earth of 2036 from the Observers, but is also fighting to save humanity from becoming Observers, i.e. a people that would willingly inject itself with technology that robs it from what makes it human in the first place.