I know I have said this numerous times in perhaps most of my season two reviews of Fringe, but some things are just meant to be repeated: this show is getting better with every passing week. Yes there are occasional fall-backs, but overall, the growth is positive, and the rest of the season is looking more and more appealing as the weeks advance.
Last week’s episode, "August", was a great way to advance the mytharc while maintaining a certain monster-of-the-week appeal. When the Fringe team examines a surveillance tape depicting the kidnapping of a young woman in Boston, they realise that the person they thought was The Observer is actually another Observer. And, during the course of this episode, we find out that there are a lot more Observers, and yet we are not privy to their names.
How in the name of sci-fi am I going to keep track of them in the course of upcoming reviews? Dear God.
In any case, this particular Observer does have a name: August. And now that they are hot on his trail, Fringe Division comes across evidence collected by a Massive Dynamics symbologist (no, not Robert Langdon) who has identified the Original Observer in many paintings depicting major events throughout history including the Boston massacre of 1770, Marie-Antoinette’s execution in 1793, and the shot taken at Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo in 1914 that started World War I.
This symbologist has an interesting theory with important implications: that The Observer appears to observe important events, and as the frequency of Observer sightings have increased in the last couple of years, that something big is about to happen.
This concept of time and how special the time we are currently living in is was quite intriguing, all the more so that there are so many references to these ‘special times’ in countless TV shows. And dare we forget the importance of December 21, 2012? And what with all these shows and movies going on and on about how now is a special time, it makes you wonder – it is a special time, or is it just us hoping to be special? On the one hand, there has been an exponential increase in human achievements since the 1850s, and this has been charted. So in a way, the last 160 years or so have been really special, ever since that day that the first telegram has been sent, back on May 24, 1844. And so it does beg the question: why did it start in 1844? What is it about now that makes us special? How come, after thousands and thousand of years, in a relatively very short time, we have been given so many tools to potentially achieve so much? And even more puzzling, how come now that we have everything it takes to make peace and prosperity for everyone a reality, we are at the brink of destroying ourselves? Perhaps this is the curious phenomenon The Observers are keen on watching.
Turns out that August has interfered with history by kidnapping a young woman who was meant to die in a plane crash (prime directive, anyone? And turns out that August has an emotional connection with the young woman (Christine), having watched her most of her life. But however important she is to him, she must die, as was her fate – unless, as Walter advises him, she is made to be important.
And August manages to do just that.
Small tangent about Christine: she’s from Allston, and I recently read an awesome post about the various associations Allston has with the plot. I will have to find it for you all and post a link to it in my next review. And you have to admit that the way she held herself together during the kidnapping and tried to get away was pretty awesome. Down with the stereotype of the helpless female victim!
We find out yet more about the lovable, eccentric, and now very devious Walter Bishop. We had an inkling that he knew more than he let on from what happened in previous episodes, but this one confirmed it. I have a feeling that Walter is increasingly going to use his reputation as eccentric to his own benefit; his trick to get rid of Astrid was simple yet extremely devious, using his recent obsession with figuring out a milkshake recipe as a decoy to head to a clandestine rendezvous with August.
A little note on the technology used by the Observers: first off, I found it a very nice touch that all their equipment looks from an era past while they actually contain technology from an era yet to come (at least for us common folks). Secondly, I can’t wait to see what is going to happen to the gun August gave Peter; I’m certain that, contrary to what Broyles’ team believes, the gun still works. I am also willing to bet that no one but Peter can shoot that gun; it has to be given to you willingly, and not taken, and that’s why the rogue observer was so adamant about putting it into his hand and pressing his hand into it.
But however great the episode was, there is one scene I found quite sloppy. Near the beginning, we follow Olivia to the Bishops’ place, where we find Walter in a tizzy, trying to figure out a milkshake recipe. Peter warns Olivia that Walter is in quite a state, and yet Olivia manages to snap him out of it without barely trying. It just didn’t work. Or Olivia had to raise her voice, or Peter could have quipped something (for example “If I had known all it took was a woman’s voice, I would have found myself a girlfriend a long time ago”) or, if the point was for us to see the weight of Olivia’s influence on Walter, then his reaction should have been different – a slight pause, a straightening of the back, him holding her gaze, no background noise for a few tense moments – and then the scene would have made more sense. I know, it’s a small thing, but we all know that the devil is in the details.
The episode ends on a rather ominous note, as one of the Observers tells the other, as they watch Olivia on the roller coaster with her niece: “Look how happy she is. It’s too bad things are going to get so difficult for her.” I wonder what the next episodes are going to bring, and if we are going to see Olivia further develop her ‘talent’, one manifestation of which we saw last season.
There are three noteworthy cool moments/exchanges:
Peter: Whatever these observers do to keep from aging, they should market it. They would make a fortune.
Peter: Rachel’s out of town?
Olivia: Yeah. For the weekend.
Peter: You do that thing with your mouth when you’re upset.
Walter: Taste this.
Astrid: Ew. What did you put in it?
Walter: I didn’t have cherries, so I used cherry cough syrup.
And the fact that fearless Olivia Dunham is scared of roller coasters.