Welcome to the future. And I agree with Walter: it doesn’t look all that good.
The fifth and unfortunately final season of Fringe opens in 2036, a future caught in the ruling fist of the Observers, who have turned out to be anything but passive. I have to be honest; while Season 4’s episode “Letters of Transit” did give a hint of what was to come, this episode made me extremely uncomfortable. The storytelling was as always stellar, and the cinematography stunning. The way the happenings of the Season 4 finale are tied into the reality of 2036 is very well done. If this was an episode of another show, I would have loved every second. However, in light of the last four years of this particular show, recent turn of events seem a little farfetched. When did the Observers randomly turn evil? Did I miss something in Season 4, or in previous seasons? Perhaps because I have not had the time to delve into the show during the last season, I did miss out on details, and perhaps this gives me the perfect excuse to rewatch, well, pretty much the entire series (Twitter marathon, anyone?).
Other than the plotline, the other thing that made me very uncomfortable in this episode was Walter’s torture scene. The usual weird things we have seen on Fringe were pretty gross at times, but I feel like we have been spared, up to now, from pure cruelty – that is, until this episode. But I love this show, and so, I decided to go along with it – for now. After all, nothing is ever black and white in Fringe. Just think how a former foe, the Alternate Universe, turned out to be a friend, while former friends – or at the very least, passive, and unthreatening – such as the Observers, turned out to be such a terrible enemy.
I also love the characters, and am intrigued by how familiar yet different they seem. In light of the plotline, I felt like they had stayed pretty true to themselves. For example, Astrid is still too passive for my taste, and Walter is still as quirky as always, despite his sometimes disconcerting return to his former, arrogant self. They also had some great lines the best one being Peter’s “It’s always the red wire. Except when it’s the white wire.”
The character exploration I liked most was the quick yet deep look into Peter and Olivia’s relationship, the hints at their happiness and the wedge the disappearance of Etta caused. Grief can destroy many things, and it seems that grief at the loss of a child is one of the only things that can come between a very strong couple. Of course, Walter’s memory loss, although caused by something quite different this time – i.e. torture – was almost painfully familiar. One can only wonder at the frustration the man must be going through at his lost memory being again an obstacle to solving a situation.
As for new additions, I must say, I really like Henrietta. The actress portraying her, Georgina Haig, was very well cast – at times, she sounds eerily like Anna Torv. The choice of the character’s name was poignant (even if I was never partial to the name); named after Henry, Peter and Altivia’s baby from another timeline, it reminded me of how we each have an effect on the world, even if we do not realize it. Even a baby from another timeline can continue having an effect way after it is gone. It is going to be interesting to see Peter, Olivia, Walter, and Astrid adjust to this grown-up they all remember as an adorable, three-year-old child.
A related, amusing anecdote fans of the show Once Upon a Time will appreciate: I just reviewed Season 1 of said show, and noted how both it and Fringe parallel concepts in the plotline in each of the two universes in their world. I couldn’t help but be amused that Fringe now has a plot line similar to Once Upon a Time, that is, the lost child who is almost the same age as her parents.
Hope and despair were themes prevalent in this episode, and I have a feeling they are going to be prevalent throughout the season. Between Windmark promising Walter that there is no hope as nothing grows out of scorched earth, the glyphs spelling out D-O-U-B-T (which even in the smallest of amounts can destroy hope and replace it with despair), and Peter’s seemingly endless store of optimism, the stage seems set for an interesting battle between the light of hope and the darkness of despair.
As always, the (again) altered opening sequence was quite the eye opener, including words such as “joy,” “individuality,” “free will,” and finishing with “freedom.” It feels like a reminder that however advanced our technology becomes, there are some things without which we cannot be happy, things that have nothing to do with technology.
The season premiere took me by surprise, but upon further reflection perhaps the entire plot does make sense. After all, September did interfere, thus altering the course of events to such a point that the Observers, at first disinterested scientists, could become power-hungry tyrants. One thing seems certain: a lot of rewatching needs to happen, mostly of Season 4, but also of Seasons 1 through 3. It remains to be seen if either the writers of Fringe have gone the way many writers of cancelled television shows go, that is, in the land of the truly unbelievable in order to tie up all loose ends before the show ends, or if they are even more brilliant that I think they are.