Episode 501 “Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11”
THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD!
[Photos: Liane Hentscher/FOX]
The 2012-2013 season of Fringe gets underway with a flashback to a Boston park in 2015. Olivia reads demurely on a blanket. Peter beams at a honey-haired, cherubic Henrietta, doing her best to blow all the white, fluffy seeds off a dandelion. It’s an all too brief moment of happiness, and frankly, I wanted more of this moment. Peter and Olivia have overcome all kinds of crazy odds to be together, and I wanted to revel in their hard-won happiness with them.
Alas, it’s not meant to be, because let’s face it: no TV show will ever succeed if all it depicts is a happy young family going about their daily business. As viewers, we want to see Peter and Olivia win when they have something to win against, and fortunately for us, it looks like the writers have dished up plenty of that for this final season. The fate of the world (again) hangs in the balance as soon a building just outside the park is apparently vaporized. Observers begin to apparating into the park, intent on Etta. Suddenly, a blinding white light, a boom, the invasion is fully on, and Etta is missing.
In the present year 2036, Observers are in full control of a bleak Earth. Non-observers have shorter lives, thanks to carbon monoxide processors that make the air less oxygenated. The police state is propped up by non-Observer sycophants called “Loyalists.” A thriving black market trades in walnuts and amber-encased humans. Pasty pencil-shaped “egg sticks” pass as food. Music is discouraged.
Last season, an adult Henrietta had coordinated the recovery of the primary characters, except for her mother Olivia. Taking the cause back up, Walter suggests starting with Olivia’s last known location: Columbus Circle in New York City, where Olivia had gone to retrieve a device for Walter that will assist help defeat the Observers. Since the whole team had resorted to self-imposed amber to avoid capture, the team reasons that Liv may have done the same. They take interest in a building encased in amber in the vicinity. Several body-sized spaces in the amber imply victims had been removed already, likely by black market amber gypsies.
Astrid and Peter visit the black market to look for Olivia among the different encasements available for sale.
Their inquiries about an ambered blond woman with an electronic device in her hand lead to former book store owner Markham, who was always sweet on Olivia, and who is keeping her close. Unfortunately, their inquiries also attract attention by the Observers, who follow them to Markham’s apartment. Chaos ensues, Olivia is rescued, and Walter is captured. After Olivia’s release from the amber, mother and daughter touchingly reunite for the first time since Etta’s disappearance as a toddler; if Anna Torv’s hilarious yet spooky turn as William Bell hasn’t convinced viewers of her prodigious acting talent, this scene should clinch it. Well played, ladies.
Needing help with both an escape plan and the now-recovered device, Etta takes her parents and Astrid to see Anil, another Fringe double agent. While waiting to gain entrance into the Fringe facility, Peter and Olivia discuss their pain after the loss of their child. We learn that their relationship failed because Peter stayed behind in Boston to keep searching for Henrietta, while Olivia left for New York to help Walter save the world. Who can fault either character for what appear to be equally valid choices? That they will reconcile seems like a no-brainer because they are just too good together, but I for one eagerly await resolution on this thorny issue.
Etta’s associates welcome their predecessors, and inform them that the device Olivia retrieved will extract and reassemble marked bits of scrambled information in Walter’s brain, which will presumably result in a plan to defeat the Observers. Etta’s associates next determine Walter’s location using traffic camera footage, and devise a Trojan Horse rescue using technology that makes the living appear dead to both people and scanners.
Meanwhile, as the evil Captain Windmark (and I have to wonder if he’s a Darth Vader or the Emporer…is someone else pulling the strings?) opens Walter’s interrogation, he realizes that Walter is attempting to block him out with music. Walter speaks of the wonders of music, and indeed, some of Walter’s best scenes have been of him simply listening and responding to music in his Harvard lab. Windmark concedes music is a source of hope for non-Observors, but he assures Walter, “There is no hope for you, nothing grows from scorched earth.”
He proceeds to break down Walter’s mental barriers and slowly gain access to the information that Walter is carrying, which includes plan components, as well as images of Etta as a little girl. The scenes between Windstar and Walter are grotesquely uncomfortable, even for this seasoned horror aficionado, and it’s unclear how much mental or physical damage Walter sustains as a result. The team does manage to rescue Walter, and as they flee, a worrisomely wrung out Walter asks, “Afro, do you have any music?” God bless John Noble for having the acting chops to make such comments endearing rather than insulting to the kind young black woman who looks after him. Walter clearly has tender feelings for Astrid and values her as a companion, but the ongoing shtick of butchering her name manages to still be amusing. You just never know what Walter will come up with next.
Back home, Walter feels frustrated because he no longer recognizes any components of the plan after the gruesome torture he endured. Some reflected lights flickering on the wall attract his attention. In true Walter fashion, he shambles outside in his robe and undies to the source of the light: a mobile of CDs reflecting in the sun. Walter notices a crusty leather bag just by the mobile, and inside it, discovers a CD that he loads into a nearby car (that somehow has power, and comes equipped with a CD player in 2036). Logical nits aside, the scene is a lovely end to the episode. It closes with Walter listening to the bittersweet Yaz single “Only You”, crying tears of renewed hope both because of the restorative power of the music and the bright yellow dandelion he observes growing out of the scorched earth just outside the car.