FRINGE: For the Record…

Posted on October 14, 2012 by

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Episode 503 “The Recordist”

THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD!

[Photos: Liane Hentscher/FOX]

Astrid and Walter retrieve the third tape from the amber at Walter’s old lab at Harvard, and in it, Walter provides the coordinates for a remote location in Northern Pennsylvania. The tape appears damaged in spots, so they’re not able to ascertain exactly what is needed from the indicated area. The team loads up in their van, nonetheless. Later, Astrid cleans the tape, gets more information about the necessary steps, and instructs the team to look for a mine as the hiding place of the plan component du jour.

Upon arrival, the team is rounded up by armed locals, all of whom have tarry, crusty skins lesions over most of their visible skin. One of the leaders of the group Edwin Massey introduces himself and recognizes the team, not because they’ve met before, but because Edwin’s people are historians. Their raison d’être is recording of all major human events since the invasion began, due to their concern that the history of humans would be rewritten by their oppressors. Edwin also explains that their skin condition began to appear after they inhabited the area, and that they believe the cause is environmental in nature. He also provides the team with the location of the mine, and shares additional information with the team that leads them to conclude they’re looking for a particular kind of quartz down in the mine.

The team explores the mine and locates in a mine shaft a skeleton completely enclosed in the skin substance they’ve seen on the people of the area. Walter performs some tests on the skeleton and declares that the body had completely sealed itself off to corrosives in the area, leading the victim to asphyxiation. Because of the condition of the body and signs that Walter and Olivia are already succumbing to the disease, Walter demands the creation of a suit to protect whomever goes into the shaft to extract the rocks.

While Olivia and Peter are pulling weatherstripping out of the van for the suit, they share another moment of truth. After gentle nudging by Peter, Olivia confesses that she is still haunted by Etta’s disappearance because she felt responsible for it happening. All her trials and tribulations led her to believe she never deserved to be a mother. When Etta disappeared, she felt it was her punishment for being conflicted and not appreciating having Etta while she did have her. She also admits that she went to New York, not because she was heroic, but because she was avoiding finding her little girl dead.  At the time, it seemed the only possible outcome. Peter reminds Liv that the past is the past, and that she shouldn’t let it get in the way of the second chance their family has been given. It’s interesting to me that he refers to them as a family, when the state of the relationship between Peter and Liv is still very fuzzy. My guess is that while Olivia doesn’t feel that she deserves happiness because of the guilt she carries, Peter would welcome her back if she’s ever ready to rebuild what they had.  Just reconcile already!

The team gets a call from Anil with the news that Observers are tracking the team and on their way. Walter still needs copper, but Edwin warns them that the only encampment with copper is dangerous and insists they find another way. Edwin’s decision smacks of cowardice to Edwin’s son River, particularly as River is suffering a major case of hero worship of the Fringe team. River’s disappointment galvanizes his father into action. Before he leaves with the team, Edwin goes to tell his son goodbye, and has the conversation with his kid that most responsible parents have at some point: a coward isn’t simply someone who’s scared; a coward is someone who knows what needs to be done but doesn’t do it. In a surprise move after that conversation, Edwin gives fake directions to the camp to Peter and Olivia and tells them he’s actually not going with them after all. Instead, he sacrifices himself by entering the mine shaft and extracting all the necessary quartz. River records an entry into the archives to laud his father: “A hero died today. He sacrificed himself for the resources the Fringe team needed to save our world. Edward Massey, recorder of history, made history. He will be greatly missed. Like other great men before him, he gave his life in pursuit of freedom and a better future.”

After, the team heads back to Boston with a new pimpin’ ride. Olivia is riding shotgun, and reaches affectionately back behind to the back seat to grasp her daughter’s leg. Etta returns her mother’s caress.

In what felt like an episode that was a little light on content and significance, I did at least appreciate 1) the examination of hero worship vs. what constitutes a true hero, and 2) the continuing development between the members of the Bishop family, particularly between Liv and Peter, and Liv and Etta. All three characters have subtle duality with regard to their inner natures. Etta and Peter are both tender with those they love but ruthless when the situation calls for it. Olivia is strong and stoically reveals little outward emotion, but lives compassionately. Walter, of course, has no such duality. He’s pretty much all over the map; as a mad genius, he lives in the moment, wears his heart on his sleeve, and censors himself very little. Can you imagine the freedom?

Other than moving the story line forward with procurement of the stones for the plot against the Observers, not much happened. Perhaps there was a lot of set-up going on in this episode that will become evident downstream. If that’s the case, all will be forgiven. For now, the team’s path is ambiguous.  With so few episodes left, let’s hope each remaining episode packs a wallop.  Fringe writers, don’t fail me now!

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