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FRINGE: Feelings, Kindness and Mankind

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Episode 508 “The Human Kind”

THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD!

[Photos: Liane Hentscher/FOX]

We’re back from a well-deserved respite for all of us on the Fringe crazy train, but it’s time again to get the journey underway.

Olivia, who is still reeling from Peter’s revelation to her about his Observer implant (at least as much as stoic Olivia ever reels), meets up with Anil, who provides her with a sample implant. Both before and after meeting with Anil, Olivia witnesses Loyalists removing Resistance posters of Etta. Is this symbolic of Etta’s ubiquitous presence in her life?  Or of Etta’s slow removal from her life?  As with all things in life, I suppose it depends on perspective.

Peter, on the other hand, has retreated into his comfortable emotional black hole back at Etta’s apartment, just puttering away the hours with adjustments to his timelines. Windmark and a lieutenant materialize within the building. Although Peter appears to be in danger at first, by the time the Observers reach Etta’s apartment, Peter has disappeared and watches from the street below. Windmark realizes, perhaps for the first time, perhaps not, that Peter has fully developed the ability to foretell movements and run futures.

Astrid and Walter have freed tape number eight from the amber back at the Harvard lab. On the tape, Walter instructs the team to procure an industrial magnet from a scrap yard forty-six miles northwest of Boston. Olivia returns with the implant and breaks the news to Walter that Peter has augmented himself with the technology.

Peter calls to tell the team that Etta’s apartment has been compromised, and that they shouldn’t return there. A desperate Walter begs Peter to rethink what he’s doing, appealing to Peter’s promise to be there for Walter, but Peter is hellbent on his present course and ends the conversation. Walter plans to run diagnostics on the implant so the team can determine what they’re up against, and Olivia in turn plans a trip to the scrap yard.

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When Olivia arrives at the scrap yard, her request to barter for a magnet is met with a stunned expression from the man she has asked. He fetches the owner, a kind-faced black woman named Simone. It seems Simone’s been expecting Olivia’s arrival for twenty-one years. According to Simone, a grey-haired man came to the yard after the invasion, and said they had a way to save the world. At that time, Simone’s mother agreed to keep the magnet and the truck to haul it. When Simone’s mother died, she made Simone promise to carry on. Now that the time has come, Simone assures Liv that she has sent for diesel fuel and that Liv can be on her way just after dark.

Astrid and Walter make some progress testing out the implant on a brain from a prior Fringe incident. Walter wonders aloud how to attach the implant to the brain matter, when the evil implant just dives right into the brain, making itself at home. Astrid and Walter gather enough data on the implant’s impact on the brain matter to realize that Peter’s cerebral cortex will ultimately override the area of the brain used to control emotions. We all know that ain’t good.

As Olivia waits by herself, she’s noticed that she’s garnered a lot of interest from the people working in the salvage yard. A little girl skips up, tells Liv that everybody’s been talking about how Liv has a bounty on her head, so a formerly nervous Olivia is now officially on red alert.

When Simone brings out a glass of water, Liv pulls a gun on her and demands her truck and magnet. Simone has the gift of sight; she says Liv’s lost her faith, and that she can see it’s because Liv lost her daughter…twice. Simone also sees that her daughter is still with her. An embittered Olivia retorts in what I thought was the best dialogue of the episode: “Your gift is an anomaly. I’m an anomaly…People assign meaning, because it’s reassuring…it’s all just numbers. [The Observers] are just better at math.”

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Olivia thanks Simone and drives off with the magnet, but is duped by a dummy lying in the road next to a smoldering car. Some thieves kidnap her for the bounty on her head, and tie her up in an old barn. Now, while Liv’s dumb enough to fall for the old “dummy in the road” trick, she’s smart enough to pull a MacGyver: she fashions a pressure gun out of shop equipment, paint thinner, and the slug given back to her by Etta as Etta died. After Liv kills her captors, she makes a point of picking the slug out of the door where it’s lodged itself, and she gazes at it for several seconds. Such a little item; such significance.

Peter and Windmark duke it out, which results in little more than a dead lieutenant for Windmark and a busted head for Peter. During the tussle, Windmark shows Peter the last thoughts that Etta had before her death: Etta, Liv and Peter picnicking that fateful day in the park just before the invasion, all the way back at the beginning of the season. But why; to what end?  What did Windmark get out of it?  Torturing Peter?  I found her thoughts comforting rather than torturous, and how would Windmark know anyway?  Etta died because she blew up the building where she was dying, and Windmark apparated his way out of the building right before the explosion.

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During the fracas, Peter gets stabbed in the shoulder. He goes to the lab and asks Walter for some sutures for his shoulder, and Walter again begs Peter to remove the tech from his head. Peter refuses and leaves. When Olivia calls Walter after getting back on her way with the magnet, Walter tells her of the encounter with Peter and where he’s gone.

Liv finds Peter sitting on a balcony waiting for Windmark to walk past the fountain below. Peter explains that if Windmark does pass the square, then he’ll be back on the trajectory leading to Windmark’s death the next day. In a scene that probably only Anna Torv could do without being over-the-top cheesy, Olivia appeals to Peter’s humanity. She wonders if waiting until tomorrow were too late. She shares that she believes now that Etta is still with them (thank you, Simone!), reminds Peter that it’s their feelings for her that make them human, and if they lose those feelings, they lose Etta all over again.

Liv delivers many more sentimental lines, and we see a flash of happy memories that Peter has about Etta, Liv and Walter, and finally Peter reaches a decision with which I can live. He pops open his knife, slices the back of his head open, and pulls out the tech that has been his cookbook for Cold Revenge Noodles these past few weeks. He collapses in her arms, and our heroine whispers, “I love you,” despite Peter’s unruly, unkempt hair.  Sheesh, Peter, get a haircut.

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Can I just say, “Thank the good Lord above!”  I’ve been in a dark place with this show for the last several episodes. I needed a ray of hope, anything that would indicate these characters have some chance of winning and of coming out of this with their souls intact. Peter’s renewed allegiance to his human connections is just the kind of uplifting wholesomeness that I’ve been craving.

From a strict pacing standpoint, I really liked this episode. Despite the fight scene, this episode was quieter and unhurried, and it gave me a change to immerse myself in the characters’ emotional states. Nobody was hysterical or angry or elated. These were smaller feelings and smaller events bookended by generous helpings of silence, and I liked having the chance to catch my breath and just be. Even more so, since it is quite likely the calm before the storm…

I wasn’t such a fan of the character of Simone being cast as a black woman. Don’t get me wrong; the actress Jill Scott who played her was great, utterly believable. But haven’t we seen this character before in the Matrix movies?  Some creative casting here could have made for a less been-there-done-that experience.

Over the last several episodes, I’ve been feeling pretty sorry myself because of the emotional toll this series has been taking on me. Those of you who are familiar with my writing style (that group probably includes my editor and me) have probably noticed my recaps getting less ebullient over the course of the season. But can you imagine what the cast has been going through as they’ve been acting out these last few episodes?  They have brought these characters to life for us; they have inhabited these characters in ways we probably only glimpse. To be on the downward slope must be bittersweet.

Five episodes left, Fringe fans. Stay strong; stay strong.

>>>>

[Official Show Site on FOX]    [Previous Recap: “Five-Twenty-Ten”]

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