After four years of battling Alt-Earth, mad scientists, and shape shifters, the Fringe season five premiere marked the beginning of our final journey with our extended Fringe family. It’s a bittersweet moment though there was very little joy for the team in ‘Transilience Thought Unifer Model-11′.
‘Transilience’ starts off where last season’s ‘Letters in Transit’ left off. Recently freed from their amber prison, Peter, Walter, and Astrid along with the help of future Fringe agent, Etta (who just happens to be Peter and Olivia’s daughter) search to find the missing Olivia. This is a bleak future where the Observers, a highly evolved race of humans from a future time, have taken over. How this happened is something we will continue piecing together and while we do get a glimpse of the first attack (a heartbreaking and poignant scene of Peter’s family being destroyed) there still remains quite a few unanswered questions.
When Peter awakens from his dream of the past, the bleak future is staring right at him. It’s 2036 and things aren’t so good. But the team can’t lament their position or the disgusting egg sticks as finding Olivia is imperative. Walter, whose mind has been re-formed, tells the crew that Olivia was looking for a device that would help them discover the plan to defeat the Observers, a plan hidden in his mind. They arrive at Olivia’s last known location – Chicago Park – where the results of the Observers machinations (Carbon Monoxide-generating machines) are on full display. There’s no sign of Olivia, but an ambered building, of which a portion has been sliced off, give them a lead. Considering she was running from someone, it makes sense she would’ve been trapped in the building by the Observers, though they were not the ones to take her – that was the amber gypsies.
Sidebar: Amber gypsies?! While the prospect of transients cutting people or things from amber in such a bleak future and selling them for profit makes sense, there’s something plaintively cheesy about this new future class.
Cut back to the regularly scheduled programming, they find the gypsy marketplace and using the $3K worth of walnuts to buy information on just who bought ambered-Olivia, they come across Markham, the creepy yet brilliant collector of rare books who’s assisted Olivia and company several times in the past. Well, the Carbon Monoxide must have really gotten to him; not only is he using ambered-Olivia as a coffee table but his warped mind (“I love her”) believes if she awakens to see his ratty face as her savior, she will magically fall in love with him. It’s good to know that, even in the future, people remain detached from reality.
Speaking of reality, the gypsy merchant that sold info about Olivia, sells them out to the Observers who catch up to the gang before they leave Markham’s. During the fracas, Etta kills two Observers and the crew escapes, sans Walter, who is captured and taken back to the Observers base.
Back at the hideout, Peter frees Olivia from her amber prison. She is stunned to see her little girl all grown up but quickly gets back to the mission. She has the device Walter requested but need help deciphering its purpose. Using Etta’s resistance contacts, they find out that it’s a Transilience Thought Unifer Model-11. Its purpose is to piece together thoughts that have been scrambled in a person’s mind to prevent Observer interrogation – similar to what Walter is currently going through at the hands of the head Observer.
Between discovering the device’s purpose and Walter’s torture at the Observer base, Peter and Olivia talk about what happened between them. Walter’s accusation of Peter abandoning them becomes clear. Despite his love for Olivia and Walter, he couldn’t give up his search for Etta. It goes deeper than that though; the rift between the two is evident and it doesn’t look as if a happy ending is in their immediate future.
Meanwhile, the Observer General’s interrogation of Walter is picking up big time. With blood seeping from his nose and blood vessels in his eyes bursting, Walter continues to fight the mind invasion. The Observer is surprised to find Walter’s mind partitioned, a feat only another Observer could have shown him, though he is able to find a picture of a young girl (Etta). Before he can glean more from the image, the alarm sounds as Etta, Peter, and Olivia enact their rescue plan. They get Walter out but it appears the damage he received has caused him to revert back to his incomplete self. When they give him the device, it lights up but no plan pops up in his mind. Etta surmises that fighting the Observer’s mind attack has destroyed the portions of the brain where the plan was housed.
Things look worse than ever and a distraught Walter wanders around the street where he sits in an abandoned car. He leafs through it and finds a CD that he puts into the CD player. “Only You” blares from the speakers and its lyrics touch upon the hopelessness and dejection Walter feels but it is quickly replaced by something else. Linking the conversation between Walter and the Observer together during his interrogation, the music, as Walter said, “helps you shift perspective, to see things differently when you need to”. In a word, it provides hope in the most hopeless of times. “Nothing grows from scorched earth,” the Observer gloated earlier but when Walter spots a daisy growing from the concrete, the Observer’s words ring hollow and incorrect.
Hope is never lost, so long as we keep fighting.
‘Transilience’, while hitting us with the realities of a dying word, also leaves something to be desired. While the glimpse of the Observer takeover was well done and left the viewer to wonder just what happened to in the years prior to fringe crew being encased in amber and the heartfelt ending were perfect bookends to the episode, the biggest glitch lies in the body. Gone for all this time, it takes the crew an afternoon to find amber-Olivia? The speed, while understandable from a storytelling perspective, tempers the desperation and tension they were trying to build. The amber gypsy and Markham segments were dull and though the former was an attempt to help the viewer identify the changes in the new world, the Observer Carbon Monoxide generator, ‘egg sticks’, and Walter’s conversation with the Observer about music better encapsulated this new world.
With only a half-order of episodes in play for the final season, each Fringe hour will need to be a little tighter, with the fat trimmed off the edges. Though ‘Transilience’ did not achieve these tasks, I believe that with the current creative team behind this modern day ‘X-Files’ at the helm, that task shouldn’t be a problem.