After watching the first episode of this season’s Fringe, I knew that something just wasn’t right. Don’t get me wrong, the familiar tension still permeated the air and the dialogue between the team, though stilted and uneven, did hit its stride in later episodes. Still, the tale of Earth being overrun by Observers just didn’t care the umph we’ve come to know over the past four seasons.
Things start off quite pedestrian. Peter is out on the streets syphoning gas (with our current prices, it’s a wonder we haven’t been relegated to that just yet) before walking into a pawn shop. Nothing exciting, right? Well, things escalate quickly when an Observer appears behind Peter, reading his thoughts well enough to catch a picture of a blonde girl who he wants to bring a necklace. The Observer knows something’s not quite right in Peter-town (our hero’s noggin) and follows a suspiciously behaving Peter out the door. He’s awarded a gas can to the face for his troubles and Peter high tails it down into the sewers, barely escaping the loyalists’ attempts at ending his life.
Back at the lab, Walter and Astrid free another tape. Our favorite curmudgeon goes on about the difficulty of freeing the tapes when a battered Peter walks in. His dejection and uncertainty at their ability to defeat the Observers is tempered by Etta of all people. She has a surefire way to hide thoughts from the Observers though it’s a difficult task, one she swears to teach the entire team.
A quick jaunt back to the pawn shop has Broyles (conspicuously absent this season) meets the Simon Says playing Widmark, the HBIC (Head Baldie in Charge). He’s intrigued by this latest event and questions Broyles on one of his loyalist guards failing a routine truth test. Widmark casts the die; questioning Broyles loyalty and a not so subtle clue as to what the elder fringe agent should expect if he fails.
Astrid and Walter’s hard work pays off and the group ends up watching the tape. The second part of the plan is hidden in a metal cylinder and though they can’t make out the location, Walter remembers he hid it under Newer Penn Station. Unfortunately Observer checkpoints are littered across every road leading to the station. They need a diversion and again Walter comes through. Underneath the amber portion of his lab are remnants of every fringe case the team had ever solved. It’s not the safest place in the world but it will give them the ability to create havoc exactly where they need it.
Meanwhile the loyalist Widmark mentioned to Broyles is being questioned by an Observer. Though he tries to fight it, the Observer deigns the guard is part of the resistance and had overheard something about Walter’s old lab. He tells Broyles about the information before leaving to report back to Widmark. At the lab, Peter and Walter are refining their distraction tools while Olivia and Etta study the checkpoint videos. Olivia spots part of a bullet in Etta’s possession and the latter explains how she found it by visiting their old family home. It’s the bullet pulled from Olivia’s head after Walter shot her at the end of ‘Brave New World-Part 2’, in order to prevent Bell from creating his own twisted version of Eden. Their bonding moment is interrupted by a text from Broyles warning them of the Observers mobilization to investigate the lab. Knowing they cannot allow the lab to be commandeered, the crew re-ambers the lab. It’s enough to throw the loyalists off track though, after being told of the error, Widmark wonders if Etta’s ability to mask her thoughts is a trait others in the resistance have learned.
It’s not long afterwards the team gets the ball rolling. A simple smiling Walter starts things off at the checkpoint, spraying the
familiar protein compound that speeds the growth of scar tissue over the entire face. The two men search the tunnels for the cylinder while mother and daughter hold off guards and Observers alike. They use more of the compound to enact their getaway though it all seems for naught when, after opening the cylinder, Walter’s unable to read the plans. Such a complex formula is beyond reading Greek (something Walter does) or Aramaic (at least the western dialect as he does speak that) and must have been provided by September, the Observer whose curiosity and love towards humanity may be just what leads the team to victory. Knowing they can’t stay put, the team starts packing up when Broyles surprises them. Olivia is overjoyed to see her former boss and friend, granting him a fierce hug. Even more shocking, though, is Broyles’ own emotions. For his time on Fringe, Broyles has always been the shining example of hard-ass. Though he’s always had a soft spot for Olivia, rarely has he ever shown emotion, and never to the level displayed in this episode. It’s a testament to his connection to his former team, one that has him providing the group with the armaments necessary to even the playing field.
Said reunion is cut short when Observers appear due to a tracking beacon attached to the getaway car. Widmark leads the raid himself and the loyalists drive the team to an abandoned warehouse where they all get separated. They kill several Observers but Etta has the dumb luck to get singled out by Widmark, who quickly grabs the upper hand. He asks why Peter wanted the necklace and she allows him to see that love is the driving force behind their fight. It’s not enough to save Etta, though, and Widmark dispassionately shoots her in the chest. Peter, Olivia, and Walter quickly make their way to Etta’s side but there’s nothing they can do. But she won’t go down without providing one last act of resistance to the invaders, setting off the anti-matter baton, taking with her the entire loyalist/Observer contingent save for Widmark, who watches curiously as the explosion swallows everything within its blast radius.
Though she’s only been in a handful of episodes, Etta’s death could quite possibly be the catalyst for this somewhat lackluster season. While Olivia seemed to deal with Etta’s demise on some level—there’s no way she won’t feel the aftereffects—something seems to have been broken in Peter. Walter tries to reach Peter, telling his son over and over that Etta’s gone. He hears nothing and can only stare ahead at the hole in the world where Etta died. It’s a hole mirrored in his chest, one that nothing will ever be able to fill. His only hope will be to honor her memory and continue on their mission to free Earth of the Observer’s unrelenting grip.
The question then becomes, how much collateral damage will Peter lay to the invaders and will he lose himself in the process?
Next Week: How far will Peter go to exact his vengeance on the Observers?