After a three week hiatus, Fringe returns with its penultimate episode (if one counts next week’s two-part finale as one). Picking up where we left off, the gang is trying to figure out their next steps in finding out the entire plan. Walter has an idea to use the sensory deprivation tank to delve more into Donald (who we found out was September, the only Observer worth anything). It doesn’t take long for him to find the echo of Donald and, with the details Walter provides, the group is able to pinpoint Donald’s location in Brooklyn. But more immediate is Walter’s one hundred eighty degree change since his experience with Michael. It gets to the point that, as they are nearing Donald’s location, Peter stops Walter and asks him about his transformation. Walter explains how Michael’s touch freed his mind. He remembers the other timeline as well as so many small moments with his son. Though he still doesn’t remember the plan but the heartfelt scene emphasizes the importance of the father/son relationship between Peter and Walter as well as how far it’s come since the start five years ago. It’s also an excellent reminder of why we fight; it’s not for victory or even freedom (though they are both an important aspects of the fight) rather it’s for the ones we love.
On the other side of the coin, Windmark is still combing over the snippets of Nina’s conversations about Michael (or the Anomaly as he so affectionately calls the boy). He’s told another, his superior, is waiting for him and taking his stylishly plain briefcase blips into Observer central, Manhattan 2609. He briefs the Commander on the Anomaly and his supposition is if they are hiding something such as the boy, there must be something important about him.
The group arrives at the apartment and Donald answers. His relief and joy is apparent when he sees Walter but even more interesting is his reaction to Michael. The two share a wordless intimacy, when their hands touch and there seems to be more to the relationship than that of a protector. All together now, Donald explains how he came to be. Branded as interfering to often in the Observer affairs, September was taken into custody where they removed his Observer tech, reverse engineering what several hundred years of tech and genetic manipulation had wrought. After a sidebar where he explains his name (Donald O’Connor from “Singing in the Rain”, the first movie he and Walter watched together) and giving a familiar windup musical trinket to Michael, Donald provides the group with the history of the Observers. Their state is based on a discovery from 2167 where a scientist looked to expand human intelligence by removing jealousy. Of course, it wasn’t long before other emotions fell by the wayside until all that was left in people was the rational aspect and prodigious acumen in the current Observers. Emotions were no more than “messy and distractions” and this is where Michael changed things. Though he was looked at as nothing more than an anomaly, his importance is that much greater. Not only is his intelligence off the charts but his brain works in a way that others cannot comprehend while maintaining his emotion. As September, Donald knew the boy was special and hid him in the past. But more than that, September’s DNA was used to “grow” the Anomaly (with human love gone, there was no reason for natural procreation) making the boy Donald’s own son.
Interspersed with Donald’s tale, Windmark does his own research on the anomaly and discovers September’s role in it all. He briefs the Commander on the former Observer and asks for permission to go back to a time past their first incursion to wipe the resistance off the map. The Commander rejects his plea, citing their insignificance to the Observer’s plan, one that has a 99.999% of success. Windmark reminds the Commander that the Anomaly’s probability of survival was 0.0001%. He notices something in the way of Windmark’s terse reply and the latter admits something is passing through him he cannot explain. The idea of eliminating the meddlesome bunch of insurgents “consumes” him.
Back at Donald’s, the former Observer shares the true plan with the group. As a hybrid that is far more evolved than both human and Observer, Michael is to be sent forward to 2167 on that day where the scientists figured emotion needed removal to boost intelligence. The preemptive attack would eliminate the Observer threat forever as they would never exist. Time paradox aside—how could September help if he never existed as an Observer—Olivia is overjoyed, thinking how they will be able to get Etta back. Peter is much more cautious, wanting the same thing but afraid to hope.
Windmark returns to the present and, using the tag inserted into Donald, they blip into his now empty apartment. Windmark searches Donald’s room, ghosting his hands across everything and the slight changes in him are starting to become more apparent, though he’s not the only one. When his subordinate enters the room as Windmark listens to a bit of jazz, the former’s foot begins to tap in rhythm to the dulcet tones. The unexpected action saves both Observers when Donald, after being alerted of Windmark when he trips a silent alarm, sets off a miniature fusion bomb. If Windmark wasn’t feeling emotion before then, he is now. He’s met outside by a company of loyalists who provide him with details of the fugitives’ escape.
Walter goes with Donald into the storage garage in search of the future tech Donald stashed. Walter opens up more on his experience with Michael, most importantly how he must sacrifice himself for the plan to work. Visibly shaken after sharing that particular nugget of information, Walter asks if Michael showed him all the love to make it easier to come to terms with what he has to do. Donald reminds him that it was Walter’s idea to sacrifice himself, to make amends for the damage he’d done. Donald asks him if he remembers the white tulip; it was taken from the future, a symbol of hope. “At that time I needed to give you back the hope that we could win,” Donald tells Walter. When they get back to the car, Donald parts ways with the rest, saying he has a few more things to get before the plan can be fully realized. He says a final goodbye to Michael, “I will see you again,” he promises before they leave.
Things get a bit hectic when the gang arrives back in the city only to find roadblocks set up all over the place. They have to ditch
the car and ring up Astrid who directs them to the monorail as their best bet. What follows is one of the more intense Fringe moments of the season as Peter, Olivia, Walter, and Michael make their way through the streets and into the train. Despite their stealth, Olivia believes the loyalists will be searching the train but just as they near it, Michael steps off. It halts the loyalists in their tracks and the doors close, allowing the others to escape. Olivia watches helplessly as the loyalists escort Michael to Windmark. His only word to the boy is a satisfied “Hello”.
After years of sporadic appearances topped only by this season’s plan to take over our world, we find out just how the Observers came into existence. Despite my criticisms of this season, the last few episodes have not only upped the ante but the quality as well, living up to the Fringe I’ve come to know. With two hours left before we have to say goodbye to the Fringe crew, we need to ready ourselves for action, drama, and the heartbreaking moment foreshadowed this week. I have a feeling we’ll be in for one wild ride.