So often in confrontations we are reminded to be true to ourselves, that defeating our adversaries, while important, is meaningless if it leads us to becoming like them. How profound is our victory if we lose the principles we’re fighting for in the first place? This premise is at the heart of this week’s Fringe, aptly titled “The Human Kind”.

Still yet to come to grips with Etta’s death, Olivia watches as maintenance workers tear down her daughter’s likeness on resistance posters. Anil meets her, providing her with the Observer tech Peter installed into himself as well as weapons for the fight. She wants the tech in order for Walter and Astrid to study its effects on the brain.

Meanwhile, Peter continues his cat and mouse game with Windmark, manipulating events to maneuver the head baldie into position for the final fight. But Windmark is not a hapless noob and he infiltrates Peter’s base, Etta’s old apartment. He’s surprised to see that Peter has gained the ability to run futures and knows he’s dealing with a true threat to his reign.

Back at the lab, Walter and Astrid have freed another tape. On it, Walter points them in the direction of Fitchburg where he’s stashed an industrial sized electromagnet; it’s another piece of the puzzle to defeat the Observers. Olivia arrives and gives Walter the tech to study. As they discuss it, Peter calls from New York, telling them that Etta’s apartment is compromised. Walter tries reaching Peter, reminding his son of the promise he made to take care of his father. Though Peter thoughtfully pauses, he goes on about his business, mainly the continued observation of Windmark. Unable to sit and do nothing, Olivia volunteers to pick up the electromagnet while Walter researches the tech.

A paranoid and disillusioned Olivia in Fitchburg

Olivia arrives in Fitchburg and it’s obvious from the start that something’s different about the place. When she meets Simone, the de facto leader of the town, Olivia is greeted with a woman whose abilities to read are only trumped by her belief (instilled by her mother) that Olivia’s arrival signifies the strength of faith and the start of the Observer’s fall. As she waits for the fuel needed for the massive truck that houses the electromagnet, Olivia gets freaked when Darby, a little girl, tells Olivia how folks are talking about her appearance on Reward Wire. When she pulls the gun on Simone, the other woman is disheartened, seeing how truly lost Olivia has become over Etta’s death. Olivia realizes Simone’s talents and acknowledges the gift but her faith in things have been rocked. “It’s all just numbers” she tells Simone dispassionately but the other woman only smiles because she still believes.

Walter and Astrid run the tech through tests at the lab, extrapolating that it expands neural activity along the cerebral cortex to

Windmark pays Peter an unexpected visit

the point of that part of the brain overriding areas that control emotion to make way for the increased bridges of logic. It’s an explanation into why the Observers are so robotic and seemingly several steps ahead of the resistance. Cut to Peter’s continued stalking of Windmark where the lead Observer surprises Peter and quite the entertaining fight ensues. Windmark takes the advantage but it’s short lived as he shows Peter Etta’s last thoughts. Despite the sudden appearance of another Observer, the memory fuels Peter’s strength and he kills the other Observer and stares at Windmark before teleporting away. He goes to the lab and Walter stitches up his wounds. He tries to warn Peter of what’s happening with the tech and how, sooner or later, the effects on the brain will become permanent. But Peter is too detached and focused on avenging Etta for Walter’s pleas to reach the part of him that’s still left.

On her way back from Fitchburg, Olivia calls Anil to get a place to store the magnet. She runs into several downed people, two of which end up being members from the town. They find out that she’s on Reward Wire and tie her up until they’re able to make the exchange. They call it in but before they can collect, Olivia shows off her inner McGyver, cutting through her bonds and building a projectile weapon; she uses the bullet that saved the world as ammunition, killing both men to foster her escape (though she makes sure to retrieve the bullet). She gets back to the lab and asks Walter for Peter’s location. She finds him studying Windmark’s movement and gives a heartfelt plea for Peter to come back to her. He wants to remain on his course but her words finally reaches the part of him that loves and he pulls out the tech. He tells her that Etta’s last thoughts were of them and though he does see Windmark back on schedule for the next day’s confrontation, it seems to be forgotten as the two lovers embrace.

As mentioned, ‘The Human Kind’ explores the old adage of “to thine own self be true”. Since Etta’s death, Olivia and Peter have been on diverging path, the former losing faith in the cause and the latter pulling out all stops to defeat his daughter’s killer and humanity’s enslaver. They both lost their mission, allowing events to change them. Olivia’s experience with Simone refocused her and it gave her the conviction necessary to push Peter back on track with her. Despite my approval of the overall message and the kick ass fight between Peter and Windmark (which was much too short in my opinion), there was an emotional gap in this episode, one that was most prevalent in the final scene between Peter and Olivia. Though it was supposed to be a heartfelt exchange, Olivia’s words never truly reached me and, coupled with her bitter discussion with Simone earlier, it feels as if the writers themselves have lost focus with Olivia’s character. The strength we’ve been privy to for the past four and a half seasons is no longer there. Yes, some of it may be purposefully done, crafted to show her disillusion with this new future but that strength was supposed to have been conveyed when she reached out to Peter. Sadly, the punch missed the mark and muted an otherwise well-themed episode. One can only hope that next week we find a stronger, more focused Olivia, closer to the one we’ve known, loved, and respected since the beginning. As Fringe draws to a close, it would be a travesty if she doesn’t reach the full potential of her character.