Our last visit to Fringe‘s Observer-ruled future raised several big questions — among them: the whereabouts of Olivia and the nature of Walter’s plan to defeat the Badservers. The first piece of the final puzzle answers one of those questions and begins to address the other.
One of the most noticeable things about “Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11” is how focused the episode is — plenty of ground is covered, but the major story beats are tightly woven and the drama unfolds at a steady pace.
Within that, of course, are exciting ingredients, vital context and one or two surprises — all blending together to make this episode not only feel like a relevant piece of the puzzle, but a fresh yet familiar story with characters who continue to find new ways to make you care.
There are, however, a few ‘soft spots’ that prevent a fully unified enjoyment. The apparent lack of observational skills from the ‘Observers’ seems at odds with their abilities, while the big Olivia/Peter moment didn’t quite work emotionally and Walter’s ‘regression’ may strike some as being a bit convenient. But these aren’t problems most Fringe fans can’t handle.
One of the other big questions going into the premiere, courtesy of the promos, was whether the opening scene depicting the Observer invasion was a flashback or a dream. We soon find out that it was a nightmare from Peter’s perspective. Fringe often delves into the past to contextualize its present and this was important in allowing viewers to see what happened on that other fateful day, which not only leads to Etta being separated from her parents but Olivia and Peter eventually separating through the grief of losing their little girl.
With the search for Olivia on, we get some more context building with the the incomplete Fringe team coming to terms with their new circumstances and surroundings. Some of the Peter and Etta scenes were a bit strange given the fringe-y circumstances that find the father/daughter paring at similar ages, but I have to say, Etta fits so seamlessly into the story and in some respects she stole the show.
I was stuck by the seeming casual attitude of Peter towards finding Olivia (granted, this may play into his guilt over their separation) so his assertion that “nobody wants to find Olivia more” had to be taken with a pinch of salt. It was Etta who, like her mother of old, was the consistent driving force throughout the episode, which makes me wonder whether our two golden girls are going to be ‘competing’, in a narrative sense, for glory.
We also discover the reason behind the team’s ambering after Olivia’s mission to retrieve the device to reassemble September and Walter’s plan came under threat. William Bell’s presence in the amber remains mysterious, however the BadserverCop retrieval of his (and Simon Foster’s) block suggests he might still be in-play.
Walter and Etta’s little catch-up at the market was a sweet moment that added another splash of emotion to proceedings, but one of the big surprises was finding out that Markham had “bought” the ambered Olivia. It was great to see an aged-up Markham in this new setting, however I initially thought he was hoarding Olivia to keep her safe.
Turns out, he “loved” the Dunhamnator from the moment she first walked into his bookstore, which is a nice callback but mostly felt a bit creepy (heaven knows what else he spilled on her ambered form).
Still, bringing the enigmatic and slightly tragic Markham back added color to proceedings and set up the following plot points which sees the team narrowly escape the Badservers, all except Walter.
His interrogation was a stand-out element of the episode, which I imagine the writers and director a lot of fun building (poor John Noble acted his socks off, but probably didn’t enjoy it quite as much). The Badservers’ psychic ability is well established in the story, but Windmark’s display was brutal to say the least.
It’s early days but the Windmark v Walter dynamic is already displaying signs of being another of the show’s classic mind-clashes. Windmark’s inability to comprehend music met by Walter’s “mostly it amazes me” was an effective way to illustrate their perspectives through something most of us can understand.
Human emotion is something our most loved Observer September has long been intrigued by on a different level. His own emotional ‘mistakes’ have greatly shaped the journey of these characters and, as we further discover, he has all but sacrificed his position in Observerdom by plotting with Walter to bring them down. In some ways the most traveled of all Fringe characters, he’s status is currently unknown, but even now he’s relevant to both the plot and emotion of the story.
Olivia and Etta’s reunion was even more convincing than I was expecting. Peter set a pretty low bar in “Letters Of Transit”, but trust the Dunhamnator to not only recognize her daughter but soak her in with all the love in this world and the next. I half joked that they might be competing for screen earlier, but so far they complement each other well and I’m interested to see where they go from here,
More immediate is the rescue of Walter, which sees the team introduced to Etta’s little band of resistance fighters and the titular Transilience Thought Unifier. There have been many devices throughout Fringe, many that serve as convenient plot devices — and while this one has a bit of that to it, it makes sense and thematically plays into one of the show’s core concepts of memory.
The team’s “Trojan Horse” rescue felt a bit easy but wasn’t completely ridiculous and allowed 2-Guns Peter some nice action hero moments. But coolness aside, one of the most enduring moments of this episode comes at the end, as we learn that Walter has essentially regressed back to an earlier state, memories key to defeating the Badservers “destroyed” during his mind-battle with Windmark.
This may seem like the show once again resetting its core characters to serve the plot, but the moments that followed, with Walter finding the very thing that had earlier danced across his mind, before his perspective locked onto an impossible dandelion growing from “scorched earth”, helped to bookend the episode and add a layer of emotional depth to Walter that has perhaps being absent for a while.
Let’s face it, he’s been all different kinds of broken throughout the series and no two kinds of broken are the same, but these few silent moments with him at the end underscores the intrinsic patterns that Fringe does so well. Sure, music, as Person Of Interest knows all too well, certainly helps carry emotion into endings, but a moment that captures regression and hope in a single speechless frame deserves a tip of the fedora.
- Walter laments Peter for “abandoning” them, seemingly referring to his decision not to join he and Olivia in the fight to defeat the Badservers.
- The Badservers’ built machines that pump carbon monoxide into the atmosphere as they’re not used to it being so pure — and these guys ruined their planet, surely not?
- Walter calls it a “travesty”. Can’t argue with that, though it feels a bit rich coming from the man who ripped a hole in the fabric of the universe, leading to its degradation and near total destruction. I guess time in amber has left him hazy.
- “Markham is dead. He died a hero’s death”. Reading one too many fairytales, Markham? Can’t believe he hid under the bed.
- So good to see Peter kicking down doors again – how I’ve missed thee.
- I can believe the reason behind Olivia and Peter’s separation but the emotion seemed a bit forced, irrespective of Peter’s waterworks (or maybe because of them), and it felt like they were talking to the audience as opposed to one another.
- Walter’s almost manic laugh during the interrogation was a wonderful dash of madness from the mad scientist.
MYSTERIES / ANSWERS
- Where is September? What happened to him?
- What are “the stones”? Any relation to stasis runes?
- How will Walter remember his plan?
- What is at Bellie’s storage facility?
- Olivia and the team ambered themselves because they were at risk of being caught by the Badservers during Olivia’s retrieval of the device.
- September helped Walter to scramble the plan to defeat the Badservers onto a Transilience Thought Unifier. The device reassembles and unifies specified thoughts, protecting them from those who might read minds.
- Etta was separated from her parents when she was three years one month and five days. Olivia and Peter separated afterwards through grief.
- Walter no longer remembers the plan or cutting off Bellie’s hand.
- Walter initially intended to use Bellie’s hand to access one of his storage facilities.
9/10 Seriable Stars
Quotable of the Week: “Walter Bishop, if I only had a unifier I could unify these thoughts” (Windy)
Best Moment: Olivia/Etta reunion & Walter/dandelion
Outstanding Performer: John Noble