Etta Bishop’s story was cut short in last week’s Fringe, but her legacy lived on in an emotional follow-up that delivered one of the most interesting moves yet as Peter transitioned from lovable rogue to antihero. Peter’s actions made for riveting and chilling viewing as he took matters into his own hands in an attempt honor his daughter and fight for the future. With the person who represented his redemption ripped from him, what grew in her place was something raw, dangerous — and ambitious.
If at times Fringe has taken half measures in its portrayal of Peter, “An Origin Story” was a full measures reaction, as he trudged down a path from which he might not return intact, if at all. The episode delivered the other three P’s – plotting, pacing and progression, making it an unmissable piece of the overarching puzzle.
There were some nagging drawbacks – the convenient off-screen capture of the Badserver, the ease with which the team are still able to run around (though granted I may just have to accept this as being a necessary factor), and the possible contrivance of the Badservers’ shipping things in from a future apparently ‘destroyed’. But these and other soft-spots where largely redeemed by compelling developments.
Events got off to a poignant start with Peter combing through Etta’s items, stopping to compare her picture with Olivia as she slept. A silent act that invited us into his mind-space. Peter’s reaction to finding Etta’s secret weapons cache was classic, “that’s my girl”.
If Peter was ready to rally, it was somewhat strange to see the legendary Dunhamnator sleeping. But it helped to contrast her and Peter’s grief and it’s easy to see why she might not want to face the reality of Etta’s demise. Everyone has their own coping mechanisms.
If we’ve seen Olivia broken before, here she was a shell, as captured by her question: “why did we get her back only to lose her again?” Fringe has always been about the search for answers, but this is a question too painful for Olivia to face, at least on her own.
The plot to collapse the Badservers’ transportation portal, and the subsequent interrogation of the captured Badserver, served as a stable corridor for Peter’s evolution and possible destruction.
Initially it looked like Peter would retain a measure of morality as he approached the situation in another way by reading the Badserver’s subconscious responses. This looked like a moment of inspiration from Peter.
Unfortunately, the plan didn’t quite work. As the Badserver explained, Peter had apparently observed his reaction to a fly, not an emotional response. He had placed meaning where he needed to find meaning.
This was a great Fringe moment that toyed with my expectations, bringing together overarching themes while progressing our understanding of the show’s most compelling mythology (parallel universe aside) and the lengths Peter would go for love, and hate.
These powerful scenes brought the focus back to the human origins of the Observers, something Peter grappled with during the interrogation. But both Peter and the Badserver struggled to see the other’s perspective on emotions and limitations.
The Destiny Tapes took a back seat but Etta’s birthday tape emerged instead. I understood Walter trying get Olivia to share the pain by watching the tape with Peter; he should know the damage the loss of a child can do, but I also understood Olivia’s initial resistance.
While Olivia was “hanging by a thread”, Peter was also being pressed on the existence or otherwise of his daughter. Of course, having vanished from the timeline and been presumed dead for twenty-odd years, he’s something of an expert on the matter.
In a fit of rage, Peter tells the Badserver: “I would be ten times what you are if I had that tech in my head!”, latching onto an opportunity to level the playing field. If he couldn’t get the answers from the Badserver, he’d become one himself. “I Am Become Death”.
With the episode having already gone to such extreme lengths, having Peter go all the way by killing the Badserver and taking his tech felt right for the character, as it laid his actions bare rather than trying to half-and-half the situation by dressing him back in sheep’s clothing.
By fusing himself with Observer tech he will presumably become Observer-like, but at a cost? His emotions? The thing that makes him human, “the proof that she was here”? While there’s an element of sacrifice to go with his ObserverBoon, on some level I’d argue that a part of him wanted to ease the pain of Etta. To add to matters, he didn’t even consult Olivia.
From a story point of view you want the scene where Olivia is telling him she wants them to survive, while he’s gradually fading away with that “I love you too”, but there’s no getting away from the fact that he made this huge decision alone. Did he feel that he was already fighting this war on his own, that Etta meant more to him than to Olivia? Is Peter really that selfish or just that perceptive? The answer probably lies somewhere in murky middle. Wonderful characterization and fantastic climax.
NOTES OF RESISTANCE
- Perhaps Peter will be able to hold on to his better nature and vindicate his belief that he can be 10x the entity even with all that tech. It’s going to be interesting to see how it shakes out, but you can almost see the possibilities of how this might all end.
- Walter’s plan to collapse the portal and destroy the future didn’t include much in the way of thought for innocent lives. They may be at war but that slope sure is slippery.
MYSTERIES AND ANSWERS
- What will the Observer tech do to Peter?
- Astrid managed to decode the Observer language after realizing that it each symbol comprises multiple meanings.
- As well as the tech we knew about previously, the Observers also have tech implanted in their necks.
- Peter fused himself with Observer tech and was ..affected.
Quotable of the Week: “You don’t even know what you don’t know.”
Best Moment: Peter fusing himself with Observer tech.
Outstanding Performer: Joshua Jackson