Fringe Season 5 Review “An Origin Story”

Watching people grieve on screen is always an interesting exercise. No matter how a character chooses to respond to the grief, audiences are tempted to feel for them and fall into lockstep with the character’s feelings. A lot of times in action shows, the grief will stay focused on one person as they either sit in their room and cry or reenact the movie Man on Fire. They can choose whatever option they wish because the audience will empathize with them.

It’s why tonight’s episode of Fringe was so very interesting to watch. It wasn’t a particularly spectacular piece of television, but boy was it fascinating to watch. Naturally, we spent most of our time with the grieving parents: Olivia struggled to keep it together. Peter channeled is inner Denzel for his massive (and hasty) Observer revenge plot. From the very beginning of the episode, the darkness in Peter is evident. He’s reckless, cold, and filled with rage. Typically, a show would make Peter’s revenge killings into some kind of catharsis porn. However, as the episode progresses, it’s tough not to realize that Peter’s actions only serve to continue to hurt his family. At this low point, Olivia needs him. Instead, Peter runs off to do some light torturing coupled with fun puzzle work.

What was weird about Peter’s choice of vengeance above all else is that Fringe usually operates on an upbeat tone. At the end of the day, love always triumphs. Love still may yet triumph, but it got pushed far to the back of the pack by the end of the episode. Peter’s decision to make himself an Observer with a spine implant was impetuous and careless. It’s done in a way that sets up some interesting angles for the show going forward, so the decision seems to fit with the progressing tone of the show.

Though it’s become repetitive at this point, it’s hard to discuss this episode without discussing the work of John Noble. He’s not featured prominently given the focus of tonight’s episode, but his conversation with Olivia in the lab is some of the best work of the season. Noble is basically all feelings at once in that scene. He’s empathetic to Olivia’s plight, sad about his daughter’s passing, and coldly resigned the current world in which he lives. Noble will never win an Emmy for his work on this show, but moments like the one in tonight’s episode will always stand out for me and the 17 other fans that still watch the show.

Finally, it’s important to note that it is impossible to say where we are going from here. Much like Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon on Homeland, J. H. Wyman has opened the door for all possibilities. While I’ll never be sold on the idea that Etta’s death was heartbreaking, the decision to kill that character blew the top off the potential ceiling of this final season. By brandishing his timing surprise weapon, Wyman has made it difficult to know exactly what to make of Peter’s transformation into an Observer. It could easily be a plotline that lasts the better part of the rest of the season, or they could run right through the issue in a few episodes. Much like Walter (and Kevin Garnett) has always tried to teach us: There are no real limits. How Wyman chooses to stretch them will inform exactly how compelling the final 8 episodes will be.

What did you think of tonight’s episode?