Fringe Review: Letters of Transit ~ Fringe Television - Fan Site for the FOX TV Series Fringe

Fringe Review: Letters of Transit

      Email Post       4/23/2012 06:45:00 PM      

“Resistance must take place at any opportunity.”

This was a great episode, almost despite itself. An hour devoted to people we have never met, this close to what might be the final episode of the show ever? And yet it was touching, interesting, and extremely well done, just like all Fringe episodes are. But while “Letters of Transit” was a great episode, I’m still not sure that I’m on board with the direction this season has taken, or with the place of this episode in the master plan.

As I’ve mentioned before, the producers have been, and are now, asking us to take a lot on faith: that this new world is somehow still “our world” (at least in terms of the emotional connections to the characters), that Jones’s plot will turn out to be epic, that everything will make sense in the end. However, I have been resistant to that faith, because these characters still feel new to me, even as Olivia is beginning to remember the events of the previous three seasons.

“Letters of Transit” continues the tradition of the wacky 19th episode, but it is most closely linked to the Season Three finale, in which we saw what the future would be like if the Fringe team and two universes continued on their then-current path. Now, with Peter removed from the equation and possibly because of his walk through the Observer’s brain, the future is quite different: a dystopian mind-control police state created to benefit the bald white businessmen that we are all doomed to evolve into.

Okay, new future. It was a cool future, and the idea of the complicated shifting moral ground of the Fringe division working for the Observers while resisting them is interesting—and could make a great fifth season. But this episode isn’t the story of what will happen. It is the story of what our heroes will try to avoid. That creates some dramatic irony tension for us, as we know where the current path could lead our heroes. But, unless we keep bopping to the future and back again (which seems unlikely) for status updates, we’ll never know if what our heroes are doing will save the future or damn it. Plus, we’ve gotten a glimpse of the future before, only to have it re-set. Too many re-sets are like the boy who cried wolf: after a while, it gets hard to invest in peril that we know will shortly go away, or might never happen at all.

Future Dystopialand does give us some clues about what has happened in our present-day heroes’ recent past: obviously, William Bell played a different role in their lives. Somehow, Olivia met Henry the cab-driver, because she later named her daughter Henrietta after him. Part of Walter’s brain was removed, just like it was in the past that we spent a few years watching on our TVs.

Future Dystopialand also gives us some hints about the events of the current season. Is this what Jones is trying to prevent? Does he want to collapse the two universes so that the Observers don’t want to take us over anymore? Are the hybrid animals going to help us fight the invasion? It’d be an interesting twist, if Jones was a good guy who hates the Fringe division because they later start to follow a policy of hands-off appeasement.

All those questions either will or will not be answered, and all my doubts will either disappear or dissipate as the season draws to a close. The episode itself, as I said above, was well done and enjoyable. I figured out Etta’s identity about half-way through—she really does look like she could be Olivia’s daughter. That made her quest quite touching, particularly the grief she must have felt over Walter’s emptiness.

Simon Foster was great fun, mostly because I love Henry Ian Cusick. Simon Peter was one of the disciples, and “Foster” might be a sign that Simon played the role of foster-parent to Etta the orphan. Their relationship was certainly close, and the writers did a wonderful job of showing us with just a few lines just how close they are. He sacrificed himself just as Walter did, too. Hopefully they’ll be able to de-amber him soon. Soon, in the future. If the future happens. Oh, whatever. You know what I mean.

Empty-headed Walter was a treat: all that was left in his brain was the candy-center and the part of our brain that retains movie and TV quotes. The addition of the cold-hearted, overly pragmatic part of his brain was a great opportunity for John Noble to show us, once again, just how good he is at shifting his character(s) by degrees and nailing it every time.


• Simon: “People are getting brave. Don’t let them.”

• Walter: “I am not a number. I am a free man!”

• Walter: “These are not the droids you’re looking for.”

• Walter: “Like the Guns of Navarone.”

• Etta: “He’s a very smart boy.”

• Walter: “We are insurgents. And this is anti-matter.”

• Etta: “He’s half a fruitcake short of Christmas.”

• Walter: In that case, a little more focus and a little less pontificating and we might have the job done by now.”

• Coffee chews. Ew!

• Marking Loyalists rather than rebel Natives seems odd. Once marked, why wouldn’t a Loyalist turn rebel and use his tattooed face to infiltrate the organization?

• Sorry about the lateness of this review. My DVR doesn’t love me anymore.

My reviews have been complainy recently, and I’m not happy that they’ve taken that direction. Episode by episode, Fringe nails it. Everything is perfectly done, spot-on, completely flawless. It’s the overall story, and the emotions that it does or does not engender in me, that are causing the dissatisfaction. That makes each episode hard to rate. Quality of product? A+. Effect of product? Ah, there’s the rub.

Three out of four friends in the city.

(Josie Kafka reviews episodes of Fringe, Awake, Vampire Diaries, and Game of Thrones for


Jeffrey Thiele said...

I don't think Olivia ever met Henry in this timeline. I think Peter named her Henrietta in memory of his son that was erased from existence. That's what made the reveal of her full name even more emotional.

Christoph said...

I feel this should have been a special double episode...the 19th is always quirky...the first ever double episode would have fix in with this quirkiness...I was completely getting into it when it was running just so so well.

Best episode so far - even if it didn't 'end'

Wemmsie said...

Since he is untouched by the timeline changes, Peter still found out about his son he had with the alternate Olivia while original Olivia's timeline with cab driver Henry changed. It's hard to wade through all of the different timelines and to verify that didn't happen since we can assume Olivia is getting her memories back, so that just proves a mess of possible outcomes. Anyway, I liked the episode, but I'm getting rather muddled considering what I should be keeping track of anymore. I'm worried that the writers don't have much else to work with, though, so they keep throwing extreme ideas at us to keep us entertained. Hopefully we'll pick up right where we left off and Fringe doesn't turn into another Lost.

Fringe Lover said...

I too was completely engrossed in the story when the episode ended. I would for sure love to see some more of this story-line. It's now one of my fave episodes.

Anonymous said...

I don't care for any episode/timeline or universe that Olivia is not in. It seemed obvious right away that the young agent was the daughter of she and Peter, as she looks so much like Olivia. But she's no Olivia, sorry!

chillip said...

"Empty-headed Walter was a treat: all that was left in his brain was the candy-center and the part of our brain that retains movie and TV quotes. The addition of the cold-hearted, overly pragmatic part of his brain was a great opportunity for John Noble to show us, once again, just how good he is at shifting his character(s) by degrees and nailing it every time. "

john noble is very, very good. a stunning performance. bravo.

rgos said...

would olivia not remember Henry, now that her memories are back? I think we are forgetting that Olivia's position is now similar to Peter's in that they both are living in a reset timeline, with their memories of the original timeline still present. With her memories back, cab driver Henry holds the same significance. This can be coupled with Peter's awareness of his now non-existent son Henry. Also in that mindset, I felt watching the episode, that it would be the current path that the team is on now which could lead to the future of 19. DRJ's current plans to implode the universe could very well leave the universe in the weakened state that would be perfect for an observer invasion, even if, DRJ's plan is ultimately unsuccessful.

BrunoMGA_PT said...

Henry was Walter's father (and peter's grandfather) name. Thats why they named the child in season 3 Henry.

I love Fringe, but since the writers decided to reboot for Season 4 the show became inconsistent and unspired on many levels... the Observers taking over is another proof of that.. They can kiss theyr renewal goodbye i guess... They are probably aiming for a spinoff here, wich for me would ultimately suck (and even more without Olivia)

Dennis said...


Henry (Higgins) was name of the cab driver that delivered Fauxlivia's baby (unbeknownst to Peter).

The name of Walters father (and Peter's grandfather) was Robert Bishop

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you about season 4.

It reminds me of the show Dallas. They wanted to change the story line so they turned the whole previous year into a dream. Bobby died but the producers wanted him back on the show. So Pam woke up and there he was. Argggh.

But I still love Fringe. Hows that for loyalty.


45 said...

So you don't care about the other characters? You do know fringe is more than the Olivia show right?

Ben Tobin said...

I personally love the way this season has been progressing. I have faith in the showrunners to deliver a truly epic finale. I'm also positive we'll get a 5th season.
I think Jones is perhaps my favorite character on the show, part of his appeal for me IS how little we know about him or his motives. He clearly has an endgame and I for one am excited to see how everything plays out.
I also think the reboots at the beginning of the seasons are what has been keeping the show alive and as fresh and innovative as it is. Unlike Bones or House which have stagnated from being on the air too long and only really making casting changes, the Fringe model leaves a lot of room for innovation and creative storylines. I said it last year when people were against the alternate universe, give the writers time to do what they do best. I was on board with the alternate universe and I'm on board with the concept this season. The fact that show has evolved so much is it's greatest strength.

pMaestro said...

Right with you, @Ben Tobin. I'm genuinely loving this season and the ingenuity of the show in general. Sophisticated with a huge dollop of heart.

Zepp said...

Thanks by the post, Josie. This episode "Letters of Transit," I just thought, great and unique. The element of surprise on Fringe is something that I am already prepared and on guard, but this time ... I sat on the couch in front of my TV and started watching the episode. Came the opening scenes with flashes of the earlier episodes and started itself, the first scenes. Hu?! Is not wrong? This is not Fringe ... But it has an "Observer" ... Yes, it was Fringe! This episode is a legitimate Fringe, I thought, but what happens in another era, with others, and possibly set in a chaotic universe, but as a result of something that already happened, this 4th season, was what initially seemed. It's another story line, with other groups of people involved; all around a third group of people, entities, who are the oppressors of the entire system, which were "terrible" Observers (!). And I wondered: OMG, but where are Peter, Olivia and Walter?! This episode simply astonished me, briefly, but then I started to have more attention to what I was watching. Everything looked like a fantastic world of Fringe, something that was happening in the future, another time to come. It was a strangely beautiful world, ugly, oppressive, decadent and advanced, something without much love, whose attitude of most people would be used, the survival of each, or each one thinking of himself first, so it seemed. Figuratively speaking, that Observers in this future seem to be a true Nazi-fascists, mixed and "watching" his people "orderly and obedient," who live there, as a "flock of sheep." As regard the old story of the collective as the primary, rather than the individual. All those people seemed balanced environments and others in a social system controlled in order, clean, extremely clean, controlled by the observers, but totally wrong and distressing, as one important sense: individual freedom. It was an episode with the design of the scenes, atmospheres and photography right in the line of the movies, "Gattaca" and "Blade Runner", but certainly with the indelible mark of Fringe worlds. "Letters of Transit" was one of the best episodes I've ever seen of Fringe.

Thoughts: I can not make - still - no relation to what I watched this episode with what we've seen this season, or other. Another thing that struck me is that I did not see Peter out of amber. He just came up and hugged "their" daughter Henriquetta?! And Walter? He now seems to be an unknown with your new brain "neat." With this "new brain", Walter seemed to be a "Walternate" type, to jokes the "old" Walter (!). And, as the characters Simon and Etta, I found that they are simply excellent, very appropriate to the stories of Fringe, but are played by actors of high level and charismatic. Now, we expect to see more, is not it?

chillip said...

"Another thing that struck me is that I did not see Peter out of amber. He just came up and hugged "their" daughter"

Simon pushed Peter out of the amber.

I also enjoyed John Noble slipping right into "original" Walter Bishop -- so coldly sold with that reveal at the end.

Matthew M said...

Man, even the few gloom and doom naysayers here make sick to my stomach. Get over yourselves.
This episode is the best of S-4 and in my top 5 all time.
It is obviously a different timeline with a different past and one of many possible futures.
Loved the opening credits, another set to add to the collection.
The minute I saw it wasn't Olive walking but a younger version I knew it was O/P's daughter. Especially odd they only referred to her as 'Agent' with no last name or 'Etta'. Didn't realize 'Henrietta' until Peter said it. Drew a blank on that name I guess.
Please you negatory types have to stop getting your lace panties all in a twist or you will choke yourselves.
Whether it is the last season or one more to go, it will all come out in the wash.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely LOVED this episode. It's going on my top episodes list for sure. I'd also like to comment on the score/music of this episode and how very talented M. Giacchino and his musicians are. I was extremely moved by so many scenes, including Simon's sacrifice and Peter's reunion with his daughter. I, too, was swept away and even expected the preview for next week's episode to be a continuation of this one.

I will say that the writers will never write off Anna Torv and I don't believe she is dead. Merely "suspended" somewhere. Here's why: After watching the episode over, did anyone notice Etta asking Walter where someone is? After she shot Astrid with some breathing serum, she said, "Walter, where is.." then was conveniently cut off by Simon complaining about the zapper thing being broken. Not just that, Georgina really did a great job looking disappointed, but not heart brokened when she saw that it was Astrid.. so right then and there I knew Olivia wasn't killed by that bullet on her necklace. Or maybe that's just what I'd like to believe. :)

As for the path of S5, I think mentioned somewhere on another post that the diff between S3's finale episode where they travel to the future is that this is a glimpse for US. Because none of the Fringe team saw this new future, they can't do anything about it. (Unless Sept shows them somehow..but doubt it). So fortuntely/unfortunately, I feel this is the path the show will go and there will be no resets for S5.

This is how I think S4 is gonna go down.. DRJ will not succeed (of course) bc the cortexi kids, along will Olivia, will kill him. But they will have to turn off the machine and separate the two worlds (I'd say bc the episode name sort of gives it away "Worlds Apart" and I can't think of another reference.) And if they turn of the machine, they will face the same obstacle from S3 where both worlds will tear apart. That's where the Observers will come in and help them fix both worlds separately. This will be "Brave New World" Part 1. BNW P2, Olivia finds out she is pregnant and then they jump 4 years to the invasion. THE END. Ha.

Shawn Mahone said...

I think the lack of emotional connection I am feeling this season is the fact that I feel like Josh Jackson has checked out mentally and physically this season. Peter has been in only 25% of this season and that includes overall screen time and even when he is there he does not have really anything to do and so I can tell that Josh would rather be off filming movies or films that actually progress his career then being on a show that has lost its way really badly.

I do feel for Joel and Jeff that this is the case but in the end of the day they brought this on themselves, rumour has it that Josh has been filming movies this season thus the lack of Peter...this disconnect is their fault.

Anonymous said...

@Amrit - I totally understand how you're feeling and that's a great observation about Josh. It did seem like he was just floating around S4, not knowing where his place in this world is, much like everyone else. Grant it, he didn't have as much air time as everyone else (due to the path of the story and wanting to introduce these slightly new characters to the audience first), there is still a common theme that the writers were trying to portray (where does everyone belong kinda thing.)

But I do have to argue that yes, they could've stuck with the current timeline for S4, but after seeing where the show is going, not to mention this is a science fiction show so anything goes, I don't think there was longevity with the old timeline/storyline. And even tho I wasn't happy with how the season started (mostly cause everyone seemed really broken and depressed), after Peter returned, it really made a difference. He may not have had as much face time, but he is still certainly an integral part of the show and played a role in everyone's life personally and professionally. (He did help solve a lot of cases!) The impact of that alone, to me, is what makes his character worth watching and I do hope, in real life, he doesn't feel like he wasted his time with the show. I certainly don't think so.

Anonymous said...

This was a fantastic episode but rather random. Why now did they go to the future? Where is Olivia? :( I hope it doesn't end because this show gets me through the week. I just started watching this season after my boyfriend insisted and it is quite exceptional. I am a bit confused but intend to catch up over summer when work is not busy. Hopefully then it will make more sense. Some things I had noticed was the relationships and coincidences of this season. Etta and Olivia share a common format in scenes with Nina. They all wear dark colors. Where are the alternate versions of all the characters? Is DRJ possibly good? Lately most cases have been something to do with the future. Almost all guest stars had some power to do with fate. By the way, did anyone notice Simon say Emily? Wasn't that the name of the little girl a few episodes back. Possibly an alternate? I found that interesting. She had something to do with future and dreams and resembled Olivia in many ways. In a way, Etta was similar as well. The women playing Etta was wonderful and I hope to see her more. I just hope the random cases come together in the end and there is a bigger meaning then just leaving them without answers. Loved the episode and love how much it makes me think.

45 said...

It's all because he doesn't have a double. They spend more time and energy on the doubles than Peters plight thus having Peter in it less and less. Funny people complain about the potential lack of OLIVIA next year but they failed to understand that there has been less and less PETER 2 years in a row.

Josh does not deserve a show like this, the audience, the writers treat him like he is a nobody all because he doesn't have a damn double to play.

Matthew M said...

Some of you people are either unbelievably stupid or unbelievably ignorant.

Who says Olivia won't be back?
There are 3 episodes left this season and Olivia is in all 3 I'm pretty sure. Plus we are still waiting to hear if it will have a 10-13 episode season 5.
I don't think some of you even paid attention to the "FACTS" presented in the episode. If you did you would know this universe WAS NOT the Blueverse, Redverse or Amberverse. It was completely new, a standalone episode of a verse we will probably never see again.
You people really need to get a grip.

pMaestro said...

Hear, hear!

Briar said...

I am sorry to say I was disappointed by this episode. I found the future unconvincing, for a start. You really cannot suddenly turn around three seasons of presenting the Observers as exactly that, neutral Observers, and expect to retain credibility. The cool scientific joke contained in their name was thrown overboard here. These Observers were so unlike the ones we are used to that I couldn't buy into them at all - I hope the writers aren't going to descend into such crude comic book cliches to bring the season to a climax. The 1984-type future was equally disappointing, again because it was resorting to cliche to hastily sketch in the narrative framework. Its evocation of gestapo bosses and uniformed storm troopers was routine - something Fringe regularly avoids as a rule. (I did enjoy the acknowledgement that resisting a foreign occupier makes you an "insurgent", though.) Unlike many, I was unimpressed by "Etta" (did I mishear it along the way, or was Olivia's real father, or grandfather, called Henry?) who made a poor substitute for our Olive. I thought her performance lightweight. She might have had the outer mannerisms, but she didn't have the inner ability to draw and focus our attention Anna Torv possesses.I loved Simon though. I wish we could import him into the regular series. Needless to say Walter was rivetting, and Nina Sharp's brief appearance as good as ever, as was Broyles's. Character has always been Fringe's strong point, so I was bowled over by the reunion of Peter and Etta as well - but it didn't sell the overall narrative concept to me. I sincerely hope that this comic book situation (goody humans against alien invaders - V, Earth: Final Conflict, Falling Skies and a thousand others all over again) isn't the jumping off point for our hoped for season 5 - as a premise, it would be even weaker than the season 4 one. I want to see Fringe go out strong, not as a succession of increasingly transparent ghosts of its original glory. If they have run out of original ideas, perhaps they should just throw in the towel.

DamnyouJJabrams said...

Loved the episode... just one criticism. When freeing Peter, couldn't they have used a stick or something like that :D

Neil said...

After seeing the season finally, I'm appreciating the removal of Belly's hand, and the cryptic comment Walter made about how he treated 'livia.

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