By Josie Kafka 9/30/2012 04:48:00 PM Categories: Review, Season 5, Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11
“Resistance is futile.”
While we’re all sad that Fringe has only 13 episodes left, there’s something to be said for the showrunners knowing when a story is going to end, in time to craft a beautiful ending. In the past, one of Fringe’s strengths is that it forces us to ask questions. But its greatest strength has been that it reminds us that questions can change, as in last season’s switch from “will they or won’t they” to “who are they, and is identity a stable category?”
This season, with its focus on the darkest of timelines and the possibility of a dramatic, scorched-earth finale, the foremost question in my mind is, “Can this future be changed?” I like the vagueness of it: a changed future could imply that the Fringe team returns to “our” time, and Peter and Olivia raise Etta. But a changed future could also imply that the anti-Observer revolution is successful, and this future world can start to remake itself. (And re-stock coffee and chickens, because tea and “egg sticks” sound almost as bad as the obliteration of freedom.)
That might not be the right question, though. Perhaps we will learn that changing the future makes it worse (again). That our world is inevitably on decline. That our choices are between fast destruction, like that averted in last season’s finale, and slow death by carbon monoxide poisoning. It seems unlikely that a show would end with the destruction of the world as we know it, but Fringe is at its best when it is committing impossibilities with wild, joyful abandon.
Regardless of where it ends, the journey looks to be fascinating. I’ve seen a few reviews that have kvetched about the similarity of this dystopia to others (Bladerunner, especially in the market scene), but I like it. Gray, sad, slightly dirty, with a combination of old and new “tech” used by the numerous people who live on the border between law and revolution.
The characters, too, continue to fascinate. Olivia and Peter have a new set of relationship problems that stems from their different reactions to the loss of Etta. Etta has to learn how to be parented—by people who don’t look that much older than her. And most heart-breaking? Walter, who regained so much mental power in last season’s “Letters of Transit,” only to lose it yet again, attempting to keep the plan for revolution safe from the Observers.
Peter, Olivia, and Astrid were all business in this episode. They had a few moments in which they reacted to the horrible future they had a hand in creating (“Not by half…”), but it was Walter whose reactions gave us a chance to really think about everything that has been lost: the pleasure of music, the destruction of cities, the egg sticks. The most beautiful scene in the episode was Etta kissing Walter, acknowledging him as her grandfather, even if she can’t remember him. The most tragic scene was Walter finding music, and hope, amid a cityscape nearly as ravaged as his brain.
What a Miserable Future:
• Why would someone pay $3000 for walnuts? Are they good for anything other than a quick snack, or on salads?
• The Markham scene was so odd. May he die a hero’s death, no matter how creepy the Olivia-as-coffee-table thing was.
• Every time someone says “William Bell’s hand” a line from a Pearl Jam song goes through my head: “Who’s got the brain of JFK, and what does it mean to us now?” Is anyone else having this problem?
• If you watch the promo for the rest of the season closely, I think you can spot a much-loved actor. The back of his head, at least.
• My work schedule is fairly busy right now, and while I’ll try to post reviews as soon as possible, they might not happen until Sunday.
Four out of four dandelions.
Josie Kafka reviews Fringe, The Vampire Diaries, and Game of Thrones for billiedoux.com. And she, like Peter, is not a loyalist.