“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It's the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.” ― Lois Lowry, The Giver
This episode was sure to be controversial as early viewers warned that tissues would be needed and some outlets leaked that there would be an emotional death. I do have to say that I had a pretty good idea of what was coming due to set reports concerning the activities of a certain actress—or lack thereof. However, when that big moment came, I was not prepared. The script was written by Alison Schapker, who is one of the best Bad Robot team writers, having penned The Plateau, Marionette, Bloodline, The Last Sam Weiss, One Night In October, Enemy Of My Enemy and A Better Human Being. She’s great with meaningful and gut-wrenching stories, and this may be her Fringe magma opus.
The last we saw the team, they rode off in the ancient Vista Cruiser—affectionately known as the Bishop-mobile—that Peter was able to bring back from the dead. This episode starts differently than the majority of episodes, which usually involve a dream sequence or death for the latest Fringe case victim. Peter is out on a nocturnal mission; syphoning some fuel from an abandoned vehicle. As I watched, I wondered about the Observer’s curfew time, and whether or not he had some “papers” made up in case he was questioned.
Memories Are Made of This
Gasoline in hand, he stops in front of the display window of a small, secondhand goods shop named The Thrifty Lion. A cymbal smashing monkey toy brings a smile to his face. It brought a smile to mine as well, because not only do I like to see rare moments of happiness for Peter, I recognized the toy from a season two episode. It was in August’s apartment, a distraction that almost got Peter killed by the Observer’s hit man, Donald Long. (Not a relative *grin* ) His curiosity piqued, Peter enters the store.
Like Peter, I am drawn to old things, collectibles, and antiques. Some say that it is a Cancerian trait, because people born under the sign feel emotionally connected to the past, and as such revel in dusty bookshops (like Markham’s), and often have hobbies that involve collectibles (like coins). Peter isn’t a Cancer, but he is very much his father’s son, as we’ve seen Walter’s fondness for older tech such as Betamaxes and vinyl records. The first item he picks up is a pillow cross-stitched with an ironic maxim: “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plan." Peter makes small talk with the Jamaican shop owner and briefly plays with the fast memory recall game, Simon. He says that he had one as a kid.
Can I just say how much I enjoy all of the outstanding detail that goes into many of the scenes on Fringe. The prop and set decorators are outstanding. The light-up buttons are red, green, blue and yellow. Colors that have long been represented in the Fringeverse: 1) The season one green-green-green-red light sequence. 2) The blue and red universes. 3) The yellow (amber) timeline. Plus, we are not only reminded of brave Simon, but also all of the other characters named Simon that have been on the show, such as Simon Phillips (Concentrate and Ask Again) and Simon Paris (Grey Matters), a.k.a. Dr. Bell.
There is a theme to take into consideration here: The role of objects in memory recall and in emotional response. Fringe has pointed this out time-and-time again. Walter’s obsession with food and other objects has often jogged his memory. Peter’s coin made several appearances. An M.I.T shirt found in her washer helped Olivia surmise just how far Fauxlivia had slipped into her life. The list is endless. Maybe someday I’ll sit down and construct one. In this case, Peter is nostalgic. These objects represent happier times for him. He is sometimes a child at heart—again, very much like his father. Other examples include the gyroscope toy he was once enthralled with, and playing with Olivia’s siren in Midnight.
Remembering what he was looking for; Peter approaches the owner to inquire, only to be interrupted by an unnoticed Observer. He’s read Peter, and dangles a silver chain necklace in front of him, while proclaiming it as the object of Peter’s desire. The owner flashes a look of, “Oh, crap,” while Peter desperately tries to keep calm as he attempts to block the reading with thoughts of baseball. Which I have to admit, beats apples – bananas - rhinoceros. His attempts make the Observer suspicious, making Peter leave abruptly. He is chased through a man hole, and caught in the tail end of a light grenade’s blast radius.
Luckily Peter is able to emerge from a storm drain and he blacks out underneath the subway tracks. (Hello Vancouver Skytrain!) He awakens to the sound of a harmonica, played by a young boy (but actually played by Fringe music composer, Chris Tilton). For a moment—not really sure—I swear the boy is wearing what appears to be a replica Confederate wool shell jacket over his hoodie. Probably not. One thing is for sure, the boy is a hardened product of the aftermath of the Observer invasion. He pokes Peter with a stick, asks about his gun, and then just offers a statement of “You’re bleeding,” before taking off. He continues to play his harmonica, and leaves dazed, bleeding and confused Peter to fend for himself.
Meanwhile, Walter and Astrid work together to retrieve another tape from the Amber. Walter bemoans the amount of time that it is taking. He’s not getting any younger, and doesn’t want to wait another twenty-one years to save the world. Peter makes it back, and Olivia immediately shows concern, brushing her hand against his cheek as she asks him what happened. OK, it’s a small gesture, but at this point, the shippers will take anything!
He gives Olivia and Etta the bad news, and says something that is not typical for Peter. He is visibly discouraged and looks weary as his words say that he is losing hope in beating the Observers. Olivia’s face is just as surprised. She knows that Peter just doesn’t give up. Etta is not buying it, and she offers encouragement and the chance at a new weapon for the whole team; teaching them how to block the Observer’s readings, like she has for others. Peter takes the necklace from his own neck and places it around his daughter’s, which earns him a sweet hug. However, Etta says what seems to be such another innocent adage: “No good deed goes unpunished.” Darn this show, because this—like many things said—will have a double meaning.
The Observers won’t just let the strange incident go. Windmark plays with the Simon game, but it seems to be nothing more than fiddling with an object just to pass the time instead of an actual game of concentration. Then who should walk in the door but Broyles! Imagine having to stand there next to Windmark and then seeing a video image of a man who you last saw 20 years ago. At this point, I was afraid Broyles would be caught because Windmark would read him. But he plays it cool and learns that the Observers were hot on the trail of the fugitive Fringe team.
Hello Freak Show
Back at the lab, the team watches another Dharma—erm, Walter tape, which is not cooperating with them, because it jumps and skips. Walter’s story—that makes Olivia do a hilarious facepalm—gives the team clues. Walter has hidden the described plans like his prized possessions—comic books. The team must infiltrate a heavily Observer occupied train station. We learn that Walter has been keeping a secret.
Beneath the lab is a secret lair of sorts, a place where many items related to past Fringe cases were stored. I had mentioned earlier that Fringe’s prop details are one of the best aspects of the series. However, this scene in the lab—as cool as it is—troubles me. It kinda looks like a Fringe garage sale—or a set sale that takes place when a series wraps… While it is nice of the writers/show to want to have this obvious fan centered gesture, it is perplexing in the context of the old timeline compared to this current one. In this timeline, Olivia never met David Robert Jones until Peter arrived. The orifice-closing toxin connected to Jones should have not been there, correct? While this may just be a silly quibble, I do really appreciate the goofy Porcupine man. But most of all, I am intrigued by the focus on the window to the other universe. For one thing, I hope it may be used to have one final glimpse at the other universe.
Now it is Etta’s turn to be intrigued by old stuff: Artifacts from the past that tell stories- Stories of her family’s work.
Back at the Observer fortress, an unfortunate soul is interrogated and found to be a member of the resistance due to a slip-up in his academy graduation story. How do you fight those that seem to have recorded every detail of the past? Broyles watches nervously, and especially reacts to the name of a resistance operative known as The Dove. Lance Reddick’s scenes with the Observer interrogator are so suspenseful; his hand on his weapon was a nice touch.
Family Fun and a Story
Most Fringe fans agree that the show is our favorite because many story elements are incorporated so well together. In this miserable future, sometimes it’s good to have a laugh. Unfortunately for Astrid, she’s the target of the goofy Bishop Boy’s shenanigans.
Olivia and Etta stake out the Observer position, by using a media device tapped into their surveillance network. Here, we have the most poignant physical reminder of past events. Etta reveals that she retrieved the bullet on her necklace from their abandoned old house, and that it made her feel closer to Olivia. So the bullet is nothing more than a Fringe team relic after all. Olivia knows the real story behind that terrible bullet, but simply explains to Etta, “Your father used to call this, The Bullet that Saved the World.”
Sadly, there is no time for Olivia to further explain as they are tipped off that the lab is no longer safe.
Astrid is separated from the group, as they scatter. I am assuming she remained at the lab. But my question is why would they return to the lab? The place would be monitored, one would think. Yes, the tapes are important, but retrieving them would have to be riskier business.
Don’t Mess with the Fringe Family
Walter drives up to the checkpoint, and it seems he’s impervious to low level electrocution. After all, he’s performed hundreds of experiments on himself. Olivia and Etta fight Observer and Loyalist alike with the orifice-closing toxin canisters, while Walter and Peter retrieve the plans.
Back at Fringe Division, Broyles pulls out a photograph of Peter and Olivia. (Add another groan here, as this picture is terrible. Of all the wonderful pictures that could have been used, why this fake looking piece?)
Broyles lost his family in one timeline, and I am assuming the same happened here, although he is wearing a wedding ring. As the team tries to make sense of gobbledy-gook physics equations beyond Walter’s understanding, they receive a much welcome visitor.
Beautiful. Olivia’s happiness really shines here. It’s probably the most intense and joyful scene this season. Unlike her first meeting with Etta, there is no apprehension. Broyles has always had to play the hard man, but these rare moments remind us just how much these people are like family to him. We discover he has been Etta’s benefactor for five years. Most fans assumed it was Nina Sharp in some capacity, though it wouldn’t surprise me that she and Phillip both aided the young Bishop/Dunham child.
While they talk, the camera pulls back and we see the graffiti words, “Manifest Destiny.” Not sure what that’s about, but if its anything like the historical concept, it may have to do with… Native extermination. If you stop and think about it, we are like the Native Americans to the Observers. Whenever a technologically superior culture meets a less advanced culture, the latter doesn’t tend to stick around long, unless that invader is missing something very important. In this case, the key missing element for the Observers may very well be a strong human driving force—One that has caused men and women to do things like… break universes, alter timelines, and bring people back from a state of nonexistence.
The reunion is short and sweet, but Broyles make sure to hook up the team with some high tech weaponry.
I am a Leaf on the Wind
The team takes refuge in an abandoned warehouse, but they are trapped like rats. Etta ends up on her own, and Windmark teleports behind her, catching her by surprise. Finding the bullet necklace, he asks Etta why Peter bought it for her. Etta doesn’t try to prevent her mind from being read. We see the dandelion seeds from her childhood scatter in the wind, and her father’s open arms as she runs to him. #LoveIsTheAnswer, and our hearts shatter.
Watching these people lose their long-lost family member has to be one of the most heart-wrenching sequences of the series. Even in her dying moments, she does not know how to give up, and she protects her family. Etta arms the anti-matter device knowing that she is bait. She also knows that they would do anything for her, so giving them no option is the best way to go. Like her father and mother, she is no coward. She sacrifices herself so that they can continue to fight. Everyone’s pain was felt. A grieving Walter once asked his wife when their Peter died, “He knew he was loved. Didn’t he?” At least Etta knew that she was loved dearly. Olivia made damned sure of this. I could barely handle seeing Peter cradle his dying daughter like he did to Olivia in the season four finale. And Walter crying is the killing blow to the heart.
Olivia retrieves the necklace, and a new memory is attached to it.
Fringe fans are Peter and Olivia in a way. Our Love for the show is earned, tragedy-by-tragedy. And I can’t imagine anything worse than losing a child, getting to know her as an adult for a very short time, and then having her ripped away for certain.
What a miserable future, indeed.
Hopeful Peter—who has always pressed on--has reached his breaking point. This poor scarred man has seen too much death. He lost a mother. He’s seen Olivia die twice due to a bullet to her head. He was shown his baby son Henry and informed that the boy did not exist due to his choice to save Olivia. He and Olivia have a beautiful daughter only to lose her to time and then death. No matter what Peter does, he cannot escape losing someone he loves.
I found Walter's urging Peter to leave because Etta was gone, a bit out of touch. Walter, of all people, should know what his son is thinking. Or, maybe that is why Walter was walking on eggshells. He recognizes that look in his son's face.
It’s a season that is touted as a love letter to the fans; however it feels like a series of letters that chronicle a set of incredibly tragic love stories. If Wyman wanted to delve into these core characters, their relationships, and meaning to each other, he’s managed to score on all counts; at least with this viewer. And the game isn’t over yet.
Peter looks like a man set ablaze. With their child ripped away for certain from him and Olivia, I fear Peter will go back to that dark place that he fell into in Reciprocity. Or will he take the vengeful route of his actual father, Walternate? Some of his words from season one should be given to the Observers as a warning…
“You have no idea what I am capable of.”
But my words to Peter echo that of his mother:
Einai kalytero anthropo apo ton patera toy