Fringe 5.10 Review: Anomaly XB-6783746 ~ Fringe Television - Fan Site for the FOX TV Series Fringe

Fringe 5.10 Review: Anomaly XB-6783746

      Email Post       12/24/2012 09:27:00 AM      

Anomalies - Make The FringeVerse Go Round


Windmark talking about Michael  - "He is no child. He is a chromosomal abnormality"


Windmark to Nina, “Why are you not frightened?”
Nina to Windmark, “You have no love. No appreciation of beauty. No dreams.

Fringe as a series is founded on the concept of the outsider finding their place in the universe.  So it is no surprise to find out that the Observer boy, Michael is also an outsider.  A chromosomal oddity. Much like Peter, Olivia, and more recently Simone.

Nina - mysterious to the end. What was she looking at?

This episode also continued tracking Walter's inexorable journey back towards Walter That Was.  Throughout the episode there were constant beats of Walter being focused on the task at hand, or himself only, with no regard for anyone else.  By episode end the 'subject,' forged a bond with the Fringe Team but the cost was high.

The most rewarding fictional experiences contain elements of victory at a price.  For the protagonist’s victory to have emotional resonance and dramatic weight, the hero should be pushed to their limits emotionally and physically.  Gain with loss.

With Fringe nearing the end of its run, the Fringe Team had their second big loss.  From a character viewpoint, Etta is the bigger loss but from a viewer’s perspective, Nina’s - a full time cast member - sacrifice should have shook us more.  I say should have because while the concept was certainly there, the execution was somewhat lacking in terms of story construction.

Peter and Nina worry about Walter.

This episode required several logic leaps with the payoff to Nina’s death scene requiring a major hand wave.  Surely Windmark and his crew would not leave the lab unwatched and waiting for the team’s return!?  It is one thing to ask the viewer to suspend their disbelief in terms of the crazy science and events the show uses to propel the drama; it is quite another to ask us to do so in terms of common sense and character behavior.  

Fringe wants us to believe the characters in this show are intelligent.  To do that, it is beholding to the creative team not to resort to cheap or lazy story telling tricks.  This is a David Fury penned episode and with such other episodes as, ‘In Absentia and Alone In The World,’ a trend has surfaced where his work has dealt with mythos heavy episodes that sacrifice story logic and bring a degree of coldness to the characters that does not sit right with me.  With a resume that includes Buffy, Angel, and Lost - all of which are character heavy shows - it is odd that his Fringe episodes are so hit and miss.

For whatever the reasons, Fury’s episodes tend to underwhelm me more than not.  Your mileage may very but in an episode where one of the series’s regulars is giving us their swan song, it should be done so in a manner that feels honest and seamless.  It should not be constructed in a manner that diverts attention away from the emotions of those moments.  The characters and the viewers deserve better.

Episode 'Patterns': Add your own in the comments:

  • Michael has no ObserverTech in his head
  • Walter’s transformation to Walter That Was continues
  • With no empathic bound, neither Olivia nor twizzlers can reach Michael
  • Olivia calls Nina for help
  • Observers use LQ7 unit to recover Nina’s conversation with Olivia much like Peter did in a previous season off of the glass
  • Nina takes Fringe Team to a Massive Dynamics Black Lab
  • Peter talks to Nina about Walter’s wish to have brain pieces removed
  • Nina tells Peter it may become academic if plan fails - Walter That Was will take over
  • the power of incentive
  • ‘Anything worth fighting for comes at a cost.’
  • Etta Resist poster continues to show up
  • Black Lab is where Resistance did research on Observers
  • E-Cog Translator - ‘Prep the subject.’ ‘His name is Michael.’
  • With no empathic bond Nina suggests they forge one by letting Michael into their minds
  • ‘Hopefully? I thought she knew what she was doing!’
  • Nina’s cover is blown
  • Nina protects Fringe Team and Michael with her life
  • Michael communicates with Nina
  • Windmark and Nina consider each other as animals
  • Walter’s grief at Nina’s death - will it help him from becoming Walter That Was?
  • Michael cries - a bond has been formed
  • Michael bonds with Walter - series montage
  • Donald is September

Problems aside with the episode logic, Blair Brown gave a fantastic performance in what we assume is her last episode of the series.  Outside of last season’s scene between her and Olivia where she gave her blessing to Olivia to remember her previous life with Peter at the cost of the memories of their lives together; Blair Brown gave a wonderful farewell performance.  Her scenes with Michael and Windmark at the end were tour-de-force. I was moved by Nina's sacrifice.

Bonding through human contact instead of tech.

For a character that has been presented for many seasons as an opaque and never totally trustworthy one, it is great that the show allowed the latter iterations of Nina to be much more open and caring.

The fallout from Nina’s death on Walter will be interesting to see. With Nina gone, is there anyone left that can help Walter remove his offending brain pieces?  If there is no one what will drive Walter to figure out the plan.  Incentive is a great motivator, Nina told Peter.  That incentive no longer exists.

As for the reveal that Donald is September, the way things played out this season, emotionally this is the only choice that has any resonance.  But what is September’s relationship to Michael?  Is Michael his ‘son?’ Or is Michael, Donald/September at an earlier stage? What of Michael’s ability to empathize for his step-parents and for Nina’s death?  Does the answer to beating the Observers lie in the tears Michael sheds?

Despite my ambivalence due to the failings of the writing in this episode, I am very intrigued to see how the final 3 episodes are going to play out.  As usual, I have no idea how Fringe is going to resolve things this season and for the series.

It is one of the many things I love about the show.

More sacrifices to come?


T mags said...

I disagree that the observers should have stuck around. They checked Walter's old lab once and never again.

The Observers are about pure logic. I see them as like Daleks, no intuitive leaps whatsoever. They found her in a lab, alone. Why would they think there are others? They can hardly believe traitors exist. It's not logical. So she must be alone. Leaving is consistent with everything we know about them.

Old Darth said...

We'll have to agree to disagree for surely the Loyalists would told Windmark the same thing. Plus the Observers may not understand loyalty but they are aware of it.

Not going back to Walter's lab is problematic but at least there the Observers never knew if the Fringe Team was ever at Walter's lab unlike at Nina's lab.

Anonymous said...

What about all of the light coming from the lab after dark - in Fall/Winter - of all things. Manfretti will return and sacrifice, like Nina, to save the team in the final eps. I think Windmark and Team Septemberknow loyalty... but the average line Observer doesn't. They don't know disloyalty either - just status quo. Windmark is probably the only one in the US Northeast that knows the subtleties of human (native) relations. He doesn't grasp the nuance - but he knows there is nuance that the natives share. Something a semi-lizard brain of questionable lineage might observe (not comprehend).

I like the Letters of Transit (419) exchange with Broyles. How Windy got the "2036" assignment... "I like animals"... foretelling 4sure.

Cultur3Ori3ntation said...

Old Darth, Have to disagree with you too. The last time Windy tried that trick of going back, he had an antimatter bomb waiting for him and killed his team and he barely escaped in time. It makes sense that he would just leave. He only had information that Nina was at the sight, not the team. He tracked her com unit and there was no evidence that suggested that they were ever there except Nina told him that they were long gone. They leave the dead where they fall. No thought of clean up or further evidence. He probably went back to Dr. Hastings to see if he could get more information on the fugitive's location which is his goal - not finding out what experiments were done in the black lab.

milostanfield said...

Thanks for so eloquently stating the issues you have with Fury's writing. I have always been bothered by his work but could never quite put my finger on why. His writing drives the story rather than evolving from the situation of the story.

His episodes always leave me "meh" the first time through, and then I like them more as I rewatch. This one is no exception. I usually rewatch at least twice by Sunday morning after Friday airing. On this one I waited until Monday night to rewatch. I think rewatching lets me concentrate more on the characters and what they are going through than what Fury is trying to push.

Blair can "face act" every bit as well as the mains. When she reacted to Olivia's warning that Nina had been compromised, we knew she was a goner the same instant she did. I also loved the little moment when she surprised Olivia re black labs. Now that's the Nina we've known and loved!

Her lizards versus mammals speech to Windmark was the intellectual heart of the episode, and whatever merits Fury has as a writer, he did get us to that speech and it was well done. Nina, frail, white haired, and wheel chair bound, faced down Lizard Man with all the power she had from her many years of running MD. And she beat him the only way she could.

I guess my other favorite Nina moment was when Olivia confronted her about her failure to make enough amber in 3.20 "6:02AM". The always smug and in control MD executive was out from behind her big desk, her voice faltering, almost panicked. Don't know if we'll see Nina again (this IS sci-fi) but thank you Blair for your wonderful work.

milostanfield said...

Pulled outa you-know-where prediction. There will be one more sacrifice, but it won't be Walter. It will be September.

Old Darth said...

Fring3fri3nd - the difference this time they have Nina's body as a lure to bring the Fringe team back to check what happened to her.

Zepp said...

Assumptions: of the two, one.

Or in the end, with three episodes to end Fringe, writers or writer, maintains the same relentless "writing of sameness," killing or disappearing, one or two of the main characters, with an "ocean" of tears, and everything else ...


These same writers or writer along with executive producer Wyman, surprise us, brilliantly, not "kill" anyone on our side at the end of Fringe, and they make a final impact unimaginable, with all the main characters alive?

For me, the writers and the producer have to observe that (first) is the grand finale of the Fringe, (second) is the closure of a great saga of high-level (third) and is the way or the chance that their work will be in archives of the history of TV shows, they do not forget, that! But it may also be that they are not worried about it, so ...

Surun Tunne said...

@Old Darth
I don't think that would've worked, they saw that nina died, they wouldn't try to find out what windy did with her.
besides, the reason why windy went back to the place where etta died was because he found out that they loved her and so he figured that they would go back but he didn't really know how much they actually cared about nina, all he knew was, that she was a traitor.

SheHateMeBro said...

Also disagree about the Nina business. For one, Michael showed her many things.. maybe the future, maybe the past, but she may have learned that time will be reset, so she was free to go out with a bang and a final insult to Windmark.

As far as Windmark, he was freaked out about the anomaly being on the loose. His first reaction is to try an get more info, draw outcomes, etc to predict the team's next steps. They use their skills, not the human approach of stakeouts. Made perfect sense and within characters' behavioral patterns. They can "transport" anywhere at the drop of a hat, so why linger?

Way too picky on this review.

Old Darth said...

Well Bro since it is my review, the pickiness is your reaction.

For me, it is perfectly reasonable.

Merry XMas! B-)

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

What I haven't understood yet is why the observers haven't transported back in time and arrested the team. They escaped many time from the observers, so why not get back in time, let's say 10 minutes before they escape and arrest them? Windmark knew that the team had used a sublimation device on Bell's lab. Why not get back in time and keep getting back until they pinpoint the time the team was there? This is for me the most grave mistake that they have made since the start of this season. If you can get back in time, you just need to know that someone have been at a place, from that on its impossible for this person to escape, cause you can check that point eternally.

Anonymous said...


You are a victim of narrow logic and your own false paradigm. The simple answer is that these Observers, the Windmark variety, are not capable of bouncing around in time. Only September and his variety of Observer can bounce around in time travel mode. Think about it - why doesn't Windmark go home to 2609 AD everynight? Why are they sending supply shipments from 2609 back through dangerous wormholes? Because Windy's type don't time travel. They can make trans-dimensional portals for the themselves here (and now) only. They are primitive and were only capable of surviving the one time time-journey back to 2015-ish Earth, or whenver they were sent.

September is likely from Windmark's distant future, like Windmark is from ours.

And we are from Old Darth's - [8^)>{--|

Anonymous said...

Not wanting to limit my own paradigm.

September and friends could be from the amended 2609 AD in the alternate universe, while

Windmark and company could be the 2609 by-product of what played-out in this universe.

(or vice versa)

Unknown said...


Thanks for the explanation!
As much as I love Fringe. I still find quite hard to believe that if they have the ability to travel in time... they wouldn't send anyone with that ability or the technology they use to do so with the "first group" that came to "our time". Seems a little to reckless/forgetful to such intelligent/logical creatures.

Anyways, if I'm talking nonsense forgive me. I will rewatch everything and do my research for the things I find odd once the entire series ends.

Unknown said...

I loved this episode because of everything it gives us. I thought Nina's death was far more emotional than Etta's and meant more to the progress of the plot because of the way it resonated with Michael, and helped Walter. I have a few guesses from here...

Observers are one of our many possible futures.
September witnesses Walter discover the cure for Peter as a child but instead lead to him not being able to save him.
September witnesses Walter's pain and suffering as he will not let his child from another Universe die twice for the same reason. September see's that Walter would risk the world's very existence just to save Peter. He helps save Peter when they fell through the ice of Raden Lake. Why? He insists the boy is important and must live, which he was to foreshadow Peter's use in the machine to heal the two universe's Walter broke. However, this act also resonated with September because I theorize that Michael is his son. Since he was an "anomaly" he was supposed to be destroyed, but to save his son he sends him where the other Observers can't find him (the past). It explains the looks that Michael and September give each other from the car and street in season 1. It explains why September has always cooperated with Walter. He sympathizes with him. They both lost their child and did what they had to to ensure their survival. Now, I believe September removed his tech and slowly changed back into a regular human and took on the name Donald (what we see in the flashes). From their he was able to look after his child in the pocket universe until they left. I believe September is likely captive of the Observers or dead. To fix the problems he created with his interference with time, September or his son will go into the Machine like Peter did and use his abilities to either erase Observers or create some new timeline where Observers don't exist.

milostanfield said...

@ Bart Burnett

Wow. In short, Michael is September's son (they share the "anomalous" empathy gene), and September became Donald in 2015 ("what happened to him was unexpected"). I like it. If September did all this, and Michael goes into the (or "a") machine to save the world, it would perfectly parallel Walter and Peter's journey. Sign me up! I think you nailed it.

Zepp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zepp said...

10 episodes of this 5th season have passed. The Etta died, Simon died, also died Nina, that the Donald is (or was) the September, which has also disappeared since found the skeleton of Sam Weiss, the Broyles simply disappeared from the scene, gone, the Peter, as a matter of personal human principles, he withdrew his head implant that gave him super powers to fight, and, beside it, the thug's Windmark and his minions are great, most dominating every episode, each increasingly strengthened ... We have as few as 3 more episodes until the end ... I think Olivia, Peter, Walter and Astrid, are low "ammunition" to attack with some success, the Baldies ... I see only one possibility, kind of a "light at the end of the tunnel" ... the boy Michael. Yes, I think it all boils down, closes this fragile boy. I also see this kid Michael, as it was a symbol of everything so far occurred, the great significance for the end of Fringe!

3cents said...

Hi Darth, Your review really echo my sentiments, not only for this episode but for the entire season. I have a feeling that the writers were not expecting to get a season 5 and effectively finished their story telling my end of season 4. This season has really no link with anything that happened in the past 4 seasons (we really are forced to stretch our imaginations to make the necessary connections). The entire season looks like a forced attempt, an after thought (after they were told that they have an extra season to fill) and unfortunately chose "Observers" as the villains since the parallel universe theme has ended. It is completely inconsistent with how they were portrayed earlier. That apart, even if we run with this fairly illogical story, the entire story telling had no real emotional core. There is no real bonding and the actors seem bored, especially Olivia (not sure what her role is, now that she has saved the universe). This whole treasure hunt theme against high odds has not gelled, unlike the machine building in season 2. All in all, this is Lost all over again, whose last season is not as disappointing, come to think of it.

pMaestro said...

@ 3cents Actually, the Observer 'threat' has been present throughout the entire show's run, especially with 2.3's Fracture where Colonel Raymond Gordon tells Broyles that "... they are here. collecting data, making observations. That's what's in the briefcase. They've been planning for war". This last season actually has so many links to what happened in the past four seasons that many of the thought processes of the team and their actions would actually have very significance to the television viewer if he/she didn't have the knowledge and experience of the past seasons, both universes AND the altered timeline. I think this final season is understated and fantastic, introspective, and a giant love-letter to everything that the show is and stands for. Ultimately, any show is all about the characters and that is what this season is delivering in spades.

scully8 said...

pMaestro, I totally agree with your statement. There are a ton of references to past seasons bringing the story full circle. I'm really enjoying this season and can't wait to re-watch the entire series from beginning to end once this season concludes.

In terms of all of the contrivences, I'm okay with it. The team needs a base for their operation and the lab makes perfect sense. Who cares if in reality our team would have been found out a long time ago. According to Wyman, he is aware that their location not being found out is a bit of a stretch and is okay with it.

OldDarth--in terms of the Observers not returning and such . . . it is what it is . . . a television show that requires the villians to be idoits. :)

Anonymous said...

Bart Burnette, I believe your theories are right on...I agree that September does sympathize with Walter because of they both having sons they don't want to makes sense. And then he hides Michael in the pocket universe for safety, then took the tech out and became human. Good observations

Old Darth said...

Scully8, I can agree on the lab front but not on this particular episode. Average TV shows definitely treat their villains as idiots but I don't consider Fringe an average show so my expectations are higher.

cortexifan said...

Old Darth,
finally had a chance to read your review. Thank you for your honest opinion.
I was wondering too what Nina was looking at in her office and thought back to 4.22 Brave New World Part 2 when Bell showed Walter his universe. Bell then proceeded to turn off that device.
It isn't exactly the same but that's what I thought of.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

So, I have commented before about the possibility of getting back in time to catch the team! Apparently is possible, but they are too afraid of the consequences that this might have. I felt trilled when they addressed this issue in 5.11 (The boy must live), it was like they have read what was going on my mind. DocH, spoke of the possibility of two different sets of observers... after 5.11 I think we can establish there is only one set of observers, who are very cautious of how they interfere with the past. I wish we had time to understand and see how their invasion changed "their" future! It would be amazing... but with 2 eps left, I guess we will not have that. Crazy idea: a spinoff with September/Donald and Windmark, showing observer history, how September story developed through time and how Windmark deals with his new found emotions.

Unknown said...

Unknown said...

back to the future?

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