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‘Fringe’ 5.08 Recap: “Emotion Is Our Weakness”

‘Fringe’ took a break for a couple weeks and, quite frankly, I forgot all about it until my DVR picked up a new episode on Friday. I’ve followed this show for five years, and have resolved to see it through to the end, yet I can’t be bothered to care whether new episodes air or not. Are other fans as disappointed by the final season as I am, or am I alone in this?

‘The Human Kind’ sees Peter continue his evolution into an Observer. Olivia obtains another stolen Observer chip from the Resistance and brings it to Walter for analysis. After running some experiments on a preserved brain he happened to have on hand in the lab, Walter determines that the chip forces a human brain into a state of “controlled evolution,” wherein it replaces the emotional centers of the mind with more logic centers. Hence the reason that the Observers display little to no emotion. If Peter doesn’t remove his chip, the changes may be irreversible.

While fretting over Peter, Olivia tries to keep herself busy by going on a retrieval mission to Fitchburg, MA to pick up an electromagnet that Walter needs for his master plan. Once there, she meets a psychic lady (singer Jill Scott, from ‘The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’) who says that she’s been waiting for Olivia for over 20 years. This leads to some conversations about faith and how Olivia believes that people like herself and this woman are just anomalies in the universe. “It’s all just numbers,” she says, while insisting that she knows too much to believe in concepts like faith. Her dialogue here is more than a little reminiscent of Roy Batty’s “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe” speech at the end of ‘Blade Runner’.

However, on her way home, Olivia is ambushed by bandits who plan to turn her in to the Observers for a reward. Tied up in a warehouse, she MacGyvers an escape using the tools around her and the bullet necklace that Etta had given her. This restores Olivia’s faith that things may happen for a reason, and her daughter may still be with her.

Meanwhile, the Observers find Peter’s apartment in the city and figure out what he’s up to. “He has gained the ability to run futures,” WidmarkWindmark explains. Peter continues his plan to manipulate Windmark into a trap, but Windmark is a step ahead of him and confronts Peter. This culminates in a fight between Peter, Windmark and another Observer that Peter barely escapes. Nonetheless, he remains determined to set Windmark back on the proper course until Olivia blathers to him about the importance of emotions and love and all that. Eventually, she convinces him to give up his plan and remove the chip. He seems to get better right away. I guess he’ll need to find another way to defeat Windmark.

Like many of the episodes this season, this one is OK for what it is, given the context of the season’s stupid storyline. No individual part of it is necessarily awful, but nor does it do anything to sway my opinion that the show is headed in a severely misguided direction.

Incidentally, how obvious is it that the ultimate weapon Walter is building will turn out to be the same Doomsday Machine from previous seasons that almost destroyed both universes? As I recall, weren’t we even told in one episode that Walter had built the machine and sent its pieces back in time from the future? Well, here you go. Good luck to the writers in reconciling everything we know about the machine and what it was actually used for with the requirements of the current storyline. Then again, this show has never been afraid to contradict itself or rewrite its own rules to suit the convenience of any given plot. I suppose this is par for the course.

4 comments

  1. Jason

    I’d say I’m a touch disappointed, but probably not to the extent you seem to be. After enjoying what’s come before, I try to reserve judgement until the season/series is over and see how I feel about it in the end. I think the show is capable of pulling things together before the final credits roll, but whether or not they *can* actually pull it off is still an open question in my mind. We’ll see.

    It’s also possible that we’re seeing the rough edges brought on by the shortened final season, things that for whatever reason might have sounded great in a writer’s meeting but didn’t get translated well to the screen. Unless we ever get the full idea of what their long term plans really were in the early seasons (I seem to recall reading somewhere that they had a plan sketched out, however roughly, for seven seasons) we’ll never know how things “might have been”.

    Not that that is any excuse for letting things slide, I’m not trying to argue that at all. I’m just saying that part of the problem could be partially due to the tighter constraints, cramming too much in before the groundwork was laid, and so on.

    I for one do still enjoy watching (obvious, I guess) so maybe I’m biased, and predisposed to try coming to Fringe’s defense or something. For whatever its flaws, I’ll still be sad to see it go.

    Also, by the way, I’m pretty sure it’s actually “Windmark”, not “Widmark”.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      Huh. Some Googling confirms that the name is “Windmark.” I guess I assumed that the name was an homage/reference to character actor Richard Widmark. Apparently not. Looks like I have some copy editing of old posts to do. :)

      I have trouble believing that there’s anything the show could do that would redeem this season for me. I just don’t like anything about the “evil Observers”/dystopian future plot twist, which so clearly contradicts everything we’ve ever been told about the Observers. It’s such an obvious ret-con that makes no sense at all.

      • Jason

        On that point (evil Observers) I’d have to say I agree. It does seem a pretty big leap to go from what we’d seen before (which, admittedly, wasn’t a *lot*) to what we see now. More than anything else that will probably be the benchmark I judge by. If that can be made to make sense in the end, I think I’ll be (mostly) satisfied. If not, definitely, I’ll be very disappointed that they went that way for the final season.

        I don’t know, I tend to be a little optimistic on shows like this. I guess I just haven’t quite given up all hope yet. Then again, with only 5 to go, so it does look a bit bleak.

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