‘Fringe’ 5.04 Recap: “We Beat Them, One by One”

Have I complained enough about the current season of ‘Fringe’? OK, fine. As much as I dislike the year’s storyline, even I have to admit when the show gives us a good episode, as was the case this past Friday.

Lest it seem that I’ve finally come around, I’m still annoyed by the show’s endless inconsistencies. In this particular episode, I kept wondering why the previously-omniscient Observers are so oblivious to things going on right under their noses. Why did it take them so long to realize that Walter and his team have been working in the Harvard lab? When an Observer encounters Peter in a pawn shop, why doesn’t he recognize him immediately? Sloppy writing like this really bothers me.

Setting that aside, in episode ‘The Bullet that Saved the World’, Walter learns on one of his tapes that he stashed plans to defeat the Observers in a hidey-hole in Penn Station. This presents a problem, given the heavy Observer presence there. While formulating a break-in plan, Walter reveals a secret room beneath his lab that he’s been using as cold storage for the evidence collected from past investigations. “There was a time when we solved Fringe cases,” he announces. “Now I think it’s time we created a few of our own.”

When the Observers learn from a captured member of the Resistance that the Fringe team may be operating out of the old lab, Etta gets tipped off by a not-so-mysterious contact called “The Dove.” Walter re-ambers the lab before Loyalist forces arrive. Strange that the Observers stay behind to watch the raid on video monitors, rather than instantly teleport in themselves, but whatever…

Using the gas that causes people’s mouths and noses to seal shut (thus suffocating them), the team gets into Penn Station and retrieves the plans. This leads to a big action scene where many Observers and Loyalists are killed. After escaping, Etta reveals that The Dove is… gasp!… Director Broyles. He’s been working as a mole for the Resistance. Etta trained him how to scramble his thoughts so that the Observers can’t read him, the way she does. Broyles gives the team a bunch of guns and supplies, but has to run when the Observers catch on to their location.

In the ensuing chaos, Etta is captured and shot, and sacrifices herself with a bomb so that her parents and Walter can get away. A devastated Peter vows revenge.

In a cruel irony, Walter tries to read the plans they found, but can’t make heads-or-tails of them. The physics is completely unknown to him. Likely, he transcribed something that September told him, but his memories of how to decipher it are gone.

Given the limitations and frustrations of the season, this episode has a strong plot and some genuinely emotional moments. I just wish it was in the service of a better narrative.

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