©2012 Fox Broadcasting Co. CR: Liane Hentscher/FOX
And here we are, with only seven weeks of FRINGE left, ever. That’s right: after this week’s excellent, moody episode, we’re getting six weeks, then a two hour finale on January 18th. Which is exciting, because I had been wondering what my January 18th plans would be for a while*... But also agonizing, because like Peter and Olivia, I just want a little more time with the thing I love.
Okay, unfair to compare losing a TV show to losing a fictional daughter, but that’s pretty much what this episode was about, right? How we deal with grief and loss? There’s a key scene late in the episode where Walter - who knows a thing or two about breaking the world when your child dies - talks to Olivia about just this. For the first time in the history of FRINGE, Walter (not Walternate, or brain-injected Walter) seems totally clear on what he needs to do. As Olivia walks around in a trance, reeling from the death of Etta last week, Walter hands her a tape of Etta’s birthday party. He tells her to watch not to let go of the pain, to hold on to it, and let it keep her going.
And more than that, he wants Olivia and Peter to follow that path together... But, like Walter and his wife Elizabeth, that’s not quite meant to be. Olivia deals with her pain - in some beautiful, subtle acting work from Anna Torv, who has grown immensely over these past five years. Peter just wants it to stop, and he does that by perhaps making as big of a mistake as Walter did back in the day.
That mistake? The Observers are using a “supply corridor” to the future, to bring back the equipment needed to complete their CO2 producing machines. That’ll make the world livable for the Baldies, but unlivable for everyone else. Catching on to this, and using a captured Observer, Peter decides they need to destroy the corridor to make a clear, decisive blow in Etta’s memory.
While detaining the Observer, he puts together a magic science box. That magic science box allows him to open the corridor before the Baldies can. A fight ensues, but Peter manages to blow up the corridor, setting the Observers back considerably. Except... Then the corridor opens, one street over, just a few short moments later. They’ve stopped nothing.
I’ve seen a lot of discussion online about how, and why this happened, and why the plan didn’t work. Walter, using one of his patented “here, dumb audience, is a thing for you to understand with action figures,” explains that blowing up the corridor on our end would create a black hole, which would destroy almost everything on the other (future) end.
Confusing matters is the scene that follows, where Peter runs back to the captured Observer, demanding answers. He built the machine right, read every tell The Observer gave him... Why didn’t it work? The Observer explains he didn’t give any tells. For example, a dilation of his pupil was focusing a fly, not nervousness that Peter was going to accidentally blow them up. In fact, explains The Observer, Peter had the necessary tools to construct the device the whole time, he just needed the encouragement.
So Peter slices open his neck, pulls out the tech in his spine - killing the Observer in the process - and inserting it into his own spine. We’ll get back to this in a second.
The important bit I think a lot of people missed is that the device WAS successful. Peter didn’t get the result he wanted, but it worked... And my theory is, it probably did work for a time. But you knock the Observers down for the count in the future for six months, or a year, or even twenty years... And they can still send whatever they want back to the exact same moment in the past, because time travel, that’s why. It’s possible something else is going on, but this explanation lays out just how impossible the odds the FRINGE team is facing are, and how they may never win.
Let’s get back to the other big moment, where Peter makes himself part Observer. Here, he fully goes down the path Walter treaded before, and was trying to prevent him from heading down. He’s made a major change to his own body, and because it’s FRINGE, that never goes well.
That nicely brings us to the title of the episode, “An Origin Story.” There’s a few things that are clearly touched on here, and one that I have an inkling might be true, though it’s a little crazy. I’ll save that for last:
- The clearest origin is Observer Peter, which we can tell from the promos for next week, leads to him getting superpowers. Given how into superheroes and comic books the behind-the-scenes FRINGE team has been before, this is the most surfacey explanation for the title, but it makes sense.
- There’s also the look back at Etta, in the video, with Peter and Olivia happy. That’s an origin story, right? Where they came from, and where they are now?
- Of course there’s also Walter, talking about what kicked off the series in the first place: him taking Peter from one universe to another, setting off the chain of events that have led us to this point.
- Additionally, there’s the posters - which I thought for a moment were in Olivia’s imagination, but I guess not - with pictures of Etta, over the words “Resist.” This is the origin of the true uprising against the Observers, giving a world without hope a symbol. I question that enough people would know who she is to be grief-stricken, but we’re getting a narrow focus on a big story, so we’ll let it slide.
- Ready for my crazy nutballs theory? We just witnessed the origin of The Observers. Yes, circular, chicken and the egg logic and all, but what if the way humanity heads down the road to becoming Observers is with Peter taking that first step, and injecting tech into his neck? He manages to beat them back, more people embrace Neck-Tech... And a few centuries later, we’ve almost destroyed the Earth, and are ready to invade the past. Given how much damage Walter caused after Peter “died,” it only makes sense that his son destroys the world too, right?
So we’ll see on that last one... And next week, we’re back to the treasure hunt, in a cool, MC Escher looking episode. Seven weeks to go, folks. It’s going to be quite a ride.
*Head to Times Square, go to a bar... Every January 18th, I can’t decide, end up ordering a pizza and hanging out at home. There’s just too much pressure!