Fringe is back for its final season and like last year, I intend to do little (or not so little it seems) write-ups on each episode. I will avoid doing too much of a recap and instead try and focus on some things that caught my eye when I watched. I intended this to get up a bit sooner, but didn’t quite have the time until tonight. I hope to have these up either the weekend or Monday after they air going forward. Anyway, here are some thoughts on the season five premiere of Fringe, “Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11” (spoilers for this past week’s Fringe ahead obviously. Make sure you have watched before reading on):
Olivia is back and quickly: I figured that the group would find Olivia in this episode, but I assumed it would be at the end. But about 20 minutes into this first hour of the season, Olivia was back and free from amber. I am really happy they didn’t waste time getting to this. With only 13 episodes of Fringe left (12 after this one), I want Olivia to be in it as much as possible. And it leads to a really nice reunion for her and Etta. I also loved the scene where she talked about how there was so many things she wanted to ask Etta after missing a good chunk of her life. Also worth noting is how they found Olivia. Weird former bookstore owner, Markham had her still in amber. This led to a pretty funny sequence.
More about our Observer-ruled future: Last year in the excellent “Letters of Transit”, we were introduced to the world that this season will take place in. A dystopian future where the Observers have come to rule. This episode continues to flesh out that world. There is a food called egg sticks (which make this a horrible future according to Walter). We have Amber Gypsies who cut out ambered individuals and sell them on a black market. Apparently walnuts are rare and worth a ton in 2036. There is a holographic, touchscreen scrabble game that Astrid is seen playing. All these things are fun in the sort of way that spotting differences in the alternate universe always were (though I’d say the alternate universe stuff was cooler). Less fun, more serious and still interesting is the fact that the Observers are pumping carbon monoxide into the atmosphere to better accommodate themselves which will eventually lead to (modern) humans’ life spans only lasting about 45 years.
Walter’s plan: Walter has a plan to stop the Observers that was developed with September (I love that it was with him). It was separated in his mind and put out of sequence so that the Observers couldn’t read him and figure out the plan. This is where the Thought Unifer that Olivia had (and is in the episode title) comes into play. It was meant to put that plan back together so Walter would remember it. Unfortunately, Walter is captured and interrogated (a tough scene to watch and well played by John Noble) and he seems to have forgotten this plan. Whether they will work to recover this plan further or come up with something new, remains to be seen, but this was obviously a big part of the episode (so I would assume the former). The Observers figure out that Etta is a part of this, so we will have to see how that plays out going forward as well.
The inbetween: Given that we had already seen the start of this arc in “Letters of Transit” last season, we knew a lot had happened between now and when the main storyline of Season 4 ended. But when you started to hear some of the things we missed… you realize we missed a lot! I think the thing that hit me hardest was that Olivia and Peter had separated. I mean when they weren’t ambered together, we knew they were physically separated, but apparently after they lost Etta during the Observer invasion, they separated as a couple as well. We also get to see the moment where Etta is lost during a very cool flashback/dream sequence to open the episode. But these along with the plan Walter and September made, just make it feel like we missed a ton. I think it is fun to catch up on things and discover these gaps during this season, but I wonder if the show was more successful and lasted more seasons if we would have seen some of this play out in a more typical fashion. It might have made the Observers switch to big bad feel less sudden as well. Like I said, I enjoy kind of discovering it as we watch, but this was just a thought.
Some neat sound design: This show has done some really cool things with sound in the past. One moment that really strikes me thinking back was the part in “The Box” where they use a gun to make it so Peter can’t hear. Also the part where they are using the noise-cancelling headphones to combat that kid in “Of Human Action”. We get a couple of other cool moments here, including the quiet opening, Walter imagining music during the interrogation and then the final scene. While I didn’t lose my mind over the last scene as much as most people, I did enjoy the music and how it was used (and Walter’s emotions help sell it too).
- I like this future opening well enough, but I kind of miss the glyphs in this opening sequence. Wouldn’t mind a return to a classic intro sequence at some point this season if it made sense.
- Hilarious Markham line when Peter arrives at his apartment: “Markham is dead. He died a hero’s death. People were sad. He gave his life saving a bus full of small children.” Markham is pretty great.
- Olivia has taken on many versions of herself throughout the series: Fauxlivia, Bellivia, Future (2026) Olivia, etc. We can now add another new Olivia to the mix: Coffee table Olivia!
- The loyalist guy that is into Etta is a kind of the worst.
- I didn’t even mention the way they get into the facility to save Walter after he is taken. They use this thing that makes people seem dead. Very cool and very Fringe.
- Simon Foster and William Bell are mentioned in this episode. I am curious if Foster will be back and how Bell will play into this season whether he were to actually appear or not.
- Great unintentionally funny Peter moment: When he rolls around the building dual-wielding pistols while saving Walter.
- Great intentionally funny Peter moment: When he says this line, “It’s always the red wire [clips the red wire and nothing happens] unless it’s the white wire.”
- What would a new Fringe season be without a new nickname for Astrid from Walter. This time it’s Afro!
- I guess this season will be devoid of the joy of spotting the hidden Observer.
“Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11” is a great premiere for Fringe’s final season. It does feel like kind of a table-setter, but that is not a bad thing. They are building this world and its villains again. They have gotten the group back together. And they have sort of brought Walter back to one we are more accustomed to (as opposed to the one we see at the end of “Letters of Transit” who is a bit more no nonsense). This should be a good jumping off point for what should be (must be!) an exciting final season for the show. I am so happy to have this back on and see how all of this finishes out. If any of you have some thoughts on last week’s Fringe, let me know about them in the comments. Thanks for reading!