Well this has been a long-time coming. Back in September, when I was figuring out what I wanted to blog about for the rest of the year, I came up with the idea for the “Fringe Files”. Fringe was entering its final season, so I wanted to write about every episode as it aired, like I did with Lost’s finale season. Only I stopped blogging and I stopped watching TV. Now that we’re in 2013, however, I’m getting back into the swing of things, and I’m finally watching the fifth and final season of Fringe, so I thought that I may as well record my thoughts as I viewed, no matter how random and scattershot. By this point, the finale has already aired, and if you’re reading these, you’ve probably already seen it. So have I. I didn’t, however, want to simply upload 12 blog entries over the course of 3 days, so I’m spreading them out and continuing to post two a day. as the series finale airs later this week. So here we go. Spoilers, obviously, to follow.
Fringe 5×08 – “The Human Kind”
“We need you son. I need you.”
And just like that, Peter is saved. Love, as it turns out, was enough.
Tape #8 (which I thought was supposed to reveal something about the empathic child) tells the team that Walter needs an industrial size electromagnet. There is one located at a junkyard in Massachusetts, so Olivia goes off to retrieve it. When she reaches the junkyard, she meets a woman named Simone, who comes off as Fringe’s version of The Matrix’s Oracle. Simone’s got a gift. She “knows things” about people, just by being near them. She was told by her mother that a man once came to the junkyard and asked for a magnet and a truck with which to transport it. Her mother saved these things for the man, but the man never returned. Despite this, she told her daughter to keep the items, because one day, someone would come looking for them, and that day had finally arrived. Olivia is skeptical of the woman. She knows that there is a bounty on her head and she worries that the woman is going to sell her out. She doesn’t though. Because she “believes”. After all of this time, someone came for the magnet, and that’s no accident. Olivia can’t see the meaning in this, because she has no faith. Simone goes on to explain that there are mysteries to the universe that our rational mind cannot explain. Olivia disagrees, saying that Simone is simply an anomaly. Her gift isn’t from God or from the universe, it’s simply a mathematical abnormality. People assign meaning to things because it’s reassuring or comforting, but “it’s all just numbers”, and the Observers are simply “better at math” than we are.
Later, on the road, Olivia is ambushed by two bounty hunters. They capture her, report her to the Observers, and make plans to deliver her to them. Olivia manages to free herself from her bonds and Macguyvers an elaborate trap. She uses Etta’s “bullet that saved the world” with an air pump to kill her first captor and uses his gun to kill the second. The entire thing seems like an odd fit with the episode, because there doesn’t seem to be much purpose behind these events. I suppose the idea is that like Simone said, Etta is still with Olivia, and it is her bullet necklace that is able to save her life. It’s not a coincidence that Olivia had kept that necklace. Etta saved her life. I understand the sentiment here, I just think that maybe there were better ways to go about it. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, because it gets Olivia to place she needs to be to save Peter.
While Olivia’s gone, Walter and Astrid study the Observer tech that Olivia brings to them after finding out what Peter has done to himself. After inserting it in the preserved brain of Walter’s porcupine man, they discover that the device stimulates higher brain function, creating new ridges in the brain which overpower the emotion centers, leading to more logical thought. Eventually, the changes will become permanent. Walter tries to explain this to his son when he shows up at the lab with a stab wound he received in the coolest Fringe fight ever, but Peter isn’t hearing it. He finally has the power to stop Windmark, and as he sees it, that’s the only way for him to avenge Etta’s death. It doesn’t matter that Walter and Olivia need him. All that matters is vengeance. There is nothing Walter can do to stop him from leaving and carrying out his plan.
When Olivia finds out about this she goes after Peter. Once she finds him, Peter analytically explains his plan to her – how he’s been hunting Windmark, altering his future, all in an attempt to get him to a specific place at a specific time to kill him. Ultimately, all of this stems from the pain Peter feels over losing his daughter. What Peter doesn’t understand is that that pain is a good thing. It’s what makes us human. Olivia argues that if he keeps on the course he’s on, he won’t be able to feel anything anymore, not for her and not for Etta. Peter, like all Observers, believes that emotion is a weakness, but it’s really a strength, because it’s the one thing they have that the Observers don’t. What point is there in avenging Etta’s death if Peter loses the part of him that wanted to avenge her in the first place? Olivia isn’t asking Peter to abandon Etta, she’s asking him to hold on to her. Luckily, Peter’s not too far gone for Olivia’s love to reach him and he removes the Observer device as images of Olivia, Walter, and Etta flash through his mind. Love was enough.
There will be a lot of people unsatisfied by this episode. Science fiction fans tend not to like it when “love” is used as a dues ex machina, but I think that in Fringe’s case, it works. This show has, at it’s core, always been about what it means to be human, and to be human is to love. It’s not something that is quantifiable or easily explainable, but as Simone said, “you can’t know everything”.