Originally posted at FringeTelevision.com.
A review will first be posted there for episode 5.02, “In Absentia.”
A Beautiful Dream Inside of a Horrible Nightmare
As the Fringe family of Olivia, Peter and their young daughter, Etta, enjoyed what Peter might call, “the perfect day,” I could not help but to smile. These precious moments of a happy family are few and far between on the show. However, there was also a conflicting dread, as I witnessed father and mother enjoying their precious toddler’s joy in her discovery of the effect that blowing air against a mature dandelion has on the flower. Fringe fans everywhere probably felt the same, as we know when Peter and Olivia are happy, something’s gotta go wrong. And the wrong that came has got to be the most gut-wrenching imaginable.
When the Observers arrived out of the blue, at the park, people were scattered in every direction, much like the blown seeds of the fragile flower. That flower at this point, is a symbol of a fractured, scattered family.
Peter awakened from this replay of one of the most traumatic events to occur in his life; and we later learn the outcome of this event. In Season Four, Peter dreamed of happiness, and that meant a home with the people he loves, and who love him. We witnessed pancake breakfasts with Walter and Olivia, and another day in the park with Olivia, one in which she questions him, a manifestation of Peter’s greatest fear; inadequacy.
Peter once told Olivia about his mantra to prevent nightmares. Seems he needs it in this future. Sadly, even when he wakes up he cannot escape the fact that his dreams are reality.
Peter’s first instinct was to check on Etta. I can speak for any parent of an adult child, that this is very real. A parent never stops being a parent. Even Walter checked up on Peter. “He even checks to make sure that I’m still breathing. Which is a little creepy.” And I’m still getting used to Peter being called, “Dad.”
Speaking of dad, Walter was certainly not in the mood for Peter’s gentle reminder about his lack of pants. Peter looked fairly surprised at Walter’s indigence.
I used to joke that there is no way that I could live in the RedVerse because my veins flow with coffee. Or that my alt would be a coffee smuggler, using contacts to bring contraband across the bridge. But things are even worse in this “miserable future” Tea and eggsticks. Nom. The loss of tasty food is the least of Walter’s worries as man cannot live by bread alone, and the Observers have restricted another of Walter’s greatest joys in life.
Walter revealed the plan that he and September were working on, and that Olivia needed to retrieve a part—a transilience thought unifier—in order to complete the necessary device. But they had to amber themselves without seeing Olivia again. Peter tried to instill confidence in Etta that her mother would be found. Peter had always been one to keep trying until there was no hope. Sadly, we later saw that this normally positive tendency would cause a rift between him and Olivia, and also between him and Walter.
The Observers may be keeping Natives alive, but at a minimum level, and it’s even worse to discover that they use machines to alter the composition of the air. They need more carbon monoxide; oxygen rich air cannot sustain them. Immediately, this brought thoughts of the pale, hairless, empathic boy in “Inner Child.” Even more proof that this boy was an Observer. Maybe that kid will be revealed as someone we know. And if he was an Observer child, did he have a mother? We have yet to see female Observers.
Dealing with the Natives
Although I found the concept of “Amber Gypsies” laughable, the black-market scene was very dystopian, very much a nod to “Blade Runner,” starring Harrison Ford. (I was in Vancouver when these scenes were filmed and although we couldn’t really see the action inside, we did see the Geisha and the extras, along with Josh, John, Jasika, and Georgina coming and going.) Just looking at the small details and the music chosen for the scene gave it a very underground feel. I had to grin when Peter was amused with his daughter telling him how not to get conned. “If they tell you different; they’re trying to rip you off.” Oh, and if it ever came to a handful of walnuts being worth $3,000, then I hope I still have my trees…
Walter’s heart-to-heart with his now adult granddaughter, was something I had hoped for in a way. Many fans wanted to see a grandpa Walter. This is not exactly what we had in mind, but it really struck home to hear Walter speak of a child that in the blink of an eye is a survivor of a woman. “To me, you will forever be… a little girl.” It is here, where the first tears fell. More to come…
I mentioned Harrison Ford previously because he was also Star Wars’ Han Solo, a character that was imprisoned in carbonite and placed on display by Jabba the Hut. Sadly Olivia “Han” (remember her nickname at school was Han, because she was a loner, or Solo) Dunham met a similar fate—amber encasement and was being used as a coffee table by none other than everyone’s favorite “purveyor of rare manuscripts” and “ladies’ man,” Edward Markham. I had to laugh because in another time, Markham once told Peter, “I don’t want your money. I want protection. What if someone comes to erase my memories?” Oh Fringe, I love your subtle, enjoyable callbacks for us obsessive fans. The scene though went from hilariously ironic, to sad in a blink, as Peter’s eyes fell across the amber slab containing Olivia. Then an overwhelming feeling of creepy washed over me due to Markham’s profession of love for her and because of his messed up fairy tale delusions. Then right back to realizing the magnitude of Etta looking at her mother for the first time in 20 years, her hope and perseverance paid off, just like her father said.
The cost of this retrieval was high as the Observers captured Walter. Etta traded Simon for Peter and now they traded Walter for Olivia.
The Bullet that Killed a Mother?
Most fans assume that the bullet around Etta’s neck is the same that was extracted from her mother’s brain, after Walter had shot and killed her in “Brave New World: Part 2” But after discussions with some others, there is now a consensus that this may not be true. After all, Etta was separated from her parents. They did not give her away for safekeeping. So it’s not like Olivia or Peter had the opportunity to give Etta the necklace. Plus, why would they? She just vanished. Or did someone—possibly September—take her? Maybe the necklace is a Fringe team artifact of sorts. Etta did mention that they were heroes in “Letters of Transit.” Edward Markham knew exactly who they were. So relics from the team may exist and this bullet necklace is one. But knowing Joel Wyman, this assumed sentimental touch may actually be revealed as something else altogether.
I let go a huge sigh of relief when Olivia was so elated to see Peter, and that she cupped his face close to her. There had been hints that their relationship was broken because of what happened to Etta, but many wondered to just what extent that would be. Torv’s immediate recognition and look of relief was quite noticeable, as was Jackson’s very concerned face, as Peter hoped that Olivia would be alright. His no-bones explanation was right to the point. “Hey look, we’re in the future… “ It didn’t take long for Olivia’s eyes to focus on the other person in the room, and those eyes said so much. The recognition was there, but so was the utter disbelief. Torv’s expressions all spoke, “I want this to be true, but I’m afraid.” Peter’s eyes bored right into hers, grounding her as he explained, that yes, this was their daughter. The simple line, “Kiddo. Come meet your mom,” is now pretty close to one of my favorites of the series, along with, “You were three years. One month. And five days.” The reunion between mother and daughter, long awaited, was worth it.
As Peter looked on, he was fumbling with something that hung around his neck: A wedding ring, perhaps? (I couldn’t help but notice the butterflies in the background of this scene.)
Olivia, now reunited with part of her family, noticed someone was missing…
Walter sat in a dark, dank room and was bound to a chair. This scene was very reminiscent of season two’s “Grey Matters, “ as Newton tried to use images to stimulate Walter’s brain so that certain memories would be induced. Newton and crew used a device quite similar to the function of a Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11. In “Grey Matters,” there were physical pieces of “media”—brain—taken from Walter, and they were to be reinserted in order to be read. In this episode, we learned that September had scrambled the memories concerning their plot to defeat the Observers.
Observer Fascist-in-Chief, Windmark, set out to interrogate Walter. He realized that Walter was thinking of a song in order to deal with the unpleasant, seemingly hopeless situation. The emotionless bald one asked Walter if he missed it. This reminded me of a certain scene in “The Arrival.” While enjoying a root beer float at a diner, Walter remarked to September about how wonderful it tasted, as he had not had one for seventeen years. September replied, “That’s a long time to go without something you love.” This is a layer of Fringe that I have always enjoyed. Humans may have food, air, light, etc. But is that living? This show has constantly reminded us that people need love, recognition, and cultural aspects that inspire. Our art and music is responsible for giving many of us the drive to live and to make sense of our lives and the world around us. They are as necessary as air, and I personally appreciate the message in a world that is hostile to those that study the arts, and to art education for children. I love listening to and playing music, and can honestly say it kept me alive during tough times.
As torturous as it was to see Walter go through the painful attempts at memory extraction, this has to be one of the finest performance John Noble has ever given; it is later outdone. I’m proud of Walter’s perseverance and resistance. Especially after getting a glimpse of the brain splatters on the wall behind him… He knew all too well what was at stake. Sadly, his memories of a certain little girl could be read, and Mr. Shiny Top was able to put two-and-two together about who helped the Fringe team.
Luckily, contrary to Windbag’s declaration of no hope, the Bishop clan hatched a plan to rescue Walter from the bowels of the Observer stronghold where he was being held. As I watched this scene, I had to have a chuckle at Peter having to deal with thoughts of his daughter making shady deals with shady guys. The apple doesn’t fall far, Pete. But the thoughts he had about what happened to his relationship with Olivia in the aftermath of Etta’s disappearance, were weighty.
I love that he talks with Olivia on a bridge; yet another one to add to the list of bridges on Fringe. Of course, being our heroine, she was concerned that all of their sacrifices were for nothing. “We didn’t save the world.” Peter replied, “Not even by half,” but once again, his hopeful streak showed when he said that Etta was still trying. This was Joshua Jackson’s time to shine. The relief on his face as he said, “I never thought I’d see you again, Olivia,” but his expression was one also containing a hint of pain. It seemed the wrecked couple was feeling their way around each other, trying to find a footing of where they stood with one another. I wasn’t worried that Joel Wyman would give us angry, pissed-off soapy reactions. Often, people who love each other just can’t be. But sometimes they grow back together, stronger than ever. I once compared the relationship to metal forged in flames; repeatedly thrown into the white-hot heat only to come out unbreakable.
Olivia and Peter felt very real to me; like two people that had finally been worn down by what the world had thrown at them. They had survived so much, but the loss of a child, was unbearable. Olivia had heard Walter’s tearful, “You can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a child” (“Peter”). September once told Peter that it must be difficult being a father (“The Firefly). At this moment, those lines came home to roost. People can love one another, but grow apart, and Peter revealed that this is what happened. He was paralyzed by the loss of his little girl, and he refused to move on, while Walter and Olivia went to New York to try and implement September’s plan. Peter’s pain was out there in rare form and real—stunningly heartbreaking. Why save the world when your world—your child—is gone? Walter was willing to break universes for his son. Peter was willing to let a world die because of his daughter.
“I was not willing to give up searching… for this perfect soul… that we made.”
One little touch I found endearing was when Peter wiped the tears from his eyes and put on a smile when Etta asked them to come with her and the resistance friends. Dad still has to be strong for her.
As they arrived at Walter’s place of imprisonment, did anyone else notice poor Etta having to use the equivalent of a vagenda in order to put the Loyalist guard at ease? I also stopped to consider a comparison between her and Fauxlivia. Both kill in order to accomplish the mission. And the mission is accomplished in guns-a-blazing “Maverick” style. Best comedic line so far this season goes to “It’s always the red wire…. Unless it’s the white wire.”
The reveal that Simon and William Bell were taken by the Observers ought to have interesting ramifications this season. Will either Henry Ian Cusick or Leonard Nimoy return?
With Walter back where he belonged, all looked to be back on schedule. But being Fringe, it’s never that easy. Mr. Breathless pretty much played a game of “if I can’t have it, than no one can,” and Walter fought back so valiantly that the memories were corrupted, and he could recall none of the plan. Though as the final, hopeful scene shows, music may save the day. There are many powerful scenes in Fringe and this one won a place in my most admired. Walter’s sheer joy in the synth beats and simple, yearning, vocals of Yazoo’s “Only You,” will always remain with me. Combine that with the lone dandelion, emerging in defiance from a crack in the sidewalk, and it equals storytelling perfection. The mark of a good story is that it is memorable. For as long as I see a dandelion or hear this song, I will always think of this scene. Always. John Noble, get this scene out to Emmy peers now.
Nothing grows in scorched Earth? Oh Windmark, dandelions “cannot be eliminated, much like the human spirit” (Joel Wyman). Very much like Fringe fans as well. Thanks to everyone that fought for this show. This beautiful episode would not exist without us all.
Like dandelions, we know how to find the crack.
In my eyes, this blew last year’s premiere out of the water. I was engaged for the entire episode, not wanting to miss any detail of this new-to-us world, and also the snippets that clued us in to what happened in 2015. To me, Fringe has always been about the weird family unit of Walter, Peter and Olivia. Adding a child this season is a natural extension of a family saga, about people trying to learn from the past to build a better world. If only the Observers took better notes…
Next week’s “In Absentia” looks even better, and it will be a treat to match scenes with places that I saw when the episode was filmed in Vancouver.
The Importance of Music in Fringe
Music has always played an important background role on Fringe. And sometimes it comes a bit more out into the light. Here are some examples.
- The ear-pleasing, emotional soundtrack composed by Chris Tilton
- Peter playing the piano for Olivia and Walter in “The Cure.”
- One of the first things Peter does for Walter is fix his turntable, and he also offers to digitize his old records because they mean so much to him.
- “The Equation” was about a small part of musical score.
- “Brown Betty” was a musical—and a huge treasure trove of foreshadowing.
- Walter’s favorite band—Violet Sedan Chair—was specially created for the show, and they even have their own real album, “Seven Suns.”
- In “Northwest Passage,” Christa makes Mix CDs for her customers. She made one for Peter. (Mix CDs were hanging in the trees at the end of “Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11.”
- In “The Firefly,” Walter tried to evoke Violet Sedan Chair member Roscoe Joyce’s memories by having him play one of their songs—“Last Man in Space”—on piano.
- Fauxlivia ruined U2 for all of us.
- The episode “6B” was full of music used to set a mood. First, Walter played a record of “Feelings,” when he made breakfast in an attempt to have Olivia and Peter reconcile. Peter and Olivia listened to the Jukebox at a pub while they shared a kiss, and then they listened to “Pale Blue Eyes,” before taking their trip up the stairs at the Bishop house.
- Fringe inspired me to create my own Spotify playlist earlier this week with dystopia/resistance songs and songs that mean hope to me. also added one of songs that remind me of Peter and Olivia.
- Executive Producer/writer Joel Wyman regularly shares his fave music with fans on Twitter. What a wonderful way to connect. Music is a bridge in so many ways.