Fringe, Ep. 5.04, “The Bullet That Saved the World”: Tragic twist ups stakes, finality of season

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Fringe Review, Season 5, Episode 4: “The Bullet That Saved the World”
Written by Alison Schapker
Directed by David Straiton
Airs Fridays at 9pm (ET) on FOX

This week, on Fringe: Broyles returns, Walter loves Detective Comics, and Olivia gets her necklace back

With Fringe rocketing towards its series finale (only nine episodes left), something had to happen to kick what has been a solid but somewhat languidly paced season into a higher gear. That happens this week with the death of Etta. Fringe is no stranger to plot developments straight out of left field, but this is a particular surprise given what we know of the season so far as well as the show’s central themes of family and parenthood.

Writer Alison Schapker sets up the surprise by first establishing Etta’s necessity to the group. No one else is able to block the Observers’ scans, a weakness which nearly kills Peter at the beginning of the episode; we later learn that this is an at least year-long process, implying Etta’ll have to be around for a while. We get further solidification of her role on the show by the inclusion of yet another touching scene between Olivia and Etta. Season five has been rife with these and those we get this week feel very similar in tone to the previous ones; Schapker is careful not to tip her hand.

The climactic scenes themselves, from Etta’s confrontation with Captain Windmark to her death, are all wonderfully played. Georgina Haig has been a fantastic addition to the cast. Not only does she look absolutely believable as the daughter of Olivia and Peter, but she’s held her own and fit in seamlessly with this cast, not an easy task in a show’s fifth year. The restraint shown with the cinematography (the long shot of Windmark and Etta is particularly memorable) and music is incredibly well measured and allows Etta’s closing moments the creeping finality they require.

Though the final moments will be what most fans talk about, the rest of the episode is great too. After the disappointing previous episode, this week we get action, suspense, creativity, and several welcome nods to the past. Walter’s secret stash of Fringe tech may be convenient, but it gives us a few great moments, not to mention the surprisingly welcome return of Marshall Bowman (or at least his body). Though it seemed the Other Side was permanently cut off last season, the mention here of a universe portal is particularly intriguing. With so few episodes left, jumping back to the Other Side for an episode or two seems doubtful, particularly as there can’t be an Other Etta, but it’s even less likely that this is a throwaway mention. We’ll see what, if anything, comes of it.

Another pleasant surprise is the return of Broyles, and with much better old age makeup/CGI than “Letters of Transit”. It’s great to have him back, however briefly, and it’s even better to have his involvement with the resistance so quickly revealed. When the Observers start pouring in, he seems like a goner- luckily, it appears we’ll get a bit more time with Lance Reddick before the end of the season. The next question is how long we’ll have to wait to see Blair Brown again. With the team wreaking Fringe-style havoc, it could make sense for the former head of Massive Dynamic to reemerge. Then again, with the show having such a stripped down budget this season, we could easily be done with Brown entirely (and let’s not forget the looming spectre of William Bell, suspended in amber, waiting to return).

The Fringe event that the team instigates here is appropriately terrifying, as it was in its original appearance in season one. With no way to breathe, presumably everyone sprayed will suffocate- it’s gruesome and the lack of concern shown by any of the team tells us all we need to know about the severity of the situation. It’s a well-constructed and -shot sequence; hopefully there are more like this coming in the next few episodes. There’s also a nice dose of comedy, which predictably comes almost entirely from Walter. His bemused reaction to electrocution as well as his failed attempts to modify the expression, “It’s all Greek to me” to fit himself are particular standouts.

Unfortunately, the way in which this episode does not distinguish itself from the rest of the season is in its use of Astrid. Or, more accurately, its disuse. Jasika Nicole has proven herself a talented actress, when given something to do. She’s been utterly wasted, relegated to the most side- of –kicks’ status. She hasn’t even gotten to be funny, really, since her Scrabble game in the premiere. With such a small cast, there’s no reason to underserve one of your characters to this extent. As a fan of the character and the actor, the PtB at Fringe need to give her something to do or kill her off (which would, one assumes, at least give her a scene or two of good, interesting material). With the team down a member, hopefully we’ll see more of Astrid, and soon. Sticking her behind a desk, fiddling with dials to make Walter’s tapes, still among the least interesting aspects of the season, decipherable is a waste of both the character’s and performer’s talents.

On a whole, though, this is a strong episode with a fantastic ending that promises to be a game changer for the season. Can’t wait to see where they go next!

What did you think of this episode? Did you see the twist coming? Will you miss Etta? Anyone else predicting some time travel in our leads’ futures? Post your thoughts below.

Kate Kulzick

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