Fringe Review, Season 5, Episode 5: “An Origin Story”
Written by J. H. Wyman
Directed by P. J. Pesce
Airs Fridays at 9pm (ET) on FOX
This week, on Fringe: Walter and Olivia grieve, Astrid once again does (almost) nothing, and Peter tries to ‘splode a dimension
The surprising death of Etta last week takes center stage this week with most of our leads left devastated and emotionally paralyzed. The response of the team feels appropriate (though it’d be nice if Astrid seemed more affected) and Olivia’s reaction in particular is interesting to watch. Peter, understandably, spirals into rage and his rash actions will undoubtedly shape the remainder of the season. Walter is far more contained, as he has far too much experience with this kind of loss already. Olivia, in contrast, seems to be holding up surprisingly well, despite her early bewilderment and pain, and her late episode conversation with Walter, in which we learn her “in pain, but soldiering on” reaction is the thinnest of facades and one she’s clinging to desperately, is the emotional core of the episode, as well as its finest moment.
Olivia has always been a detached character. For much of the first two seasons, there was a strong disconnect between her and the audience, with viewers having a difficult time identifying with or understanding her reactions and motivations. Many blamed Anna Torv’s performance, until we learned Olivia’d been abused as a child and everything about the character seemed to click. Since that reveal, Olivia has slowly opened up, becoming a more relatable, accessible character. It makes sense that losing her daughter, concretely and for the second time, would push her back to her earlier walled-in state. Fortunately, this time Walter is there to pull her back out of herself just in time.
After this scene, the surprise felt at Etta’s death last week feels utterly foolish. Of course she was going to die- this is a show about, among many other things, a father who broke the universe out of despair for his lost child. We’ve seen the fallout from Walter’s choice- now it’s Peter’s turn and, if this week is any indicator, he doesn’t seem to be handling it better. He has more rage than Walter did; if anything, his decision may be more destructive than the one Walter made that devastated and nearly destroyed two Universes. We’ll see if the titular origin story is of Peter as Observer or, perhaps, Peter as creator of the Observers (in some timey-wimey way).
Paired with the emotional turmoil this week is an entertaining, if less than humorous, caper. The portal to the future is appropriately ominous and the scenes of Peter assembling the device are tense and well-realized, even if there is little threat that Peter will blow himself up. (He’s already been erased from reality and returned- if he’s going to die, it’ll be in the finale.) It’s nice to have a reminder now and again that Peter is a valued asset to the team outside of his ability to wrangle Walter. Though the Observers in general fail to make much of an impression, John Prosky’s character becomes the second Observer this season to stand out and feel distinct (the first being Michael Kopsa as Captain Windmark).
One of the most frequent complaints this reviewer has had about this season of Fringe is the under-use of Astrid and unfortunately, this is another example. While she does get something to do this week, decoding the manifest, we still have no information about her emotional journey or her reaction to being in the future in the first place, let alone Etta’s death. All season, Astrid has been a plot delivery device, popping up in episodes for the sole purpose of slowing down (when she hasn’t gotten a tape yet) or speeding up (when she does get a tape) the action as suits the episodes’ needs. The character deserves better, Jasika Nicole certainly deserves better, and the fans deserve better too. Hopefully this will be addressed soon. If Astrid isn’t going to get to be an actual character, she should be killed off- that at least would give Nicole something to do.
Overall, though, this has been a strong season of Fringe and this latest episode promises plenty more intrigue to come. What did you think of this episode? Are you excited about Peter’s episode-closing decision? Any predictions for what’s to come? Post your thoughts below!