Fringe, Ep. 5.07-8: Series’ themes come to the fore in quasi-two-parter

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Fringe Review, Season 5, Episode 7: “Five-Twenty-Ten”
Written by Graham Roland
Directed by Eagle Egilsson

Fringe Review, Season 5, Episode 8: “The Human Kind”
Written by Alison Schapker
Directed by Dennis Smith

These weeks on Fringe: William Bell lends a hand, Jill Scott drops by, and Peter makes a big decision

The bulk of these two episodes center on Peter and his decision to use one of the Observers’ implants, giving Joshua Jackson the best material he’s had on Fringe for quite a while. Jackson easily slips into the physicality and stillness of the Observers, spending the majority of “Five-Twenty-Ten” hiding this from the others by reverting to his usual, more natural posture and demeanor while with them and then transitioning back to the cold, calculating pose of the Observers while alone. Over the course of the two episodes, Jackson shows Peter’s growing isolation and remove well, to the point that his eventual decision to remove the implant comes as a surprise (and a relief).

While Peter is losing his humanity, the Walter we know and love is slipping away as well. One easy indicator of which Walter we’re dealing with is how he refers to Astrid. Our Walter can’t get her name right, but the other Walter never slips up. This subtle touch is a nice one, particularly as it goes unnoticed or referenced by the other characters. John Noble is always excellent, but the cold edge he brings to this Walter is something a bit different from the harsh determination of Walternate. It’s easy to picture this Walter experimenting on a group of children, for example, something the series has backed away from particularly addressing. Friendly, goofy Walter terrorizing a young Olivia? It’s hard to imagine. Not so, anymore.

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This could be a bit of a cop out, so clearly defining the Walter responsible for the Cortexiphan trials as a different person than the Walter we know, but watching him struggle to maintain his personality, his soul, this season outweighs any potential frustration at narrative dumbing down or shortcutting. Noble’s scenes with Blair Brown are particularly strong. Nina has always held an interestingly nebulous place on the series. She was very much a question mark for the first several seasons before being more firmly pro-Olivia after the timeline shift that made her Olivia’s adoptive mother. The character has grown tremendously over the course of the series, as has her relationship with Walter in particular. In this flash-fowarded setting, it’s nice to have her pop up now and again to ground Walter and tie the show back to its roots.

More than anything, though, what keeps episodes like these feeling like a piece of the whole, rather than a spinoff season, is the emphasis on the series’ themes. This has long been a show about family, parents and children, and love. In Peter’s growing Observerness we see a father increasingly withdrawn and dead inside after the loss of his child. In Olivia, we see pained despair. We’ve yet to learn exactly how the Observers came to be, but almost every other world-ending scenario the Fringe team has averted has had its roots in the decision of a grieving father willing to destroy the universe to save his son.

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Olivia’s ability to get through to Peter (Anna Torv is fantastic in this scene), to help him let go of his anger in favor of shared pain and memory, shows a different path. Who knows what would have happened if Walter had allowed someone to help him back when he lost his Peter, if he’d been able to let go of his obsession to see the Other Peter. It’s notable that Peter only removes the implant after checking that his plan is still on track, but still, the fact that he does remove the implant affirms the series’ theme of love as a powerful, easily twisted, force for good.

What did you think of these episodes? Were you surprised by Peter’s choice? How amazing was that Peter/Windmark fight? Post your thoughts below!

Kate Kulzick

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