by David Dougan
An odd thing happened to me while watching ‘The Boy Must Live’. For the first time ever while watching Fringe, I rolled my eyes at some dialogue. After 97 and a bit episodes of parallel universes, Walternates, people being trapped in amber and time travelling bald blokes, I seemed to have reached a breaking point with a show I’ve always really enjoyed.
What caused that eye roll was Windmark being told by (what appears to be) his superior that the Observers had chosen this particular time to invade because the plan had a ‘99.9999 probability of succeeding’, to which Windmark replied that Michael (Anomaly XB-6783746) had a 0.0001% chance of survival. It felt like a totally unnecessary flagging up of the importance of Michael to the Fringe team’s plan to stop the Observers, and it comes at a time when I’m starting to lose faith with the show, right at the very end of its existence.
There’s one more night of Fringe to come, with episodes 99 and 100 airing back-to-back to bring the series to an end, and for the first time ever, I’m not enjoying it to the extent that I really worry about how it will end. The whole season so far has been very slow, with most of the episodes being little side-missions for the various members of the team to complete in order to properly execute the final plan to stop the Observers, and this episode is really no different, with Walter being the one to lead the way, stepping into the sensory deprivation tank to learn more about the visions that Michael exposed him to and hopefully lead the team to Donald (aka September).
When the team do find Donald, we discover that Michael is his ‘son’ (in the sense that Donald’s DNA was used to create Michael) and that he had the chip in the back of his head removed when other Observers decided he needed to be punished for developing an understanding of human emotions and helping the Fringe team. The episode falls into a familiar pattern once Donald is back in the picture, with the team searching for equipment needed for the plan and having to avoid confrontations with the Observers at the same time.
The Observers find out where Donald lives and arrive at his apartment just after the team have left, narrowly avoiding being blown up when Donald’s security measures destroy it. Windmark has admitted that he has become consumed by the idea of stopping them (he has a request to go back in time to fix the problem denied), which is considered unusual behaviour for one of his kind.
The episode does explain the importance of Michael, with Donald telling the team that he believes that sending Michael into a certain point in the future would stop the Observers from ever existing, resetting the time line to before the Observer invasion, something Olivia hopes would mean that she and Peter would be reunited with Etta (who of course wouldn’t be murdered by Windmark if he didn’t exist).
But the episode ends with the team being hunted down by Observers, and when it seems like they are about to be caught, Michael gives himself up to the Windmark, allowing everyone else to get away. It’s an odd end to an episode that again doesn’t really do very much for the story. It doesn’t feel like a dramatic enough twist to the story to set up the final episodes of the show, and it feels like the final two hours of Fringe will be very fast-paced with a lot of story to cram in before it finishes.
I’m losing faith in the show at the last second and right now it’s tough to see how it can get that faith back. Ending a show like Fringe was always going to be a challenge, but I’m worrying about how it’s going to end instead of being excited about it.