After the last episode of Fringe, I worried that the way the series would end had been signposted by Peter’s ongoing transformation following his use of the tech that makes the Observers the emotionless, deep thinkers that they are. Thankfully, ‘The Human Kind’ resolves that issue (or at least it appears to), as Olivia persuades Peter to chose a different path.
This episode gives Olivia a chance to go off on a side-mission of her own and show off her general awesomeness, Walter and Astrid were left without a great deal to do, other than finding out what exactly the tech in Peter’s head was doing to him. The revelation that the tech expands the brain while subduing emotions (well, that’s my interpretation of it without the actual scientific terms Walter and Astrid use) isn’t really much of a revelation, as it’s something that has been clear all along. The Observers have always seen things differently and not understood concepts like love or fear, so although Walter’s experiments show how the tech changes people, it’s not something that feels like an important reveal.
While this is happening, Peter is still plotting to kill Windmark and get revenge for the death of Etta. He narrowly avoids a confrontation with Windmark as he arrives at Etta’s apartment, where Peter has been charting Windmark’s moves to plan his final attack (or maybe Peter wants Windmark to come looking?), and then tries a test run to see if he can subtly alter Windmark’s pattern for the day. But Windmark has seen this coming, and he’s set Peter up for a confrontation between the two. Windmark thinks he has the upper hand, but the tech is having a strong effect on Peter, and he’s able to match and anticipate Windmark’s moves, taking out one of his men before disappearing to fight another day. It’s another fight scene that is reminiscent of The Matrix, with Peter as Neo and Windmark as Agent Smith, but it’s still impressive to look at.
Walter’s eighth tape reveals that a large magnet (the kind that would be used in wrecking yard) is required for his plan, and with Peter trying to kill Windmark his way, and Walter and Astrid working with the tech (Anil has acquired another one from an unfortunate observer for Olivia), Olivia goes off on her own to Fitchburg, a city near Boston to find one. There she encounters Simone, an oracle-type woman who can ‘see things’ and has been expecting Olivia. It seems like Simone and her people might be willing to turn Olivia over to the observers for a reward, but they are genuine in their belief in Olivia, and Simone realises that Olivia finds it hard to trust people because of the loss of Etta. On her way back to the laboratory (she contacts Anil to find somewhere to store the magnet) she stops at what looks like the scene of a crash. It is, inevitably, a set up, and two men manage to capture Olivia, and discover that she’s a high priority target for the observers, and hope to turn her in for a cash reward.
One of the things Fringe has always been good at is creating strong female characters, and with Olivia in particular, Fringe has a woman that doesn’t need a man to protect her, because as we see in this episode, although she’s initially outnumbered and captured, she’s strong enough (mentally and physically) to find a way of escaping, of saving herself, without resorting to calling for back up. So while her captors are negotiating with observers to claim their reward, Olivia is able to cut herself free and set up a trap for one of the men. Using the ‘bullet that saved the world’ necklace to her advantage, she first of all sets up a trap that allows her to ‘fire’ the bullet into the head of one of them (she’s obviously seen The Bourne Legacy), before putting it in his gun and shooting the other man. It’s Olivia at her best, thinking quickly to find a way out and executing it calmly and precisely.
She’s got more work to do when it comes to Peter too, having realised during her time with Simone that the memory of Etta is more important than avenging her death. She goes to Peter, who is waiting for Windmark to place himself back into Peter’s planned time-line, and pleads with him to remove the tech from his brain. She tells him that while he’s motivated by revenge now, if he doesn’t remove it he’ll lose his memories of Etta, and he’ll lose her too. Peter knows that he is close to finishing off Windmark, but the human side of him prevails, and he removes it to keep his relationship with Olivia alive.
We’re now into the second half of the final season of Fringe, and although I’m still enjoying it a lot, I do feel like the pace is maybe a little slow. There are five episodes left, and the Fringe team are still piecing together Walter’s plan to stop the Observers. I liked this episode, but although Olivia has ‘saved’ Peter (and I can’t help but think that the tech is going to play an important part in future episodes), it seems to leave them not that much closer to being ready for a final battle with the Observers.
I expect that the final two episodes (shown on the same night) will be combined to show the final showdown between the Fringe team and the Observers, which leaves three episodes for the writers to get there. I’m not concerned that they’ll mess it up, just that they may have to cram things in a bit to get there. But at the moment, Fringe is just about where it should be.