Before we delve into the second episode of the final season of Fringe, can we talk about the elephant in the room? That’s right—I’m referring to the many winks and nods to LOST throughout this episode. I hypothesize that as Fringe nears its end, the frequency of LOST references increases. Or maybe they’re just trying to keep up with Once Upon a Time’s constant allusions to its older cousin. Or maybe I’m just so obsessed with LOST that I see it everywhere. (Okay, let’s be honest, it’s definitely not the last one. That’s just ludicrous.) This week’s Fringe featured two guest stars who played recurring characters on LOST: Henry Ian Cusick (of course), who played LOST‘s time-challenged pseudo-prophet Desmond Hume, and Agent Simon Foster on Fringe. The other LOST alumnus was Eric Lange, who played the manipulative Loyalist guard in this week’s episode. On LOST, he was the paranoid Dharma worker Radzinsky. The other two notable moments of LOST-ness were the shot of Peter and Walter peering down the open hatch, just as Jack and Locke did in Season One of LOST, and the video Walter made to explain their mission, which was reminiscent of the orientation videos for the Dharma stations that the castaways found on the island. As someone who really enjoyed the final season of LOST, I’m hoping this is a sign that Fringe’s last chapter will be equally satisfying (at least for most people). Then again, if you didn’t watch LOST, I apologize for wasting one paragraph of your life. Let’s get back to Fringe!
If the season premiere served to set up the relationships for the final season (and to cause viewers to sob with simultaneous joy and sadness), then the second episode really set the stage in terms of plot development. They found Walter’s video instructing them to find the hidden pieces he had dispersed. Knowing Walter, they’re probably all hidden at various Krispy Kremes or something. At least now they have a place to start, instead of just moping around about Walter forgetting the master plan. This is a great way to knit together the final 11 episodes without reverting to the freak-of-the-week format. It will also give the team the opportunity to further explore this new future that they’ve stepped into, and hopefully to encounter more familiar faces. (Paging Henry Higgins!) The way I imagine it, this season will be like that part of every Survivor season finale where the remaining three castaways look back on the season and remember all the other contestants who left before them—complete with a montage of their shining moments set to dramatic music. Not that I’m saying Fringe should bring back everyone who’s ever died on the show, like the end of Lord of the Rings or something, (“And you were there, and you were there…”) but I wouldn’t mind it if we had some surprise visits from people like Sam Weiss, Nick Lane, or, you know, Nina and Broyles. (How funny would it be if they were married in 2036? I’m just saying…)
I was rewarded with one familiar face in this episode whom I was hoping would pop up again. Unfortunately, that face was not attached to a body, so things aren’t looking too good for him. Poor Simon. I adore him, and as you may recall from my review of last week’s episode, I was so excited to hear his name come up, and I wanted so badly for them to go find and rescue him. That was before we saw what the Observers had done to him. Etta had the misfortune of walking past the lab where his head was being studied, attached to a series of wires and tubes. I was, to say the least, shocked. Why does Fringe insist on dealing out the worst fates to my favorite characters? (*cough* Lincoln Lee *cough*) On the glass-half-full side of things, he blinked, which I think is a good sign. I’m hoping (probably delusionally) that he’s still alive, and that they can save him so he’ll be part of the Fringe team. I’m just going to put this out there: Astrid hasn’t had much in the way of romance over the past four years, so maybe it’s time she got a legitimate love interest. Initially, I thought Simon and Etta were clearly meant to be more than partners, but I doubt the show would want to go down that road again. It’s hard to live up to Peter and Olivia’s epic workplace romance.
Speaking of which, I there was one moment in the episode that really made my heart melt. When Olivia woke up from her flashback of the day Etta disappeared, she was so scared and confused, but then she saw Peter’s face. Suddenly, her eyes met his and her face instantly looked calmer. He has always been the one who could help Olivia overcome her fear, and even now, when things are strange between them, he’s still her anchor, the one thing that can center her. This just reminded me of how Peter and Olivia used to be, and I think they can be that way again, especially now that they have Etta back.
They may be reunited with their daughter, but as Peter and Olivia are learning, she’s not exactly the innocent little girl they remember. We already knew Etta was a BAMF (like mother, like daughter), but we didn’t really realize how skilled she is at executing violence without remorse. This week, Etta tortured a Loyalist to the point of draining years of his life away, without seeming particularly bothered by it. Etta demonstrated a very “eye-for-an-eye” attitude towards the Loyalists, claiming that they would do the same to a Resistance fighter if they captured one. Upon hearing something as heartless as this coming from her daughter, Olivia got that wary look in her eyes that she sometimes gets. You know, like a deer watching another deer torture a rabbit until it gives them information about the Observers. Olivia didn’t seem disappointed or angered by Etta’s callousness, but more like she just felt sorry for Etta that she had become so jaded, that she had to grow up in this dark, sad world. I think Olivia probably felt that if she’d been there to raise Etta, she might not have become so cynical.
At one point, when they were debating what should be the fate of their prisoner, Etta went so far as to tell Olivia that he was just playing her because he saw in her eyes that she was weak and easily manipulated. Ouch, baby girl. That was quite a burn. I have to say, I was on Olivia’s side on this one, and I was surprised to find out later that the guard had been lying about his son. It was amazing that his encounter with Olivia changed his mind about things, though. Olivia just has that effect on people. When she told him that they (the Resistance) have to win, because otherwise all the people who have died will have given their lives for nothing, he saw something in her eyes: a certainty that no one else in 2036 is capable of. This is Olivia’s true strength. She has faith. Not Faith with a capital “F,” but faith in the cause, faith in good triumphing over evil, faith in humanity, and faith that they can really save the world, even when it appears beyond saving. Just as Walter’s hope was restored with that one beautiful dandelion at the end of last episode, so was Etta’s faith renewed by seeing Olivia’s strength, and the fact that it could change even a Loyalist’s view on the fight for freedom. If the Bishop-Dunham family can continue to feed on each other’s strength, they might actually have a shot at defeating the Observers. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in four seasons of watching Fringe, it’s that when Olivia is determined to achieve something, you should never get in her way.
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