Where to begin …
Perhaps with hope. Etta is the embodiment of hope, for Olivia and Peter, for the fans, and for the world. When we met her in “Letters of Transit,” she gave us hope that Peter and Olivia could have a happy ending. In the fifth season premiere, she gave us hope that there was still something in the world worth saving. Etta has been the beacon of hope for a better world, a better future that keeps the Fringe team fighting. Just when you think this show can’t possibly affect you any more than it has, Fringe manages to outdo itself with a stunning, shattering, gut-wrenching episode like this one.
Like a death row inmate enjoying a lavish, four-course last meal, Fringe fans were given a feast of beautiful moments and heartwarming scenes before our souls were unapologetically crushed into dust. First course: father/daughter bonding involving a gift of jewelry and a hug. The beginning of the episode found Peter out on a supply run, which apparently involved a careless shopping trip to a junk shop with creepy toy monkeys, mocking cliché-stitched throw pillows, and electronic games from the 80s. (Simon, anyone? Also, does this mean Simon Foster is coming back? Because that would be epic.) There, Peter found a replacement for the necklace Etta had donated for them to make the laser. This necklace became a recurring symbol throughout the episode. Windmark couldn’t understand its purpose, or why Peter would risk his life to acquire it for Etta. One of the funniest un-funny parts of the episode was watching Broyles try to explain what a necklace is to Windmark, who eventually clued in to the sentimental significance.
Olivia and Etta shared a lovely moment when Olivia asked her daughter about her necklace. Etta told her she’d found the bullet in their old house and kept it as a memento. Olivia seemed genuinely touched by this, and she told Etta that Peter had called it “the bullet that saved the world.” It was the bullet that Walter had shot Olivia in the head with in order to stop William Bell from destroying the world. I think it’s safe to assume that Etta’s attachment to the bullet that killed her mother is definitive foreshadowing of her own resurrection, made possible either through time travel, or through any possible abilities of hers which may exist.
In the final showdown between Etta and Windmark, he asked her one last time what the significance of her necklace was. As he read her mind, a memory flashed through her thoughts: Peter in a field, with his arms open, smiling at her. Windmark made the connection between that feeling and the necklace Peter had given to Etta. “Love…” he concluded. Etta’s face showed a mix of fear and triumph, because she knew that Windmark would never be able to destroy that love, no matter what he did to her or her family. This scene reminded me of the battle between Harry Potter and Voldemort in Order of the Phoenix, when he tells Voldemort that his weakness is that he’ll never know love, or friendship. Windmark seems similarly frustrated by his inability to understand or categorize the concept of love. I don’t believe all Observers are incapable of love, but Windmark certainly seems to be. He has no idea what Peter and Olivia would do to save their daughter, but I’m willing to bet he’s going to find out. Just as soon as Peter and Olivia come to terms with losing her again.
The hardest part of Etta’s death was seeing Peter and Olivia lose their daughter, after everything they’d gone through, and how they’d just barely gotten to know her as an adult. Watching the empty space where the warehouse had been, Peter looked utterly broken. Even when they were with Etta after she was shot, Peter didn’t give up. He wanted to bring her with them, but she knew she’d just slow them down, so she initiated the anti-matter device. Olivia understood. Since the last time she lost Etta, Olivia must have replayed that scene thousands of times, wishing she could have had that one last moment with her daughter. So she was ready when the time came. She knew what she needed to say. She took Etta’s face in her hands and told her that she loved her. Etta smiled at her and told her that she knew. Peter tried to get Etta up, but Walter—trying to save his own child—told Peter they had to leave, and eventually they did. As they stared at where the building had been, Olivia looked devastated, but resigned, almost hardened. Until a few weeks ago, she had thought her daughter was dead. For her, Etta’s death was just a rude awakening from a beautiful dream, resuming her life as a mother without a child.
With Etta gone, I’m afraid Peter and Olivia’s relationship will revert to their estranged state before they were ambered. I hope they can be there for each other and help each other get through this loss, but I’m guessing they will take on the same roles as before: Peter will become obsessed with finding a way to get Etta back, and Olivia will channel her pain into defeating the Observers. Maybe by the end of the season, these two missions will converge, and they can work together to find a way to somehow bring Etta back, while also saving the world.
Although the Fringe team suffered a tremendous loss this week, they also had a significant gain in the return of Broyles. It turned out he had met Etta five years ago, and she introduced him to the Resistance, even teaching him how to hide his thoughts from the Observers. The reunion between Broyles and Olivia was one of the highlights of the season so far. She was so overcome with emotion, she even forgot to call him “Broyles,” and went with the much more familiar “Phillip,” instead. It was the only time I can remember her calling him by his first name, and it was a perfect moment of acting by Anna Torv and Lance Reddick. It was beyond amazing to see the core Fringe group together again for the final season. I couldn’t even really believe it, and I was swept up by the gravity of how far they’ve all come together. Without Etta, it really does come down to the original group: Olivia, Peter, Walter, Broyles, and Astrid. They’re all that’s left.
Another nod to Fringe’s history came when the team explored Walter’s secret basement full of remnants of all the cases they’ve investigated over the years. It was so surreal to see them recall some of the adventures they’ve had, most of which seemed like ages (and universes) ago. This was essentially Fringe’s version of a flashback montage, remembering all the things that have lead up to this season: all the villains they’ve bested, all the evil plots they’ve foiled, all the misunderstood scientists they’ve apprehended, all the reflections of themselves they’ve seen in their cases … plus a jelly doughnut. All in a cellar underneath the lab. Who knew?
It would be easy to say that with Etta’s death, all hope is lost. But nothing on Fringe is ever truly lost; it’s only misplaced, or temporarily absent. Just ask Peter or Olivia. Peter was lost from existence once, and Olivia has survived being trapped in another universe, shot in the head, and rebooted to another timeline. I have not lost hope that they can find a way to save their daughter, and the world, all in the nine remaining episodes. The one thing you can’t take away from the Bishop-Dunham family is love. And as long as they have love, they have hope.
Photo Courtesy of FOX