‘Fringe’ recap: End of September
There have been rumors of the imminent cancellation of "Fringe" since, well, probably the first episode. When it moved from Tuesdays to Thursdays, it was on its last legs. Then when it got bumped to the Friday night death slot, that was game over. Yet "Fringe" always manages to soldier on. I still hear the random whisper about the show’s demise, mostly because the ratings system hasn’t caught up with the tech-savvy audience of "Fringe." The show consistently gets in the top percentage of increase in ratings once the DVRs are added in (over a 150% bump every week). Though if teetering on the brink of vanishing keeps "Fringe" producing episodes such as "End of All Things," let the rumors fly. "Fringe" has been giving us what so many similar shows hold back: answers.
That’s right. This week we had no side story. No crazy science of the week. No special guests or new villains. "End of All Things" focused on our original characters and the greater mysteries of "Fringe." Great acting, a decent twist and the truth behind one of the most enigmatic characters in television history. Why can’t more "Fringe" episodes be like this? Why can’t more television be like "Fringe?"
Last week ended with Walter and Lincoln Lee confronting Nina Sharp about the Cortexiphan they found in Olivia’s system. At the same time, Olivia was kidnapped right under Peter’s nose and locked in a room with ... Nina Sharp. This week picks right up. Peter finds the camera that Nina’s henchmen installed in Olivia’s smoke detector (always the first place you should look for a secret camera) and desperately digs into it, looking for information on her kidnappers. Broyles and Lincoln interrogate Nina, trying to get her to cough up details about the missing Cortexiphan, but neither group seems to be getting anywhere.
Meanwhile, David Robert Jones is having equally unproductive results trying to “activate” Olivia. He knows that it takes a strong emotional reaction to spark her powers. That’s why Nina is in the room with them. Torture her to goad a response from Olivia. At first I thought Anna Torv’s acting was a little off in these scenes, but then came the news that the memories Olivia has been getting from Peter are clouding her feelings toward Nina. In this timeline, Nina acted as a mother to Olivia, but in our timeline, they’re more adversarial. It explains why Olivia wasn’t fully affected by Nina’s pain and gives a whole new depth to Torv’s performance.
And talking about acting, I can’t stop praising Jared Harris. He’s a fantastic villain. Arrogant and superior, with hints of insecurity. Jones’ speech about all living creatures needing incentive might have been goofy coming from any other actor, but from Harris, it is creepy beyond belief. So glad "Fringe" found a way to bring David Robert Jones back.
The big twist of the episode is that the Nina being held captive with Olivia is really a shape-shifting super soldier and the one interrogated by Broyles is the real Nina Sharp. I’m not sure how these organic shape shifters managed to reproduce Nina’s mechanical arm, but who cares? The quality of the episode quickly washed that from my mind. Once they realize that Olivia’s Swiss cheese memory is keeping her from caring enough about Nina, they set her sights on Peter, the one person who consistently activates her powers.
Just when it seems like Peter and Broyles are both coming up with nothing in their investigations, the Observer shows up. THE Observer. September. Not just watching from the background or repeating what people are saying as he’s prone to do. September is there to deliver a message. That Olivia needs Peter’s help. But he still has that pesky bullet hole in his chest and falls unconscious. The only option is for Peter to sync minds with old baldy to find out what he knows.
This was by far the coolest part of the episode and possibly the season. September’s mind manifests as an observation deck at the Big Bang. Here we finally learn the truth about the Observers. They’re highly evolved human beings. Scientists who have come back to witness the events that led to their origin. September explains his involvement in the Bishops’ lives. He distracted Walternate from curing Peter and has been working to correct his mistake. Peter also learns about his son for the first time, the child he had with Fauxlivia back in the normal timeline, but just as Peter was erased from existence, so was his son. Peter is meant to have a future with Olivia, not Fauxlivia.
None of this has anything to do with finding Olivia, but again, who cares? It’s awesome. Finally, September tells Peter he needs to “Go home” before the other Observers show up to snatch him away and invisibly knock over Walter’s equipment. When Peter realizes September meant literally to go home to his house, he gets kidnapped and taken to David Robert Jones’ hideout (thanks a lot, September).
With Peter in jeopardy, Olivia is finally able to activate her powers. To the extreme. She fries one of Jones’ henchmen with a lightning bolt. Unfortunately, Jones and the fake Nina manage to slip off into the parallel universe. Olivia manages to get a shot off, but apparently transporting Jones out of jail made him slightly invulnerable. Nothing like an invisible enemy to force you to up your game.
If all the action and answers weren’t enough, "Fringe" leaves us with a little emotion as well. Peter spends the episode being berated by Lincoln and Walter. This isn’t his Olivia. Even if she’s starting to get the memories of our timeline, Peter can’t be with her. Now he’s all that more focused on returning home. Though it looks like he'll have to wait four weeks before "Fringe" returns and he can get to work.
Dead end: Did I miss it, or was there any point to Peter spending so much time on the video footage from Olivia’s bedroom? They got the image of the man installing the camera, but he turned out to have died three years ago. Was this simply to imply that he was a shape-shifter? Will this come back later? Was it just a way to keep Peter busy until September vanished?
Astrid action: Astrid filled her regular role as sounding board this week. Though she got one of the best lines in the episode: “I don’t see anything, but I really have to pee, and I don’t want to miss anything.” It only barely got beat out by Walter responding to Peter when he said his Walter knew the Observers have the same anatomy as humans: “I suppose I have no reason to doubt myself.”
Shot the Observer: Now you see him, now you don’t. We got a lot of info on September before he vanished into thin air. Where he’s from. Why he’s here. The one thing we didn’t find out is who shot him. First there was "Who shot J.R.?" Then there was "Who shot Mr. Burns?" Now, "Who shot the Observer?" Any guesses?
-- Andrew Hanson
Photo: From left, Walter (John Noble), Astrid (Jasika Nicole) and Peter (Joshua Jackson) tend to September (Michael Cerveris). Credit: FOX Television