Fringe fans! I have missed you and our intrepid agents so much this long summer! But no one missed each other more than Peter and Olivia, trapped in amber lo these 20 twenty years, separately no less and completely missing out on their daughter Etta’s growing up. If that sounds depressing, it’s only half of it! This future is bleak, yo. There are egg sticks in lieu of actual eggs, and no music! Granted, while I would appreciate scrubbing the universe of things like The Bieb and One Direction, no dance parties? Not to mention they paved over Central Park in order to POLLUTE THE AIR FURTHER because their future planet is nasty, and they can’t abide clean oxygen. Add that to the things in the credits that are banned – no joy allowed - and that’s just harsh.
Harsh is a good word to describe what happened to our poor beloved Walter in this episode. Poor guy, he had the mental and physical crap kicked out of him. He was captured by the Observers and the Loyalists after the team found Olivia, trapped in amber. Our squirrely bookshop-owning friend, Markham, had purchased Olivia, amber and all, from the black market. He was carrying on a weirdo love affair with her still form in his mind, which was completely gross and unnecessary – he could have just been keeping her until the Fringe team got there. But anyway, Peter and Etta rejoiced but the Observers were hot on their tail thanks to a tip from the black market loser they sold their walnuts to (walnuts? Wtf?) in exchange for info on Olivia. So Walter got carted off by the po-po and Captain Windmark, asshat that he is, mentally tortured Walter into trying to give him information about the alive-and-kicking Fringe team. Walter held up surprisingly well. I was so sad he was all bleeding from his eyeball and nose and face but proud he held up under pressure – his love of music helped him through. Fight the good fight, Walter! Don’t let the terrorists win!
Meanwhile, they woke up Olivia and she was sure glad to see Etta and Peter. Mother and daughter had a awkward but touching reunion. Olivia seemed sad, though, since she and Peter’d had a fight that resulted in her abandoning him in his search for Etta to continue to save the world by helping Walter retrieve some Observer tech from its hiding place in Grand Central. Apparently September hid some info in Walter’s brain, but scrambled that business so the master plan couldn’t be beat out of him by jerks like Windmark. The device, which Olivia was carrying when she was ambered, is the title of this ep – a transilient thought unifier designed just for Walter. But obviously, we need a Walter for this to work! The team devises a plan to break in to Observer/Loyalist headquarters by appearing dead. Did this remind anyone else of the Firefly ep when they knock over the Alliance hospital and Simon and River pretend to be dead? ME TOO.
Anyway, Etta wakes Peter up from his not-dead state and they trip an alarm to distract Windmark from ripping up Walter’s mind. They bust him out and Astrid, hidden in the getaway van, helps tend to Walter as the team hightails it out of there. For Etta, this means her cover is blown – they know she’s a resistance fighter now, and along with her supervisor Simon (still trapped in amber) is an enemy of the state.
The team returns to their hidey-hole somewhere in the city, and Walter is so messed up that he can’t even remember there was a plan, let alone what it is. He doesn't even remember why he took Bell's hand and what they need it for. Even when his touch activates the Thought Unifier, it can’t help him. Etta posits that Windmark destroyed those thoughts in his attempt to access them, and Walter, enraged with himself and their craptastic situation, despairs. The rest of the team doesn’t know what to do or how to help either. Hopefully it’s darkest before the dawn, because while I thought this episode was quite good, I don’t like seeing our Fringe team so downtrodden. Darn those Observers!
The episode doesn't completely kill our hope, however. Later, woken from sleep, Walter notices a shiny glint of light out the window from their safe house, and goes out to find some old CDs strung on a pole, catching the sunlight. The decrepit old cab still has enough juice left for one more song on the radio, and Walter climbs in, allowing the music (even if it is 80s pop) to soothe his mind. Maybe he can unify those thoughts in time after all. We'll have to see!
Thoughts: This episode gave me a lot to think about, not gonna lie. I had to go back and rewatch last season's Letters of Transit once again for more clues, and I think I'm well on my way to formulating a pretty kick-ass theory. I'm going to hold off until next week's outing, however. What I can say now is that I liked what I've seen, and they really hit the ground running. I guess with only 13 episodes to wrap things up, there isn't any time to waste. Of course, I really wish we had a full season to look forward to. Fox, killer of all that is awesome, couldn't give us any more? Hmph. May Observers scramble their brains.
I have been reading around the interwebz, and it appears that many don't like that this new future doesn't "feel like Fringe" as there is no lab, no other universes, no familiar touchstones for the audiences beyond our agents in this strange new world. With egg sticks and, like, coffee gum. I see their point, but I think Fringe has definitely evolved past that by making the Observers malevolent. I'm willing to see where it takes us before making judgements, but there is no denying that this is a grim place, and I miss Gene the cow, too.
Burning Questions: If the Observers destroyed their planet (have they outright said it was Earth? I don't think so. It could be another planet) and are now using ours, why are they pumping pollution into the air and speeding up their new planet's demise? This seems counter-intuitive; you'd think they learned a basic lesson like that. I get that they have trouble breathing our cleaner air since their lungs are used to mucky smog, and can see why their headquarters are pumped with junk, but the whole atmosphere? None of them ever showed any distress in earlier episodes. Weird.
Episode Rating: 7 out of 10 Red Vines. I may have deducted points for having to see that much of Walter's thighs in the final sequence as he sits in the cab in his boxers. We want to see Peter without his clothes, not Walter! Get it right, homies! Points added back, though, for the Borg reference. We're all nerds here!
Stay tuned for next week's "In Absentia" - looks like Etta is even more of a badass than her mama!