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Five-Twenty-Ten was still not quite right, but at least there was hope for better days ahead. The return of Nina Sharp didn’t lead to the kind of emotional peak we had with Broyles, and her interaction with Walter raised some issues with the direction of this final season of Fringe. Although Peter’s vendetta was at times entertaining, it still felt overextended and a bit alien to what we have come to like over the past four years.
The tape extraction was done rather quickly, but there was still a tape. One that led to a warehouse that belonged to William Bell. Although the episode used the excuse of the rubble blocking the warehouse entrance to bring back Nina Sharp, the real reason for her presence was Walter. Whenever Walter’s old self is in focus, the younger generation seems not enough, which is why the show always brings back someone who saw him as he was before those bits of his brain were removed. I have nothing against having multiple storylines and keeping us interested by getting away from the pattern starting with a betamax tape extraction. However, the two things Nina Sharp brought with her in Five-Twenty-Ten made me uncomfortable.
First, the episode resurrected the god complex we saw in season four, only that now the show threatens to put Walter at the center of it and not William Bell. I am well aware we do not have enough time to develop a similar story (which is good), but that whole premise is still an overreach. I am among those who think that even the Pattern in season one was better than William Bell trying to recreate the world (no, the whole universe) in season four. Science fiction does better when it restricts its challenges to a small number of parameters the authors can control without getting lost in their own mythology. I am all for ambitious storylines, but asking us to believe that Walter Bishop (or William Bell for that matter), who can’t even deal with Observers traveling from just a few hundreds years ahead, have what it takes to justify a true godlike complex is irritating. The episode should have stuck with the matter sublimation device, that is fringe enough to dazzle. I understand that the story was looking for a way back into the perennial father-son relationship we’ve been following for four years now, which leads me to my second issue with Nina’s storyline.
Before this rather strange fifth season, Fringe could have been arguably described as a story centered on Olivia Dunham, but also as a story ultimately about love and how it saves us from ourselves. That grand theme has always driven the series with Walter and Olivia as the emotional poles, but it has never been outlined as it was here. I prefer it when a theme emerges from the story, not when it is put in the mouth of some character, so Walter and Nina discussing about love being enough (or not) to save Walter was simply wrong.
Still on the chapter of things that were wrong, although Peter’s revenge was fun on many levels, it still fell short. I liked how the series seems to come full circle with it, explaining a lot about the Observers, all those things about them that were fascinating but out of our reach in previous seasons. I liked how the show relentlessly set Peter on track to become a full-fledged Observer down to the baldness. At this point, I wonder when he’ll start wearing a suit, assuming there is some sort of collective consciousness he can’t escape, which to be fair, we have seen no sign of until now. What we have seen are the physical and analytical transformations which do not only make him faster, stronger and smarter, but also more mechanical and more detached. The irony in his storyline is that he used the remnants of the first fringe case in his attack on Windmark’s lieutenants, a case that embodies my next point.
In the pilot episode of Fringe, Olivia Dunham (or Liaison as Broyles called her) was confronted with a disease or a condition no one understood, and to save her lover, she assembled the team we know today. She drove the show then in more ways than one, which is why I was relieved at the end of Five-Twenty-Ten when she learned the truth and started backing out of the room. When Olivia is confronted with a problem, after the initial shock, just like in the series premiere, she addresses it. Now the series will hopefully return to normalcy, and by that I don’t mean Walter’s regression halted and the tech removed from Peter’s head. To me, a return to normalcy means the restoration of the sort of emotional balance we’ve been used to. Beyond the cases and main storylines, each character has always contributed according to his or her place in the overall mythology, and although that can change for a short while, having the “anomaly” linger is a problem.