Turn off the Lights

Fringe – Anomaly XB-6783746 Review: An Emotional Beginning of the End

After the "special" episode last week with its fairy, ghost, and cartoons all induced by LSD, we were back to a more ordinary plane with Anomaly XB-6783746, in spite of its title. The regular storytelling structure didn't mean business as usual, far from it, as this was clearly the beginning of the end for Fringe. A long time regular character bid her farewell with an emotional swan song, and the final season's story started to circle back to the beginnings of the show, or at least to reveal some of its mysteries with more or less success.

From the opening episode in this fifth and final season, the main characters and Astrid have been on the run (and no more part of the authorities), so it has been more challenging to build episodes around fringe science cases.  In fact, it has been difficult to simply feature a case each week. The writers have tried their best with advanced concepts, stunning devices and even a human condition, but whenever we could clearly identify a case of the week, it was more likely to be peripheral to the story. In Anomaly XB-6783746, the case was not only central to the episode's main storyline, but it was also at the heart of the season overarching story, and to make things even better, it also had the added benefit of featuring prominently in Nina Sharp's swan song.

Nina Sharp
Among all the regular characters in Fringe, Nina Sharp has always been the most elusive. By virtue of her lifelong relationship with William Bell and Walter, she has always been present at key moments whenever the past came into focus. With the might of Massive Dynamic behind her, the story also turned to her whenever a technology (or more accurately, a technical process) was beyond the capabilities of Walter's small lab. In this season, she moved from regular to guest star, but she was needed for essentially the same reasons. Her involvement with Walter's regression has been, to me at least, a low point of the series, but the way the Ministry of Science replaced Massive Dynamic was flawless.

In Anomaly XB-6783746, she was mostly needed to help the team communicate with Michael, the Observer child they managed to locate last week. Almost everything in her storyline fell right into place, from Windmark and his team garnering audio evidence off her office walls to her final confrontation with the lead Observer. The way the invaders closed in on Nina made sense but seemed a bit too easy, as one might have thought in a world where the bald men can read thoughts, she would have been more careful in covering her tracks. Ultimately, it didn't matter because her swan song was more about style than substance. Her final speech comparing the Observers to lizards raised a couple of questions, but it worked because it properly set the stage for her following action. If anyone thought the series finale would feature all regular characters singing kumbayah, this was possibly an early sign of what is to come.

Walter Bishop
In the past four years, Nina Sharp almost never showed strong emotions or any sign of distress, and whenever she did, it was as restrained as those things can be. In this episode, when she understood her end was near, she was as restrained as ever and acted quickly. The episode used Olivia to good effect to express a bit more clearly the tension Nina just hinted at, and I liked how the former Fringe Division agent would not look at the lethal gunshot on the recording. As always in Fringe whenever the team has to convey strong emotions, Walter and Olivia were the focus of the camera when the body was discovered, and as usual, they pulled it off. The camera work was excellent (glasses on the floor, Olivia's reflection in the blood, focus on Walter and Olivia, etc.) and the entire scene touched the right notes without ever showing us the dead body.

The episode gradually brought us to that surprising emotional twist while revealing more on what the resistance had been up to. The electro-cognitive translator (E-Cog) came in handy, even if I think it is a bit odd that we had no early sign that Nina was actively involved in the resistance before this episode, but then again, one might argue that the movement is not exactly a monolithic and well-organized body. I liked how Windmark filled some of the gaps in our understanding of who or what Michael is. As the case of the week, it is fitting that the episode was named after him, but we still have tons of questions on the engaging boy who is "no child." Genetic mistake or not, we still don't know why he doesn't have a device in his brain, or what exactly is his purpose beyond sharing information through his touch.

Michael and the Fringe team
About the information shared with Walter, it made sense for Donald to be September because a new character at this point in the series wouldn't have provided the same sense of symmetry. With Donald as September, the overall story seems to circle back onto itself in a beautiful way, but the episode arguably pushed that symmetry one step too far. In an earlier season, referring to Peter, September mentioned how the boy should live because he was important. Anomaly XB-6783746 reused that statement, but linked it to images of Michael in the episode where he was found underground. It is clear that Michael was only an isolated fringe case of the week back then. It is also clear that if the connection with the Observer made at the end of that episode, although tenuous at best, can somehow help justify what is happening now, twisting September's words is wrong (even if it was brilliantly done). Another minor quibble is Windmark's reaction when he saw that the resistance was experimenting on Observers. Isn't he supposed to be all logic and not emotional? The resistance's course of action should be right up his alley.

In a story that possibly featured more screentime for Nina in a single episode than ever before, Fringe showcased all the facets of her involvement with the team while keeping her as aloof as ever. Anomaly XB-6783746 was a good beginning of the descent towards landing for the series, and mostly succeeded in capitalizing on the previous four years of storylines.



Meet the Author

Follow Us