Fringe Episode Recap: Forced Perspective
Last week’s episode closed with the two Fringe teams (and worlds) reluctantly banding together against the threat posed by David Robert Jones’s brood of super-shifters and successful universe-hopping. Lest you think the rest of the season will just be the universes chasing after the crazy Brit, “Forced Perspective” reminds us of another threat that’s been looming: Olivia’s death.
The episode opens with Olivia picking September out dozens of surveillance photos of Observers, all of whom Broyles thinks look exactly same. This seems to confirm that the new timeline never had any contact with The Observers until a blood-soaked September brought Olivia word of her inevitable demise. In an interesting addition to the Observer mythology, Broyles and Olivia discuss that the tests they ran on the blood left behind at the opera house came up positive for antibodies for the Spanish flu. The Spanish flu that has been extinct since roughly 1919. No one mentions other anomalies with the blood aside from the fact that this would make the unknown man over 90 years old, which raises an interesting question: Are Observers, essentially, human? Did September turn into an Observer sometime after the devastating Spanish flu outbreaks in the twentieth century, or are Observers just susceptible to the ills of the time periods they visit? We don’t have much time to ponder these questions, though, as we cut to –
A (somewhat distressingly) pale teenage girl sits outside sketching. A noise somewhere between a dishwasher and an ultrasound emerges, and she begins sketching on a clean sheet like a woman possessed. She chases down a man walking with a female coworker and hands him the drawing. The two folks dismiss her as a crazy teen looking for attention, until the man is promptly crushed by a fallen building site beam. The music swells and we get a glance at the drawing – which depicts the man’s gruesome demise exactly.
After the credits, we find Walter and Peter feverishly working on how to get Peter back to his own timeline. Walter tries to explain their progress, but no one quite understands. Peter explains this is partly because he’s “a little wired up” and has already electrocuted himself multiple times, prompting our first Walterism of the night: “Which reminds me, I still can’t feel my urine response…”
Lincoln calls to fill Olivia in on the new case and, as soon as she hears it has to do with predicting the future, asks if prognosticator was a bald man. It’s obvious from his confused reply in the negative that Lincoln hasn’t been brought up to speed on the Observer situation, which is an interesting development. Lincoln and Olivia have been growing closer in recent episodes, so it’s valid to ask whether she hasn’t told him because of security concerns (him being the newest team member), trust issues, or not wanting him to worry about her.
We jump back to the sketch artist – whose name, we learn, is Emily – coming home to her family. In a tearful conversation with her father, she apologizes for the family having to move around so much and asks why God would make her “like this”. Dad trots out the “everybody has a purpose, even if we can’t see what it is” conversation, which is just about as comforting to Emily as it is to every suffering teenager.
At Fringe HQ, Broyles expresses concern for Olivia, whose been to Health Services three times in the last month. She tells him that it’s just those crazy migraines, before making a quick topic change to the topic of fate. Broyles doesn’t believe in the thing, but Olivia says she might be starting to believe. You know, because of the whole “a bleeding, bald man showed up and told me that every possible future ends up with me dead” thing. She doesn’t even protest when Broyles suggests they keep her out of harm’s way for the next few days, just in case. Lincoln shows up with a photo of the girl who drew the death sketch just as Olivia pops a couple of migraine pills, and the two head off to canvas the neighborhood.
Back to poor pale Emily, who apparently cannot even take a simple bus ride without being overwhelmed by that dishwasher noise and predicting someone’s demise. She tries to chase down a man on the bus to give him the sketch, but loses his trail and sends an apology out into the ether.
Emily’s little brother is doing homework and reveals that his sister is really good at math in addition to drawing. Right brain, left brain, Nostradamus brain – makes her a triple threat, right? Olivia and Lincoln knock on the door while canvassing, but Emily’s family denies that they have a teenage girl living with them. Observant Olivia calls bullshit to Lincoln as they leave because the girl’s backpack was in plain sight, which doesn’t really matter because they run into Emily right outside the building anyway.
Olivia and Lincoln try to talk with Emily and get her to help them, but are quickly stopped by Emily’s father. He refuses to give them access to his daughter, since the last time they tried that resulted in Massive Dynamic hounding them from town to town, abducting and performing tests on Emily. Olivia tells him that she might be able to help out with that.
Understandably, Olivia is less than pleased to hear that her adoptive mother might be connected to experimentation on children and pays Nina a visit at Massive Dynamic. Nina says that they did make Emily’s family an offer to monitor and research her ability, but that they refused. Olivia cannot understand who Nina could have raised Olivia all those years after the Cortexiphan trials and even consider doing anything to/with Emily. Nina gets haughty and tries to play the two as totally different situations, but, seeing as we know about Nina’s continued covert assaults on Olivia, it’s pretty satisfying to see Olivia not give in. At least, for now.
Instead, she takes off to meet Emily on a bench near the water, where the pale girl says she wants to help because she thinks a lot of people are going to die. As at the beginning of the episode, the music swells and the camera zooms into a portrait of death and rubble before cutting to commercial.
When we return, Walter is taking readings of Emily’s brain wave activity and vital functions, revealing that she is drawing more blood and oxygen to her brain than normal people. He tells everyone that he and “Bellie” theorized that certain traumatic events in the future would “ripple” back in time like vibrations, and that Emily’s brain is perhaps more attuned to them. Emily reveals that she can’t control the visions or change the outcomes, prompting Peter to ask why she even bothers to warn people then. In a very teenage girl response, she says that she thought maybe it would give people a chance to say goodbye to someone they love.
The rest of the team leaves the lab for a moment, and Olivia takes advantage of the opportunity to ask Emily if she senses anything death-y about Olivia. It sounds as though the dishwasher noise starts but, if it does, it quickly abates when Emily’s dad shows up. Lincoln and Olivia take off to find Mr. Duncan (a man identified in Emily’s sketch), while Peter suggests that Walter hypnotize Emily in order to get a better picture of what her vision predicted.
Thanks to a little encouragement and the improved Walter-Bishop relationship from last week’s episode, Walter is able to hypnotize Emily back to her experience on the bus. She sees Mr. Duncan and then is thrust back into her vision. Instead of your typical vision of the future, though, Emily seems to get just a single moment from the traumatic event – one freeze frame that (with Walter and her father’s encouragement) she is able to walk through and explore. Eventually, she finds a broken sign in Latin and Mr Duncan buried in the ruble with a remote detonator. Taken along with the fact that Mr Duncan has just lost a nasty custody battle, the team deduces his target is probably a courthouse. Cut to Mr. Duncan going through security at a large and massively crowded courthouse.
It’s a dramatic scene when we return from commercial – dogs! the courthouse! bomb squads and SWAT teams and riot gear! Based on the extent of the destruction in Emily’s sketch, the Fringe team assumes that it would be too much explosives for Mr. Duncan to carry on his person. They could have also assumed that based on the fact that Emily didn’t draw Mr Duncan in little bits, but no one brings that up. Lincoln finds Mr Duncan’s truck with a bed full of sophisticated, remote detonated explosives in the underground parking garage.
Upstairs, Broyles tries to pull the Observer Death Prediction card and get Olivia to leave, but she won’t have any of it. She refuses to leave, stating that she can’t live her life and do her job that way. It’s a little trite, sure, but I still did a little “Go, Liv!” fistbump.
Back down in the parking garage, Peter gets the brilliant idea to turn everyone’s walkie talkies to the same frequency as the remote detonator. This blocks the signal from the detonator, but then it turns out that Mr. Duncan has a back-up bomb strapped to his chest! Olivia manages to convince him that he doesn’t have to do this – “I’m not ready to die today and I don’t think you are either” – and talk him down.
As they cart the would-be bomber away, Olivia victory calls Emily’s family to let her know that her visions can be changed. Things aren’t inevitable! Unfortunately, Emily has disappeared. It’s first assumed that she’s been snatched by Massive Dynamic but, after the black van Emily’s dad saw outside their apartment is revealed to be a dry cleaner’s van, Olivia finds the teen at the bench from earlier in the episode.
Emily is the palest she’s ever been in the episode and her pulse is weak. She tells her father and Olivia that she’s “known for a while” that she was going to die on that bench, revealing that the sketch she’s been working on throughout the episode is of this very scene. As Olivia tries to get an ambulance, Emily tells her father that everyone does have a purpose and that hers was to save all those people. She then gets a Firefly-esque nosebleed and dies.
Later, Olivia is reviewing files back at the lab and Peter comes in to give his condolences. Olivia explains that the overload of electrical activity in Emily’s brain caused a kind of stroke that Walter says they couldn’t have stopped. Olivia then shows Peter pictures of The Observers and Peter fills her in on who they are and how they seem to exist in all time simultaneously. Olivia tries to tease out whether something an Observer says about the future could be wrong, but Peter scoffs and shuts it down. Observers don’t predict the future, he tells her, they’ve already experienced it. Peter picks up on the strangeness in Olivia’s questions and asks if she’s made contact with an Observer, which Olivia (somewhat unsuccessfully) denies.
The episode closes with Nina visiting Olivia at her apartment to apologize for her behavior earlier. Olivia tells Nina that she shouldn’t worry about it because the thing that bothered her most about thinking she would die that day is that Nina would never know how she really felt about her: that Nina is the closest thing to a mother Olivia has and she loves her. It would be a very sweet moment if we didn’t know that Nina was actually working with David Robert Jones and still experimenting on Olivia. Olivia also tells Nina about the migraines she’s been having, and Nina Momma goes to make her some soup.
As Nina starts cooking, she tells Olivia that she’ll send over a new drug they’ve been working on at Massive Dynamic to help with her migraines. The camera pulls back to outside Olivia’s apartment building, where an Observer stands watching. We’ve just been reminded by Peter that Observers show up at and monitor “significant” events, so his presence here just as Nina mentions a new drug she’s going to give to Olivia should make us all curious.