“Anything worth fighting for comes with a cost.” So says Nina Sharp (Blair Brown) in “Anomaly XB-6783746,” the tenth episode in the fifth and final season of Fringe. While the title is a reference to Michael (Roman Longworth), the pint-sized Observer that the team finally tracked down last week, Nina’s remark is an allusion to Walter (John Noble). She’s referring to Walter’s request to re-remove the pieces of his brain that were taken out then put back in.
As dangerous as this procedure is, it will, if successful, enable Walter to remain the man he has become instead of reverting to the power-hungry tyrant he was. This is especially important, because much of this episode is taken up with Walter being, well, an asshole. He’s cold and pushy, thinking of Michael not as a fellow living creature, but as “the subject” in his experiments.
As Walter busies himself with his unfeeling scientific approach, Olivia (Anna Torv) lets her motherly side come out, caring for Michael, attempting to connect with the boy. All of her maternal feelings, directionless after Etta’s death, find a target in Michael. Though, as we learn from Captain Windmark (Michael Kopsa), the boy is no boy at all, but a chromosomal mistake, one scheduled to be destroyed before he disappeared. He processes information in a new, different way.
After Nina is compromised, and her fate is sealed, Michael, through a gentle brush on the cheek, shows her something. What she sees, we’re not sure, but it has quite an impact. When Windmark and his crew of bald, pasty fedora enthusiasts, arrive on the scene, she is defiant and confident, sure of what she must do. Her hardcore stance does what no one thus far has been able to do: makes the Observer leader display emotion.
When he sees his dead brethren, obvious subjects of vivisection-style experiments in the Black Lab, his reaction swerves surprisingly near anger. Beneath the flat, atonal comment, “You animals,” there is something similar to rage lurking there. Nina’s rant about how the Observers are like reptiles—with no bonds, no love, no dreams, no capacity to appreciate beauty, and how they are more of a regression of humanity rather than evolution—only serves to further his fury.
The ultimate slap in the face, however, comes when Nina pulls out her pistol and kills herself. Not only does she thwart Windmark, protecting the Fringe team and Walter’s plan in the process, but she elicits another visceral response, disappointment. There is a palpable sense of frustration and letdown on his face.
Nina’s death is the obvious emotional lynchpin in “Anomaly,” both for the characters and the audience. She has always been something of an enigma, serving alternately as a villain and a hero, depending on the era of the show. But in recent history, she has skewed towards the good guy side of the equation. As our affection for her grew, so did the ultimate impact of her death.
Nina’s suicide has the opposite effect on Walter that it has on Windmark. When he discovers her corpse in the lab, for the first time in “Anomaly,” the good, kind, man we’ve all come to know and love pokes his head out. They were lovers, after all, and she played a critical role in his life in a number of ways. Concern for the missing Michael—legitimate, human concern, not just consternation at the loss of a test subject—also bubbles to the surface.
When they find Michael, hiding under a corpse, he connects with the aged scientist, and the heretofore emotionless child shares a tear. In the moment their minds come together, he also shares a shocking revelation. You see the Observer September, in his pre-Observer state. Turns out he is Michael’s father. He is also the mysterious Donald, Walter’s co-conspirator, the one the Fringe team has been searching for.
Even with all of the information imparted at the end of “Anomaly,” you get the definite impression that Michael revealed even more. Walking away, you’re left with more questions than you came in with. How does all of this new knowledge play into the plan to beat the Observers? Will this jog Walter’s fractured memory, and allow him to finally remember the entirety of his scheme?
Whatever they’re going to do, they better hurry the hell up, because there are only three episodes left in the series. Fringe returns from a three-week hiatus on January 11th, followed by the two-hour, double-episode series finale on January 18th.