Last week’s episode of Fringe left the characters, and the fans, reeling from what can easily be equated to a sucker punch. In the wake of unthinkable tragedy and loss a number of questions present themselves, chief among these: what now? What now for the show, what now for the characters, what now for the world?
Stop reading now unless you’ve watched this week’s episode, “An Origin Story.”
At the beginning of “An Origin Story,” Olivia (Anna Torv) and Peter (Joshua Jackson) are not doing particularly well. That’s a given; after all they did just lose a child, a child they had only recently been reunited with. Liv is in shock after Henrietta’s death, and is an emotional wreck prone to fits of weeping and depression. You can imagine her curled up in a dark room for days at a time.
Peter looks worn down and grizzled. It’s a safe bet he hasn’t slept much in recent days. He could use a shave and a shower. Obviously distraught, when he finds Henrietta’s secret stash of weapons and explosives (doesn’t every girl have one of those?) you can see that he has vengeance on the brain.
After this beginning, you ask yourself how far will he go, what will he do in the name of justice for his little girl? I expected him to take a big leap; that a mixture of grief and anger would push him to a brutal level where he’d smack around that kidnapped Observer, and do things he normally wouldn’t. My initial expectation was that his actions would get to the point where they raise the moral question of, “At what point do you become worse that what you’re trying to destroy?” But that assumption, like many I’ve made about Fringe in the past, was not so much on target.
By the end of “An Origin Story” you know exactly what lengths Peter is willing to go to. Beyond simple brute retribution, he is essentially willing to become his enemy, an Observer, in order to destroy them. When he removes the implant from the Observer, the one he just presumably killed by the way, and installs the tech in his own body, that’s a huge shift, for the show and the character.
Up to this point you sympathize with Peter, you feel for him and everything he’s going through. While no one is sure exactly what the implant will do to him, you get the feeling that he may have crossed a line that there’s no coming back from.
Will his new spinal microchip buddy give him all of the powers of the Observers? Couple that with his raging emotions, and what will the results look like? You can’t help but think of superhero stories. When a mere mortal obtains new abilities and strengths, it’s always initially tempting to use them for nefarious purposes. There’s always an internal struggle between good and evil, between the light and the dark. That sort of moral contest appears to loom large on the horizon for one Peter Bishop. That’s one meaning of the title, that this could be the origin of a new power in the world. How he uses it remains to be seen.
Driven by anger as he is, if left to his own devices Peter would most likely go on the equivalent of a destructive bender, wreaking havoc on the oppressors. At the end of the episode, however, Olivia is taking a different approach. After watching the video of Etta’s birthday party, she takes a more love-based line of attack. While Peter wants to destroy, she wants to cling to what she has, to preserve and build anew. She doesn’t want to lose Peter, both in the sense that she doesn’t want him to throw his life away recklessly, but she also doesn’t want to lose him to an all-consuming quest for revenge. And no matter how much he gussies it up as justice, that’s what it is, 100% revenge. You can lose people in many ways.
If Peter is going to be saved, if he is ultimately reigned in and redeemed, it is going to be Olivia’s doing. Walter will surely play a part as well, but it will be Olivia’s efforts that carry the most weight, and that bring him back to the human realm, if that’s even possible.