After a summer break full of ominous promos, an emotional stint at San Diego Comic Con, and minor health issues for star John Noble, the fifth and final season of Fringe finally kicked off on Fox. We’ve been anticipating a bittersweet return, and the premiere, “Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11” is certainly that. As excited as you are for the show to be back, you can’t help but be feel a twinge of sadness knowing that this marks the beginning of the end.
It should stand to reason that some serious SPOILERS are about to come down the pipe. You’ve been warned.
Full of action, tension, sharp turns, and weirdness, this episode is a hell of a way to kick off a season. There are a metric ton of story possibilities, most of your favorite characters are in play, and, like any narrative worth a damn, there’s a definite chance that the good guys might not walk away victorious in the end.
We don’t waste any time jumping right into the year 2036, a setting first introduced in the season four’s “Letters of Transit.” The remnants of the Fringe team wake up in a world where the Observers have taken over and established and Orwellian sort of dystopian dictatorship. This is a definite sink-or-swim kind of strategy. Not much time is spent on set up, backstory, or world building. If you missed “Letters of Transit,” you have some serious catching up to do.
My only real beef with this episode is that there’s not nearly enough Walter (Noble). While he’s definitely present, he isn’t his usual self. Walter is the heart of Fringe, always has been. His strangeness, tangents, willingness to over share, and random food and drug related thoughts, go a long way in setting the show apart. He brings levity to even the most dire situations, and rallies the troops around him without even meaning to. In “Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11” that’s not the way the character is used, and it feels like something is missing, at least until the very end. Sitting in an abandoned car, listening to a CD, is the most Walter that Walter acted in the entire episode.
Fringe has always been a show that poses a lot of questions. And what better time to check some of these out than right after the first episode of the season? A lot of these are set up related, and are some of the threads we’ll follow throughout the subsequent twelve episodes, but there is much to consider.
One: What happened to the Bishops? And what’s going to happen to them?
This may very well wind up being the emotional question of the season. The very first scene of season five picks ups a few years after Walter shoots Olivia in the brain at the end of season four. Immediately you see the changes. They take great pains to show you Peter (Joshua Jackson) and Olivia’s (Anna Torv) wedding rings. So you know they’re married. Last we saw Liv she was pregnant. Now they have what we later learn is a three-year-old daughter, Henrietta.
But from that idyllic starting point, everything disintegrates. The Observers show up and kidnap Etta. Over the course of the episode we learn that the abduction put so much strain on Peter and Olivia that they split, a point driven home by the fact that when they get Olivia out of the Amber, she’s not wearing her ring.
For the moment things seem fine. They’re back together, they have their little girl again, everything is as sunshiny and full of roses as it can be in this cesspool of a future. Still, you get the sense that there are hidden resentments, wounded egos and feelings, and more than a couple secrets lurking just below the surface, waiting to explode bitterness all over the place. Henrietta (Georgina Haig) seems all well and good, but there are hints that she may have a dark streak underneath all that blond. We’ll just have to wait and see how all of this manifests.
Which leads me to the next question…
Two: What happened to Henrietta when she was taken?
Presumably the Observers abducted her. At least that’s the impression we’re supposed to walk away with. Where did they take her? What did they do to her? How did she get free? What’s their plan for her? And so on.
There are so many mysteries surrounding that character, and there are more questions that answers at this point. Maybe I’ve watched too many movies like The Manchurian Candidate, but I can’t help but think that there’s something sinister there. The Observers are from the future, and can jump around in time, so do they know something? I can’t help but think she’s a plant, maybe there to take down the rebellion, or maybe the Observers need something that only Walter can deliver. Given her lineage, her position in the resistance and law-enforcement can’t be an accident, and this is going to be an interesting storyline to watch unravel.
Three: What role does William Bell (Leonard Nimoy) play in all of this?
At the end of season four you get the distinct impression that you’ll never see William Bell again. But not only do you see a picture of him, as part of the resistance no less, Walter is in possession of Bell’s severed, ambered hand. You can’t set that up and not pay it off down the road. For my money, the more Nimoy, the better.
Four: Where is Broyles (Lance Reddick)?
He’s there in “Letters of Transit,” though appropriately aged for it being the year 2036. Always skewing towards the company line, it’s obvious he wasn’t part of the resistance to the Observer take over, or at least not a known part of it. No matter what universe or timeline, he’s always had a soft spot for Olivia, and you can’t help but expect him to pitch in, or at least lend a sympathetic ear from time to time.
Five: What did the Observers actually get from Walter?
Strapped to that chair, Walter put up a valiant fight to protect the scattered bits of memory that September put in his brain. But in the end, was it worth the strain, effort, and damage? Was it scrambled beyond recovery? Was he able to protect the plan? Were they able to unearth the plan and remove it from his mind? Or, as Etta suggests, were the memories ultimately destroyed through the struggle? Like I said, I don’t entirely trust her, and maybe she’s full of crap.
While the Bishop question may be the emotional center of season five of Fringe, this will likely provide the narrative thrust. You know Walter will cook up some crazy, possibly LSD-fueled plan to retrieve his lost memories, and piece them together after that. How he goes about this, how successful he is, and what he needs to do it, should drive the plot for at least a few episodes. And the outcome and consequences resulting from his success or failure will sprawl out even further. In any case, I’m more than a little intrigued to see what sort of madness Walter and September cooked up to defeat the Observers.
There are so many more questions, and so many more avenues we could take while talking about Fringe. These are just a few of the numerous questions that occurred to me as I watched the first episode.
What do you think? About any of these topics, or anything else Fringe related? What did you think of the episode? Love it, hate it, like it? Indifferent? Do you think this was a fitting beginning to the final chapter? Do you approve of the new opening? Let us know in the comments section down below.