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Fringe Review, Season 5 Episode 1: “Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11”
Against all odds, Fringe returned tonight to begin its fifth and final season. The cult sci-fi drama has teetered on the edge of cancellation for years, and while sci-fi fans have, in the past, grumbled about Fox’s mistreatment of its sci-fi shows (most notably Firefly), I think we can safely say that they’ve learned from their past and are determined to let their cult hits, no matter how low-rated, run their course.
When we last left our Fringe heroes, things had wrapped up quite happily for them. Almost too happily, in fact. When producing the episode, show runners weren’t sure whether or not Fringe would be returning at all, so they made an effort to wrap up all ongoing storylines and leave their characters as happy as they could be after seasons of the bizarre and tragic.
Fringe Season Preview
They made sure to leave a door open for future weirdness, however. Fringe has traditionally had a lot of strange fun—even for this show—with each season’s nineteenth episode. Like its predecessors “Brown Betty” and “Lysergic Acid Diethylamide,” the fourth season’s “Letters of Transit” went extra weird—and extra unexpected. It took us more than twenty years into the future, with the mysterious and bald Observers in charge of everything and humanity struggling under their tight grip.
The episode featured very little of our beloved Fringe team, following instead future Fringe agent Etta and others as they work in secret rebellion against the Observers and try to find our present heroes, all encased in amber.
If I’ve lost you, it’s because you’ve never watched Fringe before. Sorry, but there is just too much going on with this show to get you all caught up now!
Season five picks up where standalone episode 19 left off, with Etta, revealed to be Peter and Olivia’s daughter, having located and revived Walter, Astrid, and Peter. Olivia is still MIA, but the team is determined to find her wherever she may be.
The show begins with the same colorless, hopeless opening credits that began “Letter”—where the bizarre, outlandish scientific concepts like “Cybernetics” and “Precognition” are replaced with phrases like “Free Thought” and “Due Process”—bizarre, unheard of concepts in this strange new world.
Most of the episode is table setting for the rest of the season. The gang gets back together, picking up and losing one another along the way. They find that the battle against the Observers is not going to go as well as they’d hoped. Walter, so cruel and confident with his brain back in place, has lost other parts of his mind and is back to his old addled self.
This world, however, is not without hope. Walter spends part of a terrible experience extolling the virtues of music. It allows us to think differently, to see things in a new way. At the end of the episode, with hope all but lost, he finds an old CD, begins playing Yazoo’s “Only You,” and sees a flower sprouting up from cracks in the cement. It may not be the most subtle scene the show’s ever done, but after an hour of draining bleakness, it was probably a necessary one.
Fringe likes to dramatically change the dynamics of its world season to season, but even season four’s major reset doesn’t compare to this one. Astrid, Walter, Olivia, and Peter are our only tethers to the Fringe of old, and while Etta (a well-cast Georgina Haig) fits in well with the new team, it’s a lot even for a Fringe fan to accept. There is a lot of back story missing, and I imagine it will only be filled in with bits and pieces. We can’t really say that Fringe is a show that takes place in a world like ours, with secret and bizarre science hidden from the world. It’s a big risk, but Fringehas never shied away from that. And really, what do they have to lose? The season may be absolutely insane, but I’ll be along for the ride.
Fringe Glyph of the Week: D O U B T
Fringe will run an abbreviated thirteen-episode fifth season, ending on its 100th episode this winter.