By Stacey Harrison
If you’re any fan at all of Fringe —and if you’re reading this, I’ll assume you are — you’ve heard that The Observers take center stage this week, and that we’ll find out a whole lot more about them. No one-off episode here. This one will take a permanent place in the show’s canon. So, is it any good?
It has its trouble spots, but overall a strong show, dropping plenty of tasty tidbits and making sure we’ll never view The Observers the same again.
The cold opening, which has been available for sneak preview all week, does a great job locking into the story, showing a heretofore unseen Observer kidnapping a young coed, and doing some really cool stuff in the process. You don’t notice it until later when they’re breaking down the surveillance video, but the new Observer can catch a bullet with his hand and fire a really cool — most assuredly otherworldly — handgun that can make pesky interlopers fly several feet in the air.
Olivia and Peter are intrigued by the emergence of a new Observer, while Walter simply looks troubled. This is a look he has pretty much through the whole episode, like when Astrid is flummoxed at the strange symbols written in the Observer’s notebook left at the kidnapping scene. Over pages and pages, none of the marks repeat, meaning they conform to no known language. Things get weirder (and a little too Forrest Gump-ish) when Olivia and Peter visit Massive Dynamic to learn what the corporation has found out in its studies of the Observers. They are treated to scenes depicted throughout history (Paul Revere’s rendering of the Boston Massacre, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand) that – if you look closely enough — have Yul Brynner clones in the periphery. It’s supposed to be eerie, but comes off as some lame retread of The Da Vinci Code. (Man, what do I have against Tom Hanks movies today?) The techie there also tells them that the occurrences have spiked form about a couple dozen over the past few thousand years to just as many over the past three months.
We get to peek at a group of Observers having lunch, with lots and lots of hot sauce, of course, and they discuss why one of their own — named August — would have kidnapped the girl. Turns out she was supposed to be on a flight that crashed. This creates what’s called an “irregularity,” and it must be stopped. The baldies call up their designated hitman (who has hair, eyebrows and a decidedly more frumpish clothing sense) to make things regular again.
August shows the girl, Christine Hollis, the news reports of the plane crashing, which shuts her up but good, then heads to the restaurant to explain himself to his fellow Observers. They tell him he should not have interfered with the course her life was to take, and that their previous dalliances in altering timelines was to correct mistakes of their own making. Ms. Hollis has no future, they say. “Then why do I see it?” August asks. He feels she’s important somehow.
The hitman heads to August’s apartment, where he believes the girl is being held. It’s not long before Peter and Olivia also show up, following some forensic evidence gathered from that notebook (a rare chili sauce). A quick shootout ensues, but the portly would-be assassin eventually flees without incident.
That notebook just keeps on giving, though, as Walter is able to unlock enough of the symbols to discern that he is being asked to meet August somewhere. He goes, worried that the Observers are back to claim Peter. He argues that they had an arrangement, but August stops him and says that’s not why he’s asked to meet him. He needs Walter’s help to keep Christine alive. He’s done it before, referring again to Walter’s swiping of an alternate universe version of his son. But Walter has no practical advice to give, saying only that August must make Christine important, enough so that she will not be a target.
His plan is a strange one, and it involves August letting the hitman get the drop on him, and put several bullets into him. Peter and Olivia show up, and Peter gets to use August’s really cool gun to take out the hitman. By the time the shootout is over, August’s body has vanished. He’s actually been taken away by the Observer we know (named September, if you’ll remember), and the two are driving in a car. August repeatedly asks if Christine will now be safe, and September wants to know why he saved her. August says he’s been watching her most of her life, and distinctly remembers seeing her after her parents were killed in the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, and noticing her bravery. He goes so far as to say he suspects he feels love for her. As September finally tells him that she’ll be safe, a tear falls down August’s face as he breathes for the last time. Christine is important now, because she is responsible for the death of an Observer.
Later, as Christine is going through the incident with Peter and Walter, she’s hopelessly confused, then touched as Walter hands her something that August wanted to give her. It’s the teddy bear she was holding during the car accident that killed her parents. Her dad had won it for her that very day. Peter bites his tongue until they’re out of the room, but lays into Walter, asking why he hadn’t told anyone he met with The Observer. Walter pats his cheek and tells him he’ll get his answer someday. It’s a day Walter obviously dreads, and is only too happy to put off while he and his son go for a long drive, and maybe get some ice cream.
Olivia finally gets to make good on a date at the amusement park with her niece that she had to back out of at the beginning of the episode. She and Ella are having a ball on a roller coaster, as two Observers — one of them September — look on and remark on how happy she looks. “It’s a shame things are about to get so hard for her.” Now that’s a tease!
Odds and ends:
— Olivia is scared of roller coasters. Yes, the woman who faces death on a weekly basis and has visited another dimension is afraid of going loop de loop.
— Walter has a freak out when his favorite ice cream shop closes, and makes his kitchen into a lab trying to replicate it.
— Quote of the week: Walter, talking about the fallout from eating the King Cobra chili from India, “The flatulence was horrible. Very embarrassing.” It’s OK, Walter. We love you, anyway.
— The labs apparently can’t get the weapon that August left behind to fire, despite Peter getting it to fire just fine. They conclude it must be out of ammo. Uh huh. Could have something to do with Peter’s extra-dimensional origins.