Episode Title: "Five-Twenty-Ten"
Writer: Graham Roland
Director: Eagle Egilsson
Previously on "Fringe":
In the midst of a very dark storyline, it’s refreshing that “Fringe” can still make me laugh. When Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) describes his former partner, William Bell (Leonard Nimoy) as a monster, you’d expect that it was for something even more heinous than Bell’s attempt to play God with two universes.
Instead, Walter was angered that Bell had apparently stolen his record collection, including his favorite David Bowe album. I really loved that gag.
Full spoilers are ahead for "Five-Twenty-Ten." But if you have Observer tech in your head then you already knew that.
At just past the halfway point of “Fringe’s” final season, it’s clear that the show is no longer just about saving humanity from the Observers. It’s about whether the Bishops can save themselves and each other. And I’m including Olivia (Anna Torv) in there because she did marry into the family and her fate is at stake as well.
It’s probably not a coincidence that both Walter and Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) are currently suffering from things that were put in their heads. For Walter, it’s the pieces of his brain that he begged Bell to remove years ago. And for Peter it’s the self-inflicted wound of putting the Observer tech in his skull.
At least Walter recognizes that he is rapidly becoming someone he doesn’t want to be: a man with a frightening streak of hubris and arrogance who is unbound by the shackles of morality or love. Walter clings to the idea that his love for Peter can keep him from completely losing himself. After all, even Walternate found a way to redeem himself through his love for Peter.
But when we finally see Nina Sharp (Blair Brown) this season, she gets a startling glimpse of Walter’s darker self when he tramples on her failed romance with Bell by saying that Bell never loved anyone. That may have been true, but there were so many ways it could have been said without crushing Nina’s heart. Walter’s thoughtless cruelty spoke volumes about the monster within.
So imagine Walter’s shock when he discovered a single picture of Nina among Bell’s most prized possessions. We’ve known for a long time that Nina had an unrequited love for Bell, but this was the first instance that I can recall where it seemed like the feeling was mutual. It’s a rare redemptive moment for Bell... until you remember what he did at the end of season 4.
I get the impression that if “Fringe” had more episodes and if Nimoy was willing, we would have seen the story laid out in an embarrassingly clumsy exposition scene in this episode. Astrid (Jasika Nicole), Olivia and Peter paint the verbal picture for Walter of his renewed alliance with Bell to defeat the Observers, only to learn that Bell had betrayed the Fringe team to the Observers for their favor.
Hilariously, Walter’s scrambled brain merged those events with the Dustin Hoffman movie, Marathon Man. Aside from that gag, the scene seemed a little long and it just made me wish we could have seen the events of “Fringe” season 4.5. It sounds like it would have been fun.
The picture of Nina in the safe makes Walter realize that Bell had more humanity than he realized... and it still wasn’t enough to save him from his darker instincts. Thus Walter goes running back to Nina to apologize and to beg her to remove the pieces of his brain again. But even if Nina agrees to help Walter, that plan sounds incredibly risky.
Compared to Peter, Walter is the model of restraint and patience. Aside from some occasional pain and discomfort, Peter doesn’t even seem to acknowledge that he has a problem with the Observer tech in his head. Some of the highlights in this episode show us Peter experiencing the world as the Observers see it, complete with a way to predict their actions (but not yet accounting for outside variables).
With the help of fellow resistance fighter, Anil (Shaun Smyth), Peter comes up with a plan to strike at the Observers by using their own abilities against them. Peter tricks one of Captain Windmark’s (Michael Kopsa) top lieutenants into taking a briefcase filled with a fast acting flesh eating virus that hasn’t been seen on the series for a long time. The sequence in which the Observer’s face melts away was unsettling and a great visual effect.
Some of the Peter we knew shines through when he looks at the large resistance posters of his late daughter, Etta and he smiles. But throughout the episode, Peter begins speaking and acting more like an Observer to the point where Olivia can’t even delude herself into thinking he’s alright.
When Olivia finally learns the truth about what Peter did, he’s so casual about it that it seems like he doesn’t even notice or care how scared his wife is for him. Peter is so consumed with avenging his daughter and killing Captain Windmark that he doesn’t register Olivia’s horror or even acknowledge that she ran away from him. Peter may not even care that he’s now losing his hair, another Observer physical trait. We should all start to worry when Peter starts exclusively eating spicy foods.
For Walter and Peter, those are two great storylines. Unfortunately, Olivia doesn’t seem to have much of a story of her own. Her role seems to be largely a reactionary one in Peter’s story... and she deserves so much more than that. “Fringe” may be an ensemble show, but Anna Torv’s name comes first in the credits for a reason. She’s the star of this series and Olivia is overdue for a story that brings her back into focus.
"Five-Twenty-Ten" was a pretty solid episode even if there wasn’t a lot happening outside of Walter and Peter’s character beats. I’m getting tired of Walter’s video tape scavenger hunt, even though it was cool to see the Observer’s beacons make a return appearance. Once “Fringe” is over, it’ll be interesting to go back and watch Walter’s video tapes in the correct order and see if the plan actually makes any kind of sense.
That is something that I trust the writers of “Fringe” to have already taken care of, but I would be very disappointed if it was simply made up along the way.