Episode Title: "Anomaly XB-6783746"
Writer: David Fury
Director: Jeffrey Hunt
Previously on "Fringe":
When a TV series heads towards its endgame, there’s suddenly the creative freedom to do almost anything. And everyone is expendable. Just because the story is coming to a close doesn’t mean that all of the characters will be there to see it.
So it is with “Fringe” this week as one of the original cast members gets a very memorable exit from the show.
Full spoilers are ahead for "Anomaly XB-6783746." If you’re not up to date with “Fringe,” don’t finish this review or Captain Windmark will find you.
One of “Fringe’s” greatest strengths has always been its ability to draw real emotions out of the fantastical premises. So we sympathize with characters like the man who built a destructive time bubble just to talk to his wife before Alzheimer's disease claimed her mind. And we especially sympathize with Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble), the man who basically broke two universes to save the life of an alternate version of his son. And we still feel that way even as Walter becomes a stranger to himself and everyone he loves.
The heart is everything. And in this episode, the heart is Nina Sharp, as Blair Brown returns to her role for the second time this season. And possibly for the last time ever, although I’m holding out hope for at least one more appearance.
Early in the episode, we learn that Captain Windmark (Michael Kopsa) and the Observers have finally figured out that Nina is working against them with the resistance. And when they finally come for her, they discover that she has been in contact with Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) about the childlike Observer, Michael (Roman Longworth).
While Nina brings Peter (Joshua Jackson), Olivia, Walter and Michael to one of her “black labs” to figure out a way to communicate with the boy, the Observers systematically hunt down one of Nina’s collaborators. And eventually, Nina makes the mistake of phoning Olivia and alerting Windmark to her location.
But Nina’s slightly out of character lapse is easily forgivable thanks to the events that followed. Knowing full well that her time is up, Nina ensures the safety of Michael before Windmark and the Observers arrive. Brown also has some of her best Nina moments to date as she verbally lashes out at the Observers before grabbing a gun and ending her own life before they can read her mind.
And that is the textbook example of how to kill off a major character. Nina’s death was heroic and true to everything that she’s been up to this point. The reactions of the other characters were also perfect and sold their anguish. For Olivia, Nina was her surrogate mother figure in this timeline. Of course she was devastated. Walter was too, although perhaps for different reasons. The more selfish side of Walter may mourn Nina’s passing as the last chance to get the brain surgery he wants in order to maintain his more gentle personality.
But Walter’s response doesn’t feel that way at all. It was just overwhelming sadness. Keep in mind, Walter knew Nina for decades. There wasn’t always love or friendship between them, but she was an important person in his life. The tragedy is compounded when the Fringe team realizes that Nina died protecting them and that she succeeded in hiding Michael.
Over Nina’s death, even the mute Michael sheds a tear for her. That was just a beautiful moment. When Windmark confronted Nina, we learned a lot more about Michael, including his originally given moniker, Anomaly XB-6783746. Windmark said that Michael is not a child, he is a mistake that was scheduled to be eliminated before disappearing from the future. But the abnormality of Michael may not be his apparent age. I believe it is Michael’s capacity for emotion and empathic connections that make him dangerous to the Observers. He’s proof that they could still be human beings.
Which brings us to the revelation of Donald’s identity. I hadn’t thought very much about the Donald mystery because it didn’t strike me as being important. But it turns out that Donald is a very human looking September (Michael Ceveris), complete with hair and a much less pasty complexion. That answers the question of what happened to September, but not his current whereabouts.
I highly doubt that September/Donald will turn out to be dead after what we learned this week. But the last we saw of Donald, he was being led away in the custody of the Observers.
It should be noted that John Noble turned in another fantastic performance as Walter, particularly in the small touches of his behavior including his continuous references to Michael as “the subject” and a single-mindedness on “his plan” to the detriment of everything else. Even Walternate had more innate humanity than the darker Walter currently inhabiting the show.
Perhaps Nina’s death and Michael’s empathic connection reawakened some of the old Walter’s emotions. But it would be surprising and a little disappointing if Walter was normal again so easily. Walter’s arc is the last really personal stake on the series. Peter and Olivia want vengeance or justice for Etta, but that story has fallen by the wayside in the last two episodes.
Regardless, this was a very strong episode of “Fringe” and a timely reminder of how great it can still be.