TV Review: FRINGE 4.19 “Letters of Transit”

FRINGE takes a detour -- a bold, strange, brain-melting detour!

Fringe dove head first into the deep end on Friday and asked us to tag along. We ended up in the year 2036 – more than twenty years after The Observers invaded the planet, murdered people in the streets and enslaved humanity. Yeah, that happened. It was weird.

Last season, I wrote about how the partially animated episode "Lysergic Acid Diethylamide" was probably the series' strangest and most polarizing episode yet and how people would be talking about it for years. That episode still holds up as one of the show's weirdest, trippiest and most mind-boggling hours, but last Friday's episode, "Letters of Transit," is destined to go down as Fringe's boldest and most polarizing episode ever. I'm still not sure whether I loved it or hated it. OK, there's no way I could hate a Fringe episode where Walter is blasted out of solid amber and wakes up asking for sugary treats and professing his love for LSD. No way I tell you! But there was a lot of head-scratching stuff going on in this episode, and not all of it made much sense. Still, I have to admire the show for breaking format in a big way without warning, giving us a new lead in the form of Peter and Olivia's smart and seasoned grown up daughter (And naming her Henrietta!), and dropping us smack in the middle of an epic sci-fi battle to save the planet from our dark overlords.

After a dazzling new credit sequence (Freedom!), and some clever exposition, Walter explained that The Observers had finally ruined the planet in 2069. So, they decided to travel back in time to 2015 and take over the Earth from Humans. They went from observing events to murdering defenseless civilians to show their might and superiority. Those who wouldn't fall in line were killed. Survivors were dubbed "Natives," and some survivors became marked foot soldiers for The Observers known as "Loyalists." Fringe Division, headed up by a super old but still super fit Broyles, was tasked with "policing the Natives." Peter and Olivia's daughter Henrietta, a Fringe agent who has the ability to scramble her thoughts so The Observers can't read her mind (Hooray for second generation Cortexiphan powers!), worked in secret to fight against her oppressors with her partner, Simon Foster (Lost star Henry Ian Cusick, brotha!)

Georgina Haig was excellent as Henrietta – she really looked and acted like a blend of Peter and Olivia's best traits. She wasn't exactly doing an Ana Torv impression, but she really reminded me of Olivia in subtle ways. Great casting. I'm a Lost fan, so I loved seeing Cusick show up here, playing a rebel who was fighting to change the world. And John Noble continued to show us why he deserves ALL THE EMMYS by brilliantly playing two more different versions of Walter – the childlike brain-fried man who woke from the amber, and the more hostile but sharp tactician who emerged following some sci-fi brain surgery.

I liked the sneaky and suspenseful on-the-hunt-for-brain-bits plot. The character's journey here worked to show us just how terrible and sad a place the world had become with the arrogant and evil Observers in charge. It was nice to see Nina Sharp show up to help the new Fringies, especially after we've been spending so much time with the cartoonish evil Alt-Nina lately. One of my favorite parts of the episode was Walter's anti-matter explosion. It's always a treat to see such a crazy huge sci-fi spectacle like that on Fringe.

The episode's ending was honest, powerful and emotional – true to Fringe form. He was only onscreen for a few moments, but Joshua Jackson really sold the powerful emotions Peter was feeling here.

A million questions were brought up here, and we don't know if we'll get any answers: How did William Bell return? Where is Olivia, and what does Bell have to do with her disappearance/possible death? What is the plan to take back the world? Why did The Observers become such dicks? And when will we get to see the conclusion of this insane episode?

So what did you think, folks? Did you enjoy the boldness and great, big sci-fi WTF-ery and emotional punch of this episode? The more I think about it, the more I kind of love this episode. It had its flaws, the pacing wasn't perfect, and I didn't much care for seeing The Observers go from quiet watchers to evil, autocratic weirdos. Still, "Letters of Transit" was one of the most exciting hours of TV I've seen in a while. Like many other episodes of Fringe, it mixed and matched several classic sci-fi tropes to deliver something fresh, engaging and unique.