TV Review: FRINGE 5.05 “An Origin Story”

Peter makes a bold move, but was it the right one?

Malcolm McDowell was right – time is the fire in which we burn. And my ass is in hot water, because I’m posting this review more than a day late. Sorry, bros. But to make up for my lateness, I’ve decided to do something a little different and focus on what really moved me during this tense episode – Peter Bishop’s tragic but exhilarating arc.

Good memories of days gone by help inspire Fringe Division to fight the Observer-fied future. But how can our heroes succeed when the threads that connect the past and the future are unraveling in such a tragic fashion? That’s the question Fringe started to ask in its most recent episode, "An Origin Story."

Things are changing for the worse, and as much as Walter wants Peter and Olivia to gather strength from their happy memories together, it’s likely that those memories will only serve as painful reminders that the brighter, cheerier past is dead and gone. Things have changed, and as we saw at the end of this episode, they’re not done changing. And, as usual, Peter was right at the heart of one of the season’s most shocking moments.

Still reeling from Etta’s death, Peter was filled with loss and a desire for vengeance. Where Olivia was mourning quietly and struggling not to slip into shock, Peter’s emptiness and sorrow drove him to strike back at The Observers with a risky plan that, for all its brilliance, didn’t even make a dent in the invaders’ operation.

Peter has been grappling with the challenge of battling the Observers all season. The “baldies” are faster, smarter and more sophisticated than humans in every way. They have weaknesses, but exploiting those weaknesses hasn’t been easy. Even after the resistance caught and trapped an Observer, as they did early in this episode, they couldn’t make him talk. The prisoner’s resolve proved too powerful to provide any help to the good guy cause.

Peter knew there was no way he could get the captured Observer to sing, so he decided to exploit the futureman’s remaining traces of humanity instead. The plan seemed to be working as Peter studied The Observer’s pupils like a junior high kid watching scrambled porn, but he failed to see the truth. His emotion and certainty clouded his reality, and the plan simply went to shit.

Still, Peter’s tense interactions with The Observer in this episode were incredibly suspenseful and gripping, similar to Walter’s torture scene in the season premiere.

Peter’s arc here was a tragic one, but it was also exciting and exhilarating. As sad as it is to see Peter clouded by rage, sorrow and regret, it’s thrilling to see him act on those impulses and follow them down a journey that could, most likely, end in tragedy. Peter is a genius, but he can be a pretty dumb genius. As we saw in this episode, he allows his emotions to control him too much, but maybe a raging ball of emotion is just what the resistance needs in order to defeat the cold, soulless Observers.

It’s hard to imagine that anything good will come out of Peter’s decision to torture, beat and declaw The Observer and plug the baldies futuretech inside his own head. If anything good does come out of all this, it’ll surely be preceded by a wave of darkness and estrangement for Peter. Still, you gotta admire the guy. His actions are fueled by dark and impure impulses, but he’s got giant sci-fi balls. He’s willing to risk everything to make the death of his child mean something, but just like his pops, he’s ignoring the pain he’s sure to cause others by going forward with a crazy/stupid plan involving untested tech. The possible gain – beating the Observers, making the hurt stop if only for a moment – outweighs the risks for Peter.

But we know the risks. There’s no telling how Peter’s decision to use the Observer tech will change him, but one thing is certain: he won’t be the same. And his evolution, if you want to call it that, will most likely pull him further away from his family, especially Olivia, who desperately needs good ol’ solid Peter now, perhaps more than ever.

It’s great to see the story turning more personal here and raising the stakes for the central characters. Fringe works best when the show explores Peter, Walter and Olivia’s familial relationship and challenges it in unexpected and unique ways. That’s what’s going on here, and the shocking developments of "An Origin Story" have got me counting the days until the next episode airs.

Do you feel the same way?