First off, let’s talk about that ending. Fringe has been giving us jaw dropping endings for the past several weeks, but this episode, "Five-Twenty-Ten," delivered a stirring, emotional conclusion set to David Bowie’s haunting "The Man Who Sold the World." The episode ended with something I knew was coming, but I wasn’t prepared for: an image of Peter’s hand holding a clump of his own hair.
Peter started slipping into Observer mode more than ever here. His matrix code vision and other abilities came in handy when Walter and co. were trying to find a way to cut through the rock to get to William Bell’s goodies, but it’s clear that Peter’s Observer-fication, while somewhat helpful in the field, means big trouble for him and his friends and family.
The trouble wasn’t that he was lying to Olivia and putting himself in danger without her knowledge; Peter has done that before. It’s not unlike Peter to follow a plan through to the end, even if the moral implications of what he’s doing can get a little grey. The shocker came toward the end of this episode, when Olivia walked into Peter’s creepy timeline command center and confronted him about his clandestine deeds.
Peter didn’t bother to lie to Olivia or make up excuses this time – he told her plain as day: I stuck Observer tech in my brain, it’s giving me strange new abilities, I’m using these abilities to go on a solo mission to take down Observer boss Windmark, and I’m doing it alone. Then he started predicting what she would say like some kind of cold, dead robot. Olivia walked away in fear, but Peter couldn’t care less. He continued writing on his marker board, focused, direct and dead-eyed, just like the bad baldies who have taken over the world.
The younger Bishop has chosen to disconnect from his friends and family in the name of vengeance. Again, it’s not unlike Peter to do things on his own, but here’s the problem: now that he’s chosen to go down this road, it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to come back. Peter has always been able to return to Olivia and Walter, his family, for comfort and stability. He needs them and they need him, especially now that Olivia is trying to heal after Etta’s death and Walter may be becoming the cold-hearted man he once was. But Olivia and Walter won’t be able to rely on Peter anymore. As we saw toward the end of this episode, he’s no longer the loving, caring son and husband he once was. He’s becoming a Borg, and the worst part is that he foolishly chose assimilation. I don’t think love will bring him back this time.
Before he plugged the tech into his head, Peter told an Observer that he’d be ten times what they were if he had the tech because of his strength, intelligence and especially his emotions. Well he was right, on a certain level. The tech combined with Peter’s grief over Etta and his need for vengeance has turned him into a deadlier and more cunning foe. The Observers he brutally killed in this episode didn’t know what hit them. While it’s cool on some level to see Peter using superpowers to fight the bad guys, it’s not cool to see the character’s heart slip away in favor of this detached logician who is only propelled by vengeance and cruelty.
We’ve seen different versions of all the show’s other characters before thanks to the Alternate Universe and the Second Timeline. We had Walter/Walternate, Olivia/Fauxlivia and so on. But we’ve never seen a different version of Peter before. Things, and characters, change all the time on Fringe, but the one constant has been Peter. So it’s both shocking and exciting to see Peter become something other than the sharp but troubled genius we’ve been following for four and a half years.
Peter isn’t the only one changing. Walter isn’t the same old goofy Walter we’re used to seeing, but he’s not quite the evil genius who broke the universe either. Walter’s story is a parallel to Peter’s; both characters are becoming, on some levels, smarter and sharper, but they’re also becoming darker and more callous.
I like that Walter realized that Peter wasn’t strong enough to keep him from becoming evil. William Bell loved Nina Sharp, but their bond wasn’t enough to stop him from causing death and destruction in order to feel like a god. Walter took this to mean that he couldn’t depend on his relationship with a single person to save him. I love the idea that a person cannot tether another person to the ground on Fringe. It seems to fly in the face of what the show has preached before, but it’s an interesting idea to implement as the show is coming to a close. And it raises the question: if these characters can’t save each other, then what will save them? God? Reason? Porcupine Man?
In Walter’s case, he wants Nina to remove the chunks of his brain that have the potential to turn him evil. Nina seems horrified by Walter’s request, and to be honest I’m not too thrilled about seeing yet another person screw around with Walter’s brain. Here’s hoping Walter will be able to deal with this situation in a different way, if only to give us something fresh to watch.
This episode didn’t skip on the creepy/exciting revelations and little details that added up to a strange and interesting whole. While the hunt for the Observer eggs felt a little standard, everything else that was going on – Peter’s about-face, the return of Nina Sharp, Astrid and Peter explaining the "Letters of Transit" backstory, the William Bell hand -- was enough to make this one unforgettable.
Probably the most unforgettable thing about this episode was Joshua Jackson’s performance. He’s really going for it here by keeping his head absolutely still, looking through people not at them, and speaking in a grim monotone that still relates Peter’s determination but completely zaps the blood and vigor out of his words. He rolled out the creepiness slowly throughout the episode, and his change from Peter to Peter-bot climaxed in the heartbreaking scene at the end with a horrified Olivia backing away from him.
With Peter clinging to the dark side and Walter falling apart, it’s time for Olivia to step up and right this ship. I’m looking forward to seeing Anna Torv hopefully take a more active role this season when the show returns in three weeks. Until then, why not treat yourself to a screening of Marathon Man? And don’t forget the Red Vines.