Saturday, 3 November 2012

FRINGE, 5.5 – 'An Origin Story'

Saturday, 3 November 2012

written by J.H Wyman / directed by P.J Pesce

After last week's shocking death of Etta (Georgina Haig), it was only right that "An Origin Story" should focus on the grief felt by parents Olivia (Anna Torv) and Peter (Joshua Jackson), and I'm glad it wasn't hurriedly brushed under the carpet with some token scenes before the show got back to business. Instead, this hour gave us a good insight into how they're both choosing to mourn their daughter's loss: Olivia focusing on their mission, ignoring Walter's (John Noble) advice to embrace her emotions rather than build walls around her heart; and Peter taking desperate measures to avenge Etta's death, by interrogating a captured Observer (David Stuart) for information about how to reconstruct a high-tech cube capable of opening a wormhole to Earth's future...

The maxim "before you go on a journey of revenge, dig two graves" was central to this week's episode, as Peter's actions took him further away from his humanity and might actually lead to his death (physically or spiritually). It certainly risks a happy reunion with Olivia, who took a different path in this episode and ultimately ended up watching the video-tape of young Etta's birthday party that Walter found. While she's connecting to the heartache and reality of the situation (the "proof" that Etta was here, as Walter put it), Peter was just angry and out to settle the score with The Observers. The chance to turn their "time-hole" into a black hole, thus preventing more deliveries of technologies intended to make the air more breathable for Observer-kind, was something he couldn't pass up. And, to be fair, his plan to elicit the truth from an Observer—by relying on unconscious tells in the pupil movements of his prisoner—was a very smart one. But it wasn't full proof, as we came to discover later... because human emotion sometimes clouds the truth of a situation.

There were some terrific scenes in this episode. My favourites were Walter's heart-to-heart with Olivia about the potentially damaging effects of sorrow, speaking as someone who almost destroyed two universes in his desperation to get his dead son back; and the power play between Peter and The Observer, with the latter equating humanity to an insignificant anthill ("you think the black over your head is... dark skies, when it is really our shoe") It was unexpectedly touching when Olivia saw that Etta's image is now being used in the poster campaign of the Resistance movement, which is keeping her memory alive in the best way possible.

"An Origin Story" also setup an interesting new direction, with Peter becoming so outraged by The Observer tricking him into defeat that he surgically removed the tech buried in his neck and implanted it into himself. This will theoretically endow Peter with many of The Observer's amazing abilities, such as teleportation and high-speed reflexes (I assume their mind-reading talent is the result of natural evolution), but will there be some major downsides? Maybe we'll start to see a less compassionate Peter as a result of this new tech, or it will amplify his own emotional state to a negative degree—rather like his namesake discovered with the "black goo" symbiote of Spider-Man 3? Given the title of this episode, is it also possible the implanted Peter's how The Observers came to be?

Overall, this was a very strong episode and a worthy follow-up to last week's tear-jerking climax. Like all good sci-fi, it augmented the emotions of the characters in imaginative ways that pushed the storyline along—buoyed by great performances from Torv, Jackson and guest-star David Stuart.

2 November 2012 / Fox