Monday, 24 December 2012

FRINGE, 5.10 – 'Anomaly XB-6783746'

Monday, 24 December 2012

written by David Fury / directed by Jeffrey Hunt

I don't have much time to write a full review of the latest Fringe, so a few brief thoughts will have to suffice. I really enjoyed this episode, despite its unusual pace and a feeling of frustration that the Observer child Michael took up an entire episode as the gang struggled to communicate with him. Why didn't the boy's guardians tell them it's impossible before they took him away? "Anomaly XB-6783746" was therefore another episode where Walter (John Noble), Peter (Joshua Jackson), Olivia (Anna Torv) and Astrid (Jasika Nicole) had to find something to aide their mission—this time a headset "ecog" that can translate an Observer's complex thought patterns—but I didn't have too much of a problem with that. Why? Simple: because the story gave a great deal of screen time to excellent villain Windmark (Michael Kopsa), and had a clear focus on the even better Nina (Blair Brown).

Nina's always been a popular character, and I've particularly enjoyed the more benevolent version that came into prominence when the timeline changed during season 4. This Nina has been a delight, and I'm so relieved her last appearance on the show as so memorable. The scene where Nina was psychically interrogated by Windmark for information about Michael's whereabouts was absolutely brilliant. I loved seeing redoubtable Nina's courage in the moment, and her insightful comment that the almighty Observers have only succeeded in boosting primordial aspects of humanity that present-day humans have evolved beyond... making them the "animals". It was an interesting point of view I hadn't really considered, but it makes perfect sense.

I also really liked the glimpses of the old Walter coming back to the fore, whenever he became grouchy and started referring to Michael as "the subject". And now that Nina has committed suicide to protect them, who can perform the surgery to remove parts of Walter's brain to keep his current personality intact? Does this mean the old Walter is coming back and there's nothing anybody can do to stop it?

It was also great to have the episode end with a moment of big revelation, as Walter discovered that his mysterious friend Donald who helped him concoct his masterplan to defeat The Observers is actually the benevolent Observer known as September (Michael Cerveris). The memory-flash Walter was given showed September with hair, so are we to assume this Donald is from the present and will one day become an Observer? I don't mind admitting my grasp of Fringe gets looser as the years pass, because the show probably has one of the most complex and confusing mythologies ever written. And that's not really a good thing, because I think the writers would agree they could easily rewrite the entire show with far more clarity in retrospect. Hindsight's a wonderful thing, of course.

Overall, there was much to enjoy about "Anomaly XB-6783746". It feels like this final season is starting to come together now, and I'm fascinated to see what Walter's big plan is to rid the planet of The Observers... and if September will be making a return. More importantly, this episode was a fantastic swansong for Nina—who took her own life to protect her friends and the mission, but not without landing some psychological blows on the inscrutable Windmark before she went. It was a rousing and fitting end to one of Fringe's best secondary characters, and easily one of Blair Brown's finest moments on the show... as one of sci-fi's greatest disabled characters.

21 December 2012 / Fox