Saturday, 8 December 2012

FRINGE, 5.8 – 'The Human Kind'

Saturday, 8 December 2012

written by Alison Schapker / directed by Dennis Smith

"I know that our hearts are broken and that it hurts, but that's what makes us human." – Olivia

After a frustrating two-week hiatus, Fringe's final season returns strongly with "The Human Kind", which effectively concludes the story arc about Peter (Joshua Jackson) out to avenge Etta's death by installing Observer-made brain technology that gives him the gift of precognition at the cost of emotion and, essentially, the humanity he's fighting for. I thought this was a really great way to bring the story to a close, distilling Fringe's key theme of "technology versus humanity" down to its very essence.

What's been good about having Peter slowly transform into an Observer (although we've been spared the sight of Jackson in a bald cap, thank God), is how it's given us a deeper insight into the "invaders". We now have a better appreciation of their skills, powers, and perhaps a clue about how to defeat them—if their technology's blocking emotion, surely switching that off will elicit feelings of guilt and fear? Is that part of Walter's (John Noble) forgotten masterplan? They could probably have taken Peter's descent a few steps further, but I enjoyed how he was ultimately brought back from the brink. Logic and reason from Walter about the ramifications of the tech didn't work, so instead Olivia (Anna Torv) managed to make him see sense... having come to an epiphany herself about how their love and feelings for Etta is what will always keep her alive, and blunt revenge (at the cost of those emotions) just isn't the way to go. Torv and Jackson's scene on the balcony, with Olivia's impassioned speech persuading Peter to remove his implant, was a terrific moment for the show. I also really loved the visual exchange—with the bloody implant in Peter's hand exchanged with the bullet necklace Etta gave Olivia, which was instrumental in her earlier escape from bandits hoping to collect the reward for her capture.

I was less interested in this week's scavenger hunt plot, with Olivia sent to Fitchberg to retrieve a giant magnet from a group of people led by mystical Simone (Jill Scott). However, thanks to Scott's performance it was more palatable than it perhaps would have been otherwise, and I did enjoy another of Olivia's speeches to Simone: rationalising her natural ability to discern people's past as a scientific "anomaly", rather than a spiritual gift. As fiction tends to do, the atheist never gets the last word and audiences are encouraged to trust more in the more faithful character, but that's to be expected. Maybe we'll get to see more of Simone before the season's over?

Overall, I really enjoyed "The Human Kind" and how it credibly resulted in Peter deciding to choose love over revenge. In some ways it feels a shame to lost Peter as a Neo-like glitch in The Observer's plan—if only for the creative and thrilling fights he has with nemesis Captain Windmark (Michael Kopsa), and Jackson's terrific impression of the unfeeling Observers—but I trust the writers knew when to bring this storyline to an end as Fringe prepares for its big two-part finale on 18 January. There are unfortunately more annoying hiatuses on the horizon over the Christmas period, but I hope the sense of momentum won't completely dissolve.

7 December 2012 / Fox