Tough time assessing this episode. On the one hand, it has a static, boring plot that sees the Fringe crew sneak into Walter's lab through heretofore unhinted-at tunnels to try to find any trace of the Observer-defeating plan feared lost forever in Walter's scrambled brain, and then they're there for the rest of the episode, trying to carve a video camera out of the amber that Walter set off for preservation purposes.
On the other hand, we're also treated to the emotionally complex reacquaintance of Olivia and Etta, where the joy at being reunited with her long-lost daughter fades at the realization that the loss of her parents coupled with the grim life under the Observers has hardened her into a resistance fighter willing to torture to get information they need. Every parent wants her child to have a better life than she did, and Etta's ruthless interrogating of a loyalist guard is the clearest indication Olivia could get of just how tough things have been for Etta.
The guard had the bad fortune to wander into Walter's lab while the Fringe crew were there, so Etta uses an "angel device," which destabilizes atoms or whatever (science) in the victim such that he ages rapidly. Olivia's shocked at her use of the device, as well as the contempt she holds for him and all loyalists. "Loyalists sell out their own kind like rats," she sneers.
Olivia gets a more complicated story from the loyalist, which involves the loss of one son and his desire to protect the remaining one. He makes Olivia promise to tell his living son what happened to him, presuming that Etta or resistance HQ won't let him live beyond his usefulness. Etta calls the guard a liar, that he saw a glimmer of vulnerability in Olivia that he exploited.
But it's that same pity that brings Etta to eventually release the guard into the wild, once he's helped them gain access to the power grid so they can reroute electricity to Walter's lab so they can use a laser to cut the video camera out so they can find Walter's recorded message -- which is to tell them to get all the videotapes he recorded pieces of his plan on, which will surely defeat the godless Observers.
The guard, before running to his freedom in a field, tells Etta that he's going to start fighting for the resistance now. She doesn't believe him, because it turns out he was lying about having sons. Or maybe she does believe him, because he says it after she let him go. Either way, she records his run to freedom to send to her mother and tell her, with all kinds of meaning, "I'm on my way back." Proud motherly moment for Olivia; between her daughter's callousness and the loyalist's capitulation, she spent a good chunk of the episode wondering if she weren't better off still encased in amber.
I mean, other than in Markham's apartment, obviously.
Daniel is a writer in Newfoundland with a wife and a daughter. He sets very strict torture limits for his daughter. Half an hour a day, an hour on weekends. Follow him on Twitter (@DanMacEachern) or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week again we open with scenes -- sequenced a little more linearly -- of the Bishop-Dunhams enjoying a sunny day in the park. It's a little more from Olivia's perspective, though. She's reading a book while Peter talks about how he could happily stay here forever. That's what they all say, right before an invasion! They call Etta to come over, because it's time to get her home and into a bath, and the cherub happily starts tottering her way over.
And then: Building disintegrates. Observers pop into view. I don't mind watching that again, because it is effectively unsettling to watch and you can understand the instant terror that grips people. Olivia breaks into a run towards Etta, who's standing still out of fear. It looks like Peter's just about to scoop her up --
And then Olivia wakes up in the first-aid station that got set up in the wake of the invasion. She can't hear well at first and then she gets her bearings enough to make out a frantic Peter asking a doctor about their daughter, who had been standing right in front of him. Also: Has anyone seen our Bugaboo stroller? Those things aren't cheap! He dashes out to find where the kids have been taken. Olivia, suddenly realizing Etta's missing, leaps up from her bed to chase after him, screaming Etta's name --
And then Olivia wakes up in 2036, sweat beading on her chest, Peter hovering above her. Breathing hard, Olivia covers her face with her hands and Peter could tell she was dreaming about Etta. "For us, it's like it all just happened a couple of months ago," he reminds her. But it didn't and they're all here now, and it's all OK. Well, I don't know about "OK," exactly. But I suppose if "domestic bliss raising their daughter" is at one end of the scale and "separated and encased in amber" is at the other, then I'll grant you that where they are now is probably somewhere in between.
Olivia smiles, but it's tough for her to be truly happy about the missing 21 years; washing her hands in Etta's bathroom, she sees a row of pictures of a growing Etta with presumably a foster family. I'm sure Olivia's happy her daughter didn't live out the past two decades in some near-future Dickensian orphanage though, right? RIGHT?
Peter strolls into the kitchen to find Walter wearing the thought unifier and muttering to himself. Astrid tells Peter it's having adverse effects on Walter, as though Walter muttering non-sequentially things like "Not the thing working can't it's not" isn't enough to clue Peter in. And we're sure this thing isn't just some peripheral device for 2036's PlayStation 7, right?