In 2002, Mulder and Scully investigated a murder that involved a man obsessed with The Brady Bunch, a case that had them visit a manifestation of that show's set. It wasn't the series' oddest episode, or its most whimsical. And it wasn't the worst of the series, but what always struck me about it was its timing: one week before the X-Files' series finale, with time vanishing to wrap up loose ends and bring the mythology to a close. It was puzzling to me, and prevented me from fully enjoying or evaluating the episode.
Which brings me to "Letters of Transit," an entertaining episode that sends us twenty-four years into the future, a well-done look at a not-so-far-off time ruled by The Observers, who poisoned the planet in 2609, and then returned to 2015 and enslaved humanity. I guess we'll need a little more time to know whether the episode was a digression, or the foundation of any possible seasons beyond Season 4, or something in the middle.
At any rate, we meet a young future Fringe agent (Broyles is still around, and has been aged to look like an old boot), and her long, straight blonde hair, her ability to shield her resistance leanings from the mind-reading Observers and the suspicion-arousing fact that we don't learn her name until the end of the show make it easy to figure out she's got some sort of connection to Olivia. She's working with Simon (or Desmond, if you're a Lost fan, nice to see him again), also a member of the Resistance, and has located an amber-encased Walter, one of the legendary Fringe heroes of yore. Walter amberized himself and the others and they manage to free him, and then -- after retrieving his brain pieces from what was once Massive Dynamic, he locates the rest of the team, which includes William Bell, but not Olivia. Walter doesn't free Bell -- he tells an unfrozen Astrid, "You remember what he did to Olivia. Even you can't be that compassionate" -- but Simon does, sacrificing himself in the amber in the process.
Along the way we meet a white-haired Nina Sharp and get a new opening credits that is the grim color of enslavement (and the far-out concepts espoused include "free will" and "private thought," which was kind of awesome. I love, love, love new versions of the opening credits, because they're always so well done).
And we wrap up with Peter talking to Agent Goldenhair, unable to shake the feeling that he knows her, and then his eyes widen. "Henrietta?" he says. "Hi, Dad," she says. And we're done. With many questions left unanswered, I'm not sure how to feel about it. I'm leaning toward the possibility that we'll never return to this future, and the upbeat ending provides hope that the resistance will overcome the occupation. But I want to go back, and if we don't, I can't help but feel a little cheated.
Daniel is a writer in Newfoundland with a wife and a daughter. He asked his five-year-old daughter if she'd help free him to fight the enslavement of humanity, and she said, "Mom, Daddy's being weird again." Follow him on Twitter (@DanMacEachern) or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We forgo any kind of previouslies this week, largely because they're irrelevant. Instead, we get some scrolling exposition -- in a scrolling style of white text with red emphasis that is an homage to Blade Runner and few movies are worthier of homage -- that explains that the Observers started kicking humanity's ass in 2015, with human uprisings proving bloody and futile. Survivors became known as "natives" while some humans showed their allegiance to the Observers and were marked and became known as "loyalists." Fringe is still an ongoing concern, but it's been reduced and is now essentially a police force after the original Fringe team fought the invasion and was defeated.
"The resistance was quickly overcome... or so they thought" are the final words on the screen, before we land in Boston in the year 2036, and a young woman with long, straight blonde hair strides purposefully through a deserted back alley before ringing the doorbell at some skeevy entrance. It's answered by a burly guy with a goatee and Observer lettering across his right cheek. Either this is a loyalist or tattoos in 2036 are really, really lame.
"Agent," he says and lets her in to a brightly lit 21st-century speakeasy, strings of white lights hanging everywhere. The place is filled with Observers, varying only in whether they have their hats on our off. There are women serving drinks, too and an Observer pulls one onto his lap. A human -- no writing on his cheek -- tells the Observer that she's got the next shift: "You guys keep taking my girls, you're gonna put me out of business," he says. The Observer tells the man to get a new girl -- because I guess the Observers are not just emotionless watchers, but also potential rapists? -- and throws the woman into his now vacant seat. He's gotten up so he can stare defiantly at the human -- I guess this would be a "native" -- who then punches him in the gut. He's quickly seized by a couple of loyalists in uniform and held for an Observer, who seems to have a little seniority judging from the deference of those around him. "You seem to be quite... agitated," he says to the native, who immediately spits at him. Not a good move. The Observer starts staring him down -- you know, like Larry David does when he's trying to figure out if someone is lying or not. Generally though, when Larry David does it the other person doesn't start bleeding from the ears, as this poor bastard does.
Then he's hit from behind or something by the blonde agent, much to the Observer's annoyance. But she points out this is a native and therefore her jurisdiction. She apologizes to the Observer, named "Capt. Windmark," and says sure Windmark could "wipe him," but then there'd be an inquiry and paperwork and the club would be shut down for two days and she'd lose a lot of kickbacks.