Fringe Thinking:
Happiness Is a Warm Gun

The good news is that after a week away, Fringe was back on Fox at 9 p.m. ET last Friday. And the even better news is that...

... was a real return to form after the letdown that was the previous episode.

The bad news? Well, I'm sorry that I don't have more of substance to say about such a pivotal chapter of Season 5 and I wish I'd been able to get this post up sooner. More to the point in-story, um, there's a big honkin' plot twist to address which I'll be getting to shortly.

I don't recall how strongly it was hinted at before that the bullet on Etta's necklace was the bullet used to shoot Olivia and thus save the world — worlds, really — in 4.22. Even though that fact is not quite made explicit here, either, what Olivia says pretty much confirms it.

Olivia and Peter each have a nice moment with their daughter in the episode, in both cases centered on that odd heirloom; Peter buys Etta a new necklace to hang the bullet on, a replacement for the silver chain conscripted by Grandpa, while Etta and Olivia bond over the bullet itself — once in conversation and again when Olivia takes it from Etta in the warehouse.

My cousins had a Simon. It was fun if you were reasonably good at the game, frustrating if you weren't. Just to fill in the unaware: Simon's four color segments would light up and beep in random sequences that got longer and faster as the game progressed. You had to repeat the pattern that Simon said. Windmark is now perhaps the most hated adversary in Fringe history, but it was still pretty cool the way he just flew through a sequence even as he looked up at Broyles. Speaking of Broyles: It was good to see him, excellent to know that he'd been working with Etta, and satisfying to have his affection for Olivia underscored. Neither Lance Reddick nor Blair Brown, who plays Nina Sharp, is a regular on the show this season — here Reddick was billed as a "special guest star" — and I have no idea whether he'll reappear before the season/series finale.

Fringe Season 5 still feels oddly like AfterFringe or Fringe: The Next Generation, a strange combination of sequel to and continuation of the series as it existed in Seasons 1-4 with the cast members reprising their roles. Yet while it's true that several years have passed in the narrative of the show since last season ended, and while of course we have a literal member of the next generation in Henrietta Bishop, this is nominally still another season of Fringe proper.

As fate would have it my other favorite show of the recent past, Supernatural, went through something similar a couple of years back. Its own Season 5 tied a bow on the series to date, with the creator and original showrunner, Eric Kripke, stepping down as mastermind after that. What immediately followed was intriguing, but outside of a couple of relatively freestanding standout episodes — like The X-Files, Buffy, and even Fringe itself to some extent, Supernatural has excelled at one-offs amidst a greater overarching mythology — it's hard to deny that the show is suffering from the law of diminishing returns. Although Supernatural is, pardon the pun, vamping through variations on its central themes, never bad if no longer one of the two best shows on TV, Fringe by contrast seems to have picked up on lesser motifs from the four-season storyline that rather definitively concluded in the episode from whence 5.04's titular bullet comes and brought them to the fore. I'd like to see the major parts of the Fringe that was return — not items from individual cases, as in this episode (despite how much fun little callbacks can be, including all the Easter eggs in the cabinet of wonders revealed under the Harvard lab), but Olivia's abilities and Bell and Over There — yet even if it all comes together one more time I'm not sure that we can hope for anything more than a cosmic reset, especially after Etta's apparent death at Windmark's hand, rendering Season 5 an elaborate coda.

Right before it happened I couldn't imagine how the show would believably avoid having Windmark kill Etta but I couldn't actually believe that the show would go through with it either. And it's still possible that Windmark or an associate teleported her somewhere before the antimatter canister detonated, since he had time to get out himself; the bomb might even have gone off a few seconds late, given how far away our renegade heroes managed to scamper in less than 30 seconds.

If Etta is really most sincerely dead, however, that just lends credence to my theory — and I'm hardly alone, from what little I've read and heard — that a victory over the Invaders in 2036 will inevitably bring Season 5 back around to that sunny day in the park in 2015 glimpsed in Peter and Olivia's dream memories in 5.01 and 5.02, then again in Etta's thoughts as read by Windmark in this episode, if not earlier. My own preference would be for Peter's removal from the timeline to be reconciled in the bargain, such that everyone remembers history the way it happened during Seasons 1-3 — perhaps the last scene being a bizarre family gathering, Henrietta playing with Henry, the brother she currently never had from another version of her mother, as Peter, Olivia, Fauxlivia, Walter, Walternate, and friends look on.

A final thought: We've seen others, including the title character of "The Recordist" just one episode prior, sacrifice themselves for the fugitives' benefit, so Etta is not alone in that regard. Yet if what they recovered does end up being crucial to defeating the Invaders, Peter and Olivia's daughter might just end up being another bullet that saved the world.

This episode's glyphs spell out the word "wound".

Previously in 'Fringe Thinking': Magical Mystery Tour (Episode 5.03)
Next in 'Fringe Thinking': Gimme Some Truth (Episode 5.05)


  1. Yeah, I'm not convinced that Etta is really most sincrely dead, but regardless this future is so dystopic I have a hard time seeing the resolution to the season be anything other than a happy-ending reboot. Not that I'd mind.

    Do you think the Simon game might have been an oblique reference to Simon Foster, Etta's partner from "Letters of Transit" played by Henry Ian Cusick (whose head we saw in a lab earlier this season)?

    I love the thought of Etta being the bullet that saved the world.