I was a little concerned about using up “Mother” this soon, as we’ll doubtless get another episode about the Olivia & Etta dynamic before Fringe is over; there are now fewer than a dozen episodes left, however, and I’ve learned not to be too precious
about such things.

Here, partly in honor of Walter’s addled state but largely because it’s all I’m able to put together, are some disjointed musings on...

Fringe 5.02 In Absentia / Photo of Anna Torv as Olivia and Georgina Haig as Etta

No Swedish or Portuguese, I promise.

Will flashbacks to the day the Observers came and Etta went missing be a regular thing? This one was a dream of Olivia’s, which is a little odd — my own dreams are never straight (or even skewed) recollections of actual events, although that’s a popular trope in fiction — but it’s consistent with the dream of Peter’s that we saw in the previous episode.

I thought briefly when Olivia met Etta last week that maybe we were supposed to
sense that she sensed that the young woman representing herself as Etta wasn’t truly her daughter. The strange look she gave might have just been disorientation at her revival. Yet the suspicion came back at the start of this episode when Olivia got shook out of her dream.

But, no — I believe that Henrietta is Henrietta now... mostly... except for the 5% or so
of my brain that’s skeptical exactly because it no longer feels like a mystery that’s being floated.

Etta resembles Olivia, yeah, but what really gets me is the similarity in their voices.
I wonder if it has to do with Georgina Haig being an Aussie putting on an American accent just like Anna Torv is — not that Haig doesn’t get credit for modulating that voice to echo Torv’s as Olivia to whatever extent she’s doing so. [For the record, I think Haig resembles another blonde Aussie, Naomi Watts, more than she does Torv, and that both of them strongly recall Olivia Newton-John, with Poppy Montgomery as the “missing link” along the Torv-Watts/Haig continuum of physiognomy.]

As I was writing up this writeup, by the way, I hit upon a surely overreaching analysis that ties Olivia’s dream-memory of Observer Invasion Day in 2015 to Etta’s actions in the “present day” of the episode: Olivia tells a happily lazing Peter that they need to get home to give Etta a bath, which Etta never likes, and 2036 Etta is metaphorically dirty — morally compromised out of what she feels is necessity and only fitting given how ruthlessly Loyalists and the Observers treat Resistance members when the shoe’s on the other foot, yet she cleans up her act thanks to her mother’s inspiration. Hey, I said that it was overreaching.

Walter still has a broken blood vessel in his left eye. Now that’s continuity.

I don’t quite get why the group couldn’t just stay hidden and wait for the Loyalist
guard, Manfretti, to leave. There was an explanation later of the fact that he probably wouldn’t have left, as a by-product of Olivia sussing out that no other Loyalists would come looking for him because he was taking a down-low break in the lab to feed the pigeons, but they didn’t know this when they were out of sight as he entered.

Gale Manfretti was played by the actor who was Stuart Radzinsky on Lost, incidentally, Eric Lange, with that same vague air of Paul Giamatti.

Simon Foster’s head in the lab blinked. If Henry Ian Cusick ever has leave from Scandal to reappear on Fringe, I wouldn’t lay odds against an episode in which our team steals back into that science building and gets the head to talk; the producers would irresistibly call the episode “Simon Says”.

My favorite line was Walter’s “Yahtzee!” and I love that he installed a clapper in his
lab to control darn near everything.

The most chilling line was Manfretti’s “I’ll never understand you people. You can’t
win. The world would be a much safer place if you’d just stop trying to fight them.”

It was frighteningly believable and perhaps even sympathetic; we’ve all had times
when it didn’t feel worth resisting. Like the phrase goes, however, “All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

Especially on dashing young Peter, the Loyalist outfit looked uncomfortably like an
SS uniform. I was born 25 years after World War II ended and Nazis are still hella scary as a reference, probably for the very reason that everyday folks were complicit in the atrocities committed whether through ignorance, apathy, fear, herd mentality, or the strange charisma exuded by a mad little tyrant.

I enjoyed that we got yet another shout-out to the fact that Walter thinks better when listening to music (and/or tripping) with The Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin” starting up on the record player when the power came back on, just as it was — more welcome attention to detail — playing in the background as Walter made his Betamax video in 2015 and then ambered the recorder. “Nights in White Satin” is, of course, from the album Days of Future Passed, so, y’know, dun-dun-dunnn (or wah-wah-wahhh, depending on your tolerance for such possible in-jokes).

Although this episode got me to buy in a little further to the strange combination of capper and coda that is Fringe Season Five, to be a little more excited about how in a weird way it has the vibe of getting the gang back together for one last job with said job being nothing less than the undoing of the enslavement of Earth by oddball overlords from the far future, I did feel that its largely admirable structure had a couple of hiccups. While I liked the sentiment in the abstract, Manfretti’s exchange with Etta as she let him loose seemed a bit too pat and, well, sentimental; frankly, I was expecting her to shoot him in the back, so the fact that she didn’t was whatever you call it when the twist is that the twist you thought would be the twist never comes. I also kept expecting the episode to end right as Walter switched on his recording and was almost let down when it played through, less because I simply wanted the dramatic episode break than that I wanted more out of the tape itself.

The caper ultimately set up a scavenger hunt that will likely only add to the
serialized nature of this shortened final season — unless Fringe throws us another curve and the team assembles the videotapes in short order to move on to the next plot objective — as well as add to the whole gist of this small band of underdog freedom fighters methodically working to overthrow the Observers’ world order.

I still have slightly mixed emotions over how this season is something of a 13-episode sequel to Fringe’s previous four seasons rather than of an organic whole with them, but like I said last week I keep coming back to being grateful that the series did have a satisfying conclusion before renewal was announced, unsure what else a fifth season could be without messily untying the strands of past storylines just for the sake of doing more, redundantly, with diminishing returns.

This episode’s glyphs spell out the word “faith”.

Previously: Yellow Submarine / Next: Power to the People

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