Many fans and critics alike thought that Fringe was taking a huge risk when it abandoned the world that viewers had come to know and love throughout four seasons, dropping its leads into a dystopian future for a final season that essentially eliminated half of the show's major characters. Yes, they kept the Peter, Olivia, and Walter triumvirate— the heart of the show — intact, threw in Astrid for some occasional levity, and maintained the balls to the wall bravery the show has displayed since its second season. But, in addition to a drastic change in mythology and scenery, they also changed the show from a half-procedural/half-serialized drama to a completely serialized genre piece, which was basically INSANE. (In the best possible way.) Now, we can't help but wonder what everyone is thinking tonight, after the minds behind Fringe completely turned the show on its head, again, four episodes into its final run. [MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD]
Alas, greatness can sometimes come at a major cost. Tonight's episode was thrilling — it was great for fans to see the Fringe team using a past "Fringe Event" against their enemy — but it came at an unthinkable price. Etta is dead, blown to smithereens after being shot by Windmark, that main, incredibly vile Observer — the one that tortured Walter during the Season Premiere. If anyone saw this coming, they're probably a mind-reading Observer themselves. Pulling Peter and Olivia's long-lost daughter away from them after three measly episodes of happiness was a brutal move, but one that raised the stakes to an impossible level. The question is, how on Earth will Peter and Olivia work through this, since Etta's disappearance 20-odd years ago completely tore them apart? Will Walter — who, more than anyone, knows what it means to truly lose, gain, then lose a child — step up to the emotional challenge? And, oh yeah, how are they going to defeat those Observers?
Let's back up, because there were some fun, positive things that happened in the episode: First, we learned that Walter had been hoarding bits and pieces from all of the Fringe events in a hidden basement in his lab, eventually leading to the team using one of the old events from the the Season 1 episode, "Ability," to their advantage. "There was a time when we solved Fringe cases," Walter said. "Now I think it's time we created our own." Dun dun dun! Reliving better days was such a fun treat for the fans — though not for the Observers or Loyalists, who had to deal with scar tissue forming over all of their orifices, suffocating them. (Remember that one? Of course you do.) The scar tissue gas was a necessary evil, as the Fringe team had to head to the heavily guarded enemy headquarters — Manhattan — to retrieve the next piece from Walter's and September's maddeningly elaborate puzzle. We still don't really know what the piece is, and we didn't spend too much time on its recovery, since the real drama was yet to come.
Second, we learned that Broyles was Etta's secret boss, and that she had trained him via Jedi mind tricks to mentally block the Observers. Olivia's reunion with the aged Broyles was beautiful, and one of the few true moments of happiness we've seen this season. Of course it was short-lived, and everyone worried for a hot second that Broyles would be the one to bite it after the Observers tracked their location.
But no — Broyles escaped, hopefully without being compromised, while Windmark and his Observers followed the Bishop family into an abandoned building. Etta became separated from her family, and Fringe fans worldwide felt the same sense of dread when Windmark suddenly teleported behind her. He grabbed her by the throat and tried his best to mentally torture her, asking her why Peter had gone through so much trouble earlier in the episode to get her an insignificant necklace. When he finally realized his answer — which was pure, true love; something that he would never understand — he shot her in the stomach, to use that love against his enemies. He'd never understand it, but he knew how to use it as a weapon. Despicable.
The Observers teleported out, thinking that, because of their love, they'd trap the rest of the Bishop family when they rushed to Etta's aid. Fortunately they were wrong, as Peter, Olivia, and Walter only stayed for a minute or so — just long enough to nail another heartbreaking emotional moment. Peter was in shock, while Olivia just said, "I love you SO much." It was horrible. Etta knew she had no chance, and she spent her final seconds clutching the necklace she'd always worn to remind her of her parents, the one that carried "the bullet that saved the world" from Season 4. She went out with an act of bravery, using some sort of futuristic grenade to blow the remaining Observers to smithereens. Minus Windmark, of course.
It goes without saying that this will change everything. Even though the Bishops were facing unimaginably horrific circumstances, they still had each other, intact, for the first time in decades. Now, the youngest and arguably most innocent member of their family has been taken away from them. We saw Peter wearing a look of hollow rage that we'd never before seen on his typically passive face, and watched as Olivia turned away, not able to truly face her daughter's death a second time. This is going to be a huge obstacle for the remaining members of the Bishop family, and we only have 9 episodes left to see if they can step to the plate.
It's your turn, Fringe fans — what did you think of Etta's death? Did you see it coming? How will the remaining Bishops deal with her loss? Sound off in the comments!
Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna
[PHOTO CREDIT: FOX]
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