Recap

'Fringe' Recap: The Boy Must Live

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Jan 11, 2013 | 5:00pm EST

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"The boy is important. He has to live." These words have been at the forefront of Fringe mythology throughout the last five seasons — September seemingly knows all, so his assertion that this boy (presumably, obviously, Peter) had to live to fulfill some sort of higher plan destiny was always given utmost importance. But guess what, Peter? You can totally die now, because he was never even talking about you. The boy is actually Michael — revealed in this episode to be September's son, in a strange science-y Observer way — and his Harry Potter-esque world-saver destiny just got way less certain when he willingly turned himself in to Windmark at the end of the episode.

But let's back up, because there was another huge, terrible reveal in tonight's episode — Michael has to live, but, on the other end, Walter has to die. Something terrible like this was bound to happen, as it wouldn't be a series finale without heartbreak, but fans were treated to the ultimate gift early on in the episode, when it was revealed that Michael had shown Walter his alternate timeline memories. I never liked the Season 4 reset (and I highly suspect that other fans agree, and that Joel Wyman knows this) — so ensuring that all three members of the crucial Fringe family (sorry, Astro) have those precious memories intact for the end was very emotionally gratifying. "I remember the night I was up late making a peanut butter sandwich," Walter said to Peter. "You slipped, and called me dad — the feeling of joy that gave me... before I met [Michael], I didn't think it was possible to love you more." Walter might be living his last days, but Michael giving him back those memories — his joy — is the greatest gift he could have asked for. (Besides more seasons of Fringe.)

And that's exactly what Michael was proven to be — a gift, for so many. A gift that could save humanity. Everything came full circle for the Fringe gang, as the episode began with Walter taking a (naked) dip in the infamous tank used in the pilot. The memory that Michael had showed him — the one with Donald/September — still existed in Walter's subconscious, he just had to take a quick swim to access it. In this memory, he saw that Donald/September had once lived in a sweet pad with a waterfront view in Williamsburg (pricey). Luckily Donald still lived there, and when the gang arrived, they found a completely human and actually quite handsome version of the September we once knew. (Aside: This leads me to think that part of the final mission will be to generously give the Observers back their humanity. Other moments in this episode, with Windmark, convinced me further. However — how would that even work? Would any of them even want it? These are some serious metaphysical questions to address before the rapidly approaching finale. So, maybe I'm wrong.)

In his quaint, very human apartment, Donald gave us some (much needed) exposition: First, there's the fact that he named himself after the actor Donald O'Connor, as Singing in the Rain was the first film he and Walter had watched together. That's not particularly important, just very sweet. The big reveal was that the Observers began with a single scientist about 100-or-so years in our future — someone who realized that eliminating jealousy from the human brain was great for intelligence and technological advancement. That's all well and good, but eventually it went so far that "empathy, compassion, and love became messy distractions." With love out of the way (via the Observer head chip), they created a new (again, science-y) means of reproduction — and when they realized that Michael's brain was capable of empathy and compassion during his incubation, they planned to toss him out with the bathwater.

...Which is where September (and, unknowingly, the Fringe team) stepped in — September brought Donald to a time that he admired; a time where he thought he'd be safe. He had observed, largely through Peter and Walter, how father and sons interacted during our time, which — ding ding ding! — set off the lamp in everyone's head that September was Michael's father. If they could send Michael forward in time to show the scientists that they needed to prevent what would eventually happen, then Observers would never be created. And — as Olivia pointed out — they could get their Etta back.

(Problems with this theory: Okay, this is why I hate time travel. If they were to go forward with this plan and eliminate the Observers, they would eliminate September, right? September saved Peter from drowning. Peter brought Walter and Olivia together. Peter and Olivia made Etta. If they eliminated the Observers and thus September, they would eliminate the entire Fringe team as we know it, and Etta would have never been born. Right?)

This is why I prefer theory number one, the giving them back their humanity thing. While the gang chatted it up at Donald's place, Windmark began to show signs that he was capable of experiencing SOME human emotions — anger, fear, obsession — when he traveled back to the future (HA) to speak to the grandmaster general of Observer-land. "The idea of ending their existence consumes me," he admitted. (Being consumed is not cool for Observers.) Windmark wanted to go back in time to "eradicate" the Fringe team during a time of vulnerability, but the Grandmaster refused: The time they had chosen for their attack (our time) was chosen for a reason — and that reason was a 99.9999 percent probability of success. "The boy had a 0.0001 percent of surviving, yet he did," Windmark replied.

That's when they looked up the boy's info, and realized that September, his father, had saved him. "Why would he go to such lengths to protect a genetic defect?" Windmark wondered, with a look of fascination. As Etta pointed out, Windmark didn't understand love — but now, it seemed like he actually might want to. It's consuming him! So Windmark and his thugs went back to present-future-day to Donald's apartment, but Donald had already cut the chip out of his head and fled with the gang, to pick up some time-travel gadget close by. Windmark tapped-tapped-tapped his feet to Donald's music, and examined his human gadgets with the utmost curiosity. This is getting interesting.

Two major events made up the end of the episode: First, the conversation between Donald and Walter that revealed the fact that Michael had (telepathically) told Walter he needed to sacrifice himself for their plan to work. Walter thought that the gift of his old memories had been provided so that he would know that he was capable of intense love, and it would make doing what he would eventually have to do a bit easier. The second event was Michael's capture, after a thrilling chase sequence that led to Michael willingly walking out the door of a train, basically into Windmark's not-so-loving arms.

Did he do it with a bigger plan in mind? Did he do it because he feels closer to the Observers than he does to humanity? I don't know, but it was a great end to the best episode we've seen in weeks.

Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna

[PHOTO CREDIT: Liane Hentscher/FOX]

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