The first episode of the final season of “Fringe” opens a little fuzzy around the edges, which can only mean one thing on television: dream sequence. The year is 2036, and sure enough, Peter (Joshua Jackson) is having a dream. He’s dreaming about his young daughter Henrietta—”Etta”—who is busy blowing the flock off some expired dandelions, as mom, Oliva (Anna Torv) watches her from their picnic blanket.
In a burst of white light, a skyscraper in the distance vanishes from the skyline and a handful of Observers appear in the distance. As frequently happens in dreams, Peter and Olivia’s legs are sluggish and they can’t get to their daughter in time. Just as they reach her—simultaneously with the Observers—another flash of white light happens and they find themselves in a medical triage tent. Henrietta is nowhere to be found. Peter wakes inside his house, disturbed by his dreamscape images.
Awake and with his senses regained, Peter checks on adult Henrietta (Georgina Haig), in her bedroom. She calls him dad and says everything is okay, although she discovers something is askew after he leaves. The necklace she always wears, a bullet fragment, is no longer around her neck. Instead, she finds it in her bed. This is a little off-putting for her.
At the same time, Walter (John Noble) is asleep on his couch but is awakened by a dancing, erratic light caused by a reflection somewhere outside. He peeks out his window and observes something in the distance reflecting the sunlight in his direction.
Peter, Henrietta, and Astrid (Jasika Nicole) are in the lab when Walter joins them, ready to search for Olivia. The last time he’s spoken to her was in 2015 when she had called him from Columbus Circle. The group heads out, and upon arrival at what should be Columbus Circle, they discover much has changed in the past 21 years.
There’s no more Central Park. It’s nothing but concrete and pipes. It’s now the home of machines that pump carbon monoxide into the atmosphere, which makes it easier for the Observers to breathe. As a result of the CO in the air, the life expectancy of humans in 2035 is approximately 45 years.
They also discover a building covered in amber, and are certain that is where Olivia is being held captive. The building is vacant, and Walter believes the Observers have taken her somewhere. Astrid can see cuts in the amber and informs them she’s been taken by amber Gypsies.
Etta gives Astrid and Peter some cash—and some walnuts to ensure they can close the deal—and sends them to the Gypsies. They look at all the bodies encased in amber but none are Olivia. They bribe the man guarding the place and discover she’s been sold.
We’re taken directly to the apartment of Edward Markham, a strange little man and rare book dealer. He’s at home watching an old episode of “Maverick” with James Garner. In front of him is a massive amber table. Guess who’s encased inside?
Just then a knock comes at his front door and Peter bursts through with Etta, Astrid, and Walter behind. Markham is stunned they’re all there, and even more amazed none of them has aged.
Peter sees the amber table and walks to it, confirming Olivia’s body inside. Markham tells them he wasn’t going to hurt her, that he loves her, and how she’ll see him as her savior when she wakes up—if only he could figure out how to wake her.
Just about then Markham’s eyes get as big as saucers, namely on account of the Observer now standing in the room. The Observers must have been big fans of the Borg, because this one looks at Walter and says, “Resistance is futile.” Etta pulls a gun and shoots the Observer as she says, “I feel like I’ve heard that one before.”
Another Observer immediately appears from thin air and shoots Etta with a sonic stun gun and turns his attention to Walter. Etta has enough mobility to get her gun, which is lying at her side, and shoots this Observer, too. She tells Walter to run!
Everyone but Walter gets out of the building. The police have arrived just as Peter, Etta, and Astrid bail in the van. Back inside the building, Walter is attempting to escape when the police catch and surround him.
In a very touching moment, just after Peter and Astrid blast Olivia from the amber, Etta and Olivia reunite for the first time in decades. The last time Olivia saw Etta, she was only three-years-old.
Olivia is in possession of something she went to retrieve for Walter from Grand Central Station in 2015. It is the key to unlocking the information that’s been scrambled in his brain. Whatever is in Walter’s brain is the key to defeating the Observers. Etta takes the device to some friends to see if they can get it to work.
Meanwhile, Walter is being interrogated by Captain Windmark (Michael Kopsa), the head Observer who, quite frankly, is amazed Walter is still alive. The Observer quickly discovers Walter’s brain has been “partitioned”—given information out of sequence—and now knows Walter is in possession of some very powerful information.
Etta’s friends discover what the device is, but claim it no longer works, but they’d better figure out something in a hurry. Windmark is making headway helping Water “organize” his thoughts, and discovers he’s protecting the image of a young girl—young Etta. Windmark does not know who she is and desperately wants to know. Just about now Walter’s had enough of the interrogation and passes out as blood begins to run from his nose.
Peter, Astrid, and Etta discover their friends do have a plan. They’ve been working on some technology that makes a person appear to be completely dead, meaning the Observers cannot detect any light emanating from their bodies. Peter signs up to be one of the “dead” guys that Etta will drive to the morgue at the Observers’ headquarters, where she is personally known to one of the guards. This is where Walter is being interrogated.
They’re successful breaking Walter out of the prison, but Windmark is busy observing the entire chain of events, including Etta pulling up with the “dead” bodies in her van. He immediately recognizes her and utters to himself, “Hello, little girl.”
Walter is okay, but he can’t remember anything. It’s clear Windmark has either taken, altered, or even destroyed the fragmented memories in his mind. The plan to destroy the Observers has vanished, and the technology used to make Peter appear dead can never be used again as the Observers can now guard against its usage.
In a scene that bookends the episode, Walter discovers the source of the reflections previously dancing in his room: old music CDs hanging from strings and tied to a piece of wood. They’re spinning and twisting in the breeze, their shiny sides brightly reflecting the midday sunlight.
He finds one labeled “Trip Mix” and he slides it into the CD player in a junked-out taxi cab. A synthesized version of “Only You” by Yazoo leaps from the speakers and brings a sense of joy to Walter. He really misses the music that is absent from the year 2035.
The first episode of the fifth season, officially titled “Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11,” is a great start for the final season of the J.J. Abrams sci-fi thriller. Can’t wait for next week!
Stephanie Caldwell is from Salt Lake City and is a writer for CableTV.com. Stay tuned for next week’s Fringe article and catch Stephanie on Twitter @cwsteph.