After taking a week off from regularly scheduled programming, “Fringe” returned with a very strong episode, and one that brings us the loss of a very important character; more on that later.
When we last visited the Fringe Division a couple of weeks ago, the gang spent some time in the forest with the Recordists. They were searching for a particular quartz in a mine on their property. Important life lessons were learned, and sacrifices were made to get the team out alive after the Observers tracked their location.
Episode four, “The Bullet that Saved the World,” starts with Peter in a dark urban landscape siphoning some gasoline. He enters a sort of pawn shop looking for something specific. After some banter with the owner, an Observer steps out of the shadows and hands him a silver necklace. It’s exactly what Peter was seeking.
I like this particular episode because we get to see a lot from the Observers. Not just Captain Windmark, but several others who are as creepy and disconcerting as ever. They reminded me of the invaders from “Alien Nation,” without the leopard-spotted heads, but far more menacing. It was great to see them in a prominent role as they’ve kind of just been lurking in the shadows since the new season started.
Back at the old Harvard lab, Walter and Astrid are busy trying to get the next video tape successfully out of the amber and into the VCR for playback. Walter is annoyed (when isn’t he?) that it’s taking so long. Everyone else is annoyed with the quality of the recording, and the fact that there are and endless amount of clues to gather if they are to rid the world of the Observers.
This time, they’re off to the Penn Station subway platform to retrieve a metal tube with some of Walter’s papers stored inside. Walter remembers exactly where he would have hid them as it was his favorite hiding place when he and his mother used to ride the trains back in the day.
I was a little annoyed this was so easy for Walter to remember considering most days he can’t remember his name, age, or gender. Still, if the story is going to wrap in a mere nine episodes from now, I guess they have to move some bits of it along rather briskly.
The gang knows they’ll need travel papers to get to Penn Station, but that’s out of the question. Instead, they’ll have to create a diversion at one of the checkpoints. Is there any question Walter has an idea?
In what can only be considered another very fortunate development for the Fringe Division, Walter suddenly remembers he has to get to the filing cabinet deep within the amber. Not to get what’s in it, mind you, but to get beneath it.
Beneath the filing cabinet is a trapdoor leading to a completely new laboratory which is home to all the goodies Walter had collected from old fringe cases and conveniently had not turned over to the government. Even Astrid had no knowledge of this particular room, which seems absurd, but whatever.
Walter offers up a couple of pretty cool weapons that will indeed create the diversion they’ll need to travel to Penn Station.
Now, if it sounds like I’m bagging on this episode while simultaneously calling it strong in my opening statement, I’m not. Just voicing my dislike of the conveniences that are sometimes necessary to move stories along, no different than most people who closely follow a television series. In fact, the further developments that arise from these earlier conveniences do make the episode one of the best and strongest of the season.
We see Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick) after a several-episodes absence, and it’s a really great turn of events for the episode. He’s busy watching an Observer interrogate a guard who failed a security test. This leads to the discovery of the lab in Sector B—Harvard University—and Broyles has to act quickly.
It was quite satisfying to see him texting Etta—his relationship to her unknown to the rest of the gang—giving her a heads-up that Observer security forces are on their way to the lab. They actually re-amber the entire lab and skedaddle. The Observers arrive and are actually convinced the lab is undisturbed. This is quite confusing to them as they really do feel like they know everything and aren’t subject to being fooled.
The gang is on their way to Penn Station. Walter initiates their first diversion, a weapon that is an airborne toxin that turns regular tissue into thick scar tissue. This means eyes, nose, and mouth shut tight. It’s a really cool special effect and very satisfying from my point of view.
Once into the city, they quickly retrieve Walter’s tube of papers from inside the wall at Penn Station. Inside are pages and pages of advanced physics calculus, which might as well be Greek to Walter, except, as he informs us, he reads Greek! He literally has no idea what all the mathematics are about, except that it must be part of the larger plan to destroy the Observers.
As they leave Penn Station, Etta has a surprise for them. Broyles pulls up in a swanky black car that I want to own. Walter, Peter, and Olivia are truly surprised and grateful to see him. They discover Etta recruited him into the Resistance and taught him how to shield his thoughts from the Observers. He’s got some powerful weapons for them, and not a second too soon.
Immediately, the Observers are on them and it’s a shootout; the gang scatters but Etta goes a different direction. They’ll circle back around to get her, but they’d better hurry!
Inside one of the abandoned buildings, Etta turns around at the exact moment Captain Windmark appears in front of her. She’s sunk like the Bismark and she knows it. I won’t emphatically spoil it for you, but you can probably guess from here which member of the team isn’t coming back.
Not sure where all this is going with the surviving members of the Fringe Division, but there’s no question the loss is going to exact a toll on Peter and Olivia.
Like I said, a strong episode with a couple of unexpected developments. Let’s hope Broyles stays around. He’s a bad-ass and now he’s part of the Resistance.