“Fringe” Has an Anomaly

Walter is nearly done with his acid trip. Many, many things happened in the latest episode, the least of which was the discovery that mute child-Observer Michael (Rowan Longworth) was alive and well and ready to be taken by the Fringe team back to the quasi-lab at what used to be Harvard University.

In the latest episode, Anomaly XB-6783746, Michael is still mute but fortunately understands what’s spoken to him, and still in the hands of the good guys, but maybe not for long.

Captain Windmark of the Observers is hot on the trail of Nina Sharp (Blair Brown), Executive Director of Massive Dynamics. He’s logically traced some technology used by the Fringe gang to her and, well, we all know what happens when Windmark catches the scent.

We discover Nina is off to meet Michael after receiving a phone call from Olivia, but not before we see something that, in theory, is totally awesome. The Observers connect various receptors to the walls, windows and other surfaces in Nina’s office. And also to a central machine that has the look and feel of a polygraph. They begin listening for traces of the phone conversation that just took place between Nina and Olivia.

The conversations begin to offer up the bits and pieces of disparate and random conversations, held hostage inside their atoms and molecules for who knows how long. The clarity and volume of the words suggest the louder and clearer, the newer the words.

In fairly short order they come across enough of her conversation absorbed into the surfaces of her office to know she’s gone to meet Olivia. This is such an excellent idea, the surfaces inside an ordinary office serving as recording devices waiting to divulge their secrets. It feels like an idea large enough to be made into its own movie, or series of sci-fi books. Whoever ran this idea up the flagpole in the writer’s room, it’s a dandy. Bravo!

Nina meets with Olivia, Peter, Walter and Michael in an ally, and offers up some technology that might help them communicate with each other. They just need to make their way to a Massive Dynamics “black lab,” which took Olivia by surprise.

The writers threw in a nice, sentimental scene, lest we forget Etta. On the street, Olivia and Peter see an old Resistance poster with Henrietta’s face on it. It was brief, but touching, and a reminder of what’s truly at stake for the world.

Inside the black lab lay all sorts of surprises; this includes, just in case ya thought “Fringe” was getting soft or something, several Observer bodies inside some type of adult-size incubators. It’s uncertain if they’re dead or alive or something in between. Michael has not been allowed inside the lab to this point.

When Michael is finally led into the lab by Olivia, we see the incubators have been covered. I like this. Not only was it no longer necessary to see the bodies, I like that Michael wasn’t allowed to see them, even if he’s smart enough to deduce what might lie inside them.

The team, under Nina’s guidance, is unable to effectively communicate with Michael. Apparently, he processes information in a way unknown to Nina and her technology. In another bit of savvy writing, it is determined they cannot communicate because Michael does not know what they want, and therefore cannot help them.

Nina smartly suggests they allow Michael into their minds in an attempt to re-create the empathic link that existed between Michael and Olivia in a parallel universe. She’ll have to retrieve another piece of technology, but assures the group she’ll be able to get one from Dr. Hastings.

While all this is going on inside the black lab, Windmark and his thugs are busy interrogating employees, one by one, at the Massive Dynamics facility from where the aforementioned technology was stolen. They finally meet Dr. Hastings, just in time for a commercial. When something like that happens you just know it’s going to be important, just as soon as the bills are paid.

Sure enough, Windmark basically gets what he wants out of Hastings, but not before we discover Olivia, Walter and Peter have broken into the very same building to get their hands on that mind-reading technology. They’ve left Michael back in the black lab.

They are able to see into the windowed interrogation room and know right then and there Nina has been compromised. Just then Nina calls Olivia, who immediately shares the news with her. Nina nearly cries when she learns she can never come back to her office or her home.

This is a fairly tense scene as a lot can go wrong, in a hurry, for a lot of good people. The actors sell the urgency and high level of potential danger; no small feat given all the bad acting currently available on network television.

In the hallmark scene of the episode, Windmark and his gangsters make their way to the black lab. Nina and Michael are able to see them coming by way of security cameras positioned around the building. She tells Michael to follow her, but not before he touches her on the cheek. His touch has a profound and enlightening effect on Nina.

Windmark makes his way into the building where Nina is sitting in wait for him. He sends his lackeys off to find Michael. Surprisingly, Windmark has little success reading her mind, but it is clear he’s about to pull out his proverbial big mental guns and go to work on her.  Nina, not one to have her mind involuntarily read, managed to grab a gun from one of the Loyalist guards who got too close to her, and well, you can imagine for yourself what she did with it. Don’t worry. You’ll guess correctly.

Just about then, Walter, Peter and Olivia arrive at the black lab and discover Nina’s demise. Walter is especially torn up emotionally and does little to hide it. Through security footage they discover Nina didn’t compromise them, nor did Windmark make off with Michael.

In a really touching moment, after Olivia is able to find Michael inside one of the Observer incubators, he sees Nina’s covered body with Walter in tears near her, and sheds a tear of his own. They make their way back to the Harvard lab.

We see Walter and Michael connected to the mind readers. Michael touches Walter in the same way he touched Nina, but this time we get to see what’s going on between them. Walter is experiencing a lifetime of extremely vivid memories. The final memories are of an Observer named September, who Walter also sees as a non-Observer human. With Michael finished, his hand removed from Walter’s face, Walter makes a stunning announcement:

“I know who Donald is. He’s September.”

A really terrific episode with a lot of action and plenty of intrigue: The story was advanced nicely, and the information about Donald/September is a major key opening the door that leads to all the answers.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Like what you just read? Writer Stephanie Caldwell is a specialist in all things cable TV for www.CableTV.com. Find her on Twitter @cwSteph for more!

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