Monday, October 8, 2012

Fringe - "In Absentia" Review

"I felt, for the first time, that we were supposed to win."

It would seem that the recurring prologues at the beginning of each episode are the writers doing exactly what I wished they had more time to do.  Illustrate the way things were, and take advantage of the misery and heartache that befell a happy family when the unthinkable happened.  I wouldn't be surprised if every episode of the season opened like this, giving new bits and pieces each time.  That would be a very clever way of consistently reminding us of the stakes, of these characters' emotional state, while simultaneously giving us vital plot information and much needed backstory.  I like it.

It's also nice to know that the show hasn't forgotten that John Noble is hilarious, as Walter using the thought unifier was a good reminder of that.

Man, it was good to see that lab again.  I think my future shock has officially worn off.  And you know, Walter would record vitally important world saving information on a fucking Betamax. Anything to be offbeat.


Ahem -- sorry.

Once Eric Lange showed up, this episode really took off.  I loved the moral ambiguity that this episode drenched itself in.  Olivia and the gang are meant to act as a cipher for us in this strange new world, and she sympathized with the loyalist, as did we.  I totally believed the story about his son, yet when Etta explained how it was a lie, I knew she was right, and I found myself immediately conflicted. The loyalist was such a great device because it put a real human face to the opposition, and added a new wrinkle to what has thus far been a very black and white story.

Another motif that seems to be going on this season is showing me disturbing futuristic torture devices. Honestly, a device that makes you age?  Is there anything less humane than that?

The primary purpose of "In Absentia" was to give us a closer look at who Etta is, and what, by extrapolation, the emotional state of the war and the resistance are like during these taxing times. I said in my review of the previous episode that it's been hard to invest in Etta, and the writers were listening. It ain't hard no more.

The most important things that the Fringe team bring Etta and the resistance are hope and compassion.  They are the humanity in a world that is slowly being stripped of it.

Who are we without hope?  What do we become?  Some accept the complacency of occupation, trading freedom for safety.  Others lose themselves in a fight increasingly void of morality.  Is freedom worth fighting for if we lose ourselves in the process?  Those who fight monsters must be wary they themselves do not become them.  Fringe explored this familiar trope to great success.

The final scene with Etta and Manfretti was the unquestionable highlight of the episode.  Two humans, on opposite sides of the war, their guards mutually down for the first time, and in their nakedness, they find respect.  They find the qualities that made the fight worth it in the first place, once buried under hardened cynicism and a jaded will to survive.

Etta's resolve stemmed from the blind need for freedom and victory.  Olivia's stemmed from her past experiences, and a connection to what it really means to be human that has become foreign in this world.  It isn't enough to simply survive, and thanks to Olivia, Etta finally understands that.

This episode really brought an interesting idea to the forefront, an idea that I really hope Fringe takes one step further.  The Observers themselves represent the future of the human race, so the question becomes, how did we lose our way?  How did we lose the inherent humanity that defined us for millennia.  Could it be that the collective psyche of the human race was irrevocably damaged and forever distorted from, I don't know, fighting the observers?  Are we are own self fulfilling prophecy, and if so, is there any way to stop the temporal loop?

If I'm right, this will easily be Fringe's best season yet.

77% = *** = "Good"


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