Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fringe - "The Bullet That Saved The World" Review

"Worth every bump and bruise, kiddo."


Hmm.  Well, that happened.

And I don't really know how I feel about it.  It's way too early to tell if the death of Etta was a premature move or not. On the one hand, it was definitely a shock to the system and gives the Fringe team (I guess if makes more sense to call them a family at this point) a renewed resolve, while also reminding us after a few relatively subtle episodes that we are at war and there are consequences of such that can be reaped at any moment.

On the other hand, we didn't really get much time at all to get to know Etta as a character, and that kind of mitigates the gut punch a bit, as the only real empathy we can feel is secondhand via Peter and Olivia as we imagine how terrible it must be to lose a child, let alone twice.  I think in a way this was a deliberate attempt to connect us emotionally to that first time that they lost Etta that we weren't able to see.  Still, I think it's safe to say that if they kept her around a bit longer there was definitely mileage left on the character's odometer.  She was the only substantive connection thus far that they had to this Brave New World, and her family provided her a much needed anchor, and that is something that will be missed and feels, at least at this juncture, like missed potential.  Though again, maybe that was the point.

All that said, "The Bullet That Saved The World" was easily the strongest episode of Fringe's final season thus far.  It provided a solid narrative while engaging us in a flood of Pathos that the series rarely takes advantage of.

The opening was a great way to remind us just how omnipresent and formidable the Observers are. There truly is no hiding from them.  Sometimes when I'm watching this show I wonder just how they manage to traverse from point A to point B at all without being caught.  The opening here was a great reminder that they really can't.  Their backs are constantly against the wall, and I commend the show for always remembering to press that claustrophobia, because a lot of the tension of this season is designed to stem from there.  Their enemy is everywhere, infinitely resourceful, and can literally glean movements and plans with a single thought.  How do you fight that?  Watching Peter nearly completely blow everyones cover by simply being in the same vicinity as one in a random corner store was a great illustration of that.  Season Five will never lose points for not building the enemy.

I have to say, I very much sympathized with Walter's complaining about how long this whole tape retrieval mission is taking.  I, as a viewer, feel much the same way.  This trope is growing stale mighty quickly, and it is fast devolving into an excuse for the excursion of the week that is only tangentially related to the main goal when we should really be building starting our build to an epic climax.  For a show with only eight hours of story left to tell, it really feels like they're taking their sweet ass time.

So, the "Tape of the Week" sends us to the glorious destination of Penn Station, where Walter has left some plans for himself.  Standard stuff, but the greatest addition here is that the team decides to take elements from earlier Fringe cases, things that gave them so much strife in the past, and use it against their enemy.  It's awesome to see this show start to tie everything together and bring the entirety of Fringe lore into this final run, and I hope it's a trend that continues.  The way they took out those loyalists was just brutal, and I'm always a fan of when Fringe takes the time to display some moral ambiguity and the human cost of such a war, and if the ultimate price is worth paying given what we might lose of ourselves.

How great was it to finally see a familiar face this week.  Broyles' addition was more than welcome and really made the show feel more like itself again.  The reunion was probably the best part of the episode for me.  I imagine going forward that he will be the new primary connection that the team utilizes for further missions.  Having someone in such close proximity with what the show has clearly established as the big bad really ramps up the possibilities.  The tension alone that came from the lab being compromised was great stuff.

I think one of the main reasons that a good show like Fringe so rarely crosses into great territory, is because they rarely go all the way with the themes they seem to want to convey.  The show is also very good at establishing a tense, broody atmosphere, but so rarely uses that atmosphere to provide real emotional payoff for the events that transpire within.  Many times after a scene designed to be emotional, I find myself saying, "Well, that'll do", or, "That'll get the point across", but that kind of reaction doesn't exactly resonate as it should.

This weeks episode saw the series make its best real effort at pathos this season with the titular bullet, which still didn't work as well as it could have, but was definitely poignant in its own right.  The writers killed Etta in a very by-the-numbers kind of way, which undercut a lot of the emotion they were going for.  That being said, I still really enjoyed it, particularly the moment where they juxtaposed one of the true differences between them and the Observers: the ability to love.  Such things are Human Resistance 101, but they are so for a reason.  As Peter, standing stoically inside an eerily calm breeze, clutching The Bullet that Saved the World, he not only knows what he fights for, but is ever more willing to do everything it takes to avenge the loss of that for which he fights, a mindset which has dangers of its own.


79% = *** = "Good"


-VMA

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