Fringe "The Bullet That Saved The World" Review: Loss, as Motivation
There, there. I know. It's tough. Let it allllll out.
Luckily, I spent all week working on my core (a shirtless Stephen Amell is great inspiration) so I expertly absorbed the gut punch delivered by "The Bullet That Saved the World" and locked the emotional torment away, where it will stay until it bursts out in a sea of sorrow at an unspecified later date, probably when I'm having dinner with my wife's parents. Ahhh, who am I kidding? I got all sorts of weepy.
After last week's disappointing foray into the woodlands of the Scab People and its hunt for some red rocks, Fringe needed a bounce-back episode to hot-glue our faith in this final season back together. For the most part, "The Bullet That Saved the World" succeeded with the best episode of the season so far, but it came at a great cost: DEATH. Stop crying!
Before we get to death, let's first cheer ourselves up with some of the cool things the episode did. I'm fully on board with Walter's secret hoarding obsession of old Fringe-event relics. It's
pandering a tribute to longtime fans of the show, and put yourself in his place: If you got to see such cool stuff from week to week, wouldn't you keep some in cold storage in a hidden basement in your lab, too? I'm actively choosing to ignore the fact that we've never heard about this basement until now, and whenever my brain says something like, "But wouldn't it behoove the team to know that the basement and all its magical contents existed, in case they found themselves in a situation where they needed a porcupine man corpse or a slug parasite?" I just put my fingers in my ears and scream, "I can't hear you, stupid brain!"
And I do that because... well, I'm going to be honest with you here and you might not like it. I'm not totally digging Season 5's time jump yet, and what enthusiasm I did have has been drained by the search for warped tapes, constant failed attacks by inept Loyalists, and especially those bark-faces from last week. But the reveal of a hidden room full of trinkets from the gang's previous four seasons' worth of adventures is a very comforting feeling for those of us who are feeling bummed by the future. They're like souvenirs of when Fringe was at its best.
"There was a time when we solved Fringe cases," Walter said, with Giacchino's violins going nuts and indicating he was about to say something badass. "Now I think it's time we created our own." That is so cool I don't even know where to start. If the rest of the series involves Walter picking and choosing what cool toys from the past he could use to waste a bunch of Observers, that'll definitely be a step in the right direction.
This week, Walter's video diaries pointed the crew toward his old favorite hiding place from when he was a kid, a hole in a subway tunnel. Why Walter's parents let him walk around subway tunnels as a kid is a question for another day; I'm just going to assume they were constantly stoned and left the back door open. However, the investigative portion of the episode was limited to merely figuring out how to get past a guard checkpoint and thankfully the method they chose would scar the Observers forever. Haha, good one, Tim.
The old Fringe-event item that resurfaced in tonight's episode dates all the way back to Season 1's "Ability," in which a mystery gas caused victims to turn up with their head holes all covered with scar tissue, suffocated to death. The stuff is like the exact opposite of an asthma inhaler. It's creepy, it's effective, it's one of Fringe's all-time greatest squirm-inducing gimmicks. Using spray bottles and gas canisters filled with the agent, Walter, Peter, Olivia, and Etta made quick work of all the guards and retrieved the mystery item—a complex equation—from the subway tunnel because these Loyalists are the worst. I mean seriously, guys. The Observers may have an army of humans ready and eager to turn on their species, but they're obviously a collection of retired bus drivers, accountants, and cartographers because they are TERRIBLE at the whole combat thing. I'm pretty sure I saw one guy purposefully walk into the line of fire at one point, and ducking and hiding appear to be concepts that they just can't grasp. The Observers would probably be more successful if they tried to stop their enemies with insults and bad jokes.
The search for the item was quickly solved because it was secondary to the real purpose of the episode: to make us feel really, really sad. Because the Loyalists were bumping into each other and putting targets on their own foreheads, the Observers—led by Windmark—went after the crew themselves and immediately cornered Peter and company in an abandoned building. That's how you do it, Loyalists!
Etta got separated from her parents and grandpa, Windmark magically time-and-space-teleported behind her, and uh-oh. Though the scene was filled with doom and gloom, it was magnetic to watch Windmark try to mentally pick Etta apart. It's hard being an Observer because emotions aren't one of their strong suits. They have no drive to be different, so they all wear the same suit. Their consistent skin tone only perpetuates their ennui. And drowning their food in hot sauce is the only way they can feel anything. So when Windmark had Etta by the throat and he asked her why Peter had given her a link of various forged metals to wear around her neck and Etta (whether it was intentional or not) let him read her mind to show him the purest form of love—the love a parent has for his child—it was like a single, solitary firework went off in Windmark's mind. Love. It's a concept that's entirely foreign to the Observers (probably because "where are all the Observer women at?"), and though Windmark didn't completely understand it, he knew just how to use it against those who are part of the uprising. He shot her in the belly, not only because she was an agent of the resistance who lied to him, but also because he knew she meant so much to Olivia and Peter.
Fringe always nails these emotional moments, and this one was particularly crushing. Flashing back to the good old days when a character was a young girl just before the older version of her dies in the present time is the nuke of emotional bombs, and the agonizing minutes while Etta lay there shot and dying were Fringe's Hiroshima. Olivia saying, "I love you SO much," Peter erupting into blubbering denial, Etta clutching the bullet and necklace that symbolized her parents... if you kept it together during that scene then you are probably drinking Tabasco straight out of the bottle right now, you cold, heartless son of a bitch.
Etta wasn't going out without one last bang, though, so she activated a Matter Blaster grenade and when the Observers came back to her corpse thinking they'd find Olivia, Peter, and Walter beside her, things went boom and the whole building and everyone inside were wiped out of existence.
Peter, Olivia, and Walter witnessed this from afar, and it was the most telling clue of where things will go from here. No one bawled or wiped their nose on a hanky. Instead, Olivia left the scene first, visibly shaken but not wanting to let the feeling linger. Last time she lost Etta, she ran away to help save the world instead of staying behind to look for Etta. It wlll be very interesting to see whether she behaves the same way this time, but Olivia leaving first was a sign that things haven't changed. Even Olivia clutching The Bullet That Saved the World in that scene could be interpreted as a save-the-world-first attitude, and hope that Etta's sacrifice wouldn't be without purpose. But Peter stood there alone, motionless and damaged, like he was brewing something big in his mind. I think we should all be prepping ourselves for Peter to go all Liam Neeson on the Observers. Take Etta away from him once, shame on him. Take Etta away from him twice, PREPARE TO DROWN IN A POOL OF YOUR OWN BLOOD!
– Do you think Fringe killed Etta too soon?
– Broyles is back and wrinkly! Man, his job must SUCK. Great reunion between him and our guys, welcome back! And yeah, he's probably going to die before the end of the season.
– Who is The Dove? Are we supposed to know?
– The trick to keeping the Observers out of your mind is the same one guys use to not embarrass themselves in bed: Think about baseball!
– Things I learned tonight: Walter gets off on being electrocuted and donut holes make for great apocalypse food!
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