It amazes me that in a final season with just 13 episodes to tell its story Fringe can afford to put out an episode like "Five-Twenty-Ten," an hour that really only gave us one thing of import and recycled several things we already knew. Luckily, that one thing was REALLY cool and "Five-Twenty-Ten" was a visual stunner making it a more enjoyable chapter than it should have been.
That cool thing I'm talking about is of course Peter's continuing transformation into THE PETERVER and his one-man assault on the Observer higher-ups. With only a few days (or even less) of experience working with his Observer upgrade, Peter has already gotten the hang of seeing the future, predicting outcomes, and staying away from Olivia for extended periods of time. He's working behind the backs of his Fringe Division partners by spending nap time planning the most efficient terrorist attacks possible and leaving any shred of humanity behind.
Though this transformation comes with some nifty parlor tricks like seeing the future, punch-catching, and an on-the-nose impersonation of a sparrow's head twitching, watching Peter turn into an Observer is not as fun as it sounds. The guy we've spent the last five seasons really connecting to is becoming a hairless revenge robot, but the worst part is that he's lying to his friends, man! We've seen the core trio split up before, but there's something particularly nasty about what Peter's going through right now that makes this one of the scariest of the series. We may never see Joshua Jackson's boy-next-door smile again.
But the one who will miss him the most is Olivia, and this is where that recycling things we already knew stuff comes in. While there was no doubt that some of these scenes, like Olivia and Astrid's girl talk in the car, were well written and came from the hearts of these characters, it was a lot of expressing things we already knew. The same can be said for many of Walter's scenes in which he restated his fear of becoming the man he once was. This at least had the additional detail of Walter counting on Peter's love to save him, but again, we learned this lesson in "Through the Looking Glass and What Walter Found There."
Hold on, stop shaking your fists and cursing my name. I didn't hate these scenes, in fact they were mostly good (but I do always chuckle whenever Walter says something about removing pieces of his brain), but I'm not sure they added anything to the conversation. I don't know if it's a lack of material or the show wanting to make sure we know what they're talking about, but I doubt it's the latter as the show never aims to insult our intelligence.
Where "Five-Twenty-Ten" did excel was in its presentation. This episode was flat-out gorgeous, particularly the blue world Peter saw when he was looking into the future and the rapid button pushing whenever Walter's tapes were played. And let's not forget about the suitcase bomb, the dissolving faces of the Observers, and the lone dusty Fedora that floated gently to the ground when Peter's plan was executed. But the greatest moment was saved for last when Walter threw on some Bowie and we saw Walter contemplate his future while Peter predicted Windmark's. This was great stuff.
But once again, an episode in Fringe's final season was mostly spent watching one of Walter's tapes and extracting the item described in it. This week the crew grabbed some of those magical Observer drilling cylinders, which immediately went into the cupboard full of other junk that's already been obtained. We still don't know what Walter's plan is, we still don't know what the retrieved objects will be used for, and it looks like the show is in no hurry to tell us. Like I said last week, this better be good, Fringe!
– Last week I wondered whether Peter's hair would start falling out, and in this episode he pulled out a huge clump of his pretty locks! I also wondered whether an old Fringe relic would be unleashed on some Observers, and this week a briefcase full of flesh-eating goo (from Fringe's first season) exploded during an Observer board meeting. Since I obviously have the Fringe writers' attention, a gratuitous scene of Anna Torv dancing around in lingerie would also be nice. Thanks!
– It was nice to see Nina again, but her inclusion in this episode didn't seem to be necessary or Nina specific. We've seen a lot less of the supporting cast this season as things are focused on Walter, Peter, and Olivia, but I don't think I can argue that it's helping things. I definitely haven't gotten enough Broyles this season.
– If there is one thing that gives me confidence in the overall master plan, it's the fact that Fringe appears to know where it's going. William Bell's hand, which was grabbed in last season's "Letters of Transit," did come back as a major component of the episode.
– Why was Peter's ear bleeding? It wasn't ever brought up again. Obviously it has to do with his upgrade, but was it just there to show us that bad physical side effects are part of the change, or is it something more?