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Fringe Season 5: 5 Questions About “An Origin Story”

After the end of last week’s episode, it was no surprise to see that this week’s Fringe featured Olivia and Peter at their breaking point and someone finally admit that the plan doesn’t seem to be working out too well. Five questions about “An Origin Story”? Don’t mind if we do…

Why Didn’t The Plan Work?
While I completely understand the fact that the plan to turn the wormhole through time into a black hole didn’t work for plot reasons – If it had, then Peter wouldn’t have went back to the Observer and kill him for his tech – I don’t quite get why it didn’t happen inside the story. The explanation that the Observer gave didn’t actually make sense, in this context; whether or not Peter “read” the Observer properly was beside the point, because Peter built the box and got it working. So why wasn’t the corridor collapsed as expected? Perhaps we have to just chalk this one up to fuzzy science – After all, there was no real reason why it should’ve worked, either, beyond Walter’s hypothesis.

Is Peter Making Walter’s Mistakes All Over Again?
Something I genuinely loved about this episode was how well it handled both Olivia and Walter’s grieving processes, and the subtlety in both performances (Anna Torv, especially, was wonderful). Somewhat surprisingly, very little was made of the fact that Walter had also lost a child when young and that was what had led to the war with the parallel Earth beyond his line about the pointlessness of building walls or shattering universes, but the parallel between Walter and Peter was definitely there for anyone who cared to look at it: Both men shut out those close to them, looking for some way to find meaning in the meaningless death, ultimately turning to science to try and make things better. The question is, of course, whether Peter’s actions will end up being as catastrophic as Walter’s did.

(The callback to what is essentially the origin of Fringe as a whole was welcome, in this final season. It wasn’t the only callback, of course; I doubt I’m the only person who initially wondered if the Observers were opening a portal to the parallel Earth instead of the future at the start of the episode.)

Wait, The Observers Are “Mostly Tech”?
Again, I get that the revelation that the Observers’ powers are less the results of an evolutionary process and more a technological reconstruction works on a plot mechanics level – i.e., it allows Peter to “become” an Observer – but it seemed weird in the context of the show so far, especially considering the show’s long-running theme of genetic manipulation as opposed to technological changes to the body. I mean, sure, we had the shape-changing cyborgs, I guess, but in general, hasn’t this show tended towards ways in which people were altered at a base level (by chemical means, more often than not) than technical add-ons? Especially the Observers – I viewed them as super-humans in more of a lineage with Olivia and the other Cortexephan children, to be honest. There’s something in the “It’s all to do with an implant in the base of their skull!” that just seems too… mundane to me, I guess.

What Will Peter Observer Be Like?
Firstly: Peter, that was a very stupid thing to do. Secondly, I love that the show had to default to “And then the implant went inside on it’s own!” because, otherwise, how was Peter hoping to operate on the back of his own head to put it in there? Thirdly, judging by the trailer for next week’s episode, the implant has “worked” and Peter is as strong and as fast as the Observers, but I’m sure we’re going to see some downsides as well… Otherwise, why wouldn’t Peter end up giving everyone the implants and evening up the fight?

Is The Resistance Going About This Whole Thing The Wrong Way?
Given everything that the Fringe team have managed to get done in the few weeks since they’ve been active, does it strike anyone else that the Resistance seems to be a bit… well, inept? I mean, we know that the Pollution Centers are key to the Observers staying alive, and yet we haven’t seen any kind of concerted effort to stop them completing their construction of said centers, never mind attempts to try and destroy what’s already there. Or, this week: We found out that the Observers have their powers through tech, not genetic superpowers… So why aren’t the Resistance trying EMPs around the Observers to see if it knocks out said tech? If the Resistance can kidnap one Observer and then keep him under what is essentially sedation, why can’t they do this more often or at least be better at fighting them in general? Of course, it’s not just the Resistance that seems to be kind of half-assed about things: If the Observers can teleport into rooms beside Peter and Olivia and beat the hell out’ve them, how are the Resistance still alive at all?

I know, I know: The answer to all of the above is “Because, otherwise, it wouldn’t be a good story.” And I get that, I do… But this week, more than other episodes – and it’s been increasing since the start of this season – I’ve found myself having to suspend disbelief or ignore obvious plot holes simply because the writers are heading towards a specific outcome. It’s frustrating; the emotional beats of this episode were so strong, but the plot was a mess. I can only hope that as we head towards the finale, we’ll get stronger plots and things will get more in balance.


  • Peter

    Why didn’t the Plan Work? The Observers are from the future. It probably worked and they’re just opening the corridor from a farther future, after they have recovered from this.

  • Citysportmpls

    I think it would be a nice twist if Peter (now that he has the tech) really was the first Observer. Basically Peter being a man out of time and adding this tech is what causes the evolution of the Observers as a whole.

  • percane

     that sounds like the terminator, where the terminator tech was based on the terminator that had come back form the future

  • Citysportmpls

    I guess to say I would “like” to see this happen is maybe phrased incorrectly. I would “like” to see this happen more than I would “like” to see Peter become Neo and start kicking Observer butt and become some kind of savior. I think in the end it would be more powerful if he had to sacrifice himself to stop this versus just becoming a God like super ninja time traveler.

  • Jugga Lord

    That was my thinking too. Pop fiction rarely gets time travel.

    In Back to the Future, Marty goes back to 1985 ten minutes early to save Doc – instead of maybe warning him earlier that day or even the day before. He freaks out when it appears that Doc dies again, forgetting the fact that there’s a case full of plutonium still by the truck and he can just keep going back in time until he gets it right – or runs out of plutonium.

    In Terminator, they send back Arnie, fail miserably, and wait more than another decade to try again? When Robert Patrick fails, they wait another decade? Barring attempts made on John or Sara in their respective cribs… Why the wait so long? 

    Logically, the moment Arnie or Robert failed, another portal should’ve opened right up. That’s the thing about time travel. It doesn’t matter if the terminator comes from 2050, 2080,2345, or whenever. They can always pop up in 1984 at the exact moment they want. Imagine this scenario. Sara crushes the first terminator. “You’re terminated, f***er!” *POP* Another portal opens up. A new terminator pops out and shots her in the head. They can keep trying until they win. None of this waiting a decade stuff.

    That’s probably what happened on Fringe. Walter’s plan probably DID work. Even if it took the Observers 70 years to recover, they could still open up a new portal the moment into our time. 

    I think that Walter’s plan assumed a little much though. His thought was that severing the portal would stop them from coming through. Who’s to say that they couldn’t just create a new wormhole? Even if the newly formed black hole in Observer time devastated them, all they had to do was quarantine it. Black holes suck up everything, but they still have range. Stay far enough away and they’ve got no pull. For all we know, they also probably used antimatter on their side to close it off too, minimizing the damage. 

    Walter’s plan was flawed because he only saw the small picture. 1) Time is all relative, especially to a time traveler. 2) Surely, they [the Observers] wouldn’t use or develop tech without knowing how to control it. They’d have safeguards in place. 3) He’s fighting an enemy that’s years ahead of the curve. He might as well be using a pebble to combat their tanks. It was an interesting plan, but a shortsighted one. Only Peter had the right idea. Level the playing field. Either bring them down to our level or fight at theirs.

    For Walter’s plan to have had any chance, time travel would’ve had to work by Bill & Ted rules, where the clock is always running and there ARE hard, absolute deadlines. With relative time and a “hop to whenever” scheme, Walter’s plan was doomed from the get go.

  • Jugga Lord

    A few more points.

    1. In the preview, anybody else get a Matrix vibe – how Peter is becoming the Neo to the Observer’s Agents? 

    2. Don’t make too much of the “mostly tech” comment. As Clarke’s 3rd law states: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” You’d have to think that, compared to cavemen, the people of 2012 are we’d be just like the Observers. We’re “mostly tech” too. We’re always carrying around things like phones, iPads, laptops, digital watches, and so on. What we could do would be like magic to them too. A 2012 person with an archived version of Wiki might as well be a seer or prophet to people from 1,000 years ago. The only difference between how we and the Observers is how they use the tech. They internalize it and embrace implants. We’re still using external gadgets.

  • Jacowboy

    Oh I’m sure the plan worked, the problem is it was a stupid plan against time travelers. They could simply open another wormhole from another location in the future, or wait ’til they fix the problems caused by the antimatter bomb, to send another cargo.

    It does makes sense that the Observers are “tech-powered”. Since the begining we’ve seen them use a lot of advanced tech… It turns out that some of the things we though were abilities, were actually another gadget of theirs… Plus, evolution shouldn’t change human kind that much in so little time.

    Maybe the “tech” he inserted is just a super processor that allows them to “think better” (and also do some weird things)… or the mythical way to “use all of our brain’s capacities”.

    At any rate, I’m guessing it’s designed for future humans, and not for present ones, so I’m guessing Peter’s risking to “burn out” his brain and/or body.

  • Demoncat4

    because the restiance  is still thinking the oberservers powers are due to bio means not tech needs unless now peter being one reveals the powers of the observers are tech based. plus as peter said in one previous episode the observers are two steps ahead of them. plus peter is acting out of emotion instead of logic he is blinded by anger and grief for etta

  • jrau18

    Walter even says that the bomb should have incapacitated them for a while at least. The fact that he doesn’t get the whole “They just fixed it and went back to work” thing is kind of a facepalm moment.

  • jrau18

    I never understood why the clock was always running back in San Dimas. Why COULDN’T they just land five minutes after they left? The movie even showed them jumping around in their own timeline later on in the movie when they went back and dropped the keys for past thems to find.

  • woofytexan

    I wonder about Peter assembling the box. Could it be that the last component, when he had it one direction but then turned it after he saw the observers reaction, is a key to opening different wormholes to different times and places? Thus, the observer, with his explanation of the fly, was  able to thwart their plan since it did not affect their location? And maybe with Peter having access to their tech via the implant will figure this out and take them out with another try thus wrapping up the series and they all lived happily ever after?

  • jimlo24

    What I didn’t understand was why they needed that box at all once they figured out the shipping schedule.  All they needed to do was shoot anti-matter into any wormhole, and the Observers were going to open one up anyway.  Seemed like a waste of time to open a second, unneeded hole.  

  • Thirty

    Read Planetary. They’ve lifted from it before.

  • Boon_46

    how could the observers take control of the world in the manner they did without the risk of killing their ancesters and thus destroying themselves

  • Lucas Silva

    I understand that that plan really didn’t work, because Peter misread the Observer. The box was functioning, but not entirely.

  • 4hrhair

    Is it just me, am I missing something…why hasn’t Olivia used her skills from the Cortexephan to help them out when attacked by the observers?

  • chifounette

    I can only see That once again, the opposite of the producteurs do what they say. How many times Jeff Pinkner and Joel Wyman They said no, Would never be Peter Observer year? I do not Have Enough fingers to count. Even if it makes me fear to year end LOST (and yes, I’m still stuck on it)