Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
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.