If I’m being kind, in the season so far Fringe has been underwhelming. After a rocky opener it’s veered somewhat uncontrollably from some decent outings to those I’d rather forget. The biggest issue has been a resistance to return to the bigger plot arc, which is always where this show really comes to life.
August finally takes us where we want to go, if at a slight tangent, to gain a greater understanding of the Observers, and the part they play in the Fringe universe.
An Observer, but not the usual one we see each week (he’s always there somewhere, always) abducts a young women, but the mystery is why?
This is old-fashioned storytelling, and it was a delight to see such a direct presentation. August had a beginning, middle and end, no flashing back (or forwards, thankfully), no spurious sub-plots. Just a simple story well told.
So what did we learn about the Observers? Plenty, actually. They’re scouring time for something, but it’s not entirely obvious yet what. They’ve been doing this for hundreds of years, and have a knack of turning up at all the significant events which represent turning points.
Wherever they come from (or should I say ‘whenever’), these humans have lost the ability to feel emotion along with their taste buds.
The suggestion in this story is that one of the Observers goes rogue after getting emotionally connected to one of the people he watches. Knowing that she’s destined to die in an air accident, he then kidnaps her in an attempt to alter the course of events, which isn’t something Observers are allowed to do.
I won’t spoil how this ultimately plays out, but the resolution is both interesting and provocative. It also reveals that, while Walter might act somewhat unfocused at times, he’s got entirely his own agenda and allegiances when it comes to the Observers.
This all stems from an Observer in the past saving him and Peter (or was it only him?), and the actual nature of Peter’s true origin.
If I had a disappointment this week it was that Blair Brown didn’t appear as Nina Sharp, as she always adds a degree of paranoia to proceedings. In many respects I think this was the strongest episode this season, and very watchable TV.
However, the future of this show isn’t guaranteed, and I noted with some concern that the excellent Joshua Jackson (Peter Bishop) has been connected with a remake of the Gerry Anderson classic UFO. Variety reported he’ll play Paul Foster in the new film version, which will begin shooting in spring of next year. That suggests, for one, that he’s not overly confident that Fringe will get a third season, although other actors, like John Cho, seem able to mix a TV and film career successfully.
Whatever happens I’d prefer that Fringe went out with a bang at the end of season 2, and not a whimper.
Perhaps it’s time they gave Walter Bishop some really unstable compounds to experiment with, and not strawberry milkshakes.
Read our review of episode 7 here.