Fringe season 5 episode 11 review: The Boy Must Live

The penultimate episode of Fringe provides some long-awaited answers. Here's Billy's review...

This review contains spoilers.

5.11 The Boy Must Live

As we near the end, so many things are explained in the penultimate Fringe story.

What’s been great about the last few stories in Fringe‘s ultimate arc is the focus on story, one that looks like it was worked out in the very early days of the show. I could be wrong, but it seems we were always destined to get here, irrespective of how many seasons it took to turn full circle. Though, it’s worth noting that even in this final season they’ve taken entirely pointless detours, like the one where Walter feared he was becoming his previous dark persona. That’s wrapped up here through the magical touch of Michael, though it does come with dire consequences for the ultimate solution to their problems.

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What went better was the Donald exposition, where we find that September was made human again for transgression, and, as I’ve suspected for some time, Michael is his son. It’s a wonderful performance here from Michael Cerveris (Donald/September) as he carefully blends enough of his original Observer performance with the more human Donald to great effect.

However, here’s a couple of questions they didn’t answer. September gets fatally shot at some point, but is that in his future or past? And, why didn’t they simply take the Observer tech that Peter had, put it in Donald and let him take Michael to the point in time and space that he needs to be? These are questions they might answer, or choose not to, it could swing either way.

Especially neat plotting was the splice into the foundational events on the frozen lake, where September says “The Boy Must Live”, where he was talking about Michael and not Peter. Though, why he’d say this entirely out of context for easy misinterpretation seems at best confusing. I hope that was always intended, but it might have been a recent addition. The existence of Michael, the Observer with emotions is less unexpected, because his father was already experiencing them, leading to him altering the timeline by saving Walter and Peter, and numerous other adjustments, before hiding Michael.

Another nice addition to our Observer knowledge was the maturation chamber sequence where we got to see an Observer grow from a embryo to a fully mature creature. It explained why we see no female Observers, and the transition from CGI to live action was pretty seamless for a TV show. Manhattan in 2609 was pretty cool too.

What I found much less convincing, although in an infinite universe all things are possible, is Olivia’s assertion/hope that the demise of the Observers will be resurrection for Etta. Clearly Peter is thinking the way I was, that no observers means no September to pluck him and Walter from the lake, and therefore no Etta. Except that’s a time paradox, because confusingly the Observers can’t be stopped if they never existed. They must exist, but they must also be emotional, and have the knowledge to go and perform the critical modifications to the timeline that are necessary for them to be in that enhanced form. If that sounds like a tall order, I can imagine the final double episode just a week from now is likely to give some people a headache, as it is doing right now to me thinking of how this can be neatly resolved.

But before I look forward to that, let’s revisit the final part of the story where the team tries to evade the forces of darkness in the train station. This created some much-needed tension, although on numerous occasions they all seemed intent on drawing attention to themselves. I noted that Olivia had hold of Michael’s hand right up until the moment he stepped off the train, which he clearly planned to do all along. Windmark seems thrilled that he’s captured the boy, but I’m less convinced that he’s going to like the end result. It’s a strong possibility that Michael’s powers of mental invasion are much more powerful than Windmark’s, and he might find himself an unwilling ally to the cause.

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It’s time to buckle up tight, because the final Fringe is almost upon us, and I’ve got the vibe it’s going to be an epic finale.

Read Billy’s review of the previous episode, Anomoly XB-6783746, here.

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