Fringe season 5 episode 3 review: The Recordist

After a reasonable start to season five, Fringe enters something of a holding pattern. Here's Billy's review of The Recordist...

This review contains spoilers.

5.3 The Recordist

When they first revealed the ‘Easter egg hunt’ concept, I wondered if this was really a strong enough idea for the final season of Fringe, and The Recordist pretty much confirmed my worst fears.

The episode was full of many things that really had no bearing on the bigger story, even if the entire purpose of everyone entering the woods was to find the next clue. Where it fell down was the skewed logic that allowed people to live in the woods with amazing archiving technology but the Observers to remain totally unaware of them. That also served to make Walter’s choice to put his clues on easily damageable video tapes seem even dumber, and watching them drop out when they start to make any sense was just plain annoying.

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The only thing that’s really perking my interest at present is that I’m reasonably convinced the person on the tapes isn’t actually Walter, which explains why he doesn’t recall any of what is on them. If it’s Walternate that would be a nice link, but some connections seem to be absent.

In the end, this episode felt like a self-contained story idea with the bigger plot tacked on, where the resolution of getting the red crystals soon erased the grief that came with it. The bigger issue was that not much happened to involve the viewer, the episode boiled down to a series of meetings and discussions in a very processional fashion. 

The make-up for the strange growths, manifestly inspired by well-publicised cases of epidermodysplasia verruciformis, was interesting, but served only to make the forest dwellers seem like alien-of-the-week on an old The Next Generation story.

The ultimate sacrifice was touching, but it appeared to have little or no impact on the Fringe team, who just take their precious rocks and leave for adventures new with a smile on their faces. There’s an underlying tension in regard to Olivia and Peter, which given their circumstances is remarkably poorly timed. If she has an issue she should out it, because at the moment she’s being sulky with no obvious motivation.

Last week, we were left with no linking clue to the tape that was in amber, revealed at the start of this story, and once again we have no link to the first or second tapes. Fringe was once very good at joining the dots, but answering the obvious questions before progressing into the narrative each week seems an inelegant approach at best. My hope is that we can get the video tape hunt over as quickly as possible, because right now, it’s hanging around Fringe like a bad smell.

Next week’s episode is called The Bullet That Saved The World, and I’m really hoping it’s better constructed than this one.

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Read Billy’s review of the previous episode, In Absentia, here.

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