Fringe season 5 episode 8 review: The Human Kind

After some disorganised early stories, the final season of Fringe is beginning to take shape. Here's Billy's review...

This review contains spoilers.

5.8 The Human Kind

For most of this season, the emotional separation between Peter and Olivia has been a narrative problem, because it’s always been their relationship that was one of the pillars of the show. But then they had to become distant, to be brought back together, didn’t they? The Human Kind starts with them on entirely disparate and diverse tracks, but by the final scene brings them neatly back together.

Olivia’s mission where she goes to retrieve a giant electromagnet annoyed me in places, because it presented the idea that when people act oddly around you, then it’s probably you who’s the paranoid one. I’m also intensely irritated by people who knowingly smile in a superior way because they have ‘faith’ where others don’t actually feel they need it. I was therefore rather relived that Olivia puts the condescending Simone right by pointing out that there isn’t a great plan to the universe, and the Observers are just better at maths than us.

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Where that whole episode didn’t ring true was when Olivia was hijacked on the return leg, as we’ve seen her take down two men on numerous occasions. I also can’t accept that you can accelerate a bullet using compressed air to the same velocity as it would attain from a cartridge, or even enough to kill someone. An arrow, yes, a bullet, no.

The Peter journey was more focused, and demonstrated that playing the Observers at their own game has its pitfalls. What was really fascinating was the point where Windmark, thinking he’d won, decided to apply some mental agony to Peter before killing him, because he’s a sadist. Showing Peter Etta’s last thoughts ultimately alters Peter’s perception of what he’s doing, and also reveals the underlying thinking behind where this is all going. The Observers will fail because they’ve lost the ability to understand love, and what that can motivate people to do.

Which brings us to the Peter and Olivia unification scene, it was touching and emotional, but I did have a number of nagging questions in my head just after it finished. What it was easy to do was forget how much in love these characters were at one point, as that point in the Fringe story seems remarkably distant now. That she was convincing him not to sacrifice himself to avenge Etta seems true to their characters, and we’re unlikely to find next week that they’re snarling at each other.

What I didn’t follow is why he told her about the images that Windmark showed him from Etta’s last moments, rather than implanting them in her head using the same method? Unless that was a power he hasn’t evolved to use yet. It wasn’t made clear, and it was like someone telling you about an exciting event you witnessed, while having a video on their phone which remains firmly in their pocket.

The other part that I wasn’t sure about was that Peter wasn’t expecting her on the rainy rooftop, as that wasn’t a future he’d seen. I guess the point here is that everything isn’t predictable, and as such, Windmark probably isn’t considering that Peter would remove the tech from his head once he had it, meaning his predictions for Peter’s actions will be off.

The episode leaves us to consider a couple of other critical things, firstly what powers Peter is actually left with. Because presumably the brain isn’t going to just spring back to its original state like Stretch Armstrong, is it? On the upside Peter gets to keep his hair, which must have been a big relief to Joshua Jackson.

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The other obvious question is the true purpose of the magnet? I suspect it will interfere with their Observer tech, but knowing Walter, it might actually be as bizarre as pulling it out of their heads. Remember, this is Fringe, where even the craziest notion can get some mileage here. Dismiss no possibility.

After some weak and disorganised early stories the final season of Fringe is beginning to crystallise rather sweetly, just in time. With only five episodes left, and two more before the triple send-off story starts, I’m already getting misty about this show. Proving that my Observer tech stopped working a while back, damn it. 

I’ve a feeling that the Observers are about to get in touch with their emotional sides, which might not be something they’re prepared to handle.

Read Billy’s review of the previous episode, Five-Twenty-Ten, here.

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