Episode 7: Five-Twenty-Ten
By: Carlos Uribe
Fringe is a show about a small team of people who are trying to save our world from the Observers.
This episode features the return of the tapes that provide the characters with their weekly mission to retrieve a couple of objects in order to fulfill Walter's plan. The objects this week are a couple of devices that the Observers use to teleport between time and space. They are located at an underground lab that Walter and Bell used to work at. The episode is spent trying to retrieve while continuing to deal with the emotional states of the characters. The tape gives them the location of the lab and how to get in there. The team manages to find the lab without any difficulty but they discover that the building it used to be in has been destroyed. It's now a whole bunch of rubble. The underground lab is beneath concrete and it's not really accessible to them. They have to find a way to remove the remains of the building and hope that the lab is still there. This is where Nina Sharp comes in. Since she works for the Ministry of Science, she has some special technology that could potentially be useful. She doesn't just serve a role in the narrative but to share some pretty great scenes with Walter that help move along his personal arc by a little bit. The special technology she has is a machine that can turn any solid state into gas. This includes any rubble that's in the way of our characters. The problem with this is that any changes in the atmosphere will be noticed by the Observers. This means that they have mere minutes to find the devices they need. That's a problem that is secretly solved by Peter. The overall mission is a success but the characters are finding themselves more emotionally lost than they were at the beginning of the episode.
Let's talk about Walter first. Since the pieces of his brain have been put back in, he's starting to act more and more like his old self. It's worrying him but he has trust in Peter's ability to keep him the same man. Nina is worried as well. She doesn't think that Peter is good enough because she couldn't keep Bell grounded. She loved him and she tried her best but she failed. In a moment where Walter acts like his old self, he harshly tells Nina that the difference was that Bell didn't love him back. This is partly because he wants that to be true. When he finds a picture of Nina in a safe where Bell held what he valued the most, he realizes that he made a mistake. Bell did love Nina. It's just that the love between them was not good enough. He realizes that Peter may not be able to stop him from becoming the man he used to be. He goes to Nina to tell her that not only did Bell love her but that he needs to ensure that he doesn't lose himself. He begs Nina to remove the pieces of the brain that have been put back in there. It might affect his intellect slightly but he doesn't want to be a cold man who fashions himself a god. He doesn't want to drive the people that he cares the most about away from him. That he no longer believes that love is strong enough to contain his ego-centrism is a development in his personal arc. He might be listening to Bowie music that shows he's still his old self but he'll have to be fighting his old self through the rest of the season.
Walter might be worried about losing his humanity but Peter doesn't share those concerns. If anything, Peter is becoming and more like the Observers. He begins the episode by mapping out possibilities that might happen in the future. He uses those possibilities to engineer a scenario where one of Windmark's lieutenants wipes out two other officials. It's a cold and calculated move by Peter with little regard to the cost. The way he's started to think things through and the way that he's started talking are dead are a give-away that the technology he implanted himself with is making him more like a machine than a human. The strongest indicator that he's lost his humanity at the end of the episode is when he tells Olivia the truth because he doesn't feel the need to protect her anymore. He doesn't care what she thinks about this.
This drives her away. She's been feeling a wedge between the two ever since Etta has died. She could at least feel connected with him when he was still grieving but she's been disconnected since he put in that device. She knows that he's been keeping secrets from her and it frustrates her because she has one desire. That desire is to try and keep her relationship with Peter alive. There's a wonderful scene where she talks with Astrid about how Peter isn't getting any sleep. She's so worried about the man that she doesn't even realize he's being less and less of a man everyday. When the episode ends with her finding out the truth and catching him calculate the death of Windmark and you get the sense that she doesn't even know Peter anymore. He might have kept his motivation to avenge his daughter but he is now separate from the person that knew her.
Five-Twenty-Ten is a fantastic Fringe episode. The advancement to executing Walter's plan might not feel like a huge advancement in the plot since we don't know how many tapes are left but Peter and Walter are in a different place by the end of the episode. Walter is worried that love won't be able to ground him while Peter is losing the capacity to love. These last couple Fringe episodes are working so well not because of their narrative but because of the character work that is being done by the show. It is simply so sad that the final season is already half-way over.