Episode 11: The Boy Must Live
By: Carlos Uribe
Fringe is a show about a small team of people who are trying to save our world from the Observers.
The Boy Must Live is an exposition-heavy episode that basically answers most questions before asking a few of it's own. It begins with Walter getting an idea of how to find September. He's going to go into the tank and use the clues from his subconscious mind in order to figure out where he lived. It's a nice way to bring the tank into the final season in what will presumably be the final time. This works and they find Donald. They figure out that the device they have been building is a time machine to the point in time where a scientist had discovered he could make humans smarter by giving up the jealousy emotion. This started a trend where every generation would remove negative emotions in order to increase our intellectual capacity. Once this was done, we lost the value for positive emotions and they were the next to go. Having gotten rid of pleasure and love, the human race developed a new way to reproduce and women were effectively replaced. This created the Observers and led to the present point. If the scientist team that had decided to get rid of jealousy in the name of intelligence could be persuaded to go on a different path then maybe history could be changed so that the invasion never happened in the first place.
So how do you set them on a different path? Give them a new way to solve their problem of how to make people smarter. That's where the boy comes in. We knew that this boy was an anomaly but now we learn why. His brain developed differently. He's not just more intelligence than the Observers but he managed to have emotions as well. He's basically a hybrid between humans and the Observers. This is what makes him so special. If they can give him to the scientists to study then maybe they can find a way to make humans more intelligent without compromising our emotions. This is a fine idea but it does involve the potentially gray line of giving them a living sapient creature for the purpose of scientific experimentation. It's a terrible existence for anyone to have their life to be under a microscope with no real free will or ability to live it. On the other hand, not doing it dooms the world to the iron fist of the Observers. The series doesn't really seem interesting in this ethical quandary because it revealed something a much more personal stake.
In order for the plan to succeed, Walter has to sacrifice himself. Going into the future means that Walter might have to kill himself in order to accomplish that goal. It's a selfless task for a man whose entire internal crisis has been that he's afraid he'll turn into a person whose completely selfish due to a large ego. An ego that might have been held back by the Observer child when he touched him and whose memories of his life in the alternative universe seem to be holding back but it's still there. Will Walter have what it takes to sacrifice himself for the good of the world? It should be noted that every character so far has had to make that choice. Peter had to sacrifice his very existence in order to build a bridge between the two universes so that they wouldn't collapse. Olivia had to sacrifice her life so that Bishop couldn't go through with his plan to make his own universe. Now Walter is going to need to step up to the plate. This is the character who ripped apart the fabric of the universe in order to get his son from the alternative universe and this might be his redemption. Whatever the case, it surely adds gravitas to an already serious situation.
Now we know the plan and a large part of the future but we can't implement it just yet. Donald has to get some more materials for the device, which is just a convenient way for the series to stall until the finale. The rest of the characters have to try and escape the area but they're finding this difficult to do. At the last moment, the Observer kid puts an end to a chase before it can properly begin when he gives himself up to the enemy. He's sent to meet with Windmark and the episode ends with a pretty great cliff-hanger. Most of the episode was to explain the plan, the boy's role in it, and Walter's sacrifice. It helps to also transition Walter into the person that he was at the end of the third season but with the experiences of his character factoring into him from the fourth season forward. The narrative momentum almost stalls due to the sheer amount of exposition being provided in the hour but it manages to pick right up at the very end.
In the end, this created a fun penultimate episode that helped to set the personal stakes and what's going to need to happen in order for our heroes to save the day. This is to presumably free the finale from having to answer questions so that it can be more action-oriented before it gives us the final ending. Whatever the case, I'm going to be just as sad to see the series end as I'm excited to see how the plot is going to be resolved. The anticipation is almost killing me. What a fantastic episode to begin the final ride.