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Anything Worth Fighting For Comes With a Cost: Fringe Episode 5.10 “Anomaly XB-6783746 ” Review

By on December 23, 2012

Photo © 2012 Fox Broadcasting Co. CR: Liane Hentscher/FOX

The struggle to protect the child Observer Michael and discover his role in Walter Bishop’s epic plan was the main focus in last night’s intermittently slow episode of Fringe, as we finally discovered the identity of the mysterious Donald, and a dear friend paid the cost of keeping the boy Observer safe.

The further fracturing of Walter’s personality is apparent from the opening scene, when his frustration at Michael’s lack of communication leads him to suggest increasingly drastic methods to gain the needed information from the boy’s brain. Olivia, Peter, and Astrid react with appropriate horror at the idea of putting Michael into a coma or drugging him with LSD, but this week it’s Walter’s turn to lose his humanity. John Noble once again delivers a chilling performance as our formerly lovable Walter hardens before our eyes, moving ever closer to the cruel, single minded man that he used to be.

Luckily for Michael, Olivia has a better idea, and contacts Nina Sharp (Blair Brown) for help. Nina has access to an Observer device that may help reach Michael’s thoughts (without drilling into his skull, thankfully), located in a hidden laboratory of Massive Dynamic’s (which is called a “Black Lab” … woof!) Unfortunately, Captain Windmark discovers Nina’s actions and begins interrogating her staff at the Ministry of Science in an effort to track her down and capture the boy. The task of finding what’s hidden in Michael’s brain then turns into a tense race against time; Nina stays at the lab with Michael, and Walter, Peter, and Olivia must break into the Ministry to retrieve more necessary equipment while Windmark and his men are conducting their witch hunt for rebel sympathizers in the next room. When Nina checks in, Olivia warns her that Windmark is on to her; unfortunately their brief conversation allows the Observers to track Nina’s cellphone signal. Back at the Ministry Nina’s man Hastings makes a valiant attempt to resist interrogation, but Windmark determines that he has helped the fugitives and sets out to make an example out of the poor guy. Walter and Peter locate the equipment in the Ministry’s warehouse (a little too easily, in my opinion) and rush to Hastings’ aid, killing his Observer guards. But it’s too late to stop Windmark, who is already on his way to intercept Nina at the lab.

John Noble plays a conflicted Walter Bishop in Fringe Episode 5.10 (Photo by Liane Hentscher/FOX)

Michael, whose empathic abilities have not been working until now, seems to sense Nina’s distress after her phone call with Olivia. When he touches Nina’s cheek, Nina apparently has some sort of revelation (but whatever it is annoyingly remains a mystery to us, the viewers). Nina quickly finds a hiding place for Michael before Windmark and his men arrive.

In a scene that is entirely too reminiscent of Etta’s showdown with Windmark in “The Bullet That Saved the World” Nina defiantly stands up to Windmark, guarding her thoughts and taunting him with belligerent questions. Windmark reveals that the boy is not a child at all, but a genetic anomaly that was scheduled to be destroyed when he disappeared twenty years earlier (in the Season One episode “Inner Child”). Windmark asks Nina why she isn’t afraid, and she responds with a long speech about the similarities between the evolution of lizards and Observers. As much as I like Nina as a character and Blair Brown as an actress, this monologue was clichéed and unconvincing, and the dramatic music did nothing to improve it. We’ve heard repeatedly this season about Observers’ lack of emotion, and how their inability to feel love makes them weak. It’s all been said before in much more effective scenes. What was obviously meant as an emotional and climactic confrontation instead made me want to hit the fast forward button, which is a shame since it took all the impact out of the actual climax: Knowing that she will be unable to resist Windmark once he unleashes his full mental power, Nina grabs a pistol from one of the Loyalists and shoots herself to keep her mind from being read, a sacrifice that would have been much more moving if it hadn’t been so predictable.

Nina Sharp (Blair Brown) confronts Observer Captain Windmark (Photo by Liane Hentscher/FOX)

The aftermath of Nina’s death is more poignant (if somewhat drawn out). John Noble does a fine job of depicting Walter’s obvious grief, which stands in contrast to the coldness and cruelty that he has been displaying throughout the episode and gives us hope that the Walter we love isn’t all lost.

Michael is recovered from his hiding place, and surprises everyone by crying at the sight of Nina’s body (maybe his empathic ability requires devastating emotion for it to kick in?). Back at the Harvard lab, the team finally sets up the equipment to allow Walter to communicate directly with Michael’s brain. Walter asks Michael if he knows why he is so important to the plan, and the boy responds by removing the equipment, crossing over to Walter and touching his cheek. Walter’s mind is filled with images and memories: Peter’s death, breaking into the alternate universe to steal Peter back, the events of “Inner Child” when the boy Observer first appeared, Etta’s death, Nina, and finally, a familiar looking man (Donald?) who looks even more familiar when we see him with a bald head wearing a hat … it’s our warm and cuddly Observer friend, September! Donald is September! Finally, a solid piece of information, and a bombshell at that. But as satisfying as that reveal was, it took the entire episode to build up to it, and we still don’t know Michael’s role in Walter’s plan. Let’s hope that the pace picks up next week. We’re a long way from finding the rest of the information and implementing the plan, and there are only three episodes left to save the world.

Fringe’s final season continues Friday, January 11 with “The Boy Must Live” on FOX.

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