Dig Two Graves: Fringe Episode 5.05 ‘An Origin Story’ Review
The momentum of Fringe’s final season continued to build with last Friday’s ‘An Origin Story,’ an intense and emotional episode which combined action and suspense with heartwrenching drama as Peter took a huge risk to strike a devastating blow against the Observers.
As the Fringe team members try to deal with the shock of Etta’s death at the hands of Observer Captain Windmark, the Observers continue their plan to increase the carbon monoxide in the earth’s atmosphere. Huge pieces of technological equipment are being transported from the future through a portal, leaving a wide swath of destruction in their wake. The team receives an unexpected boon when they are contacted by Etta’s resistance colleage Anil (Shaun Smyth). Not only has Anil’s team recovered an apparent shipping manifest in the Observers’ own language, but they have the mysterious cube that was used to open the portal … and along with the cube, a live, captured Observer.
Peter sees a way to cause some serious harm to the Observers by using the cube, although he doesn’t yet know how the mysterious piece of technology works. Walter, Olivia, and Anil all try to tell him this might not be a good idea, but Peter is determined, fueled by his rage over Etta’s death. Anil finally agrees, and turns the cube over to Peter to study … but he gives Peter some advice in his lovely Scottish brogue: “Before going on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”
Back at the Harvard lab, Astrid works on translating the shipping information as Walter develops a theory on how the transport device works. It appears to open a wormhole that connects the future and the present; destroying the portal at our end should cause a black hole which could shut down the transport operation for years. Of course, such mass destruction will require a huge explosion – luckily, the hidden weapons cache that Peter discovered earlier in Etta’s bedroom conveniently contains several of the Observers’ deadly anti-matter canister bombs.
Peter is now a man with a mission. He packs up the cube, determined to extract the information he needs from the captive Observer, but Olivia begs him not to go. Anna Torv’s convincing performance is a complete contrast to Joshua Jackson’s Peter; Although both are obviously grieving, Peter is driven with single-minded purpose while Olivia is fragile and uncertain, barely keeping herself together as she pleads with Peter not to risk himself. John Noble has a lovely turn as well, proving how much he can convey with his face alone as Walter secretly listens to the exchange in wordless anguish.
At the resistance’s lab, Anil’s team has discovered quite a bit about how the Observers operate. He tells Peter “They’re actually not as hardy as you think. Their abilities are aided by tech,” pointing out an implant at the base of the prisoner’s skull (oooh, foreshadowing!). Anil revives the unconscious Observer, and leaves Peter to his grim task.
The scenes depicting Peter and his Observer prisoner are positively chilling, as Joshua Jackson shows us a new side of Peter Bishop: the grief-stricken father bent on vengeance. The contrast between Peter’s rage-driven, deep seated hatred and the Observer’s total lack of emotion is starkly apparent as Peter tries to discover how to assemble and use the cube. The dispassionate Observer calmly refuses to provide information, but Peter is relentless. Ignoring the prisoner’s belittling commentary on humans, Peter studies the dilation and contraction of the Observer’s pupils closely for subconscious clues to help him assemble the cube.
Meanwhile, Walter gives an old videotape of one of Etta’s birthday parties to Olivia. Olivia, understandably, can’t bring herself to watch it. John Noble does an another amazing job in this touching scene, as Walter tries earnestly to convince Olivia how important it is that she watch the video, to remind her of what she and Peter have shared, and continue to share, despite their loss. He tells Olivia, “I have experience with this sort of pain. And you can’t escape it by building walls around your heart, or,” he adds with a sad smile, “by breaking the universe. Or by vengeance. You lost each other once. But you have another chance.” (I’m crying already, and they haven’t even shown the video tape yet. Damn you, John Noble!)
Astrid finally succeeds in finding the time and location of the next shipment from the Observer manifest, and the team intercepts the transport by activating Peter’s assembled cube, opening a portal into which they will launch an anti-matter canister. A tense battle ensues when the Observers figure out what’s happening, but our team is triumphant and the portal is swallowed up by an apparent black hole. Victory! Or not … as they rush away, Olivia sees that the Observers have opened their own portal and the shipment of equipment is continuing as planned. Walter is baffled – the black hole should have disrupted the Observers’ infrastructure for years! What went wrong?
Peter rushes back to the captive Observer, and all his previously pent-up rage is released as he nearly kills the prisoner, demanding to know why the plan didn’t work. The Observer, calm as ever, explains that Peter was incorrect about his pupil dilation theory. What Peter read as affirmation of his actions was actually the Observer’s reaction to seeing a fly land nearby. “You ascribed meaning to something that was not there. You saw what you wanted to see,” he tells Peter blandly, “because that’s what your emotions do. They fool your perceptions as to what is real.” Peter is enraged, but it’s when the Observer mentions Etta that he completely loses control, beating the Observer cruelly and screaming at him “You’re nothing but tech! I would be ten times what you are if I had that tech in my head!” The previous sense of foreshadowing is now an active feeling of dread as we realize what Peter has planned. (Don’t do it, Peter!)
Back at Etta’s house, Olivia finally brings herself to watch the videotape of Etta’s birthday party, and it’s just as big a tearjerker as we expected. In a thoroughly disturbing juxtaposition of scenes, we watch Peter bloodily cutting the implant from the Observer’s neck, killing the Observer in the process, while Olivia watches the touching images of her daughter blowing out candles on her birthday cake with her smiling father. As Peter inserts the implant into the base of his own skull (nooooooooo!!!) we see a very different Peter on Olivia’s video screen, complying with the birthday wish of his little girl as she laughingly urges her father, “Kiss Mommy!”
“Peter, I want you to come home,” a tearful Olivia tells Peter over the phone. “Etta would want us to be together.” But as the episode ends, we wonder if that’s even possible. What exactly has Peter Bishop now become?
‘An Origin Story’ ran Fringe’s audience through the emotional wringer, showcasing some beautiful acting by the cast and leaving us with a burning need to find out more. Will Peter ever return to his former self, or have the rage, grief, and Observer tech destroyed his humanity forever? You’ll have to keep watching Fringe, Friday nights at 9 PM on FOX, to find out.