The Plan is Revealed! Fringe Episode 5.11 “The Boy Must Live” Review
Finally, some action, a bit of humor, and a whole lot of story advancement! Last night’s episode of Fringe jumped right into the tale with one important plot development after another, a welcome change after last week’s painfully slow-moving “Anomaly XB-6783746,” which waited until the last few seconds to provide the revelation that Walter’s friendly Observer pal September is the mysterious Donald. This week, “The Boy Must Live” is off and running in its first few minutes, as Walter enters the sensory deprivation tank in an attempt to retrieve his memories of Donald/September. But oh, that crazy Walter! He’s removed his trunks in order to allow his body to become “as free and open” as his mind. Anna Torv looks delightfully uncomfortable as she delivers Olivia’s dry query, “Are you feeling sufficiently free and open now?” in this rare comedic moment from Olivia’s otherwise angst-ridden season.
The tank session is a success, and Walter is surprisingly chipper and upbeat as the team arrives in New York in search of the apartment where Donald last lived. Peter is baffled by his father’s newly optimistic outlook, until Walter explains that the memories awakened by the touch of Michael, the boy Observer, have given him perspective; he no longer fears turning into his cruel previous self. John Noble does a wonderful job of conveying Walter’s joy at regaining his lost memories (including the entertaining tidbit that Peter dislikes pooping in public toilets), and Joshua Jackson is equally convincing in this sweet familial scene. But there’s no time to dwell on the touching father-son hug … Walter has located Donald’s apartment, and Donald has a lot to tell them!
Michael Cerveris (who charmed us all as the unexpectedly warm Observer September) is looking quite appealingly human as Donald, now sporting fashionable beard stubble along with a full head of attractively graying hair. Donald, who was “punished” by his Observer superiors for sympathizing with the humans by being turned into a human himself, has several bombshells to deliver:
1) The creation of the Observer race began in 2167, when a scientist discovered how to increase intelligence by decreasing the human brain’s capacity for emotion.
2) Donald is Michael’s genetic parent!
3) Michael is a hybrid, possessing both increased intelligence and profound emotional capacity.
4) The Big Plan is to send Michael forward in time, where his existence will demonstrate to the scientists working on human evolution that it isn’t necessary to sacrifice emotion in order to obtain greater intelligence, thus preventing the creation of the Observers and erasing their invasion from human history. BOO YAH!
The hardware obtained by the team so far (following the directions on the ambered videotapes) are parts of the device that will allow them to transport Michael through time. Donald/September also possesses Observer tech (stolen from the future) which will help them complete the device. After hearing this news, Olivia tells Peter that she believes preventing the Observer invasion will mean that their daughter Etta will be returned to them. Peter is obviously affected by this idea, but he can’t allow himself to believe it. There is still much that needs to happen before history can be reset.
Captain Windmark, meanwhile, has traveled to the year 2609 to brief his superiors. He confesses that he is consumed by his desire to destroy the fugitive Fringe team. His commander is unimpressed, asking only “Is there something wrong with you?” Could it be that Windmark is being affected by his close association with our human heroes? (Hate is also an emotion!) When he returns to 2036, Windmark proves he is still obsessed by tracking down September’s apartment, and shows up just moments after September has left with Michael and the Fringe team. Review of surveillance camera footage reveals an image of the team’s minivan, and Windmark sets up a perimeter of blockades to trap them.
Walter accompanies Donald/September to a storage unit to retrieve the Observer tech necessary to build the time travel device. While there, Walter tells Donald that Michael’s touch revealed the memory that in order for the plan to work, Walter must sacrifice himself. (Oh noes!) Donald responds by telling him that the drawing of a white tulip Walter received (in Season 2’s “White Tulip”), which Walter thought was a sign from God, was actually sent by Donald to give Walter hope.
Now that they have the Observer tech, the team must find a way out of New York. Astrid, back at the Harvard lab, taps into the Resistance surveillance camera feeds to help plot an exit route. A tense flight scene follows, with our heroes splitting up to evade the many Observer and Loyalist checkpoints and get to the monorail to make their escape. Just as Peter and Walter are about to rejoin Olivia and Michael on the monorail, Loyalist troops surround the train and begin a sweeping search of each car. The silent Michael, apparently understanding the danger his friends are facing, steps off the train just as the doors close to deliver himself to the Loyalist troops. The episode ends as Captain Windmark, finally face-to-face with this object of his obsession, greets Michael with a chilling “Hello.”
It’s hard to believe next week is the last Fringe we will ever see! Will two hours be enough for our heroes to rescue Michael, successfully execute the time-travel plan, and rewrite history to prevent the Observers’ invasion? There’s only way to find out.
Don’t miss “Liberty/An Enemy of Fate,” the two-hour series finale episode of Fringe, airing Friday, January 18, at 8 PM ET/PT on FOX.