Monday, October 15, 2012

Fringe 5.03: "The Recordist"

“Definitely not dwarves.”

“The Recordist” definitely wasn’t a bad episode of “Fringe,” but it wasn’t spectacular, either. The guest characters were memorable, which is something that the worst episodes of the series did not manage to achieve. On the other hand, it was kind of boring. There wasn’t a creature of the week for the team to fight (those days are long past, I’m afraid), and the Observers weren’t really a direct threat because the team was out in middle-of-nowhere northwest Pennsylvania. There’s a little Observer/Loyalist related tension, but nothing like the past couple episodes. It felt like we were marking time a bit too much more my taste, considering this is the final season and every moment counts. I got like this during the final season of “Lost,” too. I got rather resentful when episodes took a detour from spending time on the important stuff, because there wasn’t much time left. Thinking about “Across the Sea” still makes me a bit stabby. Thankfully, “The Recordist” was better than “Across the Sea” and actually included the characters we’ve been following for the past four-plus seasons. Hopefully, the season arc will pick up the pace sooner rather than later.

The episode opens in the Harvard lab, where Astrid is once again working the de-ambering laser. There’s another video tape in the amber, and the team is hoping that this one will be the first tape that will have the beginning of the plan to defeat the Observers. Despite Astrid doing a really good job with the laser, the tape is still worse for wear, and the team has a hard time figuring out what they need to do. It’s clear that it’s the third tape (Walter hid the tapes out of order, which really isn’t surprising). It’s also clear that they need to go to very specific coordinates in northwest Pennsylvania. What’s not clear is what they’re supposed to do when they get to the coordinates. Astrid stays behind to try and get more information from the tape while the rest of the team heads towards Lake Erie. When the team gets to the coordinates, they think they see a kid trying to stealthily travel through the forest. Soon they’re met by a whole group of people who seem to have a rather unfortunate skin condition. It’s rather creepy, although we later learn that these folks are harmless.

A man named Edwin, who appears to be the leader of the group, talks to the Fringe team. Something in the environment caused the skin problem. They aren’t sure what exactly, but it’s definitely getting worse. Edwin takes Walter down to a sort of underground lair that is protected by some pretty advanced tech. In the lair, the walls are filled with data cubes. Edwin explains to Walter that he and his father have both taken on the responsibility to record human history since the invasion, because it is inevitable that the Observers will try to rewrite that history. Meanwhile, above ground, Edwin’s son River shows Peter and Olivia the really cool Fringe Division comics that he wrote and drew himself. He’s psyched about having the chance to meet his heroes in real life. Drawings of herself holding Etta as a baby just make Olivia uncomfortable and wistful, though.

Astrid has done some more work on restoring the video tape, and she discovers that the team needs to find something in a mine. Walter asks Edwin about this, and Edwin informs the team that there is indeed a gold mine nearby. While this is going on, the Observers are alerted to the team’s presence in northwest Pennsylvania, and they’re going to send a squad of Loyalists to collect them. Oblivious to this, the team goes to check out the mine. Walter pulls up something attached to a rope, and it turns out to be a dead body with the same scaly skin condition as the rest of the inhabitants of this area, but much more advanced. Walter believes that whatever is causing the condition is more concentrated in the mine, so the team scrubs the search attempt until Walter can do some experiments to find out what is going on. He figures out that there is something corrosive down in the mine, and he figures it is related to the high levels of certain gasses that the Observers are releasing into the atmosphere. It’s basically causing a massive immune response. Edwin interrupts this Walter lecture to say that he found something useful in the records. There’s a record of a guy trying to get some special sort of rock out of the mine. The Observers took him away when they discovered it. The team needs to find the rocks and get out of Dodge, because the skin growths are already starting on them.

Walter wants to make a fancy mental suit that should protect the wearer from the corrosion so that someone can go down in the mine and grab the rocks, and he sends Peter and Olivia back to the band to get materials. While there, they have a heart to heart about the time right after Etta disappeared and why Olivia’s been in a mood all day. She talks about how she always felt like she’d be an inadequate mother and Etta disappearing kind of confirmed those fears. Also, she gave up on the search for Etta because she didn’t want to find her dead. Peter says that they’re family has inexplicably been given a second chance, and she should try to enjoy it. Etta appears outside the van to cut the conversation short and warn her parents that they’ve been tracked by Observers (she was warned by one of her Resistance friends).

When he finds out that the Loyalists are on their way, Edwin wants the team out of the camp immediately. They’ve done too well hiding for too long for it to be ruined now. The team, however, wants Edwin’s help getting some copper they need from a nearby camp. The other camp only trades with people they know, and Edwin has traded with them before. Edwin doesn’t want to help, though, because he doesn’t want to risk being separated from his son. River, for his part, is very disappointed in his dad. He wants his dad to be a hero like in his comic books. Peter takes Edwin aside for a private chat and convinces him to help. Edwin calls the other camp, and things seem a bit fishy. They claim they have no copper to trade. Meanwhile, the Loyalists in their Hummers are closing in on the camp.

River and Edwin have a really sweet conversation about heroes and cowards, and Edwin explains that whether you’re one or the other isn’t so cut and dry. Meanwhile, Astrid has cleaned up more of Walter’s tape, and they now know they’re looking for some sort of crystal in the mine that can be turned into a power source. Edwin gives the team directions to find the copper trading villagers and some machinery schematics to trade for the copper. He says he can’t actually go with them, though. It turns out that the directions are bogus. When Peter and Olivia get to the site, nobody is there. Meanwhile, Edwin has gone to the mine, and the team hears a loud noise emanating from the mine. It turns out that Edwin climbed into the mine unprotected to get the crystals. The team gets the crystals, but Edwin doesn’t survive. River goes into the underground data cube room and begins to take over the duties of recording history. Meanwhile, the team uses a different vehicle (an old station wagon that looks like Walter’s old car) to head back to Boston.

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