Sunday, January 20, 2013

Fringe 5.11: "The Boy Must Live"

“When we devised the plan to stop the invasion, you didn’t think we could succeed. You doubted yourself. I knew the tulip would give you strength as it had before. It was your symbol of hope and absolution. It gave you the courage to push on.”

If the last few episodes of “Fringe” have been a slowing down of the story, “The Boy Must Live” was a complete, grinding halt. The redeeming factor, though, was the always talented Michael Ceveris as Donald/September. Ceveris’ expert, Broadway-trained delivery made the massive amount of exposition in this episode at all watchable. This was, really, “Fringe’s” “Across the Sea,” the episode where the mythology is explained and the major questions are answered. It didn’t make me nearly as angry as its “Lost” counterpart, because we still spent the hour with the characters we know and care about the most – Walter, Peter, and Olivia. Even September, though he had a bigger role in this episode than usual, has been a presence in the show since it’s early days. What upset me about “Across the Sea” was that it was an hour near the end of the series spent with characters we barely knew, and definitely not the characters we would be missing once the show finally left the airwaves. As a non-rage inducing method of explaining some of the crucial points of the show’s mythology, “The Boy Must Live” was a success.

The episode opens with the team pretty much trying to figure out what to do with the information that the infamous Donald, helper of Walter some twenty some odd years ago, is actually September, albeit a version of September who looks human. Walter has an idea that is not unfamiliar to “Fringe” fans, and is probably a shout-out to the pilot. Walter, by the way, seems to have been magically healed by Michael’s touch in the last episode. I guess he’s no longer in danger of becoming Walternate. Walter gets into the infamous tank, ditches his boxers so he can feel “free” (kinda gross), and starts the hallucination/memory recall process. Walter focuses in on the image he remembers of Donald and tries to look for clues about where Donald might be. Walter sees New York skyline and the Williamsburg Bridge, and the team immediately knows exactly where to look for Donald. So they are on their way to New York yet again.

The team finds Donald/September exactly where they predicted, and he looks exactly the same as he did in Walter’s vision. He knows who everyone is right away, and he invites them inside his apartment. Much of the rest of the episode is the exposition I referred to earlier. We learn quite a lot about the background of the Observers generally and Michael specifically. The creation of the Observers all started when someone figured out that we could replace certain emotions with increased intelligence in the brain. Humans start doing away with the negative emotions first, like aggression, but then they just keep going farther and farther with it until virtually no emotion is left at all. Everything in the life of the Observers is planned to precision, because their hyperintelligence can’t abide disorder. They even reproduce asexually.

The very human-looking being we now see as Donald, surprisingly, isn’t in a pre-September state but a post-September state. His punishment for disobeying the Observers was to be made human. As in they ripped out the tech in his head. What made September so disobedient was, in fact, Michael. Michael is September’s son (he was the supplier of the genetic material that created Michael), and when he saw how early 21st Century humans cared for their offspring, it stirred some paternal instinct in September. So, understandably, Septeber had to keep the rest of the Observers from destroying Michael for being “defective.” September believes that Michael is essentially another step in evolution. He has Observer supersmarts and such, but he also has the ability to feel emotions. September thinks that if they send Michael to the scientists who were first experimenting with replacing emotions with intelligence, it will show those scientists that there is another way. Oh, and the upshot of all this is that when September said “the boy is important,” way back at Reiden Lake, he was talking about Michael, not Peter. So Peter’s not at all special, apparently. I don’t know why I find that so amusing, but I do.

Everybody has different reactions to September’s plan, really. Olivia and Peter have a chat about how it might mean they’ll get Etta back. Strangely, Olivia seems much more hopeful an excited about this than Peter does. I guess maybe Peter worked out all his Etta’s death rage issues during his brief stint as a semi-Observer himself. Walter, meanwhile, has a chat with September. He tells September that when Michael touched him and gave him memories of the original timeline, he also gave Walter an understanding that for this plan to work, he would have to sacrifice himself. September confirms that this is the case, and he tells Walter that when they were developing the plan, Walter had been insistent on being he sacrifice to atone for his past sins. September even breaks out the envelope that once held the infamous White Tulip.

Anyway, while all this has been going on, Windmark has been doing his own investigation. The Fringe team getting the better of him has really begun to piss him off. Yep, they’ve irritated him so much that he’s actually starting to feel emotions. He goes to the facility where Michael was grown, and he finds out that September was Michael’s father and also a friend to the Fringe team. September had a chip implanted in him, so Windmark immediately tries to track that. Windmark is determined to catch the team even though his superior has told him that they are insignificant in the grand scheme of things. When Windmark and the other Observers arrive at September’s apartment, however, they see that he’s cut the tracking chip out of his head, and he and the Fringe team are long gone. Windmark and the other Observers start scouring the place for clues, and there’s a funny little vignette where Windmark turns on some of September’s jazz music and one of the other Observers starts tapping his foot to it. The actual Fringe team is at a warehouse nearby, where September has stashed some tech that they’re going to need to send Michael into the future. A bomb automatically goes off in September’s apartment, but the Observers manage to zoop out of there and to safety down on the street.

The Observers begin (with the help of Loyalists, of course,) to cordon off the area around September’s apartment. The Fringe team is still close enough to the apartment that they find themselves surrounded. The team splits up, with Peter and Water together and Olivia and Michael together. September leaves the group, saying he has some other things to prepare before the plan can be set into motion. Everyone is trying to head for the monorail, which seems like a kind of dumb move considering Observers and Loyalists are reaching the monorail car by car. They’re all very close to being caught when Michael decides to step off the train and just stand on the platform. Of course, the Observers swarm around him pretty quickly, and they instantly realize who he is. All Windmark says to him is “Hello,” while being all creepy and snake-like.

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