Fringe Review: What Is May Never Be

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If you've been on the Fringe trip with me for the last couple of seasons, you know it's rare that I am left speechless. "Letters Of Transit," however, seems to have taken my words, right along with their letters, and stored them some place inaccessible.

I had the luxury of watching this episode early and still find myself with an intense thought block. Perhaps, like the word Freedom that was wrapped in barbed wire in the credit sequence, the Fringe team has done something to my ability to think.

Walter Gets Disturbing News

The reason I find it so difficult to discuss is I don't know what we were watching. It was obviously one of a million different possible futures. By jumping forward without context, we don't know how this future came to be, only that it was at the cost of civilization as we knew it. Small thing, right? Okay, not really, but amazingly difficult to examine without just recapping the episode. So bear with me folks, as I may fly off on some tangents here.

In this futureverse one thing was for certain, the children of Peter and Olivia did not create the generation of Observers, a thought I have bandied about in this column in the past. They seemed to have gone from having no feelings to being horrid, ugly creatures, both inside and out.

In 2015 they were dragging people out of their houses and killing them in the streets. In 2609 the Observers poisoned the planet and went back in time to claim it as there own. But how did they get to that state of decay in 2609 in the first place? I'll never look at the Observers the same again, will you?

Am I to believe an entire race of people is without women? Did I miss the female Observers or is that why the lugs had to kidnap them from bars? If they did kidnap them from bars to procreate, where the were the diverse Observers? Was I really just so expecting of snow-white, bald-headed, hat-wearing dudes that they were all my mind could pick up? Just wondering, did you have a tough time spotting the Observer in this episode? HA!

To add a little mystery, Etta should have taken after Peter. A straight haired blond girl named Henrietta was too easy to call as the child of our lovebirds. Her eagerness to track down the other Fringe team members once Walter was discovered was a giveaway, as was Simon calling him him her grandfather when they entered the city. Did you note the shout out to Star Wars Episode IV? You can find it in the Fringe quotes section!

As Widmark said, she was always just what she seemed. The cortexiphan didn't give her super powers like her mom, but she did have the ability to hide her feelings from the Observers, and that was as super as you could get in the future. She didn't even need to lie, because they never knew the difference. What I couldn't tell was the relationship between Etta and Nina. I would hope Etta had someone from the old regime left as "family."

Admittedly, with as excited as Etta was to find the other team members who were ambered with Walter, I expected both Olivia and Peter to be encased. To discover William Bell killed Olivia was upsetting, but we've known for a while was meant to die; that she had a child prior to leaving this earth was a nice touch.

I wonder if Peter named Etta Henrietta after the son he would never see, or if the timelines were further altered and this was the original plan all along. After all, in the current time we don't know the status of William Bell but he managed to get ambered with the group. 

Other thoughts:

  • What's the deal with coffee? Unavailable in the alterverse and you eat it but can't drink it in the futureverse. Odd.
  • It was 2036 and they hadn't come up with something better than a flask or a modern day laptop? For shame.
  • Our modern day Fringe team was obviously never surpassed or they wouldn't have been a part of folklore or worthy of Simon giving up his life to save one of them.
  • The piece of amber, once Walter was released, looked like a giant amber Spongebob Squarepants
  • I enjoyed seeing our characters age. Nina looked fabulous in grey hair and dark lipstick. So dramatic!
  • Walter's brain tissue finally came in handy after 40 years. He was cute as hell dancing next to the river though, wasn't he?
  • Observers get drunk off of water? If only it were that easy for the rest of us.
  • I'm glad Henry Ian Cusak (Simon) gave his life up for Peter and not William Bell. That would have been tragic.
  • Will we ever find out what Bell did to Olivia? 
  • I enjoyed the opening credits. One of my favorite parts of the series has been the show's ability to meaningfully adapt those credits as necessary. These were frightening.
  • There was no mention of the alterverse. Just a hint as to whether it survived would have been a nice nod.
  • Did you think this episode served a purpose, or was it just cool to see one of millions of possibilities? I'm torn, myself.

I guess it was nice to know our gang fought as long as they could. Whether they ambered themselves in the hope a different future or were ambered by someone else, I don't know. Once freed, their intent to destroy the Observers remained intact. For three more years the division fights on before the world is upended. It's too bad Fringe won't continue on as long as that to see the story play out in real time. What can I say, I'm a dreamer. 


Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (163 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter and on Google+.


It was a good alt universe epsdioe mainly due to us 1) getting to know alt Broyles. We really don't know much about our Broyles at all. We just see him at work in command but no more. 2) Peter receving a stunning revelation that the real Olivia is stuck in the alt universe. This epsdioe also reminded me of the X-Files epsdioe "Hungry" .where a kid had an insatiable appetite for human organs and he couldn't help it I didn't feel the doctor angle was forced who else would teach the Candyman to mix the formula? Unfortunately to the alt universe it is a war. The amber incidents to them seem like our regular universe attacking them. Wouldn't our side feel the same?


A SHAPESHIFTER!!!!! HOW is he still in charge of Fringe by 2030???
Has he forsaken DRJ and gone 'lightside' on us?
A shifter has done that before i guess, but it was a synthetic not human born.
ALthough, being human, maybe they would be more likely to realize what a total douche DRJ is and turn coat on him?




Anyone else notice the shout-outs to X-Files? From the hashtag (#fightthefuture, the subtitle of the 1998 X-Files movie) to the name "Emily" (Mulder and Scully's daughter), it was pretty fascinating.


Hi guys! The round table will be posted tomorrow. We had fun playing with this one, with such an open story the dialog was endless! Why four stars? I was feeling four at the time. After multiple viewings, I may change my mind, but at the time I wasn't five starred. Part of it is because it as I said, my brain was in turmoil. What to say? What to say?! I've been loving reading the comments. Keep em coming! No, I have no idea if the show is renewed, love the idea of the Easter Egg, and saying that it going straight through 2015 was a long shot was because I believe it's a long shot. That's all. Personally, I could watch it like a soap, ever day! Everyone who is worried that Anna Torv is being mistreated need not worry. A) Even if Olivia would (God Forbid) die, we still have Fauxlivia and B) this story was years into a possible future. As someone said, storyline dictated. We're good!


@TVFanatic - The episode title is "Letters of Transit," referencing the movie, CASABLANCA. Not "Letters In Transit," which just references the postal service. ;-)


A great review to follow such an amazing Fringe episode, probably the best episode aired up to now! I would love to read a "round table" for this particular episode too, please!


I watched this episode 2x's so far and the first time I was just mesmerized with Henry Ian Cusick so I really didn't get the story until the end and I thought there would be a part 2. The episode was interesting as it was a connected but disconnected episode; what the future could turn out to be. As we know September said Olivia has to die but did Bell really kill Olivia or was it a remark made because of all the Cortexiphan tests done on her and continued in a timeline that we can't see? And, was that bullet around Etta's neck the one that killed Olivia? Interesting episode indeed and a nice change of pace from the regular stuff. Seeing so many Observers made me feel like a bunch of Kojak clones were in the house. I expected one of them to suck on a lollipop and say, "Who loves you baby?"!


Haven't watch in a long time, kinda forgot how fantastic this show can be. When they bring the entertainment, best episode ever! Although they took so long for me I couldn't stand the romance novel. Still, Etta and 2036 wow Keepers not Natives... @ CP , Thanks for the review ..
Actually watch the ep after I read some of it. The line that got me intrigued," In 2015 they were dragging people out of their houses and killing them in the streets."


Probably the best episode of the series to date. I would give it 6 stars if I could. It was more like a tiny perfect movie than an episode of a tv show. Really great!

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Fringe Season 4 Episode 19 Quotes

Broyles: Widmark. What did you do up there in the future to get yourself such a crap detail?
Widmark: I like animals.

I'll be a toe on a foot in a grave.