Welcome to the latest edition of the Fringe Round Table.
In response to "The Recordist," staffers Sean McKenna, Carla Day, Carissa Pavlica are joined by special guest Annie (@birdandbear) from Fringenuity, as the panel discusses its top moments from the episode...
What was your favorite Walter moment from the episode?
Sean: I know it was pretty minor compared to what was going on in the episode but Walter putting on the sunglasses and smiling, "Now, this is a ride!" He cracks me up.
Annie: I guess this is slightly more applicable to In Absentia, but I saw it in this episode too: I love the way Walter from the tapes is so melodramatically (if not inaccurately) over the top about their importance, and 2036 Walter is just hanging on every word. Watching him watch himself with those big round eyes cracks me up! For this episode...I think, and my interpretation may be off here, but I loved when Walter chose to stay behind with Edwin. It felt to me like Walter chose to stay largely to take the pressure off of his new friend, to make his seeming cowardice less onerous, to Edwin himself and to his son.
Carla: When Walter was building the suit to go into the cave. He was in his Walter-groove, like he was back in his lab years ago.
Carissa: I'm with Sean on this one. When Walter put on those sunglasses, obviously an old pair of women's, and leaned back in the station wagon I thought to myself, THERE'S my Walter!
Thinking back over the past seasons, who do you think was/is the most heroic Fringe team member and why?
Sean: Good question and a tough one because they've truly all contributed greatly and been heroic in different ways. I guess if I had to pick one, I'd say Peter because he always seems so dedicated to saving people and righting wrongs. Of course you could certainly argue any of the other Fringe members, so maybe I'll just say all of them even if that's considered cheating.
Annie: Oooh this is a tough one! There are so many ways to interpret heroism: Olivia's absolute tenacity, and determination to right all the wrongs she finds; Peter's courage, his dedication to his new found family, and to their collective mission, even if protecting them all means his death; Walter's constant struggle with fitting into and helping a world that declared him unfit to freely inhabit it almost four decades ago; Astrid's constant patience, and unending (not to mention unrewarded) selflessness; Broyles being the guy in charge, being the one who has to make ALL the tough decisions, when the whole world hangs in the balance....
I think I'm going to go with Walter. For a man whose mind is literally missing pieces, who occasionally gets lost in Chinatown or has screaming panic attacks over germs, his slowly unfolded story has been truly inspiring. Not only are there times when he's incredibly physically courageous (like when he poisoned himself and went off alone to feed himself to a monster), just about everything he does requires some kind of courage. His memory isn't always reliable, and when it is it's full of horrible things he did long ago. His quirky, Red Vine chewing, mad scientist persona is just the flip side of a much darker coin; Walter was on his way to becoming a very bad man. His quest for knowledge led him to experiment on children, shattering most of their lives, and profoundly damaging one of the people he loves best in the world. So he had his friend remove pieces of his brain to keep himself from becoming a monster. He destroyed his family, his assistant, ripped a hole in the universe - he's been responsible for so much damage to so many people, but he keeps on trying to make it right. He knows he can't make up for the harm he's done, but he's spending his life trying to atone anyway, facing his sins to put down some of the devils he created. To me that's courage.
Carla: Since Peter and Walter have already been mentioned, I'm going to say Olivia. She has survived so much turmoil in her life, yet she has never felt sorry for herself. Instead, she accepts it and then uses it to help others. Like Peter, she has died and is willing to die in order to protect others and save the world.
Carissa: Let's be honest here, it's difficult to follow up Annie's answer. I completely agree with so many of her points, but have to choose Olivia as the ultimate hero. That she doesn't see herself in that light makes her all the more heroic to me. What she suffered as a child at the hands of Walter and William was enough to do anyone in, but as an adult she has also lived other lives. Other than Peter, she's the last remaining person, that we know of, in the world who remembers living in a different timeline. Forced to live as her doppelganger. She has so much to overcome and still she fights for what is right, thinking of herself last. She may have wanted to run away from the idea that her little girl was dead, but she was ambered so quickly she'll never know how long she would have been able to live with that decision. She's my hero.
Were you able to sit still while watching those scabby, tree-bark like people?
Sean: Not really. The concept was interesting as are many of them on this show, but this wasn't my favorite episode and I kinda wanted to ditch the tree people after a while.
Annie: They made me feel kinda itchy...and I did NOT like the bark stuff on Olivia's neck!
Carla: Actually, they didn't bother me. The only concern I had was when both Walter and Olivia showed signs of their condition. Not so much because they would have a new appearance, but that it would hinder their ability to blend in.
Carissa: No. It wa freaking me out. When the showed Edwin's face close up and it looked like the skin was perpetually broken where it was growing really tore me up. I'll hope someday Walter will find a cure.
Will Olivia and Etta be able to form a stronger bond because of what we learned during this episode?
Sean: I think it will take some getting used to especially because they look more like sisters, but for sure their bond is going to get stronger. That little squeeze in the car at the end was great.
Annie: I think so. Olivia has always had some pretty major self-esteem issues. There was this part of her that always felt she didn't deserve her perfect little girl, and giving her daughter up for dead when she wasn't constituted a final and unforgivable "failure." But Etta herself has only admiration for her mom, and Peter told her not to let her guilt get in the way of her second chance. I think Olivia is smart enough to know that he's right, and if she can take his advice and leave the past in the past, I think the lingering awkwardness will dissipate. That squeeze at the end was a really good sign - such a small gesture, but for Olivia, it's like a shout.
Carla: Annie hit it on the head. Olivia is adjusting to this new relationship with more difficulty than Peter, but she has and will continue to grow closer to Etta. Olivia is re-learning to open her heart. She did it once for Peter and she'll do it again for her daughter.
Carissa: Definitely. Olivia had to admit to herself what she did, and admit it to Peter. She didn't need to be forgiven so much as to realize the circumstances of their lives have never lent to making the most obvious or best choice in any given situation. Her greatest fear was that she was being punished for being a mother she was never intended to be and for not appreciating the wonders in her life. Once you say it out loud it's kind of hard to carry on doing the same thing!
Give the episode a grade.
Sean: B-. I love Fringe and I'm glad that the hunt for the tapes is on, but it wasn't the most exciting episode. Of course, I'm always curious about this future that they're in but it seemed like a lot of talking with the tree people. That said, the guy was willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good so you can't fault him on that. Overall it was fine, but an easily forgettable episode.
Annie: B+. Once again, for any other show this would be a top shelf A++++ episode, but for Fringe it was a little lacking in oomph. While I quite enjoyed the episode, and thought the story of Edwin the Recordist was well told, it lacked the pacing and depth of similarly structured episodes such as "Alone in the World" or "One Night in October."
Carla: I really enjoyed this episode. It had a different tone than previous episodes, but it worked to provide a wider view of this new world. Not everyone is living within the Observer rule. There are outsiders and they could become instrumental to the team's success. One set of Walter's plan accomplished, how many more to go?
Carissa: C+. Knowing we are at an end, I have to give weight to that notion. If this was a routine, middle of the season episode that lead to a regular end and renewal after 22 episodes, I would have enjoyed it much more. As it stands, I don't feel we have the time to learn about this new world. The time for story building has passed. The time for closure is here and I want it.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.