By Katelyn Barnes:
For an episode that leads into a three hour finale, “Anomaly XB-6783746”, was a remarkably philosophical episode. There are no major advancements in plot. We come no closer to finding out what the plan is, why Etta was important to the plan, or why it’s Walter who has all the clues. Instead, we spend the episode considering the differences between humans and Observers.
We know that Observers began as humans, who, in a distant future, implanted tech into their brains to increase their knowledge, which, in turn, decreased their ability to feel emotion. We know that the Observers have taken over so that they can implement order in this time. We know that resistance fighters have been battling Observers for over twenty years, stealing their tech, studying captured Observers and working to advance their own technology in order to win the battle. When the Fringe team wakens, this, too, is their primary objective. They have spent the last nine episodes running all over the East Coast, looking for the pieces of Walter’s plan, one they assume, will reveal the ultimate weapon.
Peter, fed up with the pace of the search (you and me both, buddy) implants Observer tech into his brain. Though he gains a momentary tactical advantage, he begins to lose himself. One reptilian tilt of his head and you know it’s almost over for Peter Bishop.
This, then, is the question of this series, and this episode in particular, “What wins the battle, technology or humanity?”
At the start of the episode, Peter realizes that Michael, the Observer Child we first met in Series One’s “Inner Child,” has no tech at the base of his skull, never has. This would be fine, of course, if Michael could speak, or give any indication as to why he is so important to Walter’s plan. Alas, he cannot. The Fringe team immediately calls Nina Sharp.
“I’m nothing if not a resource to you.” These are Nina’s words after Olivia calls to ask if she has some kind of technology that can help them communicate with Michael.
Nina tells the Team to bring the child to a former Massive Dynamic Black Lab, now used by the resistance for testing captured Observers. There, they will use an Electric Cognitive Translator or ECOG, to read Michael’s thoughts. The Fringe team heads to the lab, unaware that Windmark and his team have figured out that it was Nina who supplied the Sublimation Unit.
When Nina and the Fringe Team realize that the ECOG won’t work on Michael and that his thoughts can only communicated directly with another mind, the Fringe Team heads to the archives to find another ECOG halo.
And wouldn’t you know it? That’s exactly where Windmark and his team are torturing Dr. Hastings, the archivist, for information on the whereabouts of Nina and the three fugitives. The Fringe team attempts to stop Windmark, but it is too late. Nina has been traced to the Black Lab.
Olivia calls Nina to warn her. Nina fights back tears but is resigned to the fate she sees before her. She tells Michael that it will be alright, it will be fine. Michael walks up to her and puts his hand on her cheek, immediately transferring a wealth of information to her mind. She looks up, breathless with surprise, before rushing to hide him.
When Windmark and his team arrive at the lab, Nina is waiting calmly for them. She asks Windmark why the Observer Child worries him so much, he says the child is not important, he is a chromosomal mistake, Anomaly XB-6783746, he was supposed to be erased but disappeared. Windmark says that the child was “quite a mystery” in his own time.
The loyalists look all over for the child and find nothing. Windmark surveys the lab. Pulling a sheet from an incubator, he sees a dead Observer inside.
“You animals,” he says, without anger, merely as a factual statement. Windmark, of course, would find no correlation between the testing done on captured Observers and the testing done on captured resistance fighters. (Poor Desmond!)
Nina looks at Windmark and smiles. She asks him if he knows why Observers tilt their heads. “It changes the angle at which sound waves hit the ear drum, allowing in more stimuli. Like a lizard.” BURN!
She keeps firing. She says that while the Observers have increased their ability to absorb knowledge, they have lost all that makes them human, to appreciate beauty, to bond, to feel love. “For all your years of evolution, you inadvertently redeveloped and honed primitive instincts that we moved beyond, long ago. So in reality, you’re the animal.” And then, Nina fires again. This time, it is a bullet, to her brain.
When the Fringe team arrives at the lab and sees Nina dead in her wheelchair, Walter falls apart. This is a relief, considering his increasingly “Walter That Was” behavior throughout the episode. He seems, at this moment, to be the Walter we know and love. He is not concerned with the plan, only Nina and the safety of Michael.
At the end of the episode, the Fringe team and Michael are at the Harvard lab. Walter and Michael are attempting to communicate with the halos. Though Michael can answer yes or no questions, the halos do not make his importance to the plan any clearer.
Finally, Michael removes his halo and walks up to Walter. He puts his hand on Walter’s cheek. We are treated to a flash of Walter’s experiences through the years. Whereas, last episode, his flashbacks concerned Walter That Was and his God complex, these flashes are of the Walter we know, Walter with Peter, with Olivia, with Etta, with Michael.
And with September. Suddenly, there are flashes of September’s life. Then, in the last moment, we see a human man, a human man with red hair and a kind smile. This is the human man who was or would be September.
“I know who Donald is,” says Walter. “It’s September.” Credits roll.
Did Donald become September at the beginning of the resistance? Did Donald manage to hold onto his humanity as September long enough to guard Walter through the years, guaranteeing that Walter would be able to use the plan to defeat the Observers? And why was September sure that Etta was important? Will someone please tell me why we were supposed to care about Etta?
The bumper promo promises that January’s three hour finale will give us all the answers. Excuse me while I pound energy drinks and tear through the past four series, looking for clues.