The fifth and final season of the TV show Fringe premiered this past weekend and it’s a radical departure from the previous four seasons.
In last season’s episode “Letters Of Transit”, the show deviated from its normal format, which is normally about a federal team that investigated bizarre science phenomena. Instead “Letters Of Transit” jumped ahead to the year 2036 and presented a world taken over by the enigmatic Observers. These unusual, telepathic, bald-headed men in black suits have appeared in every single episode of the show, often in the background unnoticed. It was eventually explained that they were humanity’s descendents from a far future where the Earth had become uninhabitable. This was why they arrived in 2015 and conquered our society as was shown in a dream sequence at the beginning of the fifth-season premiere episode “Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11”.
It seemed as if “Letters Of Transit” might’ve been a special one-off episode but by the end it was clear that many questions were unanswered and there weren’t any resolutions. Clearly Fringe‘s producers intended to continue the story, which was a huge risk because at that time the show was nearly cancelled. Luckily, the gamble paid off and Fringe was renewed to conclude the storyline.
However, from looking at “Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11” it is apparent that the rest of the show will take place in the future. Though the head-spinning cases that the Fringe Team worked on may be gone and their agenda has drastically changed, the beloved characters are still around. Daffy Walter Bishop (John Noble), his son Peter (Joshua Jackson), and FBI Agents Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) and Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole) were kept in suspended animation and thawed out to speak to help save the world from the Observers.
Regarding the Fringe Team, viewers were still treated to its quirky nature and saw new nuances to their characters. Walter Bishop still calls Astrid by various nicknames and continues to be absent minded. Meanwhile, Peter and Olivia wrestle with guilt over not being able to stop the Observer’s invasion back in 2015 and losing their daughter during that time. Now reunited and aided by Peter and Olivia’s grown-up daughter Henrietta (Georgina Haig), the team is forced to work in the dystopic New York underground and come up with a way to defeat the Observers.
The world they come into isn’t brave but new and disturbing. The Observers are everywhere and maintain an iron grip on the world with their advanced technology. Expression and free will are discouraged as humanity is slowly being ground under in a police state. Many aspects of the world (represented by New York City) seem the same but with more advanced technology and a feeling of decay setting into civilization. One startling image was that of New York’s Central Park, which has been paved over and turned into a huge processing plant to pump carbon monoxide into the atmosphere. It turns out our air is too oxygen-rich for the Observers.
It was intriguing to see in these two future episodes how things change in the future. Whereas before, Fringe presented a parallel Earth in some episodes for fans to wonder over that world’s differences from ours, this time we learn about our future. If the Fringe Team manages to defeat the Observers, and they probably will, one can only imagine what will be shown as Fringe concludes. Even though the show now takes place in 2036, hopefully more flashbacks to the modern era will be shown. This bold departure in the show’s format is a bit startling but very welcome and illustrates Fringe‘s dynamic nature.
Lewis T. Grove