Fringe (Fox, Fridays, 9/8C) is the little show that could – empowered by a hardcore fandom that has literally kept it on the air through force of will (and social media). As a result, we have a fifth and final season of thirteen episodes to wrap up one of the most intriguing and unusual shows to ever enjoy a five-season run on network television.
Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11 is not just a title, it’s an important bit of technology – so important that it could be the key to overthrowing the Observer invasion.
The fifth season premiere answers the question of what happened to Olivia (Anna Torv) – and why it did. It also answers the question of why Peter (Joshua Jackson) and Olivia were ambered separately – why Walter (John Noble) is in such distress in the trailers teasing the season. The premiere also features the beginning of a sweet relationship between Walter and Etta.
Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11 has three important arcs: getting the band back together – and how Peter and Olivia’s daughter, Etta (Georgina Haig), figures in that; the situation that causes Walter’s distress, and the introduction of an anti-Observer underground.
Showrunner J.H. Wyman’s script is filled with cool plot points, nifty science and intriguing situations, but as is the norm with Fringe, it’s all about the characters. For every new situation, the importance is how the characters react, what they feel – and how it affects their relationships and resolve.
Directors Jeannot Szwarc and Miguel Sapochnik move the ep along at a more measured pace than usual, creating tension through escalating danger and a score that recalls Bernard Hermann. The 2036 setting is a desperately cold one and the palette is composed of cooler colors – greys, blues, greens. Even the opening credits, with their barbed wire and stony title, add to the gloom.
Though there is sufficient action to keep the ep from feeling too cerebral, once again it’s all about the character beats – and once again, Noble gives a performance that makes a mockery of the Emmys’ continued ignoring of him in the Supporting Actor, Drama category. He makes the ep’s final sequence as powerful a few minutes as we’ve seen on network television.
Sadly, Jasika Nicole’s Astrid is given little more to do than provide some minor exposition and worry about Walter. Hopefully, she will play a more important role in future episodes.
Overall, though, Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11 is a powerful beginning to Fringe’s final season.
Final Grade: B+