FRINGE 5.04 ‘The Bullet That Saved the World’
Episode Title: "The Bullet That Saved the World"
Writer: Alison Schapker
Director: David Straiton
I had the misfortune of going on twitter last night before “Fringe” aired on the west coast. So, I knew that someone was going to die within the episode, I just didn’t know who.
If you don’t want find out before seeing the episode, then stop reading now. There are definitely huge spoilers ahead…
Going into the episode, I had Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole) and Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick) pegged as the most likely to die here. Poor Astrid hasn’t really had much to do since coming to the future… in fact she seems to have even less to do than in previous seasons! As for Broyles, his absence in the first three episodes of the season was somewhat suspicious. I thought that perhaps Lance Reddick got tired of the old age makeup that he has to wear now.
But I wanted Broyles to come back so we could learn why a man of his integrity would turn on his team and his world. And it turns out that Broyles hasn’t betrayed humanity. He is “the Dove,” the most highly placed resistance member in the Observers’ “native crimes” division.
That was a perfect turn for the character. Unlike his counterpart in the alternate world, Broyles couldn’t be manipulated by a family that he didn’t have. Broyles’ life of solitude helped make the Fringe team into his surrogate family. Thus there was a real emotional connection when Broyles was reunited with Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) and Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson). But no Astrid? Come on, “Fringe” writers! She should have been there for that scene.
For a few minutes, all was right in the Fringeverse. Broyles even gave the team a stockpile of new weapons, including a few antimatter bombs. But then it all went to hell.
While Broyles got out alive, Etta Bishop (Georgina Haig) was not as lucky. Even though Haig was not officially one of the stars of “Fringe,” she was very important to the story and I had already accepted her as a member of the team and the cast. But that’s why this fate was a great choice for her. The last two episodes of “Fringe” badly needed some personal stakes for our lead heroes. And it’s hard to get much higher stakes than the loss of a child, or a grandchild for Walter.
Etta received some particularly good bonding moments with both of her parents in this episode. With Peter, Etta was touched by the lengths he went to in order to give her a replacement chain for the bullet around her neck. And with Olivia as she explained the significance of “The Bullet That Saved The World” to her daughter, since it was the bullet that went through Olivia’s head and spared two universes from collapsing into each other.
This future world belonged to Etta, for better or worse. She was the guide to understanding how our planet had changed and the only thing keeping the Fringe team from getting overwhelmed. Now that Etta is gone, they have no one to help get them through it. The emotional blow from this is also bound to stick with our characters to the very end of the series. We’ve been told that Peter and Olivia drifted apart after they first lost Etta, and that wasn’t nearly as definitive this.
I still feel like Etta’s story hadn’t fully been explored. We never learned how she was raised and who she grew up with. Etta never got revenge for her partner Simon Foster (Henry Ian Cusick), nor did Etta’s relationship with her parents feel like it had run out of steam. But that’s life, messy and unresolved.
If this was Georgina Haig’s final episode, then she went out on a high note. Etta’s farewell scene was particularly effective. The destruction of Etta’s body (and a good number of Observers and Loyalists) may preclude a straight up resurrection, but I think we’ll see her again before the end. My theory is that the Fringe team will somehow undo the Observer’s presence in this timeline and give Peter and Olivia another chance to raise Etta themselves. So, that by the time that 2036 rolls around again, Etta would be alive once again.
Keep in mind, that is just a theory. Maybe the writers of “Fringe” will go with a darker turn of keeping the characters in this screwed up world without giving them much in the way of a happy ending. That would be pretty bleak, but it’s not out of the question.
The whole aspect of Walter’s secret plan on multiple video tapes is getting old very quickly. But I loved the weaponized gas that the team used to make skin (or was it scar tissue?) grow uncontrollably on the Observers and their men. It was brutal and a very “David Robert Jones” type of tactic. But in this world, the team has to become Fringe terrorists in order to survive.
Another great moment was the reveal that Walter had a secret basement in his lab with mementos from all of their Fringe cases; including the Porcupine man’s body! The one memorable thing that Astrid had to do all night was the line where she mentioned that Walter’s secret lab would have given her nightmares.
This episode also went a long way towards making the Observers seem threatening again. Part of me was hoping that Captain Windmark (Michael Kopsa) would get a face full of antimatter after he fatally wounded Etta. But that would have denied Peter and Olivia of their eventual revenge. Windmark is clearly a monster, but he’s slowly starting to understand the love that binds Olivia and the Bishops together. If anyone can use that against the team, it’s Windmark.
Broyles also had some good scenes opposite another Observer which were especially intense once that same Observer had finished interrogating another resistance member. More strikingly, the Observer that Peter encountered in the thrift shop initially seemed like he wanted to be friendly when he gave Peter the chain. But even a relatively friendly Observer casually reads the thoughts of those around him without any regard for their privacy. It’s just another reminder that the team lives in the Observers’ world now. There’s no way to go back in time to fix things and make sure that the Observers never take over.
Or is there?