FRINGE Recap: ‘The Human Kind’
December 8, 2012 by Marisa Roffman
Despite some of the FRINGE episode titles being super literal this season, I was a little afraid to get too attached to tonight’s title. (“The Human Kind,” in case you missed this post’s headline or any of the other posts I wrote about the show this week.) Was it about Peter’s rapidly deteriorating humanity? Olivia’s fight to save him? Something else entirely?
This episode was an important one. Several times over the past couple of months, Joshua Jackson (Peter) pointed to his character needing to be at a certain place by episode 4 (when Etta died), and then mentioned episode 8, and then the finale. And after watching tonight’s hour, it’s pretty clear why it stuck out in his mind.
For Peter, it was time to make a decision: keep the Observer tech and risk ruining his humanity forever, or take it out and be, well, human. For a man who could so clearly see revenge within his grasp, it wasn’t an easy choice.
A lot went on in the hour, but for me, it came down to three scenes: Walter finding out from Olivia what Peter did; Walter confronting Peter with the realities of his situation; and Olivia trying to reason with Peter on the roof in order for him to embrace his humanity. So let’s talk a bit about those…
Olivia tells Walter about Observer!Peter:
Walter had been so certain that Peter would be his saving grace — that Peter’s mere presence would keep him from morphing back into the man he was before he had his brain pieces removed — I was concerned what the truth of the matter would do to him. If he found out that Peter had willingly risked his humanity to get his revenge, would Walter crumble? (Original timeline!Walter certainly didn’t handle Peter’s rejection well when Peter learned the truth about where he was from, and Walter doesn’t have the luxury to fall apart quite the same way now.)
But Walter surprised me — while Astrid was visibly horrified by Olivia’s news of what Peter did to himself, Walter was calm and almost clinical. Even when Peter called and Walter told him he was frightened, the vulnerability I expected wasn’t quite there.
“I don’t believe you are in control,” Walter told Peter. “Son, you promised me. You said you would be there for me, do you remember? To keep me from slipping. I need you. I’m begging you. Please come back in and let me run some tests.”
The words were vulnerable, no doubt. And John Noble (Walter) did a great job of showing just enough emotion. But this was not the Walter we’ve known for years; that was almost as chilling as Peter rebuffing his father’s plea.
Walter informs Peter the Observer tech could permanently change him:
After Walter tested the Observer tech, he and Astrid realized that in time, the cerebral cortex would become so thick, it would override the part of the brain that controls emotions. And after a knockdown fight with Windmark, Peter finally returned to the lab, so his father could suture his shoulder…which also gave Walter the chance to tell his son what was going on.
Walter: The technology you’ve put inside yourself is in the process of completely reshaping your brain; the areas that relate to emotion are being commandeered to make way for more logical thought –
Peter: Shrinking the nucleus accumbens in my limbic system. Suppressing emotional memory in favor of higher rational thought. Also expanding my cerebral cortex. I know. If you could see what I see, Walter — if you could experience what it feels like to fully harness the potential of the human brain — you, of all people, should know there’s no reason to be afraid.
Walter: Are you also aware the changes will soon be permanent? And if that happens, there is nothing I can do to get you back?
Peter: I’m going to do this. I’m going to shift Windmark’s future so he passes through the square at 7:19 PM. When he does, I’ll know he’s been reset on to the correct path.
Walter: I can’t allow you to do this.
Peter: Don’t you see, Walter? When he passes through the square, she will be avenged.
Walter: We all want Windmark dead. The plan outlined on the tapes is the way to do it. We need you son. I need you.
Peter: I have to go.
As I was watching the scene for the first time, what struck me was how thankful I was for it. Last week — inspired by a throwaway comment I made in my last recap and rewatching entirely too much of the show prior to the 100th episode event — I made a list of things I wanted to see before the series ended. It wasn’t based on spoilers, I don’t need all of these things to happen in order for me to enjoy the final episodes, it was just nerdy musing. But the thing that was most important to me was that whatever happened with Peter and his Observer-y ways, that he have at least one more scene with genuine emotion with his father and his wife. And for as entirely messed up as that Peter and Walter scene was, it tugged at my heart in all the right ways.
This Peter? Not really our Peter. Heck, that Walter wasn’t really our Walter. They were speaking their truths at each other, trying to make the other understand their viewpoint, but not really willing to accept what the other said as an alternative. And yet, there was just enough left of each of them that their vulnerability shone through at the right moments. For as detached as Peter was, his pain over needing to avenge Etta was clear. And for as together as Walter was, Peter’s refusal to back down clearly was silently devastating. Neither man was able to convince the other of their point of view, but for a half a second, there was a connection. And it was something. Heck, during the initial viewing, not knowing if it would be the last time, it was everything.
Olivia tries to convince Peter to return to her:
With Peter hellbent on getting Windmark and Olivia running out of time, she tracked him down to where he was waiting to see if Windmark was on the correct trajectory.
Olivia: Walter told me about Windmark. That he almost killed you.
Peter: I have already turned that to my advantage. See those steps down there? In a few minutes, if everything goes according to plan, Windmark will walk up those steps and past that fountain. Then I will know he’s been reset on the correct path. He does not realize it now, but he will be back on the trajectory I want him on.
Olivia: What trajectory is that?
Peter: The trajectory that leads to his death. He killed our daughter. At exactly 5:12 tomorrow afternoon, I will meet him face-to-face. He will not expect it. He will not have a chance to fight back. At 5:13 I will snap his neck. At 5:14, he will draw his last breath.
Olivia: Peter, I have lost you before over this and I’m not going to let that happen again. Now your thinking is way ahead of mine and I understand that, but the fact that I’m here has nothing to do with anything except feeling. And soon you’re not going to be able to feel anything, not for me, not for Etta.
Peter: When I was fighting Windmark, he showed me Etta’s last thoughts before he shot her. She thought of us. That day in the park, before they invaded. Before everything went wrong. Her last thoughts, they were of us. I will kill him tomorrow. If I remove the tech, I will not be able to do that. Don’t you see?
Olivia: And what if tomorrow is too late? What if that tech becomes permanent? Etta’s not gone, Peter. Windmark didn’t take her.
Peter: Yes, he did.
Olivia: No, he didn’t. She is still here with us.
Peter: She is dead.
Olivia: She saved my life today with the bullet she brought to us. She’s alive inside us, and there’s nothing that Windmark can do about it, because the love that we can share with her now is invulnerable to space and time, even to them. And I know that our hearts are broken and that it hurts, but that’s what makes us human.
Peter: Emotion is our weakness.
Olivia: No, Peter, it’s our strength. Because it’s the one thing they don’t have. And we need to hold on to our connection to Etta, feeling what we felt for her, or she dies all over again. We cannot let her be erased. Peter, Peter, I’m not asking you to abandon her, I’m asking you to hold on to her. You’re not one of them, you’re one of us. I want you to listen to me: I’m not going to lose you again. Peter, look at me. I love you.
And then Peter flashed to the important moments he shared with his wife, his daughter, his family. And he took out the Observer tech.
I think that entire exchange might have been one of my favorite scenes Peter and Olivia have had thus far. Not only was there a lovely parallel to Olivia telling Peter he had to return to our universe in “Over There, Part 2,” (which could have been my projection), but it’s also incredible how much Olivia has grown over the series. I don’t even know if Olivia of last year would have been able to pull off what she did; not only did she open up to her husband about how much she needed him in her life, but she also praised their emotions as a strength. What an incredible arc this character has gone on…and we still have a handful of episodes to go. And good for Peter for doing the right thing; there were a couple of seconds there I was afraid he was going to double down on his decision.
In my recap for “The Bullet That Saved the World,” I was fascinated by Windmark’s curiosity about love being the driving factor for Peter. At the time, I wrote, “We know that love was what brought Peter back into existence, so could that be what ends up giving them the edge over the Observers, ultimately? (You know, with the help of shiny toys to destroy them, too.)” I don’t think anything we’ve seen since then has really taken away from that argument. Peter’s love and grief led him down this path. Ultimately, his love was what made him a good enough man to realize he should be without the tech. And if he, Olivia, and Walter are on the same track for the rest of the series, who knows what else they’ll be able to accomplish.
- Joshua Jackson (Peter) was extraordinary in this Peter-as-an-Observer arc. I’m so glad the writers gave him such strong material to work with in the final season.
- I will miss Peter’s Observer-y fighting skills.
- If Peter knew Windmark would be at Etta’s apartment at a specific time, why not kill him then?
- So heartbreaking that Olivia carries the bullet Etta used to wear (AKA the one that Olivia was shot in the head with at the end of season 4) with her. I loved that minor (but so important) symbol of her own grief, which has largely gone unexplored.
- Olivia killing a guy with a bullet that killed her? That’s like 400 levels of bad-ass.
- The man who came to see the community where they kept the magnet immediately post-invasion sounded like Walter…but my brain was chanting, “Was it Donald?” the entire time.
- If we had more than a 13-episode final season, I would have been intrigued to learn more about Jill Scott’s Simone.
- “You lost your daughter…twice.” – Simone to Olivia. Ouch. (And true.)
- Showing a man his daughter’s dying thoughts? That’s cold even for Windmark. Is it bad that I hope his death is painful and slow?
- Olivia’s episode-ending “I love you” broke my heart in all the best ways.
- This sure feels like the end of Act 2, right?
A bonus highlight:
“Simone, you have a gift. You can see things that other people can’t. I don’t doubt that. But wherever you think this gift came from or whoever you think bestowed it upon you, it’s simply an anomaly. I know that, because I’m an anomaly. I’ve moved things with my mind. I’ve lit things on fire, I’ve caught bullets mid-air. I’ve seen things people only dream about. I’ve seen the seams between universes ripped apart; things that humans shouldn’t see. People make up explanations, assign meaning to things without knowing because it’s reassuring; it’s comforting. I can’t do that, because I know too much. It’s all just numbers. And the invaders, as you call them, they’re just better at math than we are.” — Olivia’s speech to Simone about having abilities broke my heart.
So, what did you think of “The Human Kind”?
Filed under Fringe Recap