FRINGE Recap: ‘The Human Kind’

December 8, 2012 by  

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.

Other thoughts:

  • 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”?

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Filed under Fringe Recap

Comments

9 Responses to “FRINGE Recap: ‘The Human Kind’”

  1. Donna on December 8th, 2012 12:34 pm

    Even though this season is shortened, it’s following the usual season structure so far. In which the table is set in Episode 1, the rising action of the first arc occurs in Episode 4, and Episode 7 ends on a downbeat, and Episode 8 provides somewhat of a resolution or catharsis though the season’s story is not over yet.

    But now, it appears we’ll be omitting the traditional middle of the season — usually the weakest part, the middle arc — and skipping straight to the final third, which usually starts in earnest with Episode 19 — which will be Episode 9 this year.

    (That said, this year’s Episode 8 doubled as Episode 14/15 which is usually when Peter and Olivia get past whatever romantic obstacle they have each season.)

    So the remaining five episodes should be seen as the usual final rush of Episode 19-22 (yeah, I know that’s only four, but you get the drift). Shit should start getting real pretty soon.

    I liked the episode. I had been iffy about the Jill Scott character because I thought she was going to be some oooley-oo wise woman, but she was just a nice lady who had some insights to share from her psychic gifts. Not a real significant character, but not the annoying “oracle” I thought she’d be.

    As for Walter and Peter, I couldn’t help feeling that Walter’s question about Peter’s level of pain had a double meaning, like Walter realized that Peter was in emotional pain from his terrible loss. Of course, Peter said “There is no pain” and in a way that was part of his reason for inserting the Observer tech, because it took away his unbearable emotional pain.

  2. Donna on December 8th, 2012 12:36 pm

    PS… this episode easily could have been sort of goopy and cliched and ineffective, but the screenplay handled it very well. Olivia’s dialogue had to be more than just “I don’t believe in stuff any more” or “Love is the most important thing,” it had to be both toughly realistic (her talk with Simone) and also lovely (what she said to Peter about their love for Etta transcending space and time).

    On any other show, Olivia’s line about space and time would have seemed cornball, but Fringe has completely earned the right to have its characters speak of these things.

  3. Ray Roberson on December 8th, 2012 12:49 pm

    RE: Walter’s mind

    Point-of-order! Walter’s mind is intact, just a little mixed up from Windmark’s slicing and dicing when he was searching Walter’s mind for “The Plan”.

    Walter’s missing pieces, previously reinserted and then removed by the shapeahifter, were regenerated in 419. That was the original Walter, frozen in amber, willing to cut off Bell’s hand, and so focused on the post-invasion plan to get rid of the invaders.

    Whish seeingly answers Nina’s questions about Walter noticing a change in his bahavior. It’s possible that the scrambled synops are reforming. We may be watching the emergence of the cold-hearted and obsessive Walter – somewhat tempered by his experiences and losses.

    P.S. Good thing Peter was capable of not feeling pain. That incision and the extraction of the tech device would have really hurt. Owwie!

  4. greenerpuddles on December 8th, 2012 2:16 pm

    Peter stands side by side with Olivia in the anomaly department. Who knows what the residual effects of the Observer tech will be. Will Peter retain some of his newly acquired badassery? Speaking of the tech, explaining why the Observers have no emotions was a big answer. Now we just need to find out who made the Observer tech (more than likely Bell), why no Observer women exist, why no Observer babies exist and does expanding one’s cerebral cortex cause full body hair loss?

    Donald better friggin’ show up with cueball soon.

  5. LI Fringe Addict on December 8th, 2012 3:29 pm

    As Ray alludes to earlier, Walter’s more clinical demeanor is because he now has all parts of his brain.
    I think Olivia’s parting conversation with Simone, specifically about the anomalies, is a direct link in episode 5.10, which we now know the title to be “Anomaly XB-6783746″.

  6. Marisa Roffman on December 8th, 2012 3:53 pm

    Yep, I know Walter’s now-alert mindset is due to the brain pieces being put back…doesn’t make it any less alarming! Hopefully Peter will remain his constant, and will keep his father from going too far down the rabbit hole.

    @LI Fringe Addict: I definitely thought of that when Olivia called it an anomaly…I wonder if she’ll be that test number or someone else will be. (Much like the “Subject [insert numbers]” episodes.)

    @greenerpuddles: It’d be fascinating if Peter retained some of his Observer-y skills…it would certainly be useful going forward!

    @Donna: Very interesting point about the arc parallels. I obviously hope the series maintains momentum for the rest of the run.

  7. Z on December 8th, 2012 5:16 pm

    “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.”

    Very true. I can’t get over her face when she took out the bullet. There was such … relief … which only shows how much it means to her. Maybe she feared she wouldn’t be able to get it back.

  8. Zepp on December 10th, 2012 12:17 am

    I found simply fantastic, this dense and thrilling episode 5.08. For me, even if I had three distinct moments of initial support, as the scenes in the lab, between Walter and Astrid, later, Olivia’s trip to catch an electromagnet – I did not understand that this electromagnet – when she met the then Simone, and the fight scenes (excellent), between Peter, the Windmark and his sidekick, this episode is summarized or addressed, in my opinion, to that final scene where Olivia arrives at the terrace, and that old building begins to talk to Peter. That, to me, was a scene of the highest level of artistic interpretation that these two actors staged, thus becoming one of the best in the whole course of Fringe, no doubt. Exchanges physiognomic harsh, robotic, distant from Josh opposite the faces of affliction, worry and love of Anna, was a thing not to forget. Was a acting of these two great actors, just wonderful, emotional, a performance to applaud standing. Bravo to Josh and Anna, for me, you were brilliant!

  9. Lou Sytsma (@OldDarth) on December 10th, 2012 12:54 pm

    Loved the episode. This episode weaved in themes from this season and the entire series into the final scene between Peter and Olivia.

    Especially loved the irony of the cold, dispassionate Windmark giving Peter, Etta’s last thoughts, which then become the emotional catalyst that allows Olivia to reach Peter.

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