FRINGE Recap: 'The Bullet That Saved the World' - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

FRINGE Recap: ‘The Bullet That Saved the World’

October 26, 2012 by  

[Warning: This post contains spoilers for the FRINGE episode, “The Bullet That Saved the World.” If you haven’t seen it yet, go watch it now and then come back to read our recap.]

Warning: I think tonight’s episode of FRINGE put me squarely in level 10 of trauma.

We’ll get to what led up to the end of the episode in a moment, but first…oy vey, FRINGE. Way to break my heart.

I’m guessing a lot of you are shocked/angry/devastated/crushed/frustrated/[insert your emotion here] right now. Killing off Etta? That’s…big. Forgetting the impact she’s had on the 2036 storyline for a moment — and she truly was our eyes for this journey from the start in “Letters of Transit” — but this was Peter and Olivia’s kid.


Before I dive into that (and trust me when I say I have a lot to say about Etta’s death and the impact of that on the show), I want to touch on some of the key moments from “The Bullet That Saved the World”…

Peter and Olivia got a little more bonding time with Etta.

It’s absolutely bittersweet in hindsight, but Etta got lovely moments with both of her parents before her untimely demise. Peter going out of his way to get her a necklace — to replace the one she gave up so they could work on the laser — was so lovely. His “worth every bump and bruise, kiddo” killed me a little, because all this man wanted was to bring a smile to his daughter’s face. In spite of the disaster of an existence outside, his family was whole in that lab, and he wanted to make his daughter happy.

What he didn’t know? The necklace was used to hold a bullet…the bullet that Walter shot in Olivia’s brain in the season 4 finale, which stopped her from accidentally destroying the world. (Thanks for that, William Bell!) Etta told Olivia she found it at their old house on Quincy Street.

“I figured it had to be important or you wouldn’t have kept it,” Etta told her mother. Olivia seemed slightly distressed to know her daughter had been wearing the bullet since she was 13. What kind of childhood could that poor girl have had? But at the very least, we do know Etta has know about who were parents were for at least half of her life.

Etta offered to return the bullet, but Olivia told her she wanted her daughter to have it. “You know, your father used to call this the bullet that saved the world,” she told Etta, before they were interrupted and had to reamber the lab.

Walter’s sentimental (or a pack rat).

You know all those Fringe cases the team investigated pre-Observergeddon? It turns out Walter was actually storing mementos of them in a secret room underneath the lab. “There was a time when we solved Fringe cases,” Walter told the team when he presented them with his loot. “Now I think it’s time we created a few of our own.”

I loved, loved, loved, loved seeing the remains of so many of the beloved past cases below the lab, and I’m really interested to see how they use these past torments as a way to win the fight against the Observers. This time around, the team uses the toxin that was introduced in “Ability,” which causes the eyes, nose, mouth, etc. to be sealed with scar tissue, essentially suffocating the victim to death. (One of the creepiest cases of the first season, at least in my book.) It proved effective at taking out both Observers and their helpers, so I wonder if that will be back in play later in the season, too.

Broyles is back!

After a man in Broyles’ division failed a security test, Broyles was frustrated to learn he wasn’t informed of the possible leak. He watched the interrogation, and immediately tensed when the term “The Dove” was used. When the Observer who was interrogating the mole came in to let him know of his progress, Broyles was immediately on alert, unlocking the holster for his gun and braced for a fight.

Thankfully for Broyles, the Observer was more interested in his past relationship with the former Fringe team…specifically the Harvard lab the team worked out of, which the traitor had a flash of when the name Peter Bishop was mentioned. Broyles downplayed his relationship with the team, and the Observer told him the team was in the lab and he’d be making a report about it.

For me, it seemed fairly obvious from the start of this episode that Broyles was the one assisting Etta (and I don’t think the show really tried to hide it, since he was shown putting a phone away after Etta received the message warning that the lab was no longer safe, he looked fondly at the old photo of Peter and Olivia, etc.), but the moment he actually reunited with the team melted my heart a little bit.

As much as Etta went through — and she went through torture — I can’t imagine what Broyles’ life was like. He knew what the world was like before this. To know that the people who were most equipped to battle were gone? How hopeless his life must have felt…at least until he met Etta in 2031. I loved that he knew she was Olivia’s daughter immediately. I loved that Etta taught Broyles how to block the Observers from reading his thoughts. Even though the reunion might have been a little later than I would have hoped for, it was everything I wanted and more.

The Etta of it all.

In order to get the latest clue from Walter’s tape, the team went to the subway to get the plans that Walter had hidden. With the group working together, they were able to get in and out relatively easy and took down several Observers and their helpers in the process thanks to the skin growth the Fringe device caused. Unfortunately, before one of the men died, he stuck a tracking device on the Fringe team’s car and interrupted the team’s reunion with Broyles.

The Bishop family ran into a warehouse where they split up as they tried to fight the Observers. Windmark caught up with her and tortured her a bit — threw her through glass wall, choked her — before he asked why Peter bought her the necklace. Etta flashed to the day she was separated from her parents in the park.

“Love,” Windmark realized. Etta tried to stab him, and he chastised her: “You never know when to give up.”

And then the bastard shot her. (Olivia’s whispered, “Etta,” from the other side of the warehouse after they heard the gunshot was heartbreaking.)

Peter, Olivia, and Walter ran to Etta’s side, but it was clear she was dying. Olivia was insistent she’d be OK and Peter refused to leave her, but Etta was clear she was going to stay there and they should let her die. To make her point, she activated a bomb on a 60-second timer which couldn’t be deactivated. “You have to leave,” she told her family.

“Etta, I love you so much,” Olivia told her daughter.

“I know,” Etta replied. (If you weren’t teary by now, how did you manage that?)

Then, Peter refused to leave her. Walter got through to his son that they had to go, but good lord, this family is going to be traumatized for a while.

The Observers couldn’t find the Bishop family, and Windmark realized they’d go back for her, due to love. Which, while true, they also got the heck out of dodge. But at least before Etta died, she got to take out a whole bunch of Observers.

“We need to leave,” Walter told Peter, who watched the building where his daughter was housed vanish. “She’s gone, son. We have to go. She’s gone, son.”

And quite frankly, I’m scared. For as angry and as focused as Peter has been at times in this journey, I truly don’t ever think we’ve seen that look on his face. This Peter? Look out EVERYONE.

With that being said, where the heck do they go from here? I don’t mean this in a literal sense, because obviously they’re going to continue on kicking Observer butt (Windmark, after torturing Walter and killing Etta, you better be looking at a violent, painful death before the series ends) and try to save the world.

But the characters? How do they recover? Barring some timeline reversal/leap/change of course we’re not privy to, how in the heck are Peter and Olivia going to recover from this?

This is the very situation Olivia was agonizing over in “The Recordist” (“…when we lost her, it felt like that was my punishment; my punishment for being too conflicted to appreciate her when we had her”), and it has come to pass again. She was able to look her daughter in the eyes and unequivocally tell her she was loved — and Etta said she knew her mother loved her — but she still lost her kid. (I suppose there’s some sort of redemption in that at least Olivia now knows her daughter knows she was loved?)

Peter…I think I’m most concerned about what this is going to do to Peter. He seemingly gave up everything (including his marriage) to try and find Etta in 2015 and was so elated to have his baby girl back in 2036. He was the one reassuring Olivia in the last episode, saying, “I don’t know why it’s happening, but our family got a second chance. So I’m going to take it.” (In hindsight, that scene is massively heartbreaking. It was hopeful and just one episode later the dream was so completely crushed.)

What kind of person will this turn Walter into? He did everything in his power to save any version of Peter, and while I don’t think he’d go to the same lengths for Etta — especially after the consequences of his actions for Peter — seeing his son in that kind of agony won’t be easy.

Of course, that’s also ignoring the fact that Etta’s demise is a massive blow to the future of the world, too. Up until this point, she was their main point of resource — she had the connections, she had the knowledge of how the world works, she could block the Observers, etc. That all died with her. Broyles can only do so much, so when you add in the massively emotional place these guys will be in, they’re kind of screwed.

There is a caveat to this, obviously. The show has never been shy about undoing futures/timelines, etc. The easy out would have the team somehow undoing this act, this moment, this path. I have such incredibly mixed feelings about that being in the mix, because there needs to be stakes. I may be crushed by this, I may be devastated on behalf of Peter and Olivia that they lost their child, I may be so incredibly sad that Etta got such a brief amount of time with her parents after spending the vast majority of her life looking for them, but I also don’t want this pain to be for nothing. It was understandable why they undid the future in “The Day We Died.” I still have mixed feelings about the timeline reset of season 4. So the notion that all/most of this season could be undone is something I’m not entirely sure I’m comfortable with.

Another thing that stood out to me was Windmark’s fascination with “love” being the driving motive for Peter’s actions. 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.)

Other thoughts:

  • The nonchalance of the kid who found an unconscious Peter was a little depressing. These poor, warped children.
  • Is Broyles “The Dove”? Or is it someone else we know?
  • Walter and Peter playing with Fringe-y objects, much to the frustration of Astrid? Delightful.
  • Any of you geniuses able to figure out the physics on Walter’s paper?
  • Joshua Jackson (Peter) and Anna Torv (Olivia) were absolutely incredible. And I’ll certainly miss Georgina Haig (Etta).

Walter says the darndest things:

  • On Astrid’s getting the tapes out of amber: “Fast as a snail. At this rate, we will save the world in another 21 years…and you know how old that will make me? I don’t want to even do that math.”
  • On the hiding place of the latest bit of the plan, which was a location he loved as a kid: “…I thought the subway platform would be the safest place to hide them because it was underground.” Off of everyone’s look: “I was ten!”
  • “You electrocuted me.”
  • “This is Greek to me, except I read Greek. This is Aramaic to me. Not the Western dialect.”

Exchange of the night:

Olivia (to Astrid, about Walter’s collection of Fringe items): “You really had no idea he was doing this?”

Astrid: “I wouldn’t have slept at night if I did.”

And while tonight’s episode was utterly depressing, I want to leave you with two things: 1) I spoke with Georgina Haig (Etta) about her time on the show and Etta’s death, so you may want to check that out; 2) what FRINGE showrunner J.H. Wyman had to say about crafing the final hours of the series:

“The only place to wind up is what would move me and what would I want as a closer? If I invested four years of my life in these characters that I’ve grown to love and be interested in and dedicated so much effort into paying attention and following, what would I want? And once I asked myself those real questions, it became clear. And that answer for me was I want the truth, I want to feel like FRINGE made sense, I want to feel that my characters have evolved in a place that they deserve. Maybe unexpected, but I would feel satiated that logically they came to a conclusion that makes me feel satisfied. And most importantly, I wanted to sit down and after I finish watching the [series] finale of my favorite show, I would want to feel like, that was an experience and I cannot believe that stuff is over. I can imagine where my characters going in the future. The hopefulness, I’m very interested in. I feel like that’s what we need. It’s really messy out there, but the truth is there’s a lot to be celebrated and we have to focus on hope. So I just want people to feel, that was satisfying. Of course, right from there I went into what’s the key to that: the emotional relationships. For me, it always has been.”

So, we have only a handful of episodes left. Nine hours. How and the heck is this going to end?

And who else needs a massive hug and like 400 pounds of Red Vines?

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Filed under Fringe Recap


8 Responses to “FRINGE Recap: ‘The Bullet That Saved the World’”

  1. scout on October 27th, 2012 8:24 am

    Marissa-excellent summary. I have feared that Etta would die-lots of foreshadowing to that– but am surprised that it happened so soon in this last story arc. It was a powerful and emotional moment.
    Losing Etta drove Peter and Olivia apart so perhaps her death will bring them together again.
    Yes, it would be a cheat and in some ways a disservice to this powerful moment to travel back in time to bring Etta back. I don’t see that.

    I don’t know what will happen but at it’s core this is a story about love and family. The love of a father for his son,the love of a man and woman who are soulmates through time and space and now the love of parents for their child.

    As you note- we will see the dark side of love and loss with Peter but in the end one hopes that it is that uniquely human and for the OBSERVERS, the inexplicable power of love that will triumph.

    BTW–I miss Nina.

  2. Ray Roberson on October 27th, 2012 11:01 am

    Anyone who has lost a child – or had to put down a beloved pet (as I) – could not have been affected by Etta’s death. I personally could not sleep until I had a hard, hard cry.

    But, after the crying, comes peace, anger, rage, or focus – or all of these. I believe that Widmark has just set in motion something that will close out the season. Getting there will be 9 more hours of growing intensity, like a runaway train down a 5 mile track with a massive impact at the bottow.

    I recall Peter hunting down the shapeshifters. I remember Olivia killing by telepathy. Peter’s smarts and ingenuity – combined with Olivia’s determined focus – creates an awfully strong force.

    (Hmmm, Does Walter still have a batch of cortexapham hidden away?)

  3. greenerpuddles on October 27th, 2012 6:52 pm

    I don’t think Walter and September would have committed that many equations to paper if they were building something just to destroy the Observers. I think they were building something to wipe any traces of the Observers existence off the universe. If the Observers never existed, just as for awhile Peter never existed, Etta would still be alive. Peter came back because of love. Observers don’t love, therefore they’ll never be back, and Olivia and Peter will enjoy the life they deserve.

  4. Lorna Youngs on October 27th, 2012 10:04 pm

    my question is: is Peter even alive? In one scene it’s night and he’s absorbing an explosion in an underground tunnel and the next moment he’s outside and it is daytime. And why wasn’t anyone back at the lab wondering where Peter’s been?

  5. Zepp on October 28th, 2012 1:59 pm

    I like a lot of your reviews about Fringe Marisa, thank you. I personally do not feel very upset, tearful or even bothered with this untimely death of Etta, and yes, I feel resigned. From 4:19 to see the episode Etta, like, a character “posterior”, all that is now being counted on Fringe. I would say that Etta, would in my view, a kind of hero for the realization of a – hypothetical – Fringe II. From this, I have a strong feeling that everything must end in “Present,” and not in “Future” that is there. I predict an end to Fringe, with familiar scenes in socializing with the couple, Peter and Olivia, accompanied by their daughter Etta, Walter, Astrid, Broyles, Gene, and so on. So to me, Etta died in a future that, somehow, will not happen, because everything will – for me – finished in the immediate future (2014-15), with the lives of everyone, yet to be lived. So I think.

    But with respect to that scene where Peter, after a powerful explosion wakes up outside a building, as if out of a drainpipe, and soon after a boy appears and talks to him, seems to be a “remake “of the series Alias, JJ Abrams’s. That scene in Alias, Sydney Bristow agent was swooning near a drainpipe, is awakened by a boy, who speaks only Portuguese, and she tries to ask the time, a kind Portuguese, with English accent. I really liked this “repetition” of the scene. I see it all as if it were a kind of signature of author, JJ Abrams.

  6. JaniceLG on October 28th, 2012 10:18 pm

    Hi Marisa,

    Again, great review. Just few things after digesting this episode over the last few days.

    -The Basement. Such a great idea. Brought back great memories.
    -The Broyles Scene. Perfect reunion. Broyles protected Etta, Etta lead Broyles to the resistance.
    -The Warehouse Scene. Georgina Haig was nothing short of billiant. As I re-watch that scene, the guttural sound/yelp she makes after trying to stab Windmark is just brutal. Windmark shooting her, so cold. Olivia visably shaking as she frantically struggled to help her child, heart breaking. Peter saying “No, no, no, not again, no, not again”, so painful.

    Regardless of why they decided to do this so early or at all, can be debated. But it was tough for those who are so invested in these characters and relationships. The scene was writen really well (Alison Schapker all by herself this time), visually great, the music again spot on and the acting phenomenal.

    Do I think that killing off Etta (or any loved character) was brave by the Showrunner? Kind of, but to do it in the way they did it, absolutely.

    And based on the 30 second promo, our team has changed and 505 will be just as hard for the fans.

  7. JaniceLG on October 29th, 2012 10:50 am

    Oh, one more thing. I hear a bunch of complaints about “resetting” which has only happened once with double impact (erased 2026 when Liv was killed and then reset the timeline [Amberverse]).

    If they don’t reset to either 2015 or maybe when Etta is in Mom’s belly, where do they go? I seems obvious and for me satisfying to see the park scene again. Just struggling to see how this ends. I should just be patient.

  8. Marisa Roffman on October 29th, 2012 1:52 pm

    @Lorna: That’s an interesting question. I was thinking more along the line that something had happened to him (some sort of injury we might not be privy to until later, etc.), but him being dead — or things not totally being what we thought — could be plausible, I suppose.

    @scout: I miss Nina, too!

    @JaniceLG: Yeah, even listening to Etta’s death is brutal. Georgina was fantastic. As for the reset exhaustion, yes, they only did it technically once (with two separate reactions), but it took a while for it to be revealed that the timeline reset would stick. I think up until “A Short Story About Love,” some fans were thinking/hoping we’d go back to the blueverse. At this point in time, we really don’t know a lot about how much of seasons 1-3 is still canon…so to undo more of what we know for fact could be a tricky thing to sell to fans. Right now, the obvious choice is another timeline reset, but as much as I emotionally hate what happened to Etta, I’m cautious of how that could work and still feel like it was satisfying. So I’m willing to wait and see how it plays out.