FRINGE Recap: 'The Boy Must Live' - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

FRINGE Recap: ‘The Boy Must Live’

January 11, 2013 by  

As we draw very close to FRINGE’s final hours — the last two episodes of the entire series air next Friday — I’m so glad I’ve had a couple weeks to mull over what went down and what that could possibly mean for the course of the show.

We got a lot of information in “The Boy Must Live”; so much of it felt like it was set up for where the show will — or could — go in the final hours, but that’s to be expected from the first part of a three-part arc. What I want to touch on more is a few of the specific things that stood out to me, but these things need to be addressed before we move forward:

  • Walter went into the sensory deprivation tank and was able to figure out an approximation of September’s former location. Luckily for Team Fringe, he still lived there, and was delighted to see they were still alive.
  • September/Donald is no longer an Observer — his device was removed and he got his name from SINGING IN THE RAIN — but he also hasn’t seemed to age. (Or maybe the addition of hair just makes one seem younger?)
  • Observers are created in a lab thanks to genetic material donations. They were created because it was discovered you could increase cognitive function if you did away with jealousy. Soon, they did away with other emotions to get even more intelligence, until they became the robo-humans we’ve seen over the past few seasons.
  • Michael is September’s son (an anomaly created in the lab), and he stashed him in that time in order to protect him. Michael became vital to the plan, because the intention was to bring him to the future and show the scientists that you don’t have to sacrifice emotions for intelligence — and in theory keep the Observers from ever existing. But because September’s device had been removed, he couldn’t simply bring Michael forward in time…they had to find a way to send him over by building a device.
  • The infamous “the boy must live” line September told Walter after he saved them from Reiden Lake? Not about Peter, but about Michael. Hm…
  • While our team is tasked with protecting Michael, he sacrifices himself to the Observers to help Walter, Peter and Olivia get away. The hour ended with Michael being brought to Windmark…uh oh.

Walter is Original!Walter again

At the end of “Anomaly XB-6783746,” Michael touched Walter and we as viewers saw a flood of scenes from various seasons of the show. When I saw those things, it stirred lovely emotions in my heart, but I also didn’t jump to believe that is actually what Walter was now aware of. (FRINGE has in the past used lovely flashbacks that resonated with our viewing experience that our characters weren’t always aware of, a la Peter in the machine at the end of season 3 and having memories of his childhood meeting with Olivia.) But Walter revealed to Peter that when Michael touched him, he got his memories back from the original timeline:

Walter: “I remembered things. Things I haven’t experienced. I think from the other timeline, before you were erased, before the timeline was reset. I remember when you came to me at St. Claire’s. My first words: ‘I thought you would be fatter.’ I remember the night I was up late making a peanut butter sandwich and you slipped and called me, ‘Dad.’ The feeling of joy that gave me. The feeling of terror when you stepped into the machine and I told you I had never been good at letting you go and you said —
Peter: “‘This time you’re going to have to.'”

Honestly, it’s almost a little embarrassing how emotional I got at that revelation. (My favorite Peter/Walter scene of the entire series.) When Olivia got her original timeline memories back last season, my biggest hope was that Walter would get his back, too. As lovely as the Peter and Olivia relationship is and always has been, the growth Walter and Peter had to go through to get where they were by the end of season 3 was extraordinary. Peter has always had that knowledge, but for Walter to have never experienced that felt like a cheat.

When last season ended — and they jumped forward to the future — it felt like they were going to gloss over the fact that everyone but Peter and Olivia weren’t the two characters we watched in the earlier part of the series and the timeline we originally experienced wasn’t the same. It made sense that they wouldn’t dwell if they weren’t going to change things back, but it still made me a bit sad. And when I was compiling my list of things I wanted from the series before it ended, it felt like Walter becoming Walter wasn’t something that stood a chance; I didn’t think they’d ever do that. I’m so happy we had that scene between him and Peter when he revealed he had his old memories back, because as much as they pretended, things weren’t the same. If we’re going to end our journey with these characters, it was unfair Walter wasn’t really our Walter.

Walter may be heading towards the ultimate sacrifice

Walter may have told Peter the truth about getting his memories back, but he left out one key detail: for the plan to work, he has to die. September confirmed that detail when they were alone, and Walter admitted, “I would be lying if I said I wasn’t frightened.”

And if you think about it, it makes sense. Walter set nearly all of this in motion. His decision to save Peter caused so much pain, so if he could set things right, this man, this Walter, he would. And that was apparently what he indicated to September at the time, too.

“You said you had caused so much unintended damage, you felt this was your chance to make amends,” September said. “You would not have it any other way.”

But will it be his choice? If he tips his hand in the next couple of hours, I can’t imagine Peter will handle the news well.

Windmark wants Team Fringe to pay

The Observers may be sans emotions (in theory), but Windmark chilling hatred for our guys could be troublesome: “I am experiencing something I do not understand. The idea of ending their existence consumes me.”

Or…will that possibly be what helps our guys? If Windmark is crippled by his emotions and not knowing how to handle them, that could be a good thing for us. Or it could make him brutal and ruthless and consumed by a bloodlust. Either way, it seems like he won’t have the support of his fellow Observers.

Will there be a reboot?

We’ve been talking about a reboot for what feel like forever, but for the first time, we got real, in-show proof it might happen. If there are no Observers, none of the events of the entire series will come to pass.

And I mean that literally: if there are no Observers, that means Peter never even comes here, because September never interrupts Walternate’s attempt to find a cure, and he would have seen the formula just needed to be stabilized. Walter would still lose his son. Olivia would never meet Peter. Peter wouldn’t be our Peter. Etta wouldn’t exist, in theory. The team wouldn’t ever come together. Who knows what kind of person Walternate and the alt-universe would be. The entire series is non-existent. All of the relationships and the characters and everything would be gone. And given Peter’s reluctance to be excited with Olivia about the possibility of Etta coming back, I wonder if he’s figured that out, too.

Unless…the reboot is done with these characters still having full knowledge of what they did. It would be a cheat, sure, but if Peter and Olivia were rebooted while knowing of the other and what they shared, it would make sense why they’d be willing to go back and do it all again if they could find a way to be reunited. Or perhaps the ultimate sacrifice of this team will be for them to all lose everything in order to save the world. (How depressing.)

As we look forward to the last two parts of the series finale, I’m very curious about them tipping their hand both on the reboot and that notion that Walter will die to complete this mission. If I was a betting person, both of those outcomes are things I would have placed money on happening before the series ended. But the fact that the show said it upfront? Either they’re lulling us into a sense of false security by indicating they’ll do this when one/both won’t pan out the way they indicate or they’re telling us exactly what they’re going to do and will spend the next two hours playing out the consequences of these decisions. It’s not out of the realm of possibility, since the show did massively tip its hand last season by revealing a lot of their bigger twists in 4×19’s “Letters of Transit” and then the characters caught up to our knowledge in the final hours of the season.

Other thoughts…

  • One of the lines that was immediately recontextualized for me with the reveal that September is Michael’s father? “It must be so hard being a father.” (From season 3’s “The Firefly”) I’m guessing there will be a lot more that we’ll be looking at differently once the series is completed.
  • Nina being touched in the last episode — and her subsequent reaction — makes me wonder if she died knowing all her lives, too.
  • Where is that white tulip? (Loved that being brought back up, but I kind of thought September might point out it wasn’t God that sent the sign, it was a heartbroken man who wanted to die with the woman he loved, but tossed Walter a bone before he let himself go.)
  • Still nothing for Astrid to do.
  • An Observer tapping along to music made me literally laugh out loud.
  • How much is poor Michael picking up on? That kid must be traumatized by now.
  • The series finale title (“An Enemy of Fate”) is just as perplexing now as it has ever been. Which singular force will it be? Walter?

Best Walter quotes of the episode:

“My body needs to be as free and open as my mind so I can find September.”

“Peter, before I met him, I didn’t think it was possible to love you more. But now, knowing what we’ve been through, and everything we’ve had, I do.”

And a bonus exchange:

Peter, indicating the box of materials September is holding: “Is that it?”

September: “You say that as if we’re not carrying technology that could not bend space and time to a Möbius strip.”


Okay guys, what did you think? Do you have any good theories? And are you crushed the show is coming to an end next week?

Filed under Fringe Recap


19 Responses to “FRINGE Recap: ‘The Boy Must Live’”

  1. Kiki on January 11th, 2013 10:32 pm

    “Still nothing for Astrid to do”- still nothing for Olivia to do either. Surprised that they’re leaving her arc to the last 2 episodes.

  2. Karen on January 11th, 2013 11:36 pm

    I guess they named the boy Michael after the actor who plays his father September: Michael Cerveris. Sneaky! 🙂

  3. Marisa Roffman on January 12th, 2013 1:06 am

    @Kiki: Very true. THE PLAN has taken over much of the season, with Peter getting the Observer arc and Walter getting this arc. Hopefully Olivia is properly served in the last two episodes of the series.

  4. Z on January 12th, 2013 2:30 am

    I really – really – don’t want to nitpick by this point, but at least for me, they didn’t have to retcon September’s statement (“The boy is important … he has to live”) to fit the S5 narrative. Peter was important THEN because of his connection to the machine. Michael is important NOW. I think I’ll need to do a rewatch but that sentence could not NOT mean Peter back then.
    I was going to raise an eyebrow, too, to the fact that when September hid Michael in the past to protect him, he placed him underground? But then again he had no real emotions at that time, or maybe he knows the team will find the boy(?).
    But all those points are moot. I’m freaking out about next week, especially after seeing the promo.

  5. Glen on January 12th, 2013 10:17 am

    I don’t get the whole Olivia “getting a storyline” issue. Astrid and also Broyles i get it, Astrid and Broyles haven’t got any arc this season. The story of Fringe started with Walter and i believe it should end with Walter. Without Walter there would be nothing. Olivia was the focus of the past 4 seasons, it’s time for the other characters to get to do something, the show isn’t just about her imo. S4 bored the hell out of me with this whole olivia “finding herself”, i stopped watching until a friend of mine convinced me to watch Letters of transit, and S5 has been amazing so far, giving an arc for each character, it’s not like before, olivia is not solving cases, she’s not an fbi agent anymore, she’s more than that, this last season is a proper emotional send off for everyone. Now that both Olivias will be the last 2 episode, I’m pretty sure, her fans won’t be satisfied either with that.

  6. Fringenos on January 12th, 2013 12:52 pm

    What I’m thinking (posted this on my twitter and somewhere else before)

    “I liked the episode (though it partly felt a bit too “slow”) but I’m not sure if the team’s logic or mine is flawed. I also expected.. well, I don’t know. Some POlivia relief.

    The Writers opened a road that doesn’t seem logical to me, following to this statement: The Observers’ existence isn’t possible.
    Our universes were in a time loop in which red!verse died in 2011 and ours presumably in 2026 or a few years after.
    By causing this time loop, September would have prevented their creation in the 22nd century.
    I always thought that was not the case because I thought the Observers’ future is completely
    “independent” from “us”. Until now.

    Now, they said that we could CHANGE the Observers by changig the creation, right?
    What I thought earlier isn’t applicable anymore. The Observers CHANGE if their past changes.

    Back to the 2026 loop: The moment Walternate saw September, the 22nd century future wasn’t possible anymore. And because of that, the Observers weren’t created and therefore had no possibility to intervene in the first place.

    If we just say “no, that’s fine.. the magical 12 fixed this without existing” (sorry, sarcistic :D) then the next problem is 2036.
    By invading into 2036, they wouldn’t have been created in 21.. (I don’t recall the year, sorry).
    I don’t think the scientist from Norway just said “Ok, there are weird Observers around for over 100 years and rule us. Hey, let’s build something like that..” because (according to September) he invented them and didn’t try to copy them.
    Or was that their actual beginning? MY BRAIN HURTS.
    (Fringe is like this computer virus melting your brain, remember that Fringe case?)

    It all seems like a paradox, which makes no sense to me.
    Can anyone help me out? I’m SURE that I’m getting something wrong. The writers wouldn’t overlook something so important.

    By the way: I don’t like that “the boy is important” wasn’t about Peter. :(“

  7. Dixie on January 12th, 2013 1:15 pm

    The Walter/Peter moment may very well be my favorite moment of the entire series as well. Knowing that Josh and John have that same kind of relationship makes it that much sweeter.

    Up until last night, I was pretty confident that we’d get a happy ending that would soften the blow of losing the show. Now I’m not too sure that’s going to happen, yet I’ll miss the show just as much.

    Can’t say enough about Michael Cerveris! He defined The Observer as a character with his emotionless, yet moving portrayal of September, but his nuanced performance as Donald took my breath away. Say what you will about Fringe, the acting has always been top-notch. BTW, I thought Donald had been aged a bit – a gray tinge to the hair and stubble, a few lines that weren’t in September’s face…

    Loved: Walter in the tank, Peter’s face after the “public restrooms” comment, the music box playing Greensleeves (What child is this?), green green green red, the Observer tapping his foot to the music. Not so much: “The Boy”, although I’ll reserve final judgment until next week; returning to a place I thought we’d already said goodbye to; the idea that Peter & Olivia might not end up together; and knowing that this really is The End.

  8. Kristina on January 12th, 2013 3:03 pm

    “One of the lines that was immediately recontextualized for me with the reveal that September is Michael’s father? “It must be so hard being a father.” (From season 3′s “The Firefly”)” — Yes, I’ve been thinking about that line since it was revealed Donald is September. I had read a theory then that Michael was related to September somehow and this line immediately jumped out at me (mostly because “The Firefly” is one of my favorite episodes and I’ve watched it a bunch of times). Definitely will have to re-watch the series once Season 5 is over.

  9. Scott on January 13th, 2013 4:35 am

    I really miss Olivia and like Marisa said,i hope she will be properly served in the last two episodes of the series.And don’t get me started on poor Astrid.

  10. Donna on January 14th, 2013 11:46 am

    “Unless…the reboot is done with these characters still having full knowledge of what they did. It would be a cheat, sure…”

    I don’t see where they wouldn’t retain full (or at least partial) knowledge, and I don’t see where that would be a cheat. It would be internally consistent with what Fringe has already established in previous seasons, especially Season 4. I mean, Peter was erased, but NOT. Olivia never lived her blue life, yet she DID (because she remembers it). And now Walter too apparently.

    I don’t think you can call something a “cheat” when it is a device that the writers have already used, and the viewers have accepted as being possible within a show’s universe. However, I think the rule of this device is that someone has to be sacrificed (in the case of Season 4, little Henry was the sacrifice), so I’m not optimistic for Walter’s survival.

    In a sense… every TV show we watch and love, is a universe that gets wiped out – yet we still remember it, it comes bleeding through.

  11. Jeff on January 14th, 2013 1:31 pm

    I’m not going to lie. Although I’ve liked this season overall, I disliked that the Reiden Lake scene was no longer seemed to be the central cause of the show.Then when they changed the context of “The boy is important. He has to live” I was even more bummed. I thought it seemed unnecessary and that it minimalized not just Peter but the importance of the Reiden Lake scene even more.

    The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that I was completely wrong on both counts. It actually puts Reiden Lake at the center of not just the alternate universe conflict, but also the Observer conflict.

    My Reasoning:
    I had always assumed that September chose to observe Walternate because Walternate was an idol of his (being that they’re both scientists). Then, when he made the mistake of being seen, he had to save Peter because he became important in the course correction that had to take place. I was wrong about this.

    It’s clear to me now that September chose to observe Walternate at that exact moment for another reason. September had already made the decision (because of his observation and admiration of humans) to donate his DNA to create a new observer. When his “son” became an anomoly that was to be exterminated, September was confused. He knew he should allow the boy to die but he had father-like emotions that he couldn’t explain. He wasn’t sure what to do with these thoughts. This is why he observes Walternate at that exact moment. It’s a moment where someone he respects dedicates his life and is willing to give up everything (his wife, his life) to save his son. September is watching this to learn what he should do with his “son”. But in this moment he’s careless and allows himself to be seen which leads to Walter tossing aside all morals/protocols he has to cross over to save Peter. This moment solidifies in September’s mind that he must do the same for his son. Immediately after talking with Walter, he will steal his “son” and hide him in that building where he knows that he will be safe (low oxygen) and that Walter will find him (empathic abilities). And September also chooses to save Peter for Walter and gives him the line “The boy is important. he has to live” He’s basically asking Walter ‘I saved your son. When the time comes, please work with Peter save mine’. It may seem less than direct, but so were all of Septembers clues. Remember, he doesnt see time or think the way we do. In his mind, he’s going to steal his son and deliver him to Walter in the next 15 minutes or so.

    The other part I was wrong about was that September saved Peter because he was now important. September saves Peter for Walter. Unfortunately, this leads to unforeseen consequences i.e. a war between Universes that results in both universes being destroyed by 2036. For this reason, Peter becomes important and has his “purpose”. September course corrects by guiding Peter to make the right decision in the machine and sacrifice himself which leads us to Season 4 (which is now necessary in context). It also gives us the real reason why he chooses not to erase Peter in season 4. September still cares for Peter, Walter and his “son” and this is the moment where he definitively chooses his emotions over the observers’ goals.

    Now he is fully dedicated to saving his son/humanity and stopping the observers. He guides Peter back to Olivia and tells him that their child is important. Which we quickly find out is true. Etta is the one who finds our Fringe team in amber, awakens them, and inspires them to believe that there is always a better way to win than killing your enemies.

    Which is where we are now. Their plan is not killing every single observer alive. Their plan is actually to help them and make them see that they don’t have to sacrifice emotion. Their plan is to give them back love and humanity.

    Well, that made sense in my head. Hopefully it made sense written down. Sorry it’s so long.

  12. Alia on January 16th, 2013 12:08 am

    Jeff, you are brilliant, and I LOVE how your theory ties everything together.

  13. Emme on January 17th, 2013 2:51 am

    This episode, like so many episodes this season, was so emotional. Both in a gut wrenching way and a joyful, sublte way.
    To watch the next two shows and know that they are the last two fringe episodes ever is so saddening. The only solace I’ve found after watching the trailer for the finale was seeing our old friends from the Alt-verse but that is well eclipsed by the fact that we may lose our beloved Walter to save the world…not to mention all the characters as we know them in this and previous timelines.
    In this episode, when September makes a joke, it was kind of sweet…to see humor reside in someone we’ve always known as a observer. We always knew September was kind but humor was a nice surprise. I wish we knew what Michael and September say to each other…there was so much said in just the look September gave Michael when he saw him for the first time. Is it just me when I say for goodness sake can someone please just give Michael a hug????
    The end was described as “inevitable” by the writers and all clues are pointing to a reset…but I really hope there’s a twist I didn’t see coming that makes everything ok in the end. I’m coming to grips that the show is ending, but I hope I don’t have to mourn the loss of characters, our characters as we know them or the potential for them to eventually be together, when the credits roll.

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