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Fringe: In Absentia

“They’ll pay for what they’ve done. I promise.”

And here we go! Last week, I wondered where we were headed—and if that was even the right question. Now the shape of the next few episodes, if not most of the season, is clearer. We have quest objects; we shall have a quest. In a convenient bit of storytelling, Walter has set up a scavenger hunt for the secret to defeating the Observers. Of course, that’s not the only goal of the quest…

Family connections are. This week, we saw the flashback from Olivia’s perspective, but it’s just as disorienting: happiness, fear, then a flash of white that appears to cut off consciousness. Is that just because Olivia was dreaming? Or did she and Peter both experience a white-out, forgetting what had happened to them and, more importantly, to Etta?

What happened to Etta, details aside, is that she grew up hard. Her willingness to torture Gael says a lot about her, but also a lot about what is at stake in this war. I’m not on Team Torture, but I’d also be willing to go pretty far to save humanity from an evil inhuman invasion. Would I torture a turncoat? Would you?

Olivia’s pity was both for Etta’s callowness and for the situation that led to that callowness. For all of humankind, if you will—everyone forced to make choices between morality and pragmatism, safety and honor. Olivia’s compassion made Etta choose to let Gael go. But again I have to ask: would you have done the same? It’s the old moral dilemma about the needs of the many and the needs of the few. I’m curious to see if Gael pops up again, as a double-agent for the Resistance or as a narc for the Observers.

It’ll say something interesting about Fringe’s view of human nature either way, as will the way the deal with the complexity of Peter and Olivia getting to know the daughter they didn’t have a chance to raise. That plot, which is similar to one on another currently-running show I really like (I’m being vague to avoid spoilers), is horrifying and hopeful at the same time. Olivia and Peter have missed so much: the first book report, the first softball game, the prom. But they have regained what they thought they lost, and Etta is a phenomenal young woman, even if some of her actions are a bit ambiguous. (How awful would it have been if she’d turned out to be a Loyalist?)

There’s more to this show than family relationships, though. The freaky atom-disturbing Age-O-Matic was just second-gen Observer tech—their current tech is, of course, much techier. Hopefully Walter can figure out a way to use it against the Observers. Because, despite the quest objects and Betamax video guides, the situation looks really, really grim.


• Peter: “So far we know that, at some point in the past, Walter knew both Portuguese and Swedish.”
• Walter: “That’s not a problem for someone who’s done acid.”

• Walter: “When did I switch to grape?”

• Walter: “It should be me.”

• Olivia: “I’ve been around a lot longer than you may think.”

• Yes, that was Henry Ian Cusick’s detached head. And yet I am still holding out hope that his character will return. (And if they got Simon, does that mean they got William Bell? Well, all of him but that one hand?)

• I loved Astrid and Walter having fun with the laser.

Four out of four freeze-dried pigeons. Better than egg sticks!

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)


  1. Yahtzee!

    Loved this one more than the first one.

    (In Old Darth's review on http://www.fringetelevision.com/, he pointed out the Lost riffs. Being "fresh" to that show, the scene when Walter and Peter opened the tunnel made me....gasp) (wow)

    I love J.J. Abrams' mind more and more.

  2. I thought Ms. Torv was just wonderful in this ep. All the emotions in her face, and the restraint she keeps showing as she gets to know Etta. Very well done. I also think the actress playing Etta is doing a great job - very believable, not over the top.

  3. Please, please, PLEASE let there be some way for Simon's head to be reattached to his body and him not be dead! ;o(

    The looks of Olivia's face spoke volumes in this episode!!! Bravo Torv!

  4. The dynamics of the actors in this series is fantastic!

    Anna Torv most especially, whose eyes alone convey a lot of emotion.

    Olivia's compassion is the bind that holds Etta grounded and sane inspite of everything that's going on in their world.

    I love that however high strung Etta feels toward situations, her respect and love for her parents still comes on top.

    Of course, I love Walter, lost memories or not, his pants are still often lost. he-he-he.

    Good review, Josie, as always.

  5. I was both horrified by and appreciative of Etta's tough ways. It seemed fully appropriate for a girl who probably gave book reports and played softball inside a refugee camp, and almost certainly never had a prom. I'm glad the show didn't shy away from the question of torture and warfare between various human camps ... And continued to use that idea in last night's "The Recordist." The more the show reveals the ugly, damaged reality of life under Observer rule, the better.


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