It’s admirable how deftly Fringe has shifted its focus in Season 5 from being about just how the world can be saved to how the characters can save themselves and not lose what makes them human.
We’ve got to this point through really great scripting and the writers consistently relating conflict to the characters on a personal level. Here, in the eighth episode of the final season, we’re at a crossroads where Olivia absolutely needs to save Peter’s soul in order to save herself and Walter.
‘The Human Kind’ is a fantastically structured episode; it puts each of the central three characters into a thematically important position and builds to an emotionally powerful conclusion. Peter is continuing to map out Windmark’s movements in the hope that he’ll be able to kill him when he can’t foresee it, but an exhilarating fight ends with the Observer forcing Peter to see Etta’s final thoughts. Walter gets an unexpected visit from Peter after his confrontation and tries to persuade him to remove the Observer technology.
Meanwhile, Olivia is tracking down a magnet that is central to the plan, but she has to initially deal with her own lack of faith before she finds herself in a very threatening situation with a couple of kidnappers.
The way that this season is playing out allows it to always remind us what the team are fighting for. Even in the less effective episodes, ideas about humanity have been at the centre of things. At every step along the way, Fringe asks whether the world is worth saving if the people within it cannot remain human.
When Peter and Olivia’s storylines from ‘The Human Kind’ are contrasted, it’s clear that both of them have lost touch with themselves. Peter is, most drastically, unable to feel emotion and is letting logic drive his every action. Olivia, though, is full of doubt and unable to trust in others. Her experience when talking to Simone (Jill Scott) and trying to get the magnet shows that she’s almost as lost as Peter is.
Everything that happens in this episode is in service of the tremendous closing scene where Olivia comes to Peter to get him to remove the technology in his brain. She appeals to him using both reason and emotion, trying to get him to understand the damage that his decisions could have on himself and others. This is a standout scene for both Anna Torv and Joshua Jackson, they really deliver and bring impact to episode’s great conclusion.
This episode ties together much of what has been emphasised so far in the fifth season of Fringe and it does it beautifully. There’s no way that anyone could be wondering what the point of Etta’s shocking death was any longer, as it has so distinctly affected the actions of the central characters. This episode even moves along Walter’s plan, fits in an awesome fight scene and gets Olivia to show her inner-MacGyver.
It’s strange to think that merely five episodes of Fringe remain, let’s hope they’re all as strong as this.
Aired at 10pm on Wednesday 12 December 2012 on Sky1.
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