While last week’s episode of Fringe allowed the show to take a much-needed break and refocus its characters, this week’s is a solid episode that is unfortunately lacking in tension or urgency. The team follow the clues on one of Walter’s tapes and find themselves amongst a group of people who appear to have tree bark growing on their bodies. They learn that this group have taken it upon themselves to document history without the influence of the Observers.
Meanwhile, Astrid unravels the remaining mysteries on the tape and Walter searches for something vital to the plan that will defeat the Observers.
If ‘The Recordist’ is an indication of how Fringe is approaching the hunt for Walter’s clues, then it is a little worrying. The main issue with the episode is that it is more than a little dull and feels like a predictable story. That’s not to say that I necessarily guessed how it would end or even that Edwin (Paul McGillion) would sacrifice himself, it’s just that very few of the plot points occur in such a way that it is surprising.
The show tries to create some suspense by making it seem as though the Observers have deduced the team’s location and will trap them. That threat is quickly extinguished, though, as Etta gets tipped off by someone within the Resistance. Eventually, it all boils down to how they are going to get an element that will help power whatever it is they’ll be using to combat the Observers. In the second half of the episode, things do thankfully pick up considerably due to a thematic connection between the main characters and Edwin.
Edwin’s sacrifice to help the team obtain the element may not have been surprising. However, it definitely has an emotional impact as a result of a conversation that he has with his son about the importance of not only recording history, but changing it too. This plays directly into the arc of Olivia and Peter in this episode, as they reflect upon the time after they lost Etta.
The show hasn’t explored this too deeply yet (I imagine there are big secrets waiting to be revealed) but with Anna Torv and Joshua Jackson on top form, their scenes bring a thoughtfulness that not many shows are able to deliver. The writers and Torv understand just how damaged Olivia’s experiences have made her, and they treat the loss of her daughter as honestly as could be expected.
Parental themes have had a real significance in the fifth season of Fringe, and it is how well they are dealt with in ‘The Recordist’ that saves the episode from being forgettable. The structure of the episode may rob it of tension and excitement, but the arcs for both the main characters and Edwin make this episode still feel as rewarding as Fringe usually is.
There will need to be more complications next time the team go looking for one of Walter’s tapes, though, because the central story of the final season needs more intensity if it hopes to be effective.
Aired at 10pm on Wednesday 7 November 2012 on Sky1.
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