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Fringe season premiere recap: Future Shock Blues

The war to rid the world of brutal bald men begins with a major setback for Walter Bishop and friends in ‘Transilience…’ 

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Fringe John Noble
Liane Hentscher/Fox


TV Show
Current Status:
On Hiatus
run date:
Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble, Kirk Acevedo, Lance Reddick
Sci-fi and Fantasy

They saved the multiverse from William Bell’s wannabe god machinations. They took on death – he was erased from history; she got shot in the freakin’ head — and somehow, someway survived.  They pledged their forever love, and rejoiced at the revelation that they would be bringing new life into the world. That’s exactly where we left Olivia Dunham and Peter Bishop at the close of season 4, and in the opening moments of season 5, we saw them living the dream of happily ever after…

Until it all came to an end with a jolt that evoked Sarah Connor’s playground apocalypse from Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Lyndon B. Johnson’s shameless and shocking “Daisy” campaign commercial from 1964. But instead of bombs, we got Observers.

Peter and Olivia were in a park, watching their daughter Henrietta, age three, picking and plucking dandelions, blowing their ghostly seeds to the wind…


A skyscraper in the distance: Vaporized. Wha?!

And then they were there. Materializing out of thin air. Clad in mortician black, descending on the park like a murder of crows, moving with mean purpose toward Etta…

Peter, panicked, rushed to his child –


And then he and Olivia, bloodied and concussed, were in a triage tent, doctors working madly to save the injured citizens of a city under siege, and a world invaded by time travelers from a wrecked future, a strange new race of humans with parched skin and psychic powers, bringing death for all who opposed them…

And Henrietta was gone.

Peter woke up. On a couch, in an apartment, in a bombed quarter of New York 2036, 21 years after Observageddon. The prologue was but a dream of a memory of the moment everything went to s–t, a Dandelion Wine reverie spoiled. (Long live the late great Ray Bradbury!) “Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11” picked up the thread of story left dangling from “Letters of Transit,” the season 4 left fielder which unexpectedly whiplashed us forward into the near-future and showed us dystopia ruled by The Observers. In “Letters…” last act, Henrietta, now mid-twenties and working for a Fringe division that (reluctantly) served the Bald World Order, found Peter, Walter, Astrid and William Bell sealed within blocks of amber hidden away in some dank Manhattan catacomb. They had been there for over two decades. With the help (and sacrifice) of her colleague Simon Foster (Lost’s Henry Ian Cusick), Etta sprung three of the perfectly preserved four; Bell was left behind, although Walter severed and swiped his frenemy’s hand, because he needed it to gain access to one of Bell’s warehouses. Olivia? MIA. Walter alluded to some nasty business with Bell, that the Massive Dynamic Doc Frankenstein had messed with her in some malevolent fashion. As we left them, Peter was getting reacquainted with daughter Etta (his little girl lost, now old enough, and cute enough, to be an ex-girlfriend), and the freedom fighters riding the rails into the night, toward refuge…

Which turned out to be Etta’s apartment, a pretty decent pad in a pretty dismal quarter of The Big Apple. “Transilience” (a leap between two states) traversed from here, and told a tale of two missions. Part One: Find Olivia. Peter wanted his wife back. Etta wanted the mother-and-child reunion to complete her de-orphaning. Olivia was also essential to Walter’s master plan for overthrowing The Observers – a plan, we learned, that friendly Observer September (fate: unrevealed) had scrambled and locked away inside Walter’s brain, to keep it safe from his brutal mind-reading brethren. In 2015, Walter dispatched Olivia to New York to retrieve a device that would unlock and decrypt the protocol stored in his gray matter – a “transilience thought unifier model-11.” She disappeared. Last known whereabouts: On the outskirts of Central Park, at Columbus Circle. (What had Bell done to her? Not mentioned, not revealed.)

Finding Olivia allowed the story to establish and explore what promises to be the season’s primary setting, Observer-controlled New York. Central Park, now paved over, was the site of the ginormous mill that pumped carbon monoxide into the skies. 21st century air was too oxygen-rich for The Observers, who had evolved within – or rather, adapted to – a far future epoch with a damaged environment. The Observers had pollution factories on every continent, and according to Etta, the deleterious impact on the planetary ecosystem had reduced the average human life span to 45 years. Following a hunch that Olivia had sealed herself in amber but had subsequently been claimed by “amber gypsies,” the heroes next traveled to a black market – a Twilight Zone bazaar of Geisha girls, old toys, crap food, the weird whatnot (so like Comic-Con, in other words) — and met a man with a golden earring who scavenged and sold amberfied people for a living. Peter plied the urban pirate with fresh walnuts — precccccciousssss stuff in this miserable near future (street value: $3000!) – and Golden Earring told them that yep, he had once sold a hot blonde in a leather jacket that was probably Olivia to a guy. Someone that Peter knew…

NEXT: A pint-sized Jabba grieves the loss of a Carbonite prize