Fringe 4.19, “Letters of Transit”

We’re jumping ahead to the year 2036 this week. But first, we get some back story, courtesy of scrolling text. In 2015, the Observers took over. The humans who survived were called Natives. Some Native factions became Loyalists and were marked by the Observers. Fringe was defeated, and a reduced force kept around to keep the Natives in line.

The episode proper begins with a blonde woman, a Fringe agent named Etta, approaching a club at night. The guard is a Loyalist; they’re “marked” with a handy face tattoo. The club is brightly lit and filled with humans catering to Observer clientele. These Observers seem rather more hedonistic than the ones we’re used to. The club owner, Rick, takes issue with one of the Observers monopolizing one of the girls. He actually attacks the Observer, a Captain Windmark, but is quickly subdued. Rick spits in Windmark’s face and Windmark attempts to “wipe” him, resulting in blood pouring from Rick’s ears.Etta and Walter in "Letters of Transit"

Etta saves him by knocking him out from behind. She apologizes to Windmark, but protests that Rick’s a Native and under her jurisdiction. Windmark scans her, and is satisfied. He says she’s always exactly what she seems. Outside, Etta No-Last-Name berates Rick for drawing attention to himself. Rick says he had to piss Windmark off so he’d try to wipe him rather than read him, as a scan would reveal the wrong things. We learn that Etta is somehow able to fool any Observer who tries to scan her mind. She’s special, you guys. Rick takes her to a van holding whatever he called her down there to see. Whatever – or whomever, rather – is under a blanket inside is proof of what Etta has believed for years. Rick says no one knows about his cargo. There are two more, a woman and a man, elsewhere. Before he can tell Etta where they are, a passing Loyalist shoots Rick dead. Etta quickly takes off in the van.

A voice on a loudspeaker announces curfew. Etta pulls over to examine her cargo, which turns out to be Walter encased in a block of Amber. I wasn’t thrilled about the time-hop this week, but I love these new credits. Words flash across the screen: community, joy, imagination, free thought, due process, ownership. The final shot, freedom, sweeps across a mass of humans imprisoned behind a wall topped with barbed wire. It’s pretty chilling.

After the credits, Etta enters Fringe division. Hey, it’s Desmond! Oh, I mean, it’s Agent Simon Foster, Etta’s boss. He’s talking to some agents about cracking down on resistance fighters. He reprimands Etta for being late, and they go outside for some coffee gum. Simon remembers when you could drink the stuff. Etta tells him about Rick’s death. Simon reminds her she was supposed to stop running civilians. She says she has something on “the missing team.” Simon tells her, for the hundredth time apparently, that the original Fringe team isn’t missing or immortal. They’re dead, dead, dead. Etta takes him to wherever she’s stashed Walter. He’s still holding the Amber device in his hand, showing that he did this to himself and his team on purpose. Etta’s anxious to free “Dr. Bishop” so he can take them to the rest of the team.

Windmark visits Broyles. The old-age makeup on Broyles is “¦ not terrible. After watching two seasons of “Face-Off,” I have a new respect for how makeup artists struggle with pulling this off, especially on actors of color. Windmark shows Broyles a hologram of Rick’s body. Broyles says he was notified but doesn’t yet have any leads. Windmark says it’s the fourth such death this month, and warns Broyles that he needs to control the Natives. Broyles promises to find a suspect. Then, he dares to ask Windmark what he did in the future to warrant such a crappy detail. “I like animals,” Windmark replies. Charming.

Simon has determined that Walter’s encased in third-generation Amber, which can’t be reversed. Simon is able to return the Amber to a gaseous state only momentarily, which isn’t long enough for Walter to free himself safely. Simon explains that if they try to push him out, they’ll end up trapped. Etta goes to check out some level-two tech, a crowd control blaster that emits a concussive force. The guy at the equipment locker tells her his “friends in the city” are getting suspicious of Simon, who’s been a little lax in coming down on the resistance fighters. The guy tells Etta she should watch her back.

Simon and Etta use the blaster to get Walter out of the Amber. When he comes to, he says Etta is pretty, and asks for something to eat. After the break, they give him some red licorice, reported to be his favorite. He enjoys the hell out of the licorice. Seriously, you’ve never seen somebody enjoy candy this much. Etta shows him holographic blueprints of a device he was working on to get rid of the Observers. Walter doesn’t remember anything about the device, or much of anything else.

A scan (and this is a very well-stocked hidey-hole) reveals that Walter’s brain has been damaged (more so than usual). Simon thinks it’s because he was so close to the point of origin when he activated the Amber. Or, you know, maybe it’s because you knocked him across the room into a wall. Maybe?

They head to the Ministry of Science, in Brooklyn of all places. A silver-haired Nina Sharp comes out in a wheelchair and snaps at Etta for ruining her lunch hour (again) with tech requests. They go outside to talk, as Nina can’t shield her thoughts from the Observers like Etta can. Nina is shocked to see Walter. He doesn’t remember her, but is pleased to see her again anyhow. She thinks maybe they can use a piece of brain tissue – extracted by Bell at Walter’s request, and which is now in a Massive Dynamic vault – to help Walter’s brain repair itself.

Nina babysits Walter while Simon and Etta get transit passes. Walter still has no clue what’s going on, but he’s able to fix Nina’s bionic arm. Later, at the train station, Walter flips out at the sight of an Observer. A Loyalist guard demands their papers, which say Walter is a prisoner. Walter, however, hotly denies this. Simon and Etta come up with a story about Walter being Etta’s crazy grandfather (you have no idea), sprung from the home to visit his wife’s grave. Etta apologizes for the illegal last-minute paperwork. “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” Walter intones. “Move along.” Hee. For some reason, the guard lets them pass.

At Formerly Massive Dynamic – seriously, that’s what the graphic says – the trio unknowingly trips a silent alarm which sounds at Fringe. Broyles is alerted and calls Windmark. Simon does some pseudoscientific bullshit I won’t get into to mix up a nice injection of brains for Walter. They give Walter a sedative, inject him, and wait for the brains to take effect.

While they wait, Simon tells Etta about the night the Observers started the Purge, dragging people into the streets and killing them. He saw it on TV, and realized his resistance fighter parents sent him so far away to college to protect him. He says he vowed that night not to give up until the Observers were gone. Hm, you’d think the Observers would have taken him out too. Maybe they’re keeping their enemies closer? Etta was four the last time she saw her parents and doesn’t remember what they look like. As she talks she fingers what’s later revealed to be a bullet, on a chain around her neck.

Walter wakes up, back to himself and ready for business. Meanwhile, an Observer-led team of guards enters Formerly Massive Dynamic and finds three sets of footprints in the dust on the floor. The Observer orders the guards to “shoot first.” After the break, Walter examines the blueprints. He tells them about September, who tried to help them. According to September, after humans/Observers well and truly ruined the Earth in the year 2609, they came back in time to take this Earth for themselves. (No word on what happened in the other universe, but I suppose it’s more of the same as no one bothers to mention it.) Anyway, Walter is confident he can build the device. Etta asks where the rest of the team is. Walter stares at her, and says, “You,” because that’s not weird at all.

Simon hears the ding of the elevators, announcing the arrival of their unwanted guests. Walter can’t believe they didn’t set up some kind of alarm. He takes them out through a secret passage. The Observer detects it and blasts a hole in the wall, continuing his pursuit. Walter ducks into a room and demands Simon’s watch to build an antimatter bomb.

The guards enter the room, and outside, we see the building implode. Funny how none of the Observers milling about stop the group of humans nearby. Walter takes Simon and Etta to the block of Amber containing the rest of the team. Simon asks Etta what that little moment between her and Walter was back at Formerly Massive Dynamic. Etta says Walter’s obviously crazy.

The guard at the train station informs Broyles via videophone of his encounter with Simon and his two traveling companions. Broyles insists he’ll take care of it. He has Simon’s tracking device activated and a team assembled.

Meanwhile, Simon has cobbled together some detonators to blast the others out of the Amber. He thinks Walter is exactly what they’ve been waiting for. Walter snottily tells him to stop “pontificating” and get to work. Astrid, interestingly enough, is the first one freed from the Amber. Not sure whose decision that was. Anyway, Simon has somehow broken the “wand” and settles down to attempt to repair it. Walter takes Astrid some distance away from the main chunk of Amber, and we see that Bell is trapped in another slab. Walter signals Astrid to keep quiet, and approaches the slab with an instrument in his hand.

Simon soon realizes his tracker has been activated and is interfering with the signal to the detonators. Walter hears sirens approaching and implores Simon to hurry. Left with no other options, Simon sacrifices himself so he can pull the last person free. “We need him,” he tells Etta.

Broyles enters the series of underground rooms and finds Simon trapped in Amber. He notices a piece of red licorice on a shelf nearby. On a train, Astrid can’t believe Walter left Bell behind. Not like y’all had a lot of options there, Astrid. He tells her to remember what Bell did to Olivia. Astrid is worried about how they’re going to succeed without Bell. Walter opens his bag to show her the blaster and a chunk of Amber containing Bell’s hand. Walter says, “We have everything we need.” That is some cold shit, and I’m dying to know what “thing Bell did to Olivia” Walter is referencing.

Ella stares out the back window of the train and fingers the chain around her neck. Peter, who Simon sacrificed himself to save, approaches Etta. He promises they’re going to get Simon back. Etta asks, “Do you “¦ know me?” which makes it seem like she knows who Peter is, because who goes around asking people stuff like that unless you’re a famous douchebag? Peter doesn’t see how he could, given how long he’s been in Amber and how young Etta must be. Then he asks, “Henrietta?” (Get it? Henrietta instead of Henry?) and Etta says, “Hi, Dad.” They embrace, and I guess we’re not worried about Etta’s tracking device.

Next episode, it looks like we’re back in modern times, so I don’t know what the hell we even watched this episode for. Are we ever going to find out what happened to Olivia? What happens to Desmond ““ I mean, Simon? Could we possibly get some clue as to when this 2036 storyline is going to be wrapped up? A Season Finale promise, or … something? See, this is what happens when the end-date of a show is totally up in the air. I am Irritated Fan, hear me roar uselessly.

7 thoughts on “Fringe 4.19, “Letters of Transit””

  1. What kind of annoys me about this episode (other than that it was so obvious that Etta was going to be Peter and Olivia’s daughter) is that if the Observers start messing around and taking over the world, then all this shit that’s currently happening with David Robert Jones… doesn’t actually matter. Kind of frustrating.

  2. As soon as I saw Etta – long straight blond hair – I was like, “Oh, Olivia 2.0.”  I thought this was a good episode, though.  Interesting to make the Observers end up being Big Brother.  They almost remind me of the Silence.

    BTW, is Henry the name of the kid Pacey had with alternate-Olivia?

    1. Yes, I believe Alternababy’s name was Henry. it would have been nice if they’d given Etta long brown hair, so maybe it wasn’t so obvious. (Though I do have to admit that I was confused at first as I thought they were saying “Ella” and this was Olivia’s niece, all grown up.)

  3. They pulled a really neat trick of surprising us with Etta’s parentage even after they’d thrown it in our face for an hour with the grandfather fake-out and that hairstyle (I probably would have guessed it sooner except Etta’s too young to be in the FBI – a mistake that’s way too common on TV).  What would you do if the hot guy your age was really your dad?  How great did Blair B look with that silver hair?  I’m upset that we probably won’t see Simon again.  Cusick is great at making us care about characters.

  4. Re: What Bell did to Olivia, it could be an additional thing, but trying to hijack her brain/body and attempting to present himself as the ‘greater good’ of sorts was a pretty bad thing. And I always did the alternate opening credits!

    I think this was a neat way to sort of ‘get to’ where the show might end; we know Olivia will die (we saw her get buried at sea once already); the bullet on the necklace is 99% likely the one that killed her. I think they can now start getting to the point where the current-year team ends up in the amber; then can pick up here again if given the chance. I think something might happen with Mr. Jones that either negates the other universe or brings about the observers (or both). It’s entirely possible one universe no longer exists at that point, thus making it easier for the observers to take control.

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