A possible theme for the season, if not the show itself, emerged in this week’s episode of Fringe: love might not be enough to stop certain men from becoming the very worst they can be.
When Walter had the pieces of his brain put back in after he was de-ambered, he realized that the hubris and the God-like tendencies that caused him to almost destroy two universes were coming back. But as he told Nina in this episode, he thought his love for Peter could stop his backslide into evil scientist land. And yet it doesn’t seem like enough, as he asks Nina to re-remove those pieces again. (We don’t get to see her answer, however.)
Peter, meanwhile, is slowly turning into an Observer in his quest to defeat them and avenge Etta’s death. Thus far, he’s only hurt the Observers (in a brilliant use of the first Fringe case from the pilot episode in season one) and hasn’t caused any civilian causalities—but even Olivia is slowly seeing the humanity slip away from him.
Playing robotic can be an easy and lazy way to act—but Joshua Jackson sells his slow descent into a logical, emotionless state as Peter shows Olivia his plan for killing Windmark at the end of the episode. He’s fallen so far that not only does he not have guilt about killing Windmark, he has no feelings about openly sharing his plan with Olivia.
Olivia’s love for Peter that is coming back after all that’s happened still may not be enough to pull him back from the brink.
It wasn’t enough for William Bell. After initially telling Nina that Bell didn’t truly love her, Walter uncovers the fact that no, he did. But that didn’t stop Bell from selling everyone out when the Observers arrived. Love wasn’t enough to make him a better man.
More of the plan is uncovered in this episode – including beacons that may help the team bring back September – but at what cost? Peter may have won a short victory in killing Windmark’s lieutenants, but at a cost to his humanity (and his hair!) The love he had for Etta led him to the decision of putting the Observer tech in his head; that tech, is now causing him to ignore and otherwise alienate those still alive that he loves.
Love made Walter cross over into another universe to try to save another man’s Peter. He almost destroyed the two universes because of that love.
And now, like father like son, a father’s love for his daughter is causing Peter to obsess over the Observers’ day-to-day activities, especially as Etta’s face continues to pop up in resistance banners all over the city.
“Five-Twenty-Ten” was a tour de force of acting for both male leads and it advances the plot, while raising the stakes for all characters involved. At the same time, it takes away hope. While we pretty much assume the Observers will be defeated by the end of the season, it looks increasingly likely that irreparable damage and harm will be done to the Fringe team by the end.
Because if love can’t help them… what can?
Donald? (Joking. I hope.)