Fringe 5.04 Episode Review – The War Just Got Real

Oct 30, 2012 | 9 comments


The Bullet That Saved The World
Walter to Olivia: ‘You can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a child.’

 Fringe Season 2 Episode 16 – ‘Peter’

Etta to Peter: ‘No good deed goes unpunished.’
Fringe Season 5 Episode 4 – ‘The Bullet That Saved The World’
“Only the dead have seen the end of war.”
George Santayana

Death by its nature is divisive.  

In reality it is the line between the known and the unknown.  It is inevitable and beyond our control.  

In fiction, everything is controllable.  Even death.  The dispensation of that control can be used to raise story stakes or it can be used as a cheap story tactic to illicit short term emotional responses.

Clanging cymbals is never a good omen!

In both instances the responses it generates invokes a wide spectrum of responses.  Just as it did with Peter, Olivia, and Walter as they saw Etta taken away from them.

Once again.

As expected, reactions to this episode range from, ‘My God, that’s very bold,’ to ‘That’s a cheat! Nobody ever really dies in SF.  She’ll be back at the end!’ to shock, ‘How could they do that?’ to somewhere in the middle, ‘I need to see how the rest of the story plays out.’

The short term shock waves of Etta’s death will throw the Fringe Team into chaos.  We already have been shown how Peter and Olivia responded to loss of young Etta.  It is going to be painful to watch them go through it all again.  The surprise of Etta’s death is that it came so soon into the season.  Her demise makes those moments she shared with Peter and Olivia in the first three episodes even more poignant.  It also serves as a reminder that in life that there is rarely a good time to die. When death strikes it is often a messy business for the those left behind to pick up the pieces.

A moment of joy…

Episode ‘Patterns’: Add your own in the comments.

  • toy monkey with cymbals clanging always a bad omen
  • ‘If you want to make God laugh.  Tell him your plan.’  aka ‘Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.’
  • Peter puts everyone at jeopardy trying to do a good deed by buying a replacement necklace for Etta
  • creepy moment when Observer gives Peter the necklace
  • Walter & Astrid continue the tape hunt in the lab
  • Peter expresses doubts about how to beat Observers because of their abilities
  • Etta’s – ‘We beat them one at a time,’ and her unfulfilled vow to teach everyone how to block the Observers
  • Etta’s prophetic – ‘No good deed goes unpunished.’
  • Walter and mother going on Manhattan Mystery Tours
  • Walter’s lab equipment and EasyBake Oven hide his underground lair
  • Astrif! Prepare the laser!
  • Old Fringe cases and, ‘Time we create a few Fringe events of our own!’
  • gross moment of the episode – Walter tasting a 20 year+ old jelly doughnut center
  • Observer interrogation of the Loyalist watched by Broyles – who is the Dove? Broyles? Nina? My money is on Nina.
  • Walter and Peter airgunning Astrid as she is working on a weapon of mass destruction
  • Etta/Olivia talk about, ‘The Bullet That Saved The World.’ Olivia urges Etta to keep it.
  • Lab is re-Ambered to fool Observers
  • clandestine and emotional reunion with Broyles under bridge with graffiti – ‘Manifest Destiny’ – Agent Dunham.  Philip!
  • Broyles saw Etta and thought it was Olivia
  • Etta in her dying moments remembers blowing dandelions and never knowing when to give up
  • Etta gives bullet necklace back to Olivia
  • Etta blows up building with her and some of the enemies but Windmark escapes
  • the reaction shots from Peter and Olivia at the end after the warehouse implodes
… a moment of grief….

From a story telling point of view a couple of concerns worry me as to how the rest of the season will play out.  By killing Etta this early in the season the amount of navigable dramatic maneuvering room has been reduced.  Given the show’s history of malleable timelines and alternate universes; the pressure to succumb to a reset will be immense. Especially for a story that is winding down.  Many are hoping the show leaves the characters in a good place and the fans happy.

To do that a resurrection of Etta is high on that Things That Must Be Done To Make the Fans Happy list. (Assuming of course a reset is in the cards to begin with.)  The conundrum is how to do that?  Make it as easy as flipping a switch and Etta’s death is reduced to a cheap story telling trick.  Make it too hard and fans will be turned off by piling more misery and pain on the Fringe team.

The trick will be to construct a story line that returns Etta to the fold at some cost that is not too depressing.  An ending that may be tinged with feelings of loss and sadness on one hand yet still is uplifting, tinged with hope, redemption, and feels right; on the other.

An ending that feels honest.  

This episode definitely accomplished several things.  It has jolted the fandom and pushed the season into unexpected directions.  The Bullet That Saved The World has also magnified how evil the Observers are and how difficult it will be to defeat them.

When I reviewed the previous episode, ‘The Recordist,’ I remarked on how I wanted the show to put the focus back onto to the main characters.  In a textbook case of, ‘careful what you wish for,’ Bullet definitely did that.

For the Fringe Team, and for us, this war just got real.

… a moment of ?

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  1. Kristin (a/k/a @serenityinall)


    Good morning and Happy Halloween! Terrific write up here. You are so right too as I have seen a wide and extreme variation of reactions to Etta’s death. I do think that the show’s focus is our main three (though I like to think main four including Astrid). I also think Etta’s death will end up being a catalyst to the end of the Observers. You mentioned a Fringe series “happy ending” and I have seen that phrase a lot lately. Every time I do I think of what Joel Wyman said quite a while back. Paraphrasing Joel Wyman said that the ending of Fringe would be a satisfying ending for the fans he thought. He mentioned that he did not necessarily mean happy; yet satisfying in that when you awake the next day and think of the conclusion of the series you will be content with how things ended and will be able to imagine how things could go from there. In terms of Etta, I am unsure how this plays out. (SPOILER – I did read that the actress is in episodes until about 5×09 I think; so I don’t know how that will play out.)

    I like all the nuggets you pointed out during this episode. Though I didn’t like Etta’s death myself either, I think the way they did it was appropriate for the character and the family she comes from. She definitely died a heroes death. Knowing that her family would not leave her she forced them too with the bomb and also took out as many Observers/Loyalist as possible. As to whether they will bring her back, I don’t see how without a reset of some sort as you mentioned; and to be honest, I am really hoping we do NOT get a reset. I am hoping that at the conclusion of this thirteen episode movie we get just what Joel Wyman promised. We may not be “happy” about it per se, yet I hope we are satisfied. I am very excited about the next several episodes. I can’t wait to see how they play out and based on the titles I’ve see, what the heck goes on. This next episode (based on the promo) looks like a very emotional and intense episode. We shall see.

    Broyles – with Broyles calling Olivia “Agent Dunham” I was quite surprised and it felt out of place to me for her to call her Phillip. I can see how they would have gotten on a “Phillip” basis over the years, yet he did not call her Olivia. There is something telling in that. Also, I am in agreement that Broyles could not have a worse picture of Peter/Olivia. What in the world? Finally, I agree with whomever (I can’t recall if it was Clint or Darrell) said they didn’t think Broyles is the Dove. We know it is a “he” as the Observer asked who is the Dove – what is HIS name. I think Broyles as the Dove is too easy. I like the idea that it is September; however, I have also thought that perhaps it’s this Douglas person mentioned in The Recordist. OR, wouldn’t it be a riot if Bell turned out to be the Dove in this Season??

    On a different thought and upon thinking of Bell, after seeing Simon’s head in the Science part of Formerly Harvard, I keep wondering where the heck is Bell? I can’t imagine the Observers left him there once they found Simon and seen that others had been freed. Anyone?

    On a side note, I have heard mention a few times about a possible Fringe movie. Whether they do one or not, I sometimes wonder if this possibility has had any influence on the way this final season plays out. I hope not. Thoughts? Thanks for reading.

  2. Lou AKA olddarth

    Hi Kristin!

    First up – thanks for such a long and detailed reply.

    As to your spoiler – it does explain a tweet from John Noble that we will be getting more Etta background.

    After a 20 year plus separation I feel Olivia earned a Phillip.

    I suspect a Bell appearance is coming soon.

    Hard to say how this season may or may not be impacted by a movie possibility. Most likely the impact would be minor – nothing more than a knowing look or a throw away line would suffice.



    • Kristin (a/k/a @serenityinall)

      Thanks Lou. Yes, I saw that John Noble tweet also and was a bit wondering after 5×04 as they had to be on 5×08 or 5×09 when he tweeted.

      I hope we see Bell soon just out of my sheer curiosity!

      Yes, Olivia earned that “Phillip,” just felt awkward to me.

      As for the movie possibility, my thoughts are not so much on how the storyline may be influenced yet more about the main characters and how they may or may not survive. Of course this is Fringe and as we know, no one really dies in Fringe! ha


  3. Omar

    Etta could possibly still be alive if a the last second her cortexiphan abilities could have kicked and sent her to the other universe where someone saved her.

    • mardarrell

      That’s an interesting theory Omar! Maybe Peter decides to mess around with the window down in the Harvard lab and notices her. Hmmm….that could be interesting.

    • Kristin (a/k/a @serenityinall)


      That is an interesting thought. I would not put anything past the Fringe creators/writers either.

      I believe either Darrell of Clint off-handedly mentioned that possibly September swooped in; however, the other one contradicted with the fact that September is dead. It occurred to me then, that we REALLY don’t know that September is dead. All we were told was that what happened to September was “unexpected.” Besides, if he could travel inside and outside of time, who knows? Just rambling my thoughts on your interesting theory.

      I just had a thought too that perhaps Peter will “see” Etta in the next few episodes. Guess we will see.

  4. Dennis Tremethick

    The season started with the Bishop family happily spending time in the park and I beleive it will end that way. The difference will be that Walter’s plan will block the Observer invasion and RESET the timeline to one where it did not happen.

    I think Walter’s plan revolves around music and love. The observers are oblivious to the concept of Love and have no understanding of music beyond the science of how it is produced.

    Love in is the key to blocking the Obervers from entering one’s thougthts.

    Music will play a key role in blocking the Observers from entering this universe. The C and G notes separated the Red and Blue verses. Bell used this information to try and destroy the two universes late in season 4.

    Music is very important to Walter so his plan will incorporate this concept. Perhaps the song he played in episode one this season is what he will use?

    The Observers blocked September from entering the Yellow verse in season 4 and Peter used the beacon to guide him back. Were musical harmonies used as a block and a guide?

    The machine that was shown in the 4.19 episode and in the season premier looked an awful lot like a Beacon.

    This remains to be seen.

    • mardarrell

      I like your thoughts on music and love, Dennis. I think that love will prove to be the key to overcoming the observers, even if it is just a part of the equation that the observers didn’t account for because they don’t understand it. Since they don’t understand it, and didn’t account for it, then it will prove to be the flaw in their plan and the means by which they can be overtaken.


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