Fringe 5.05 Review – An Origin Story

Nov 4, 2012 | 8 comments

How Peter & Olivia Got Their Grief On

  “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”


George Santayana
“You don’t even know what you don’t know.”


Unnamed Observer to Peter


“I’m feeling optimistic.”


 Peter to Unnamed Observer


There has never been a series like Fringe that has so consistently blown my mind and expectations.  

The beauty of those moments is when they happen, those moments totally shock and engross.  Yet upon reflection they make total sense and ring true to all that has come before.

With 4 plus seasons of character history an episode like this carries so many additional layers of emotional/dramatic texture and weight.  Many things can be intimated without being directly referenced.  Just seeing Walter listening to Olivia and Peter’s conversation is all the leverage Fringe fans need to imbue that conversation with the inherited emotional memories of the Walter/Peter backstory along with the Peter/Olivia/young Etta backstory.

It is that tip of the iceberg viewing engagement that a running serialized TV series can invoke.  Such a powerful tool.  ‘An Origin Story,’ was rife with many moments like this.  So when Peter heads along a similar path – like Walter who in this timeline has lost Peter twice as a boy – but with a revenge bent, it truly feels organic.  

Peter Has The Answer In Front Of Him But Succumbs To The Dark Path

Walter offering Olivia another video tape so she and Peter can remember what they once had is another such moment.  The pain that such a journey entails is one we empathize for Peter and Olivia having to face.  As well as remembering how hard that journey has been for Walter.

It is also magnificent how Fringe reuses story points like Amber and video tapes for different purposes.  In Season 5 the videotapes provide not only the hope to the big picture problem of the Observer Occupation but a birthday videotape that Walter took provides the hope for the resolution of the small and deeply personal relationships of the main characters.  Wonderful writing.

To see Peter – in a powerhouse performance by Joshua Jackson – marshalling all his talents and faculties to try and sabotage the Observers wormhole shipping lanes, only to witness his efforts swept aside like the waving off of an annoying fly, is tragic.  To have his efforts turned aside and have the Observer tell him, ‘You don’t even know what you don’t know,’ causes Peter to snap.  That failure turns Peter’s optimism to despair and makes us able to empathize with Peter’s act of violence and insertion of the Observer mind needle into himself.

Totally understandable.  Totally stupid.  Totally human.


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

  • Peter going through Etta’s personal effects as Olivia sleeps
  • Peter comparing Etta’s picture to Olivia
  • Peter’s discovery of Etta’s Weapon Cache and his, ‘That’s my girl.’  Chilling and sad at the same time
  • Olivia wakes to realization that her nightmare is true – Etta is gone
  • Walter asks if he can keep Etta’s perfume to help him remember
  • Astrid continues tape hunt hampered by Walter’s Hibachi & Bratwurst flammables
  • Anil telling Olivia that Etta was special to the Resistance, along with Etta Resist posters, and pictures of Etta with stepmother? all point to more Etta backstory to be revealed and explained
  • Anil’s name could be derived from the indigo plant or the blue dye obtained from it
  • ‘Go ask Alice,’ graffiti on wall – reference to next episode
  • ‘Before you go on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.’
  • Walter’s marvelous explanation of wormholes & blackholes
  • Antimatter batons!
  • Peter & Olivia talk about what Etta died for while Walter listens
  • Observers not as hardy as we thought and aided by tech more than we thought
  • Walter offers Olivia another tape to save her and Peter. Olivia hanging on by a thread.
  • Observer language decoded
  • Peter’s plan does not work
  • Peter’s theory was based on Observer’s reaction to a fly
  • Observer vs Etta’s Resist posters
  • Emotions get in the way – you see what you want to see
  • Observer unable to understand the concept of being missed.
  • Olivia decides not to put up walls, watches the tape, and calls Peter to tell him she loves her
  • Peter is pushed passed his limits, attacks Observer, and puts the needle chip in his head
Olivia Resists Taking The Dark Path
As Peter’s grief has him falling down a path of desperation and destruction there is the quiet counterbalance of Olivia’s journey of grief the second time around in dealing with the loss of Etta.  In a wonderful speech given by Walter to her, we see Olivia chose a different path this time.  Rather than building walls, she has the inner strength to take that last shred of will she is holding onto to face the legacy of pain left behind in the absence of Etta’s departure.

It is the very notion of being missed by others that the Observer cannot comprehend which powers Olivia to move beyond that pain of loss.  Rather than burying her grief she is trying to reach out to Peter and recapture what they had.  What they have lost.  The love for one another.

Peter a la Season 3’s Reciprocity – Weaponized Again

What adds to tragedy of the situation is that Peter held the choice Olivia has made, in his hands.  The moment when he compared the picture of Etta to Olivia.

It is my belief that the good emotions that Olivia is embracing will be what saves Peter from the dark ones he has succumbed to.  Peter is now is danger of becoming the enemy he despises.  Peter is in danger of literally losing himself in the world of cool, detached Observers.  

The question is what price will have to be paid in the remaining episodes to save Peter and the world.

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  1. JaniceLG

    Hi Lou,

    EXCELLENT review! Glad you didn’t recap. You are the first to state/notice: “Peter Has The Answer In Front Of Him” when comparing Etta’s picture to Olivia sleeping (what appears to be peacefully). That hit like a ton of bricks.

    This review is EXACTLY how I feel about this episode and Fringe.

    Great job…JaniceLG

  2. Anna

    The powerhouse performance for me was Anna Torv, she was awesome in showing Olivia going to her pain of losing a daughter she did not see grow up, beautiful acting every second.

    Loves the Olivia and Astrid scene, first real scene between Anna and Jasika on Fringe, and they have been asking for that since the beginning.

    Did not like the Peter-Observer part, mostly because I do not get anything from Josh Jackson, it is always surface, ampty, and not much change in expressions is there?
    It was a selfish act, like that of Walter, with innocent people paying the price.

    Or do you think that killing an Observer will be without payback? In any war innocent people will be lined up and killed as revenge, simply because a stupid man is so arrogant to think he is even 10 times better than an Observer.

    That is what you get if you have Peter as God and Jesus in one S3 and S4, and being the special One, they start to believe it themselves.

    I do not like that they have made Olivia just the girl of Peter since mideaosn 3, and here he treated her like some little woman,
    Peter knowing everything, doing everything, doing all the tech stuff, and on top of that he is now also the sharpshooter.

    Olivia Dunham is the trained FBI agent, please give her something to do except .

    She is not even allowed to think anymore.

    And you want to know about Etta, well I want to know about Olivia and her backstory.

    If anyone can tell me the name of Olivias father?
    Have you ver seen Olivia really talk about her mother?

    And I want Olivia to confront Walter about all those years being abused by him.

    But it looks like we will not get that, they have made Olivia the woman behind the MachoPeter, and she will have to care for the egocentric arrogant Bishop Boys.
    It is all about them, their emotions, and their journey, Olivia is just the plotdevice.

    I predict Olivia as Elisabeth Bishop, which would be the final nail in the coffin, as they have been eroding Olivia since Firefly.

    I would so much hope that Olivia will have a real role, be pro-active, and that she will kick the butt of both Peter and Walter, and leaves them to sort out their own mess.
    And I mean physically kicking them both for only caring about themselves.
    And Olivia shoudl take a bottle of scotch to celebrate.

  3. Anna

    Some type errors, apologies,

    and a sentence left out:

    Please give Olivia soemthing to do , the only thing she has since Firefly is needing Peter,

    And this Olivia Dunham , the strong independet FBI agent, with that horrible childhood, the fighter and survivor.
    The Chosen One.

    And the fact that you seem to think that her only task is to bring back Peter through Needing and Loving him, just proves how much they have eroded Olivia.

    Peter has lied so often to her, that he finds that rifle from Etta, and takes it, the way he acts, it is all about him losing his girl.

    Which is Fringe , only fathers have emotions and are important.

    As much as I loved the Anna Torv and John Noble in that scene, Walter has no place to talk to Olivia about loss, she lost her mother, father, John Scott, Charlie and her childood when she was 3, thanks to that Walter.

    Walter abused children at that time, I doubt that he even cared for Peter, but we have to feel sorry for him.

    What I really hate on Fringe is the way they handled the abuse of children by Walter and Bell, as if that is an OK thing to do, and Olivia Dunham has never had a chance to really confront them.
    She just has to their victim, and be used by them, see S4 finale.

    So here is Fringe pretending to be about morals, and right and wrong and science versus human, but they never condemned Walter for his abuse of children.
    Olivia even has to care for him.

  4. Anna


    I read some comments elsewhere on Olivia fans, comdemning Peter:

    I am an Olivia fan, but if Olivia would have done what Peter did, I would have said exactly the same.

    Only difference is, that Olivia is not arrogant, so she would never even think about it.

    Being arrogant makes you believe that you are above others, a god, see Walter, see Peter.

    And if Peter needs to walk around with 2 guns and be the sharpshooter, fine, but give Olivia his technical skills.

    Lets have Olivia to kick some sense into those 2 Bishop boys, and celebrate it with a bottle of scotch.
    Would be the perfect ending for Fringe for me.

    Thanks for the space

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


    I echo JaniceLG. Excellent review. We have the same perspective it seems on this episode. I especially like also how you picked up on Peter missing his chance to do things differently during that scene of comparing Etta’s photo to a sleeping Olivia. That was such an obvious wall crumbling moment.

    I also appreciate the “Patterns” you listed. I like that concise breakdown. Also, I saw the Alice, yet couldn’t make out the words before so thanks. I knew it was the clue for the next episode though.

    I do wonder about the sudden appearance of those Etta Resist posters. I am wondering if this is part of Olivia’s memory “issues” (like remember Etta’s disappearance a bit different and the missing people posters she recalled seeing in 2015, yet had the 2033 date). I wonder if there is something more. Anyway, I am very interested in seeing how Olivia goes from here. And Anna, hang on as I have a feeling Olivia is about to get very proactive as she has taken this last episode to walk through a lot of her grief and deal with it differently. I imagine we will see a different Olivia coming out pretty soon (perhaps the “old Olivia”).

    I agree that I think Olivia walking this different path through the loss of Etta will be the counter balance to Peter’s extremism. That somehow she will assist him in offsetting the negativity of what he has done to himself. It will definitely be interesting as we all saw that removing that tech from the Observer killed him. This may be an issue to be dealt with.

    I also will say this is the most I have liked the Peter character since the first season really. I don’t have a real reason why, just is. Josh Jackson is superb in his intense performance here (and am not an especially Peter Bishop/Josh Jackson fan – I’m not, not a fan either). I am very curious to see how this all plays out. My presumption is that this will be kept a secret for at least part of the next episode if not longer (like when Peter was stealing shapeshifter discs). I also found the “you don’t even know what you don’t know” mantra of the Observer to Peter infuriating. I hope we find out the meaning of that very soon.

    “An Origin Story” I think was one of my favorites. Of course, I seem to say this every week lately. I am very much enjoying Olivia’s journey particularly, the interactions of Walter/Olivia (which seem so very much closer this season than Walter/Peter), Peter’s reactions and actions through all of this; and, I look forward to more out of Astrid (poor thing, stuck in the lab so much and alone – she does seem to be the touchstone however for the whole team).

    Anyway, I think there are only two more episodes until a little break. I hate the breaks – lol. I can’t believe this season is moving so fast. I miss the show already! Thanks for reading. ttfn

  6. Kristin (aka @serenityinall)


    Forgiving my double dipping in the comments here. Due to sleep being elusive, I just did a rewatch of “An Origin Story.” Am I crazy or when Peter put in the final piece of the cube and turned it – did I see those green green green red lights? Looked that way to me. Anyone? What’s up with that?

    Thanks. Nite nite.

  7. Lou Sytsma (@OldDarth)

    Hi Kristin. Thanks for the kind remarks. Yes the cube definitely did the green/red light pattern. I think it’s just a running motif through the show much like the numbers from Lost.

    • Kristin (a/k/a @serenityinall)

      Good morning Lou. Thanks. I appreciate the reply. And well, I never saw Lost.

      BTW – I noticed also the dumpster under the Etta Resist posters that one dumpster said clearly “LAKE” and then perhaps something else. A friend mentioned this morning on Twitter that it also said Peter to the far left on the dumpster as well as the LAKE word I noticed. Any thoughts, ideas? Just curious.

      I NEVER notice this stuff so I am quite surprised I noticed so much in this episode. I generally don’t know until after The Fringe Podcast about these things. lol

      Have a great week!


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