Fringe 5.10 Review: Anomaly XB-6783746

Dec 24, 2012 | 3 comments

Anomalies – Make The FringeVerse Go Round



Windmark talking about Michael  – “He is no child. He is a chromosomal abnormality”


Windmark to Nina, “Why are you not frightened?”


Nina to Windmark, “You have no love. No appreciation of beauty. No dreams.”


Fringe as a series is founded on the concept of the outsider finding their place in the universe.  So it is no surprise to find out that the Observer boy, Michael is also an outsider.  A chromosomal oddity. Much like Peter, Olivia, and more recently Simone.


Nina – mysterious to the end. What was she looking at?

This episode also continued tracking Walter’s inexorable journey back towards Walter That Was – WTW.  Throughout the episode there were constant beats of Walter being focused on the task at hand, or himself only, with no regard for anyone else.  By episode end the ‘subject,’ forged a bond with the Fringe Team but the cost was high.

The most rewarding fictional experiences contain elements of victory at a price.  For the protagonist’s victory to have emotional resonance and dramatic weight, the hero should be pushed to their limits emotionally and physically.  Gain with loss.
With Fringe nearing the end of its run, the Fringe Team had their second big loss.  From a character viewpoint, Etta is the bigger loss but from a viewer’s perspective, Nina’s – a full time cast member – sacrifice should have shook us more.  I say should have because while the concept was certainly there, the execution was somewhat lacking in terms of story construction.


Peter and Nina worry about Walter.

This episode required several logic leaps with the payoff to Nina’s death scene requiring a major hand wave.  Surely Windmark and his crew would not leave the lab unwatched and waiting for the team’s return!?  It is one thing to ask the viewer to suspend their disbelief in terms of the crazy science and events the show uses to propel the drama; it is quite another to ask us to do so in terms of common sense and character behavior.

Fringe wants us to believe the characters in this show are intelligent.  To do that, it is beholding to the creative team not to resort to cheap or lazy story telling tricks.  This is a David Fury penned episode and with such other episodes as, ‘In Absentia and Alone In The World,’ a trend has surfaced where his work has dealt with mythos heavy episodes that sacrifice story logic and bring a degree of coldness to the characters that does not sit right with me.  With a resume that includes Buffy, Angel, and Lost – all of which are character heavy shows – it is odd that his Fringe episodes are so hit and miss.

For whatever the reasons, Fury’s episodes tend to underwhelm me more than not.  Your mileage may very but in an episode where one of the series’s regulars is giving us their swan song, it should be done so in a manner that feels honest and seamless.  It should not be constructed in a manner that diverts attention away from the emotions of those moments.  The characters and the viewers deserve better.

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

  • Michael has no ObserverTech in his head
  • Walter’s transformation to Walter That Was continues
  • With no empathic bound, neither Olivia nor twizzlers can reach Michael
  • Olivia calls Nina for help
  • Observers use LQ7 unit to recover Nina’s conversation with Olivia much like Peter did in a previous season off of the glass
  • Nina takes Fringe Team to a Massive Dynamics Black Lab
  • Peter talks to Nina about Walter’s wish to have brain pieces removed
  • Nina tells Peter it may become academic if plan fails – Walter That Was will take over
  • the power of incentive
  • ‘Anything worth fighting for comes at a cost.’
  • Etta Resist poster continues to show up
  • Black Lab is where Resistance did research on Observers
  • E-Cog Translator – ‘Prep the subject.’ ‘His name is Michael.’
  • With no empathic bond Nina suggests they forge one by letting Michael into their minds
  • ‘Hopefully? I thought she knew what she was doing!’
  • Nina’s cover is blown
  • Nina protects Fringe Team and Michael with her life
  • Michael communicates with Nina
  • Windmark and Nina consider each other as animals
  • Walter’s grief at Nina’s death – will it help him from becoming Walter That Was?
  • Michael cries – a bond has been formed
  • Michael bonds with Walter – series montage
  • Donald is September

Problems aside with the episode logic, Blair Brown gave a fantastic performance in what we assume is her last episode of the series.  Outside of last season’s scene between her and Olivia where she gave her blessing to Olivia to remember her previous life with Peter at the cost of the memories of their lives together; Blair Brown gave a wonderful farewell performance.  Her scenes with Michael and Windmark at the end were tour-de-force. I was moved by Nina’s sacrifice.


Bonding through human contact instead of tech.

For a character that has been presented for many seasons as an opaque and never totally trustworthy one, it is great that the show allowed the latter iterations of Nina to be much more open and caring.

The fallout from Nina’s death on Walter will be interesting to see. With Nina gone, is there anyone left that can help Walter remove his offending brain pieces?  If there is no one what will drive Walter to figure out the plan.  Incentive is a great motivator, Nina told Peter.  That incentive no longer exists.

As for the reveal that Donald is September, the way things played out this season, emotionally this is the only choice that has any resonance.  But what is September’s relationship to Michael?  Is Michael his ‘son?’ Or is Michael, Donald/September at an earlier stage? What of Michael’s ability to empathize for his step-parents and for Nina’s death?  Does the answer to beating the Observers lie in the tears Michael sheds?


Despite my ambivalence due to the failings of the writing in this episode, I am very intrigued to see how the final 3 episodes are going to play out.  As usual, I have no idea how Fringe is going to resolve things this season and for the series.
It is one of the many things I love about the show.

More sacrifices to come?



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  1. Questions

    So Walter is barking his lines, cold and soulless Walter, but in a flash he turns into poodlecrying selfpity Walter when Nina is dead, only to be ice-cold as he watches her pull the trigger?

    Nina and Olivia : they did talk a lot didn’t they, 2 lines 2 scenes, and Olivia having to do the call, so she gets the blame of Nina dead?
    The rest of Ninas time was wasted on Walters brains.

    Olivia and Boy Observer, Olivia thinking (or was it Anna? or all the Olivia fans?) that finally she will have some importance, only to be told icecold, that that was a joke, it had to be for Walter.

    The flashes at the end: More Etta in them than Olivia, I saw 2 scenes only of Olivia, Olivia who knows Walter the longest, has worked with him so long,
    message of Wyman telling us in advance that Olivia is nothing at all?

    Another episode of bad pacing and writing, convenience for convenience sake and the recontextualizing of Wyman comes down to:

    Erasing Olivia:

    Olivia Dunham, the hero, main lead, chosen One, Fighter savior of the worlds, with some nice iconic things like the tank, the FBI agent that is so good at her job thanks to her empathy and wanting to help victims,
    who was so great with children, Ella, Child-Observer, all wiped out.

    What have they done to her:
    -Chosen One , savior, hero already given to Peter in season 3 second half
    -FBI agent, or trained expertise to investigate, planning, pro-active and knowing how to handle more than just 1 gun, all gone to Peter , except for the 1 or 2 forced action scenes, and in 5.10 the camera was on Peter.

    -Ella was what saved her from Over There, why she knew who she was, but Wyman decided that for Peters sake Olivia had to be a cold an distant mom, but the grieving also had to be done by Olivia, 1 episode, so that Loving dad Peter could do his revenge thing for Etta, and Olivias only role was to be worried for Peter,
    in 4 episodes lied to and he reads her mind to humiliate her, but Olivias lines in 4 episodes were I love you, I need you, and I do not want to lose you.

    -Child Observer, wonderful episode season 1, Olivia and the boy bonding, Olivia in 5.09 was let to belive (like we) that the bond was still there,
    only to humiliate her completely by having the boy connect with Walter in front of her (or was that to humilaite Anna?)

    -the tank, iconic for Olivia, also in the promotion, but most of all in Entrada, it saved OIivias life.
    No need for Walter to be in that tank, he has plenty of other ways to trip.

    -and we have the cortexiphan that was only used when needed to save Peter or to tell Walters story, as the best prove of that was season 2 final where the 3 other victims were used for Walter to save Peter,
    they had to forgive him and be grateful for their miserable lives, and a few moments later they died for Walter and Peter.

    -even worse was cortexiphan used in season 4:
    Olivia being pumped full with it, so that she could remember Peter and give up his life for him,

    and the horrible line Olivia had to utter; I am still the little girl that was used by Bell and Walter and at the end she was switched on by Bell and hero Walter shot her like an animal.

    Basically the entire series we heard that Olivia ws the strongest, turns out that she was the one who could handle the most cortexiphan in her body, a thing, an object.

    If any of the above would have been done to Walter and Peter, everyone would be outraged, if any of the above would have been done to Jackson and Noble they would be all over the media, and that same media would be outraged.

    Now silence, so I do the being furious , a great female character destroyed to serve the 2 men.
    A fantastic actress used to serve the 2 men.

    Fringe was different with that Olivia central , introverted, silent, strong, inner emotions, sensible shoes and hair,
    like the original Killing Sarah Lund lead.
    Difference is Sarah Lund is still Sarah Lund, Olivia Dunham has been sacrificed to serve Walter and Peter.

    So Olivia season 5 the little wife of Peter, Anna Torv being used to provide the emotional wall to Jackson and Noble, she does it brilliantly, but it is a very ungrateful job.

    Wyman does not give her a storyline, she hardly get any decent scenes, and the fact that there is still an Olivia is solely through the brilliance of Anna Torv.

    Anna hoped that Olivia would be active, pro-active and assertive again( she has not been for a long time), it clearly was promised to her by Wyman, see Comic Con,
    Wyman clearly lied to her, see Anna at the Epi100 party, especially how and what she said to GMMR.

    Two men are very happy, Jackson and Noble, and we know from Wymans report from the final that they will be central, no reason to believe otherwise, no time to give Olivia a role,
    maybe she will be used by Walter again pump her with cortexiphan so she can save Michael or Peter,
    but I am certain Olivia in 5.13 will be dead quickly, shot by Walter , and Walter and Peter can do their whining again, and Peter will turn time back, and we will have Olivia in the parc , fainting and in the hospital saying that she is pregnant.

    I would like to know what JJ Abrams thinks of what especially Wyman did to the Olivia he created, watch the pilot and the episodes he had writing credit for, Olivia had a very important role to play,

    and Wyman said in january 2012 that Fringe was also about the coming of age story of Olivia,

    Surely he cannot mean:
    Once a victim always a victim,
    and women give up their being for their men?

    Thank for the space, someone had to say something about the Olivia treatment, men are not going to do it.
    So I did the job, and got some abuse along the way.

    But female characters that Olivia was before she got the Wyman treatment are rare and it is a shame that Fringe that prides itself on being original has gone such a cliche route.

  2. erik

    Fringe is about 3 characters: Walter, Peter, Olivia.

    Joel whyman did not forget about olivia. Episode 512 will be all about Olivia, did you see the set photos (spoilers)?

  3. Kristin (aka @serenityinall)

    Hi. I definitely agree with Erik about the way Fringe is about the main three characters. I’ll never understand the ideas that one main character is short-changed in Fringe. Everyone has the right to their opinion though. Admittedly to me, Astrid has become a main team member too; yet I understand that really she isn’t. The story has always been about the three.

    Terrific review although I don’t agree about the story construction. This is especially true if you consider that this Nina is the one from Season 4 and held a different purpose in the team and Olivia’s life. Also, i am quite surprised by your underwhelmed comment about David Fury episodes. I’d be interested in more conversation on that. Anyway, I always enjoy your reviews, especially the “Patterns” you list. Thanks.

    I wanted to repost a question asked in feedback as it hit me that perhaps this is a better place for it. Forgive the repetition.

    “Hello all and Happy New Year! I haven’t gotten through all of the podcast yet and I haven’t heard the feedback for this episode either. Forgive me if I’m being repetitive.

    I was very happy to see that September was Donald; yet I did have a question about this. In The Recordist episode, the recordist mentioned whe he found the article about Donald at the mine that it was important as the invaders came and took him away. If the invaders came and took Donald, surely they figured out it was September and then what happened I wonder? If I recall this ep pisode regrarded tape three and the Looking Glass episode was tape eight (?). It was a later tape anyway; so, if Donald & September are the same and Donald was captured by the invaders, how did Donald help with the rest of the tapes and with taking Michael to those people? Any ideas? Thanks.

    I rewatched the episode and also found it amusing that when the recordist mentions “a man” and Walter asked if he was September, the man said moist Donald and now we know they are the same. Purposeful clue?”

    Thanks for reading.


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