TV Review: FRINGE S5E3, THE RECORDIST (Or, The Fringe Team Play The World's Easiest Game Of Hide And Seek Ever)

Todd Brown, Founder and Editor
Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. That's what this entire season of Fringe should be labelled because it is becoming increasingly clear that, like The X-Files before it, Fringe is now a show that didn't have enough good sense to know when to stop. What makes it particularly galling in this case is that - unlike The X-Files, which simply exposed the fact that it never actually had an end point in mind in the first place - Fringe had actually arrived at a satisfying conclusion at the end of season four before plowing madly ahead anyway. And now it's all turning to pointless, silly crap.

This week's particular brand of silly crap involves the beginning of the extended game of hide and seek that will drive the rest of the season, with the team finding the first of the videotaped clues that Walter left behind containing his plan to defeat The Observers and chasing down the first object they will need. And where did Walter leave this vital piece of information? On his desk, of course. In his lab. In plain sight. More or less right next to the video camera containing the other tape ... the one with the message telling people there would be a series of video tapes containing detailed instructions about how to defeat the time traveling, mind reading oppressors who now control the planet. Because, you know, when you create a series of hidden messages to defeat a species of super intelligent, time traveling super beings the smart thing to do is leave them all together and not actually hide them at all in the first place. Especially if you leave them in the first place your enemies would look if they were curious about what you - a known leader of the resistance to their rule - were spending your days doing.

Nobody seems at all surprised that Walter's big, complicated security scheme is actually incredibly stupid. Nope. In the new world of Fringe this makes sense, this is clever. As is leaving Astrid in the self same lab for days on end without food or water or any way to protect herself should The Observers - who have, after all, taken over the entire Harvard campus other than the one lab where all the stuff the Fringe team need to defeat them and are therefore hanging around all over the damn place - realize she's there. Not like they're mind readers and Astrid knows the entire plan and, therefore, might need to be protected in some form. Nope. No worries. It's all good.

You're clearly not supposed to think about such things in the new Fringe, just like you're not supposed to think about how all the time traveling Observers need to do to catch them all is travel back to a point where they know the entire team will be - such as when they break Walter out of his interrogation, for instance - and simply wait for them there. And you're definitely not supposed to think about how a band of known fugitives is able to travel safely from Boston to rural Pennsylvania without being spotted. Nope. Definitely not supposed to think about that as the entire journey takes place in a single edit. "This is going to be dangerous! We'll have to avoid checkpoints!" "Hey, we're here, yay!" Sigh. Clearly we are dealing with the least competent race of alien oppressors in the entire history of science fiction. Fringe is now making me pine for the shitty relaunch of V.

So, where does Walter's magically undiscovered videotape lead them? To a camp of refugees who appear to be slowly turning into trees while they chronicle the history of the human race under the oppression of the Observers using solar technology and ridiculously large, advanced complex computer hardware of their own devising. The tree thing? That's some sort of environmental contamination but they can't leave! No! Their work is important and the hardware is too large and heavy to move! Why these Observer Observers can't simply jot history down in a notebook in a location that won't make their skin all funky is never addressed.

So, what's in the camp? Well, there's a kid drawing graphic novels based on real and imagined episodes from their lives, for one thing. And there's a lot of sighing about parenthood and bravery. And there's a tapped out gold mine that also contains some sort of rocks that can be used as a power supply for whatever Walter's eventual plan may turn out to be. Problem is that the mine is also the source of the environmental contamination and you can't go in there without some sort of protective gear. What sort of contamination? Don't know. Nobody can ever really be bothered to say what's happening or why, explaining away the raging skin disorder as some sort of advanced autoimmune response without ever getting into what's actually causing it. Is it in the air? Could be, but then all Walter would need is some sort of breathing apparatus and not a full suit. Is it radiation? That would be logical considering these are super powered rocks but, no ... Walter's suit requires copper (which does nothing for radiation) and nobody seems to bear any ill effects when they succeed (of course) and take a big bucket of the rocks back home with them.

There's other stuff, of course - a relationship you're supposed to care about, but don't; and incredibly half hearted attempt by the Observers to catch the Scooby Gang, etc - but nothing you really care about because the entire basis of what everyone's doing is stupid nonsense. Nonsense which will apparently continue, because given that there was no clue at the mine as to where Walter's next videotape may be I have a sneaking suspicion that it - like the first - is simply sitting on a desk in the lab. Seriously, dude, why not just right it all out on the chalk board and be done with it? Ugh.
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  • Pulstar

    I think it's fairly obvious Fringe has jumped the shark for a while now.

  • Nah, I thought all of season four was quite solid. After spending a couple years making the story bigger and bigger they did a great job of contracting back down to a really intimate story that tied all the threads - both big and small - back together and wrapping it up. It's this season that's sucked so far.

  • Pulstar

    Thanks for the reply, yes I do suppose S4 was more watchable, but I agree with your reviews of the recent episodes. I'm mostly still watching because of those palatable Walter Bishop moments. :)

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