Fringe Round Table: "An Origin Story"

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The world of The Observers blew wide open with Peter's anger in "An Origin Story."

What does this mean for Fringe? Join staffers Sean McKenna, Carla Day and Carissa Pavlica, along with super fan Nick Shere, in the latest edition of the TV Fanatic Round Table, as they attempt to make sense of what all we just witnessed...


Did we watch the origin of all Observers or only Observers with tech?
Sean: That's an interesting question, but I'll pick all Observers. They were humans at one point after all, so it makes sense that they utilized tech to elevate them to the new status.

Nick: Probably of all adult Observers. I wonder about the baby Observer we saw a while back, though. Is the tech installed at birth/in vitro/at a certain age?

Carla: Not sure. The whole tech thing was such a surprise to me. It's something I hope we learn more about, because it could be the integral to bringing them down.

Carissa: I don't remember seeing the baby Observer, so that leaves me absolutely lost. Maybe the ARMY Observers get the tech?  I feel like we're getting more questions with all new information provided!

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Did you expect Observers to be a technologically advanced being or merely genetically advanced?
Sean: I never expected them to be more tech than genetics. I guess I sort of assumed that their stone faced, bald headed, fedora wearing people were based off changes in genetics, but the idea that tech is involved gives Peter and the Fringe team a better chance of beating them.

Nick: I expected the differences to be genetic -- or at least *biological*, like the Cortexiphan kids. I wasn't expecting biomechanical, but it actually makes a fair bit of sense, since it potentially ties them in to Walter, Walternate, and Bell's work on the shapeshifters.

Carla: I didn't really expect either. The Observers have always been such a mystery to me. Part of what I've been looking forward to this season is to get a better understanding of the Observers and especially how they shifted from "observing" to ruling humans.

Carissa: No tech was involved in my mind. After hundreds of years, and with the aid of things like coretxiphan, I never even introduced the possibility of robo-men into my mind. I guess it tells us why their heads are shaved. Maintenance?

How might a human tech hybrid change the Observers we thought we knew?
Sean: I'm still creeped out by them, but knowing that they are essentially just humans with tech makes them less unbeatable gods. I guess it just shows that even when humans think they have ascended to a higher plane of existence, there's still a cost.

Nick: Not sure. I think the biggest difference between Observers and humans will always be about perspective. Individual lives don't matter to the Observers because they have a trans-temporal perspective. Observers who break from the pattern of Observer norms do so because they develop a connection with a person that changes their perspective on the value of individual life/existence. (As with August and September.)

Carla: It really depends on whether Peter becomes connected to their world or not. Will he be able to read their thoughts? Are the Observers' minds connected through the tech. Not sure, but very intrigued to find out.

Carissa: Based on what Carla said above, I'm imagining Walter playing the Jeff Goldblum role in Independence Day and introducing a virus to bring them, and possibly his irresponsible son, down. Astrid will have to play the Will Smith role because she'll be the only person willing to give Walter a cigar with Olivia in a puddle of tears. It's my story, let me have it! 

Was Peter justified in what he did and was it a smart move?
Sean: Smart move? More like crazy move. I've got a bad feeling that sticking the tech in is going to cause more problems for Peter and perhaps even change him into the things he is fighting.

Nick: I think it was a horrible decision, but I think it's one that's absolutely in line with Peter's character, and it demonstrates the ways in which he is both like and unlike his father. Like his father, grief can compel him to do awesome/terrible things, but unlike his father, he isn't really a scientist -- he's never done long-term research or true science. His basic character is criminal and opportunistic, a rogue technologist -- not a bad guy, but someone who gets by through improvisation, force of character, manipulation, and risk-taking. Walter would have reverse-engineered the tech and built a weapon. Peter doesn't have that kind of patience; he just jams it in his head. It also evokes the theme of technological augmentation as self-harm that we saw in "White Tulip."

Carla: Smart? No. Justified? Not sure. Understandable? Definitely. He was a man who will do whatever he can to bring down the Observers. He's willing to sacrifice himself now. It was a crazy move, but at the same time sort of honorable.

Carissa: He's not justified. He's not thinking at all. He should have run it by his father and his wife. They could have chosen somebody else for the task. A volunteer? I don't know. He's being rash and I'm disappointed at how little he seems to care about the other people he loves and has left. To quote Nick, with regard to the little tech piece, Just jamming it in his head was downright idiotic. If he had taken even an hour to think about it, he would have realized Etta would never have wanted him to be the thing she fought her whole life to defeat.

Olivia is handling things unexpectedly, as well. Do you think one of the other of the married super duo is making better choices or influenced by grief?
Sean: Smart move? More like crazy move. I've got a bad feeling that sticking the tech in is going to cause more problems for Peter and perhaps even change him into the things he is fighting.

Nick: It's hard to say, because we haven't really seen what course of action Olivia is going to take yet.

Carla: Olivia definitely is making better decisions and handling her grief in a less-harmful manner.

Carissa: Olivia seems to be going through the 12 stages, as she's at least hitting some stages, and Peter is flat out crazy, so given what we've seen so far Peter's flying by the seat of his pants and Olivia is giving herself time to process.

What was your reaction to Walter presenting Olivia with the extraneous Etta-related video?
Sean: I was glad he did. Olivia and Peter have to work together to the bitter end, and despite Etta's death, they can't grow apart. It was a nice sentimental touch from Walter.

Nick: Again, I think this recalls "White Tulip" -- Walter knows that the feelings of pain and anger and the desire to act have to be tempered by a moral perspective, or else they will be a destructive force. In "White Tulip," he was able to argue that out with Peter Weller's character, because he was so Walter-like. With Olivia, he takes a more visceral/emotional approach. Unfortunately, he isn't able to find a way to convey the same thing to Peter, at least not in time.

Carla: Touching. That video was proof that Etta existed and that they were happy at one point. He offered her Etta back in a way and a means to let her feelings out. Olivia is one to lock everything inside and the video helped her.

Carissa: It was very sweet, and very Walter. He has always used items to get him through the tough times and it was kind of him to remember the video and share it with Olivia.

Halfway through the season, what's your best guess now at where the two-hour series finale will leave us on January 18th?
Sean: Someone will die and the Observers will be defeated. I've got a feeling because it does have an end date that we will get a satisfying conclusion to this show.

Nick: We're seeing Olivia and Peter become more like original recipe Walter: people willing to "break the universe" to try to redress their personal loss. I hope that the resolution of that storyline includes them getting past this, as Walter has. That may mean, ultimately, that they need to find a way to change the observers instead of simply destroying or defeating them.

Carla: The Observers will be beat and the Bishop family will be together happy.

Carissa: I'm sticking by my theory of virus introduction to the Observers, so I think they will be defeated. I also have a feeling the world will be wiped from the memories of all but our trusty Fringe team as they flutter back in time to the day in the field when Etta was blowing the seeds off of fluffy daisies. While that will be a happy ending, it won't be as satisfying to me, because life isn't full of happy endings. 

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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