Fringe 5.04 "The Bullet That Saved The World" REVIEW

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Fringe 5.04 "The Bullet That Saved The World" TV REVIEW


Episode 5.04
Writer: Alison Schapker
Director: David Straiton

THE ONE WHERE The Observers work out that the Fringe team are operating out of Walter's old lab at Harvard, prompting a hasty evacuation/ambering of the facility. Meanwhile, Walter's tapes lead them to Manhattan's Penn station – the location of the latest clue in their mission to save the world.

VERDICT An already brilliant season steps up a gear with one of Fringe 's most memorable – and emotionally charged – episodes ever. Even before tragedy hits in the last five minutes (more on that later), this is a belter, packed with edge-of-the-seat moments. There's Peter trying to evade a curious Observer in a corner shop; the escape from Walter's lab, aided by Olivia's ingenious idea to re-amber the whole lot; the team's audacious mission to fight their way into Manhattan using Fringe tech from season one; and then a final chase and gunfight in an abandoned warehouse. To say it's action-packed really doesn't do it justice.

There's also some brilliant character moments. Olivia chatting with her daughter about the bullet necklace she wears is beautifully and touchingly played, while Broyles' sparring with Windmark is loaded with tension – has the Observer twigged that he's on the side of the good guys? Then, of course, there's Olivia, Peter and Walter's joyful reunion with Broyles, the resistance's number one undercover agent. What a shame that joy is so short lived...

Because soon after comes the sucker punch, the moment that means this episode will always be one of Fringe 's most remembered. The episode's pre-publicity had hinted that a key player was going to die, meaning 45 minutes of knotted-stomach action as you try to work out who's going to meet their maker. (I must admit that, when we saw Astrid stay behind at the lab to start tunnelling back through the amber, I thought it might be she who was doomed in a cunning piece of misdirection.)

That it should be Etta who dies is both the cruellest and the most dramatically satisfying choice the writers could have made. With Etta brutally shot in the chest by the genuinely chilling Windmark (a brilliant villain ), the sight of Peter and Olivia realising that the daughter with whom they've just reconnected is going to die is truly heartbreaking – even more so when they have to abandon her in her last moments because she's decided to take the entire building down with her, courtesy of Agent Broyles' anti-matter batons.

It also has the knock-on effect of giving Peter and Olivia even more motivation to rid the world of the Observers – as well as opening up parallels with Walter's own feelings of loss when he lost his own son. Will Peter now embark on a mission to play with time and space to bring his daughter back? The fact that she's been vaporised makes any comeback difficult, but if any show can find a way it's Fringe .

FAREWELL She'd only appeared in five episodes, but Etta had already started to feel a key part of the team – this isn't just the death of a guest star, it's the demise of a key cog in the Fringe universe, and its repercussions are likely to be felt through the rest of the season.

NUMBER ONE WITH A BULLET It's not confirmed out loud, but Olivia describing Etta's bullet – recovered from their old family home – as "the bullet that saved the world" seems to confirm our speculation a couple of weeks back that it was the one Walter pulled from her brain in " Brave New World: Part Two ".

IN THE BASEMENT It's a fun treat for Fringe fans to see Walter's secret basement, with its selection of the show's greatest hits. The porcupine man previously featured in "The Transformation" (1.13) and " Nothing Is As It Seems " (4.16). The substance that causes every orifice to seal over previously appeared in "Ability" (1.14). The window to the parallel universe previously appeared in "Peter" (2.16) – could part of Walter's plan involves asking Walternate and co for help?

ON THE BROYLES Isn't it great to have Philip Broyles back – even if Lance Reddick's ageing make-up makes him look a bit odd. (Maybe the lack of hair to grey up made the make-up artists feel they needed to work that little bit harder to age him 24 years?) We'd never wanted to believe that he was a collaborator, so the revelation that he's (probably) the Dove, helping out the resistance, is a great big high-five moment – a brief moment of joy before the tragedy that follows.

NITPICK 1 Broyles has always been a stoical guy, not the sort to wear his emotions on his sleeve. So it seems rather out of character when he embraces Olivia – their relationship has never been touchy-feely before. And his keeping a picture of Olivia and Peter is also unexpected. Maybe two decades of Observer rule have softened that hard veneer?

NITPICK 2 The Observers' ignorance of Earth culture is rather silly, given the amount of research September and his science team did before their arrival. Even if the sport is no longer played in the future, it's hard to believe that an Observer would have to ask Peter, "What is baseball?" as Peter fills his mind with random thoughts to avoid the Observer's scans. And surely Windmark's been on Earth long enough to have grasped the concept of love – he may not feel emotions like us, but the idea that he couldn't grasp the concept of Peter buying a present for his daughter doesn't ring true.

"There was a time we solved Fringe cases. Now I think it's time we created a few of our own."

Walter: "This is Greek to me, except that I read Greek. This is Aramaic to me, and not the Western dialect. I do speak a little."

Richard Edwards

Fringe airs on Sky1 in the UK on Wednesday nights at 10pm, and on Fox in the US on Friday nights.

Read our previous reviews of Fringe season five

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Richard is a freelancer journalist and editor, and was once a physicist. Rich is the former editor of SFX Magazine, but has since gone freelance, writing for websites and publications including GamesRadar+, SFX, Total Film, and more. He also co-hosts the podcast, Robby the Robot's Waiting, which is focused on sci-fi and fantasy.