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Who Watches the Watchmen?: The Observer Arrives on "Fringe"

After a slightly disappointing installment last week (slightly being the operative word here), I thought that last night's episode of Fringe ("The Arrival"), written by Jeff Pinkner and J.J. Abrams, kicked it into high gear with a plot involving a mysterious cylinder that seemingly travels through the ground, the de facto introduction of The Observer after lurking in the background the past few weeks, and the push and pull of a new mythology for the series.

All this and (seemingly) no involvement of Massive Dynamic? You betcha.

I absolutely love The Observer. Completely bald (with no eyebrows either, as Walter likes to point out), some sort of proximity-based psychic abilities, and a penchant for very spicy food (eleven jalapenos, a shaker of pepper, and hot sauce please!) or reduced taste buds, this mystery man has a huge connection to The Pattern and possibly either (A) the people carrying out these experiments or (B) another organization that monitors these Pattern-related phenomenon.

Like The Watcher of Marvel Comics, The Observer seems to not want to get involved. He didn't intervene in the discovery of the cylinder (though he seemed to know the location and time that it would surface) but we do later learn that on at least one occasion in the past he DID get directly involved in events surrounding our cast: he acted to save the lives of Walter and Peter Bishop decades earlier. Why was The Observer following Walter and Peter that night on the road and why did he act to save them? And does he have some sort of knowledge of future events--and Peter and Walter's roles in that unfolding drama--that precipitated his actions? Curious.

I'm also not sure that The Observer is just one man. After all, it does seem highly unlikely that one man would be able to appear in all of those locations after each Pattern-related occurrence... and seemingly not age since 1997, when he was documented at the Quantico appearance of the cylinder. Which leads me to wonder if The Observer is an experiment that didn't go wrong but worked for a change or a series of clones.

He also appears to have the innate gift of telepathy, which he can use within a defined field of proximity. It's the same technology (though somehow embedded within him) that the gunman John Mosley uses to interrogate both Olivia's friend and Peter Bishop. (I will admit that shoving those electrodes up his nose made me a wee bit squeamish.) I have a feeling that these questions will provide the basis for Fringe's first mythology-oriented overarching plot, so it will be a little while before we're able to get to the bottom of this mystery man.

I was shocked when Walter injected Astrid with the syringe and absconded with the cylinder. Yes, he needed to act quickly but it seemed so calculated and wrong that he attacked her in the lab (why did he have a sedative in a syringe laying about like that?) and I don't blame her for not being so willing to forgive him at the end of the episode. However, I thought it was a telling sign of character development on his part that he acted to ask for forgiveness, since most of the time he can't seem to remember who Astrid is.

Speaking of Astrid, I'm going to put myself on the line and ask the series' writers to please give her some much-needed character development herself. While we know that Astrid is Olivia's assistant at the FBI, that's pretty much all that's been disclosed about her character, other than her helpful, perky demeanor. I'm hoping that her backstory is fleshed out over the next few weeks as she's still, after four episodes, little more than a cipher at the moment.

Not sure what's up with the haunting of Olivia, but the eerie phone call and the supernatural manifestation of John in her kitchen (as she makes a sad meal of dry cereal and whiskey) point to either some sort of attempt on his part to communicate with her from within Massive Dynamic's lab... or something else altogether. Obviously, John isn't walking about so I'm curious to see what you think this means? A manifestation of Olivia's grief or guilt? An apparition? Or an attempt to gaslight her?

All in all, "The Arrival" was a fantastic installment--filled with pulse weaponry, telepathy, and that damn cylinder (not to mention the Observer himself)--of a seriesthat seems to be getting better and better as it works out a few kinks. I'm heartbroken that we won't get to see what looks like another intense episode for two weeks but it will give us more time to figure out just what's going on here.

In two weeks on Fringe ("Power Hungry"), the team investigates the case of a man with the ability to harness electricity; Olivia deals with the reappearance of dead man John Scott, and Walter enlists the help of some homing pigeons to deal with their latest investigation. All this and more Observer? I'm so there.


The Observer was so creepy. As for his ability to not age? Maybe he's actually one of The Others.

I'm glad that John showed up again (whether he's real or not) and that he has Olivia spooked.

I can't believe we have to wait two weeks until the next episode!
Anonymous said…
I've been very skeptical about fringe so far but this episode really showed there is hope for the series.

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