Fox, 23 March-20 April 2012
It’s 2036 and the Observers have taken over, but there’s still hope! Walter Bishop has been found preserved in amber and his granddaughter Etta is on the case…
Letters of Transit, episode 19 of Fringe’s fourth season, is an atypical instalment but easily one of the best of the series’ entire run. From its Blade Runner inspired text and music opening sequence (and brilliant revised titles), to the less-than-surprising final pay-off, this is great television that rewards long term viewers and makes the case for the immediate renewal of the series for a fifth year.
While we’ve had major information imparted recently (such as the Observers’ background and motives), there are still too many episodes that reek of The X-Files, among them episode 15 A Short Story About Love. That one, however, is enlivened by a sub-plot about Observer September (Michael Cerveris) and a tie-back to the mysterious underground drilling pods from season one’s The Arrival.
Lacking that kind of strong mythological tie-in, episode 16 Nothing As It Seems lacks the vital Fringe spark. There’s another tie-back to a first season episode (in this case The Transformation), but overall the piece is unfocused, with a bit of Nina Sharp’s and Phillip Broyles’ machinations thrown in.
In Everything In Its Right Place, the death of ‘over there’s’ Captain Lee plays in to Agent Lee’s (Seth Gabel) attempts to escape ‘our’ universe and Lee’s unreciprocated love for Olivia, but still comes as something of a surprise. His relationship with ‘Fauxlivia’ builds during the following episode, The Consultant, in which Walter Bishop makes his first trip ‘over there’ (in this timeline at least…). Torv excels in her starring role as ‘Fauxlivia’ here, highlighting the dullness of the ‘original’ version of the character and making her dramatic absence from Letters of Transit all the more noticeable.
However in Letters of Transit, Georgina Haig makes for a great Olivia stand-in as Etta (no surprise as to her relationship to Olivia, revealed at the end), while Henry Ian Cusick makes great strides in distancing himself from his Lost character as Simon Foster. A surprise (seemingly digital?) appearance by Leonard Nimoy as William Bell is just one of this episode’s many pleasures. Stealing the acting awards, though, is John Noble getting to play through various facets of Walter Bishop as he returns to his former formidable self. It’s easily the best episode of the entire series so far.
Verdict: An overall good run of episodes is trumped by the perfection of the atypical Letters of Transit: renewal has been earned but still may not be delivered…
Episode 15 ‘A Short Story About Love’: 7/10
Episode 16 ‘Nothing As It Seems’: 6/10
Episode 17 ‘Everything In Its Right Place’: 7/10
Episode 18 ‘The Consultant’: 7/10
Episode 19 ‘Letters of Transit’: 10/10
Brian J. Robb