Mark Watches ‘Fringe’: S03E20 – 6:02 AM EST

In the twentieth episode of the third season of Fringe, the inevitable collapse begins. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Fringe.

THIS is why I watch Fringe.

I’ve loved the serialized mythology that’s come out of season three, even if some moments weren’t as overwhelming or as poetic as others. The direction this show has taken by introducing a parallel universe and then actively showing us this other world has taken Fringe to an astral-plane-level of existence. There is NOTHING like this on television, and the way the writers have smartly played these two worlds and two sets of characters against each other puts them in a league of their own. They’ve used the past and the parallel to grow characters and show us fascinating stories.

And yet, we are probably completely unprepared for what might be the best run of the show.

Those last three episodes before Fringe took a midseason break—“The Abducted,” “Entrada,” and “Marionette”—packed such an emotional punch that the rest of the season had to go above and beyond to try and match that. Sometimes, the show exceeded that, and sometimes it didn’t. That’s perfectly fine. That’s a good problem to have, I think. But now I have no doubt that the final three episodes of this season, “6:02 AM EST” included, are going to blow everything we’ve seen out of the water.

You get the sense that the writers were very aware that there was a chance that Fringe might not be renewed for a fourth season in this episode. What’s so fantastic about this episode is that despite this, the episode never feels rushed, never feels like anyone is going through the motions. This is real, and the situation is just more urgent than ever.

It was always inevitable that the degradation between universes would finally begin to become all the more drastic, and we saw small moments like those in “6B” or “Os.” I just did not expect them to be so massively violent as what we see here. The locusts come, the sheep are disturbed, and then there’s a strange pulse of ultraviolet light. (DAMN YOU FOR GOING STRAIGHT TO COMMERCIAL AT THIS POINT.) We learn that a vortex, much like the one in “6B,” successfully opened over this place and….look, I just need to put this here. LOOK AT THIS AMAZINGLY UNSETTLING IMAGE, YOU GUYS.

I think it is the fact that it seems to stretch on for miles, far out of our line of vision, that makes me so creeped out. This is a visual confirmation that whatever we thought was going to happen when the universe cracked was a clear underestimation. Aside from the whirlpool in the East River that we saw on the Other Side, we haven’t really witnessed exactly what happens when a vortex becomes real. It’s all amber, details discussed after the fact, mental images provided by words. We don’t have that luxury anymore, and neither do the characters on our side. The world is ripping apart at the seams, so to speak.

I can’t ignore the parallel that’s happening between the various things I am reading and watching, and maybe it’s a sign to something about my personality or taste that I’m enjoying things that do this, but: it’s always the good before the bad. It’s happening in The Book Thief, I believe I’m witnessing some of it in Avatar, and we most certainly get it here in “6:02 AM EST.” The writers of these projects all allow us detailed and intimate moments full of joy and happiness, and then they COMPLETELY SHATTER THEM RUTHLESSLY. Before the Fringe team arrives on the site of the vortex event, we finally get to see Peter and Olivia merely enjoying themselves. Their relationship appears so trusting and loving at this point, and I have no negative qualifying statements about that. It’s simply wonderful. And there’s Walter naked, which is always fun, for sure, but it all leads to a line that, in hindsight, IS GOING TO DESTROY ME:
“I could get used to this.”

UGH THIS IS ALL GOING TO GET RUINED, ISN’T IT. There’s a huge freak out I need to have about this line, but it’ll come later in the episode.

Back at the site of the first complete vortex, I have to wonder why Peter even questions the logistics of his father’s claims anymore. Dude, you have TRAVELED TO A PARALLEL UNIVERSE and there is a machine UNIQUELY BUILT FOR YOUR GENES THAT CAN DESTROY THAT UNIVERSE. I MEAN SERIOUSLY! You’ve seen some of the most ridiculous shit ever, WHY ARE YOU EVEN BEING SKEPTICAL AT THIS POINT? I am worried that this show might end up being affected by something I would like to deem the Dana Scully Syndrome: Peter will act skeptical in future episodes because the show needs a balance to Walter. That’s not to say that The X-Files always suffered from that. It took a long time for the show to finally say, “HEY, MAYBE WE SHOULD REALLY TRY AND CHANGE THIS.” And they did. And I will not discuss it anymore because everyone should watch the greatest show of all time and I refuse to spoil you.

I don’t think this distracted at all from the episode, for the record, especially since by the episode’s end, Peter has actually decided to take a leap of faith instead of meticulously questioning everything. Truthfully, this entire episode is about people taking leaps of faith, and despite that we only got a blue intro screen, the story switches back and forth between universes. In the Other Side, the events of “Bloodline” are outright confirmed: Walternate had Fauxlivia’s preganancy accelerated specifically to use his grandson’s DNA to trigger the Device. FUCKED UP. But the writers are never content to just let villains be villains, and the cold open is yet another reminder that those on the Other Side have made their decisions because of what Walter did when he crossed over. They’ve lived years with their lives in terror, the world able to unravel in just seconds, and Walternate has had to live with the overwhelming terror of having lost his son AND having to lead a world that is disintegrating because of that. While Walternate has more of a tendency towards manipulation than our Walter, I believe that he is being sincere when he relates the story of Oppenheimer to Brandon. I believe he knows that what he is doing is, at a base level, an awful, horrible, not-very-good thing, but it’s one to him that is an absolute necessity in order to save his world.

As a set up for next week’s episode, “6:02 AM EST” also reintroduces Sam Weiss back to the story, whose mysterious past as one of the First People (allegedly!) makes him uniquely interesting to the story as a whole. We don’t get any answers about him here, but I have a feeling he’ll be able to shed light on the First People and the Device before the end of this season. Hell, he better do that, because he seems to know the most about what’s going on.

Actually, that’s an interesting point. The device, which has now been switched on on Our Side by Walternate, is a tool that neither side has any concrete information about. Does Walternate know about the First People? Does he know how the machine works and why it’s so uniquely made for his son? Our Side only has a vague understanding of it, and despite the Other Side showing a great deal of interest in the pieces (and specifically the one they stole), there’s been no outright confirmation that they know the inner workings of it.

So how does Sam Weiss fit into this all?

I’m glad that, early on in this episode, Our Side realizes the Machine has been turned on by those in the other universe, mostly because I don’t think that reveal would have held much weight had the writers saved it for the last two episodes of the season. It also sets up the oncoming heartbreak by mentioning “quantum entanglement” again, as Walter realizes the Machine has the same magnetic field as the typewriter Fauxlivia used to communicate with the other side. I think they’ll save it for the final episode, but Olivia is going to find out that Fauxlivia gave birth to Peter’s son, and that’s how Walternate turned on the device. (Actually, until the final scene, I was intending to predict that Fauxlivia would tell Olivia herself, but now, that’s not going to happen.)

The plan of attack is made here at the mid-point for the episode, as Olivia recognizes the “Blight” from the Other Side and also realizes that magnetic spikes before the opening of the vortex could predict events like they do in the other world, as well. Olivia will head to Massive Dynamic to track down these events and hopefully contain them, while Peter stays with Astrid and Walter to work on the now-activated machine. Peter and Olivia’s parting…UGH. You can see both of them have flashes of pure horror because they know the stakes are higher than ever before. Are they going to see each other again? Is this it? Is one of them going to lose the other? I DON’T LIKE THIS, AND I WON’T RESPOND TO IT.

Oh god, why do I never ship characters ever and then I finally do AND IT’S THE MOST OBVIOUS, CANON-SUPPORTED SHIP OF ALL TIME. Christ.

Back on the other side, the writers continue to prove that they are much better people than we are with some wonderful parallels and character interaction between Fauxlivia and Walternate. When Fauxlivia finally confronts her boss about having to stand down from a Class Ten event earlier that day, the conversation they have is just SO WONDERFULLY RICH IN SUBTEXT AND MEANING. I am not usually a fan of characters spelling out metaphors and such, but I genuinely love that Walter pointed out the obvious, that everyone chooses their allegiance, that people have to choose who they support and love, and that sometimes you have to make difficult decisions in order to keep those you love safe. What Walternate never counted on is Fauxlivia’s allegiances being so bound to her emotions, and I seriously cheer at the thought that the writers are making her emotional attachments a moral choice. And they are a moral choice, because despite that Walternate truly has suffered because of Walter’s actions, what he’s doing here is ultimately a mistake, one being made out of a lack of a complete picture and one being done out of spite. He is willing to KILL HIS OWN SON to save the world and the great tragedy of this all is that there might actually be a third option here, but he refuses to see it.

What could that third option be? Is there a way to save both universes?

As I had mentioned in the beginning of this review, you can sort of tell that we’re nearing the end of the season, and there’s a slight feel that some of this may have been written with the knowledge that there would not be a fourth season. (HUZZAH FOR SEASON FOUR!!!) None of this is a detriment to the story at all. Things just need to be dealt with, especially things that we’ve been toying with for the whole season. And one of those Very Big Things That We Cannot Ignore Any Longer is the Machine.

Peter proposes a very interesting theory: If he can turn the machine on, maybe it’s possible that he could also turn it off. Walter is, naturally, quite frightened by the idea, but in a heartbreaking callback to “The Firefly,” he realizes that the Observer was preparing him for this moment, to see if he could actually sacrifice his son. I really don’t like watching Walter cry, so this episode is particularly devastating on this front. Still, Walter knows that his son has to try this experiment out, both as a scientist and because it needs to happen. They have to stop this machine or their world is going to be destroyed.

I know there were quite a few comments in the liveblog of this nature, but I just want to confirm: As Peter prepared to step into the machine, did anyone else FORGET HOW TO BREATHE? Look, we’ve been waiting for this moment for a LONG time. So goddamn long. And this show treated this moment with such a great respect for all of us in the audience who have been dying to see this happen. It’s all started off with the best moment between Astrid and Peter, who comforts his little panic attack when he tries to tell her something to relay to Olivia:

“Whatever it is, you’ll tell her yourself.”

SERIOUSLY, I LOVE HER CHARACTER SO MUCH. Oh god, her eyes are all read and watery and my heart hurts and I just want to reach through the screen and hug all of these characters so hard.

That makes Peter’s long walk to the machine that much more painful. Again, did not breathe for a second. Beautifully filmed, with a fantastic backdrop of all the people watching him make his way to that impossible machine that’s whirring away, a look of calm determination on Peter’s face.

And seriously, did any of you expect the machine to jolt Peter with electricity and send him flying to the floor, covered in blood? No? Ok. So.



I guess in hindsight, it makes sense that the machine would protect itself, even from Peter, but when that happened, that’s when I decided breathing was ok. And yelling at the TV screen. And wanting to punch my cats, but purely out of a frustrating rage of surprise. Ok, I wouldn’t punch my cats. They’re too cute!

As if this could not get any more urgent and awful, when Olivia finally makes it to Massive Dynamic, Nina reveals that there are increasingly frightening events taking place all over the United States that are clear signs that the universe is beginning to crack. Even worse than that is the fact that Nina says there is only enough amber currently produced to handle TEN EVENTS. TEN!!!! Oh my god, this is not going to end well, is it? THIS IS GOING TO BE A DISASTER.

But there’s hope! Or…at least there was for a brief moment. Back on the Other Side, we find out that Fauxlivia’s emotional questioning of Walternate has inspired her to return to Our Side in order to stop the machine from running. It’s revealed that she has only told one person her plans to do this: Lincoln. In a quick progression from “Bloodline,” Fauxlivia tells Lincoln that he’s the only person she truly trusts in her world, and I found it to be such a genuinely sweet moment, even if the subtext of it is that this might also be the last time she sees him. UGH MORE LINCOLN.

But Fauxlivia’s dedicated crusade allows us to watch her be a royal BAMF and knock Brandon the fuck out. HOW SATISFYING WAS THAT. I MEAN REALLY NOW. Brandon on the Other Side is just awful and irritating, and he most certainly needed to be beat in and around the face by Fauxlivia with a gun. I think most of us expected a huge moment as she ran from the guards to safely use the device she stole to get to Our Side, and I certainly anticipated some glorious flash as Fauxlivia popped into existence in our world, a new variable to the entire story. EXCEPT NOPE. CAPTURED. In a stunning parallel to the end of season two, Walternate comes to address Fauxlivia in a cell, held against her will for trying to return to Our Side. It feels just as hopeless as before, maybe even more so: How is she going to get out of this?

Which brings me back to Peter: How is he going to get out of this? While I try to ponder this, I do want to talk about the absolute gut-wrenching, tear-inducing scene of John Noble, crouched in that hospital chapel, begging God to forgive him for what he’s done. You might think that it’s rather strange of an atheist to adore this scene, but I love it. I don’t think it negates a single second of Walter’s character or his growth in the slightest. I haven’t actively been involved with religion in nearly a decade, and I certainly haven’t believed in God in that much time either. But a lot of atheists, myself included, were raised with God, those concepts drilled into our head at a very, very young age. Perhaps Walter was one of those people, and I’d like to think he was. I know that, in the ten years of calling myself an atheist, I have most certainly lapsed into the familiar patterns of a believer because I simply cannot help myself. It is so incredibly hard to break those behaviors or those routines after you’ve spent so much time thinking it’s all true for you. I can’t stop my brain from damning God when things turn sour for me, and I can’t stop my brain from asking for help when I need it. It just happens.

I don’t know, I did not watch this scene and read any sort of overarching Christian element to it. Walter believes that forces beyond his control are bringing the karma of what he’s done to Peter, to Olivia and all the Cortexiphan subjects, and they are giving him his due. I think criticizing the man for turning to God in what is, admittedly, probably the worst moment in his life is pretty darn silly and ridiculous. At that moment, he feels he needs something grand like God to fix his problems, and I find it to be a remarkably touching and emotional turn for Walter, and certainly one of the best acted scenes in the entire third season.

The final moments of “6:02 AM EST” confirm the direction of the next episode (I HOPE) as Olivia arrives to see Peter and Astrid updates her. The situation is serious, but not hopeless. Stepping out to see the sunrise (a great callback to her bit to Peter earlier in the episode), she is shocked to see that Sam Weiss is waiting for her. And she cannot ask questions. She just needs to come with him to help.

Fuck. YES.


  • Ugh, naked Walter is just so brilliant. He literally does not care about it, but then he seems so concerned that Olivia doesn’t have warm pajama bottoms. I LOVE THIS MAN.
  • We may never see Broyles act like he did in “Lysergic Acid Diethylamide,” but he had a really unsettling look of pure fear on his face when talking to Walter about Peter entering the machine. I predict Broyles will have exactly three total expressions on his face in the next two episodes.
  • Again, and seriously I am so awful at this, I DID NOT SEE THE OBSERVER. Why am I so bad at this?
  • MORE ASTRID. Looks like we’ll have to wait for season four. COME ON WRITERS. PLEASE.


About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
This entry was posted in Fringe and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

449 Responses to Mark Watches ‘Fringe’: S03E20 – 6:02 AM EST

  1. monkeybutter says:

    I can type during Doctor Who commercials, right? Right. This won't get confusing at all!

    I really liked the episode, but I'm completely at a loss as to how it will be resolved. GOOD JOB FRINGE. Maybe quantum emotional entanglement will drag Fauxlivia over to the other universe? And she will bring baby Henry's cord blood to do stem cell magic on Peter. Fringe science!

    Brandon getting knocked out was the best part of the episode. So satisfying. Makes up for everything else leaving me on tenterhooks!

  2. SecretGirl127 says:

    I have been waiting all day for this review. SAM WEISSSSSSSS! He knows the timeline is wrong. Walternate went commando. What's going to happen. I need more Fringe!

  3. unicornseatrainbows says:

    I sincerely hope that Lincoln and Scarlie will bust Altliv out of the DoD.

    And I 100% agree with you about Walter's scene in the hospital chapel. I'm an atheist and I really identified with Walter here. SUCH A BEAUTIFUL SCENE. All the Emmy's for John Noble! I just can't keep myself from tearing up when Walter does.

  4. katherinemh says:

    I caught the Observer on my second viewing! And I literally just sat there saying, "OBSERVER. OBSERVER. OBSERVER. OBSERVER" until he wasn't on screen anymore.

    I'll just post screencaps, since I know some people like to try to find him themselves.

  5. J. says:

    I never see the Observer either, but I think that's because I lived in Vancouver last summer and so I'm always trying to see if I can tell where they're shooting.
    (The sadness in those posts is because I went to Vancouver to work on Fringe, but things fell through.)

  6. Hotaru_hime says:

    I never remember to look for the Observer until AFTER the episode is over. I guess I'm too busy looking at glyphs.
    Walter's scene at the hospital! Oh, my heart! It cant' take much more of this. It harkens back to "White Tulip" back in season 2 when at the end, Faraday sent him the envelope with the drawn white tulip, when Walter confessed that he had never believed in God until he took Peter.
    This whole episode had me screaming and flailing internally. I wonder what'll happen in the last two episodes of the season? We're not supposed to trust Sam Weiss… or are we?

  7. knut_knut says:

    By the end of this episode I was literally at the edge of my seat, freaking out. I have noooooo idea how this story line is going to play out but I am SO EXCITED!!!!!

    I've given up looking for The Observer :/ I always start the episode out saying I'm going to pay attention and look for him, but 10 minutes in I'm too into the story and forget…oops

  8. Emily says:

    I find Sam Weiss to be unbelievably smug and annoying, but I am so thrilled that we are finally going to get some answer's from/about him. How many days till Friday?!

  9. sabra_n says:

    I think criticizing the man for turning to God in what is, admittedly, probably the worst moment in his life is pretty darn silly and ridiculous.

    I don't criticize Walter. I just feel…vaguely disappointed by U.S. pop culture, which always has people kneeling by a cross in times of trouble. I don't expect Fringe to be my happy non-Gentile show, but it would have been nice if the cliche had been avoided, is all. The two most heartbreaking (and for me, important) lines in that scene- "I've changed. That should matter." – could also have been spoken to Nina, no? Or even to a comatose Peter, to bring out another old favorite from the screenwriter's toolbox. The whole chapel thing isn't a stain on the episode or anything, but I don't think it's an inarguably awesome choice, either.

    Anyway. I have spent the past week watching this entire show's run from the beginning and at last I've caught up! Now I can, uh…get back to actually doing my finals. Oops.

    ETA – None of this is to say I disliked the episode. Quite the contrary. I am SO SUSPENSED, GUYS!!1!

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