Mark Watches ‘Fringe’: S05E03 – The Recordist

In the third episode of the fifth season of Fringe, the group travels to a remote location in Pennsylvania to attempt to find a piece of the puzzle to defeat the Observers. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Fringe.

Y’all, the writers of this show are just too clever for words.

  • Okay, that statement isn’t technically true because I’m about to spew out a ton of words about how clever they are.
  • So, can we appreciate the fact that this show jumped over two decades into the future, is filling in the blanks with fascinating bits of exposition through dialogue, and now figured out how to take a heavily serialized story and drop a monster-of-the-week-styled script into the midst of this?
  • For real, this episode harkened back to season one when half the plots were just loving references to The X-Files. And it’s still absolutely crucial to the season’s mythology! My god, I am just so full of praise for Fringe.
  • I do have one criticism, though: Can this season not do that thing where Astrid just hangs out in the background for like two or three scenes and gets no character development? Thanks.
  • So, how do they locate the other tapes? Are they all in the lab, or does each tape reference the location of another one? Hmmm.
  • I don’t know that I’ve ever commented on it in any of my reviews, but I love Walter’s unabashed love of and use of weed, and it makes me really happy to see it so blatantly displayed on the screen. I don’t even smoke weed, and I still loved that scene in the cold open!
  • What if it was a tree dwarf, and then the show just turned into Lord of the Rings and –
  • wait no i take that back that’s weird.
  • Anyway, on a more serious note! “The Recordist” truly belongs after “In Absentia” because it’s a companion story to that one. In this episode, both Olivia and River must re-learn what it means to be a hero, and the archetype is deconstructed for both characters. This is paralleled with the deconstruction of the enemy in “In Absentia” as we learn more about who Manfretti is, why he chose to be a Loyalist, and why Etta initially refused to see him as anything more than his political association.
  • Also, this episode totally deals with the infection trope in a totally fascinating way. I mean, okay, first of all, sweet babies look at the make up and prosthetics in this. SO FANTASTIC! It all looked so organic. Bravo! The infection is sort of second place to everything else going on. It’s a part of the story, but it doesn’t define it, and I think that makes “The Recordist” so much stronger than it could have been otherwise.
  • OKAY SO THIS COMMUNITY. Holy shit, like, y’all know that the idea of oppressors erasing the history of the oppressed is a real fucking thing that marginalized people have had to deal with and continue to deal with? And to have that so plainly said on this show was just… wow. These people refuse to let history tell another story of what happened to them, whether they are victorious or not. That’s so awesome.
  • And then there’s River, that little historian. He draws graphic novelizations of past Fringe cases and activities, and even makes up his own. There’s obviously some hero worship going on, and I was initially confused as to why Olivia was having such a perplexing reaction. Both Peter and Etta seemed excited, but she was reserved. What was she thinking?
  • What would Walter leave in a mine? It made no sense to me until I realized that he might just need something from there, something that was always present.
  • APPLE PILLS. Wow, no thank you.
  • Regardless, that apple pie scene was what finally triggered an epiphany. Clearly, Olivia remembered what the name of the diner. She didn’t want to think about that time. In those days, she didn’t know if her daughter was even alive anymore. Right there, you could see how Peter and Olivia had each chosen to cope with the loss of Etta and the joy of getting her back. Peter was ecstatic, ready to move forward, but Olivia still had doubts and regrets over how things went down. The diner conversation triggered those negative memories and thoughts, which had been building over the course of this episode.
  • So, I wondered, what the hell could those rocks do and why would the Observers want the man who once found them? Okay, they must be connected to Walter’s plans, but how?
  • God, I loved that conversation in the van so much. Beautifully acted and written, it’s another sign of how great this show is at giving their characters the space to grow. (Except Astrid, which I will forever hold a grudge for. Come on, please use her more! Okay, done complaining, I swear!)
  • Anyway, Olivia’s fears with Etta are all related to the self esteem issues we’ve seen over the history of this show, and Olivia’s self worth takes a serious beating from herself. I can’t imagine the pressure one must be under as a mother, and then you add that to everything else Olivia has experienced, and you can see why Olivia feels she didn’t deserve such a wonderful daughter. I admit that it hit me pretty hard to hear Olivia say that she didn’t know if she was wired to be a parent because it’s something I believe about myself. I’ve never really had a desire to have children, but I wonder if that’s just who I am or if something was made wrong inside me. Plenty of other queer folks I know want to have children, so it’s not an issue of my sexuality. Anyway, I know I’m projecting all over Olivia. You shouldn’t be surprised, considering I’ve done it a billion goddamn times in the past. I guess I just wanted to say that I appreciated the show for having a character talk about a fear that I imagine others have gone through, too.
  • So while Olivia must face what it means to be a hero in Etta’s eye, Edwin Massey must also cope with the fact that his son’s idea of heroism may clash with the practical reality that’s facing this group of people. River storms away from the group when his father refuses to help the Fringe team. The kid has an idealized and partially-imagined sense of these people, and he then projects that on to his own father, deeming his father a coward in his mind. And I’m sure that seeing his son run away influenced Edwin’s eventual path, but for a short moment, I actually thought he wouldn’t help anyone out.
  • I don’t know that many other shows would have such an intimate scene between two secondary characters we’ll never see again. But Fringe gives Edwin and River the space to have a pretty damn cool conversation about what it means to be a hero and a parent. Bless this show.
  • I experienced a moment of panic when Olivia and Peter realized they’d been sent to a dead end: Edwin sold them out to the Observers. OH GOD MY HEART STARTED RACING and then I realized that made no sense.
  • He sacrificed himself. He knew he could trust his son to carry on his legacy, he knew that if he went down himself, it would buy the Fringe team enough time to escape without the Observers finding this encampment, and he knew he could make history instead of just recording it. Just incredible. Heartbreaking, but incredible.
  • So, the team has the weird quartz-like crystals! A power source! Oh god, so what’s next?

I love this show so much.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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