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Cult Recap

'Fringe' recap: A glimpse of the future in 'Letters of Transit'

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Fringe S04E19: 'Letters of Transit'

© Fox

Season 4, episode 19 | Aired Wednesday, Apr 25 2012 at 22:00 BST on Sky1

This Week... In 2015, the Observers seized control of Earth. The original Fringe Team fought the invasion, but was quickly defeated. Fringe Division was allowed to continue at a reduced capacity, but only to police the Natives. The resistance was quickly overcome... Or so they thought.

Observing Fringe... It's clear from the opening crawl that 'Letters of Transit' is going to be a very different Fringe episode - it's Boston 2036 and the Observers have stopping observing and turned nasty - this dystopian future Earth is under their control...

But these Observers are quite different to the calm, passive creatures we've come to know. They appear to have telepathic and telekinetic abilities far in excess of what we've glimpsed previously, but far more oddly, they've taken to smiling, hanging out in swanky nightclubs and harassing pretty girls.

Our world's only hope lies in two agents of the hollowed-out Fringe division - Etta (Georgina Haig) and Simon (Henry Ian Cusick, best known as Desmond 'Ah Luv Yoo, Penneh' Hume from Lost).

The original Fringe team have become myths - heroes of legend - and it's up to Etta and Simon to free them. Walter (John Noble) is recovered from amber - a fate he apparently resigned himself and his team to - but despite flashes of brilliance, he's sustained serious brain damage...

Fringe S04E19: 'Letters of Transit'

© Fox



Yes, even by Fringe standards, 'Letters of Transit' is utterly baffling - this writer has seen every single episode of the Fox sci-fi drama since it began in 2008 and was still none the wiser as to what was going on.

It's entertaining enough but all a little overwhelming, so it's a relief when, at the 25-minute mark, we're finally granted a quiet moment. After a trip to the old Massive Dynamic HQ to retrieve a piece of Walter's brain, the episode allows viewers the chance to catch their breath as his mind heals...

As Walter's brain recovers, Simon recalls the 'purge' of 2015 and the Observer takeover - filling us in a little on this world's backstory. Following on from the revelations in 'The End of All Things', we learn that the future humans travelled back in time to seize our world after devastating their own Earth…

So was this always the Observers' plan in 'our' time? Is this invasion inevitable? This is the chief problem with 'Letters of Transit' - it's fun but all rather breathless, posing more questions than it answers.

The episode is certainly not without merit. Georgina Haig and Henry Ian Cusick make for compelling guest leads - so much so that this viewer barely even missed the regular cast. Simon's self-sacrifice to save Peter is moving, while William Bell's return - albeit in amber - was a genuinely shocking moment, and that dystopian future title sequence was fun...

Fringe S04E19: 'Letters of Transit'

© Fox



But ultimately, you're left wondering - what was the point of it all? Next week, Fringe returns to the present day, presumably leaving many of this week's questions unanswered. How did Bell come back? What did he do to Olivia? What happened to September? What powers does Etta/Henrietta really have? And what are the freed Fringe team planning on doing next?

Joshua Jackson has revealed that 'Letters of Transit' is intended as something of a prelude to a potential fifth season of Fringe - could the show's final run be set entirely in the future world and resolve some of these issues?

If so, it validates 'Letters of Transit' somewhat, but for Fringe to so radically change its format for its final 13 episodes - and to presumably ditch Anna Torv, since Olivia is absent from this future world - seems like a bizarre decision.

Ultimately, it's difficult to judge 'Letters of Transit' at this stage. Taken on its own, it's an entertaining and well-acted piece of television. But without knowing its final place in the grand scheme of things, for now it can only really be considered an interesting diversion and nothing more.

• This week's Fringe glyphs spell out the word Q U A K E - It's also worth noting that we were baffled last week when the name S I M O N was spelled out, but we now know that this refers to Henry Ian Cusick's Fringe agent.

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