So it has begun, the first step towards the end of probably one of the best science fiction shows in recent memory. Fringe has been one of my favorite shows since the very first episode, and now that we're on our way to seeing it end I (for obvious reasons) am not looking forward to seeing how it ends.
For some strange reason, 2012 has quickly become a year full of endings. I always like to attribute "themes" to years depending upon common aspects I run into in my daily life. For this year, coming to conclusions has been the main theme. Mass Effect, Fringe, Chris Nolan's Batman trilogy, and even Doug Walker's Nostalgia Critic have either ended or are in the process of ending. Some have ended in utter tragedy (subtle I know) while others ended on a high note with a promising future on the horizon. So you can see why I'm anxious, Fringe is yet another one of my favorite series on the verge of ending, and I don't want to have another thing to bitch about for the rest of my life.
However, looking at the fifth season premiere: "Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11" (damn that's a mouthful!) I can say I'm starting to like where the show is going. This is a big turn since I really wasn't a big fan of "Letters of Transit" which provided us with the setup for season 5. I didn't like the dystopian 1984-esgue future ruled by Observers. I mainly blame the Sliders (seasons 4 and 5) feeling I got from that episode, and it also didn't feel like Fringe. This isn't the case with "Transilience" however which basically picks up where "Letters of Transit" left off. Sure, that Orwellian dystopia was still there, but I kinda bought it this time and in fact found it to be a refreshing approach to the Fringe universe. I'm not saying it was perfect, but it was handled much better than it was in "Letters of Transit."
Fringe's previous season was fraught with issues as the show basically hit the reset button by deleting Peter from the timeline. This was an obvious attempt to mix things up and change the formula, which I actually encourage. Shows should never really stay stuck in their rut, they should evolve and grow as the story progresses. House suffered from a lack of this, and I always wished they'd make a change (and they never did sadly). So I gave the Fringe folks credit for trying something new, even if it wasn't really all that new. By the time "Letters of Transit" aired, however, I felt this just came too far out of left field. I never really bought the Observers as being malevolent. Sure they were creepy, but I always saw them as explorers simply curious about events in human history. The sudden twist that they were really planning an invasion never resonated for me until I saw "Transilience."
So when I say "Transilience" is a breath of fresh air I really do mean that. While getting to this point was shaky, the episode makes up for this with some solid storytelling and great performances from the cast (once again, John Noble gives a standout performance but more on that later). The overall feel of the Observer occupied earth is now more Blade Runner than 1984, though I couldn't help but laugh at the Nazi uniforms the human police force wore, someone needs to tell the Fringe guys about subtlety. In fact, my one complaint about this episode is the obvious political undertones. I will, reluctantly, admit this has a place in fiction, but I just hate it when it's presented with all the subtlety of someone repeatedly bashing my head in with a rock. And Nazi uniforms were like the writers waving their arms shouting: "HEY LOOK! THIS IS A METAPHOR! SEE? WE'RE SMART!"
My issues with the costume department aside, this episode provides some thrilling moments. I particularly enjoyed every scene with John Noble, especially when he was getting mind raped by the Observer. John Noble totally sells you on the idea that he's got someone worming their way through his head. I cringed at these scenes. The touching moments between the Bishops throughout the episode also should be noted. There was so much crying in this episode that I'm not surprised this episode wasn't called "Open The Flood Gates." While much of the backstory behind Peter and Olivia's loss over their daughter Etta is merely hinted at in conversation I completely believed that these two had gone through hell between the Season 4 finale to now, and I think it was a brilliant decision to just let the audience connect the dots instead of just showing us outright.
"Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11" was a great start for the last season of Fringe, and I'm glad that my qualms about "Letters of Transit" weren't found here. I found this turn in the story to be refreshing and I can't wait to see our heroes "make some Fringe events" of their own. While the episode does have its flaws, I can safely say I can't wait to see where this story will take us.
I give the Fringe Season 5 premiere 4 egg sticks out of 5.