In this week’s episode of Fringe, “Anomaly XB-6783746″, Captain Windmark evens the score with the Fringe team, killing one of their most important informants, as the identity of the Observer child is revealed. How will September help Walter defeat the Observers?

Now that the Observer child is safe with Walter, Nina Sharp attempts to help the Fringe team find out what secrets the mysterious child holds. But as Nina takes everyone to an underground laboratory where Observers were secretly being tested, her loyalty to the Observers is questioned, and Windmark begins to investigate Nina’s whereabouts, revealing the resistance’s “other” mole in the Ministry of Science. When Nina is ultimately labeled an enemy of the Observers, Windmark closes in on her location, threatening to reveal the whereabouts of the Observer child. After a face-to-face meeting between Windmark and Nina, one life is saved as another is lost – and the identity of the “Donald” is revealed.

After weeks of watching the Fringe team gain the upper hand in the battle against the Observers, it’s now time for Windmark to even the score. In what’s essentially a game of “cat and mouse” between him and Nina Sharp, this week’s episode attempts to make a more earnest connection with past seasons by gambling that the use of familiar faces and past storylines will help better strength this season’s overall story – one that only has three chapters (episodes) left.

Fringe, as a series, has always been at its best when it’s mixing science and the preternatural with whatever case – or enemy – the team is facing.  Although many early episodes in season 5 traded the series’ familiar scientific exploration with some much needed (though barely received) exposition about the (current) future setting, recent episodes have proven that Fringe is at its strongest when it plays close to its series origins of science and technology – not galactic battles traversing time and space. Unfortunately, at this point, what remains of Fringe is an awkward mash-up of both, where entertaining adventures into the “fringe” are forced to be accompanied by tales of a future no one could have seen coming – or wanted to.

Nevertheless, as Fringe begins to take the final steps towards its conclusion, certain unfortunate handlings of familiar characters does (slightly) reveal the difficulty that producers are having in providing satisfying endings to its original characters – as the need to still “sell” this season’s storyline has resulted in more than a few sacrificial lambs having to make their exit. But this time, it’s personal.

The death of Nina Sharp is contained within this episode and, for the most part, is as unsatisfying as the rest of her (few) inclusions in this season. Remember Broyles? He’s still around – somewhere. Like Broyles, Nina received the same half-hearted inclusion in Fringe’s final season. Although she was a confidant to Walter, a lover to William, and a protector to Olivia, Nina received the same type of unceremonious death that everyone else – including Etta – received this year. Despite the presented situation likely requiring her death, it was short, quick and uneventful to anyone who watched the series up until this point – though still (somewhat) emotional.

Now that there are only three episodes of Fringe left, quick side-steps – like the death of Nina Sharp – to attach some type of emotional connection the events at hand are still occurring. While Etta’s death was as shocking as it was surprising, she was still a relatively new character, and her death was too grand to serve any other purpose than to quickly progress the plot. Nina’s death, though played in a similar way to Etta’s, should have been more – if for no other reason than to allow viewers to see how, exactly, the series’ core cast could be handled during their exists (if they occur).

With only three episodes left, and four main characters, who else in the group will end up like Nina Sharp, slumped over in a chair and draped in sheets? When Fringe received its final renewal last year, fans were hoping for a satisfying conclusion to characters they followed for years. At this point, from everything we’ve already seen, a satisfying conclusion may no longer be possible. If anything, many now hope for any conclusion. Unfortunately, “any” might just be what you get.

Fringe returns Friday, January 11 with “The Boy Must Live” @9pm on Fox. You can check out a preview of next week’s episode below: