‘Fringe’ Season 5: ‘In-Absencia’ Recap – An Aging Device & VHS Treasure Hunt

Published 3 years ago by

fringe season 5 in absencia lab Fringe Season 5: In Absencia Recap   An Aging Device & VHS Treasure Hunt

Fringe season 5 continues with its second episode, ‘In-Absentia,’ and further explores the battle against the Observers, forcing the Fringe team behind enemy lines, into Walter’s laboratory, long since forgotten. Mostly covered in cobwebs, an ambered portion of the lab holds a video camera, frozen in time; the key to finding the plans previously removed from Walter’s mind.

And that, essentially, is the core plot of the episode. However, there’s much more to this story than continuing a fetch quest for puzzle pieces to an anti-Observer device. Wrapped in Fringe season 5′s plotted uprising – which has yet to really come together, if we’re being honest – is an extremely compelling character storyline between Olivia, her daughter, Etta, and an Observer loyalist.

After stumbling in on the Fringe team in Walter’s old laboratory, the Observer loyalist is taken prisoner, where Olivia attempts to understand and rationalize an enemy who is one step ahead of her, except she doesn’t know it. Fortunately Etta does, and this duality in storytelling not only allows us to see how their adversaries have evolved tactically, but it also introduces a mother vs. daughter element to the prisoner’s treatment. It’s not until the end that we find out, surprisingly, whose method was correct.

When it comes to old school vs. new school, there certainly is a clear divide. As Olivia attempts to understand the prisoner, through conversation, her daughter takes a more emotionless approach, choosing to use an Angel device to destabilize his molecules and take many years off of his life. Etta’s cold demeanor, as it turns out, is attached to her being taken from her parents as a child, not to mention the rebellion she’s attempting to run.

fringe season 5 absencia etta Fringe Season 5: In Absencia Recap   An Aging Device & VHS Treasure Hunt

Much of the episode is centered on the conversations with the Observer loyalist, though they do take a few breaks to help propel the VHS treasure hunt storyline. After building a laser out of an old laserdisc machine, the amber is chiseled away enough for Peter to retrieve the tape. After pushing play, we then see a video of Walter speaking into the camera about the other videos they must find to reconstruct the device.

Since we’re still not quite sure what the device is or does, there’s not much to help drive enthusiasm about the journey to come, or why we’re currently taking it. Still, this episode does help explore some richer story elements about the period, allowing viewers to delve further into the societal backstory than the two previous episodes allowed, encouraging viewers to return for at least a few more episodes. If future chapters can continue this type of storytelling (hopefully directed more towards the seasonal-arc), it’ll be an exciting final adventure for the series.

As we slowly come closer to the Fringe season finale, many viewers are likely waiting to see exactly what this season has to hold, because right now it’s not completely clear. Aside from the Observers being bad, there’s still not much story surrounding this plot. Hopefully future episodes will explore more of the current conditions and, somehow, tie itself more to previous seasons. Like most things on television, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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Fringe airs Fridays @9pm on Fox

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  1. Correction. It was a betamax not a VHS.

    • You beat me to it.

  2. How much do you wanna bet that we’ll see this specific loyalist again?

    • Pointless developing his character otherwise genius.

      • Abrams likes to play with foreshadowing. The loyalist took up A LOT of time in this episode. I would be really surprised if we don’t see Olivia try to visit the loyalist’s son, if he exists. It would be fitting if, after the war’s been won (assuming “we” win), Olivia makes a house call.

        • I don’t think it is necessary to see him again. Pretty sure he was telling the truth when he said his son didn’t exist in the end to Etta, but…

          Either way, the character allowed the writers to facilitate the idea that even a loyalist may be converted if they just have hope. Which was the general thematic through line from the last episode (hope), but put into context with the people on the ground on both sides of the war, whilst highlighting Olivia as a figurative champion of hope.

  3. Nice nod to Lost when Peter opens the hatch to the tunnels and both Walter and him are framed looking into the tunnels the exact way Jack and Locke did.

    • lol, was thinking the same

  4. Nice nod to Lost when Peter opens the hatch to the tunnels and both Walter and him are framed looking into them the exact way Jack and Locke did.

  5. One thing that makes no sense to me. If these Hat Guys have all this power, then why didn’t they just take over long before this? Granted they were observing, but how long would it have taken them to know earthlings were no match? Didn’t they observe for a couple centuries?

    • I wondered that too. Because the Observers require a certain proportion of CO2 in the atmosphere to live comfortably, I wonder if they timed their invasion for when human technology was advanced enough to terraform the Earth to meet the Observers’ physiology’s needs.

      • Yeah the evolution point of technology definitely had to be a consideration for them, good call @Royal.

    • Well the Observers were witnessed ‘observing’ centuries of our history, but all that observing could have been performed in less than a couple of days relative to the Observer’s POV, really.

      My bet is that the Observers were looking for the exact point in our history to best stage their invasion, which would allow for them to co-habitate without completely re-writing themselves out of their own future timeline, essentially cancelling themselves out of existence. Or alternately, they may have been seeking a definitive branching point in their history, to ensure the reality they invaded was a parallel one, and not their own.

      I also wonder, is it possible the Observer scientific team (September, August, etc) are investigating post-invasion, and not pre-invasion (relative to the future they exist in). As in the scientific team was sent to observe what caused their future invasion to ultimately fail, instead of investigating in order to launch an invasion.

      Or perhaps they were merely investigating to find where they could potentially have changed in their own past (to not destroy their own future Earth), when all of the inadvertent interactions (Walter distracted by September, August saving the young lady, Folivia’s baby etc) and other timeline mess-ups began, wherein with Peter’s eventual displayed inability to be un-written, the Observers deemed this point in history was ‘elastic’ enough to facilitate an inter-dimensional invasion.

      I really think the series needs to fully delve into the Observers original future home and resolve the whole plot from say Septembers’ POV. I’m glad Fringe has got this fifth season, because until the Observers are fully explained this series still has stories to tell imo.

      • “…which would allow for them to co-habitate without completely re-writing themselves out of their own future timeline, essentially cancelling themselves out of existence.”

        Great point. I just saw Looper. I should have thought about this. How exactly do the Observers prevent canceling themselves out of existence (assuming timelines are fixed) when you have so many Observers running about in the past? They have history on their side which would tell them what they could and could not do, but would it be possible for everyone to follow the rules explicitly enough? We’ve seen how upset the Observers became when September altered events that were pre-ordained: Peter should not have lived. I can understand if the Observers were from our past or of extraterrestrial origin (past, present, or future). But they are future humans. I suppose the easiest answer is that timelines must not be fixed when you travel backwards in time.

  6. Did anyone catch the significance of the scene in the steam tunnel where Walter spies a red dragon sketched on the wall and exclaims “I was looking for you!” What’s this a reference to?

    • Remember in the beginning he said something about getting iPads security wasn’t a problem if you used to do LSD. I’m guessing as an under-grad they put it there as a bread crumb to know which way to get to the lab to do some cooking. I’d think he’d be more into making speed to go along with spending so much time doing experiment . LSD really isn’t something you take and then try to do science.

      • iPads? That was supposed to be past

    • As far as I could tell, Walter alluded to doing Acid in those tunnels prior to them entering, so I daresay he painted it during a trip one time, then subsequent times he was down there tripping he couldn’t find it again. Like Walter was literally ‘chasing the dragon’ so to speak (google the phrase if you are unfamiliar).

      If there is more significance beyond that little joke, than I am missing it too.

  7. I think they’re really taking things in the right direction using a comparison between those who haven’t had to live through the invasion and those who have. These enemies can’t help but feel there might be something different they need to consider….Their humanity…..That was a damn good start here.

    Too bad there’s only one season left. I really like the series and I like the more intelligent posts on these boards than on a lot of series boards on here.

  8. Definitely enjoyed the episode but I’m still waiting for the plot to really thicken. I thought that since there were only 12 eps this season that it would have built quicker.

  9. It’s kind of bittersweet that this is the last season of Fringe. I feel like Abrams and the writers have left me wanting more this season than past seasons. My coworker at DISH told me the original plan was for the show to stretch over six to eight seasons. This season I have my Hopper catching every episode thanks to its PrimeTime Anytime feature which records all the network prime time shows automatically. I like the tape premise of the last episode, but having everyone follow a trail of tapes that detail the plan seems a little unoriginal. I can’t wait to see how it all ends and how we defeat the Observers.

    • Yeah, the trail of tapes puzzled me. How do they know where the next tape is located? Did I miss where that was explained? Any why a series of tapes? If one tape is lost or damaged, the whole plan falls apart. Why not spell out the plan fully on multiple tapes (half a dozen), and sprinkle them around? And why tapes, and only tapes? This is the age of silicon and super small, discreet flash drives. Oh, and building that crazy amber-cutting laser from a laserdisc player is totally bogus: that was “cow jumping over the moon” crazy.

    • Is anyone else tierd of this guy spamming the dish hopper on every thread?

      • I saw “him” mention DISH once before, and in both cases it was an awkward plug. :-/

  10. Like the show but somehow feel it jumped the shark,13 episodes left and wer are getting more questions,the show is turning into LOST,They gave it 13 episodes how about answering some questions?What happened to Dr Bishops lab assistant to put him in the nut house?Who as Peter on the run from in the Early episodes?What ever happened to Olivia’s evil step father,sister and niece or did the Cease to exist in the new rebooted universe?what happened to the Female FBI agent and her Bible?Did walter ever give a location for these tapes?or at least the next one?If we are in this new universe is the oter one gone for good,and if it is where is charlie?and Agent Scott?

  11. A better episode than the season opener, but still they power up the old lab and no one notices??? Wouldn’t that be the very first place they would look for these people?? Some awful big leaps of logic in this season.If the observers were such a threat, why are they so very dumb???

    • Absolutely! Thank you! It’s like the writers rushed the story. They knew where they wanted to go, and they knew where they left things off last season, and they said, “Dang it, we can’t get from A to B in 13 episodes by logical means, so let’s just set logic aside for a few episodes to speed things along”.

    • Also not buying it. Only Observer that seems to be a threat is the old man who tortured Walter.

      This ep was sorely to develop Etta and the triangle relationship between the Resistance, the Loyalists, and The original Fringe team