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.
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.
Fringe airs Fridays @9pm on Fox