After years of battling to stay on the air, the Fringe season 5 premiere marks the beginning of the end for Fox's cult series, now on its final season. Set in the year 2036, the world now finds itself overrun with Observers attempting to convert this Earth for their own use. After tracking down Olivia and reassembling the rest of the team, everyone focuses on their mission: to defeat the Observers.
And that, for all intents and purposes, is exactly what you'll see in the premiere. The story for the premiere is interesting enough for all those involved, though Walter is the obvious standout, having a one-on-one showdown with the head Observer and an inspiring scene to close the episode. The premiere definitely shows signs of great things to come, however, its lack of attachment to the rest of the series is difficult to overcome.
The entire "battle the Observers" storyline essentially finds its roots in a one-off episode last season, where it allowed producers to continue (and connect) the story if they were picked up for another season. When that season order came, the Fringe season 4 finale had a short scene added to its end, in which September says to Walter, "We have to warn the others. They are coming." If that order had not come the finale would have been seconds shorter.
That's what's we're working with, and it somewhat feels like it. The Observers, even as powerful as they are, still feel slightly forced into the storyline. The driving thought of defeating the Observers comes without a more richly developed backstory to get behind, other than "they're bad." And while the premiere had more than enough time to help build that integral story element, we spend much of the episode tracking Olivia, which culminates in the long-awaited, all-too brief, reunion with Peter, where viewers find out they separated sometime before being ambered.
As the battle against the Observers continues, most of what we see from the hairless beings comes from the head Observer attempting to mentally defeat Walter. Unlike the previous Observers we became familiar with, this observer is too awkwardly emotive, making his conversations with Walter far less threatening than they were intended. Fortunately, Noble's performance during those bloody scenes helped to make up for what intimidation was lacking from his abductor.
Elsewhere, the episode spent much time trying to fold in the new Fringe team members with the old, which didn't work as well as some would hope. Other than Peter and Olivia's daughter, Etta, the rest of her team falls into the background, making their inclusion set dressing as best.
Even so, all of this doesn't mean that it's bad, just that it is what it is. Because of the complete diversion from the series previous storyline, Fringe season 5, so far, feels like the beginning of a very entertaining television movie involving a cast of characters we love. Perhaps Fringe: Observers, or some other title equivalent, should accompany season 5, helping to prepare audiences more for a new story, not a new chapter.
Still, the seasonal storyline seems intriguing at its core, however, the ultimate goal of the season has already revealed, so now audiences are merely waiting for it to happen instead of watching it unfold. Now that we know that Walter has the blueprints to create a device to destroy the Observers, the end result can only be whether it works or not. Toss in any William Bell references and challenges in obtaining, then making, the device, and you've got a full season of expected storytelling. Something that can absolutely work, but perhaps not the final season of Fringe many had hoped.
With many integral Peter/Walter plots still left open, it's difficult to see how they'll be able to appropriately wrap it up as wonderfully as they were able to in season 4, considering the landscape of the series is now that of the resistance-driven. Still, many series have worked with less, and Fringe certainly knows how to handle its character's, so there's no reason not to believe that they'll be able to make something completely entertaining off all this. How emotionally satisfying? We'll have to wait and see on that.
Fringe airs on Fridays @9pm on Fox