Fringe: The Boy Must Live Review -

Fringe: The Boy Must Live Review

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  • Episode: The Boy Must Live (Season 5, Episode 11)
  • Starring: Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, Jasika Nicole, John Noble, Michael Cerveris, Michael Kopsa
  • Directed By: Paul Holohan
  • Written By: Graham Roland
  • Network: Fox
  • Studio: Warner Brothers
  • Series:

Fringe: The Boy Must Live Review

Answers! Finally!

By Michael Henley     January 12, 2013

This fifth and final season of Fringe has been a real puzzle. With only thirteen episodes for the final act, the show has dispensed with its house style of alternating standalone adventures with ones that push the mythology forward. Except for perhaps one diversion, it’s been pretty much all mythology, all the time, a continuous trail of breadcrumbs that have led us here, to the puzzle’s center. With “The Boy Must Live,” a crucial piece is revealed, and while the episode is a bonanza of answers to long-held riddles, it also gives us a final sense of hope and direction, assuring us that this season’s steady grimness has been worth it.

The plot is straightforward: Walter, now knowing that “Donald” is actually September, uses the old deprivation tank to find the Observer’s location. They find him in an apartment, hiding from the Observers. His experiences in the human realm (and subsequent punishment by his superiors) have turned him practically human himself (“He has hair!” exclaims Walter). And then he tells us…

1. The Observers are the result of far-future genetic experimentation designed to stamp out emotion in favor of intelligence.

2. Michael, the anomaly, is a missing link between humanity and the Observers, and if sent into the future he could stop the Observers from being created, and reset the timeline.

3. September is Michael’s father. When September once told Walter “The Boy Must Live,” he was talking about Michael, not Peter.

4. The send-Michael-to-the-future plan was what the Fringe team was working on right before they were put in amber.

“The Boy Must Live” is the most necessary episode of the season in terms of explaining what’s what, and it ends with a thrilling chase sequence through the streets as the Observers close in on our gang. But some of its best moments are quiet, like the look on September’s face as he recounts his past and then, later, destroys his home. Or the poetry where Windmark searches September’s apartment, his gaze catching artifacts of a life he can’t possibly comprehend, while his underling robotically taps a foot to jazz music. We even go to the ugly Observer-land of 2603, where Windmark and his superior (James Kidnie) decide what to do about humanity, their suppressed emotions bubbling up from underneath their deliberately-chosen words. This episode also has a lot of callbacks to Fringe history: the sensory deprivation tank, Walter’s white tulip, bridges…everything is interconnected, we’re being reminded.

“The Boy Must Live” is proof that Fringe mixes character and mythology better than almost anyone. The character development, even as the series dances closer to what could be a huge, series-wide reset button, has been exceptional this year. For a plot that hinges on time travel, the stakes feel vivid. Rather than being a monotonous info dump, September’s monologue is heartfelt, informed by his imperfect grasp of human emotions. Olivia reacts with newfound grief and hope when she realizes this plan may return Henrietta. Walter’s arc is most crucial, as he embraces Peter with a father’s full love (Michael’s psychic link has shown him the scrubbed “Peter timeline” of seasons 1-3). This shock helps soften the blow when Walter confronts September with what he knows: their plot depends upon Walter’s death (Noble acts his socks off again—give this guy an Emmy already). The irony of Dr. Frankenstein sacrificing himself to kill someone else’s monster seems as good a direction as any to wrap the story of Fringe up nicely.

Fringe’s final season, a mirror for the show at large, is about balance. Ebb and flow. The Observers take Earth, and the Fringe team try to take it back. Humans and Observers are using time to annihilate each other, but for vastly different reasons. Olivia and Peter lose a daughter, while September and Walter regain their sons…but will that flip back? Walter is the man who started this chaos, and so he must be the one to finish it. Action and reaction; how very scientific. The episode ends with a small-but-crucial action: Michael exiting a getaway train, effectively turning himself into Captain Windmark, for reasons unknown. What will the reaction be? Time—and the end of all things Fringe—will tell.


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MrJawbreakingEquilibrium 1/12/2013 9:26:29 AM

No wonder why America is anti-intellectual.  They are saving the future.  

All kidding aside.  I wonder if this means since Walternate never loses Peter and Walter never has to go save him if Walter becomes evil and ends up a villain at the very end. That would be a hell of a closer.

acidsquall73 1/12/2013 3:55:10 PM

Best episode of the season for me. Seeing the "original" Observer looking normal was just awesome. And the explanations Donald gave about pretty much everything we've wanted to know for the run of the series were completely legit story-wise for me. The only thing I'm wondering, and this made it possibly one of the most genius series ever, is that now I want to rewatch the whole series to see where the Observers may have had an effect on Walter or anyone, or anything for that matter. This season kind of made it out that they were more or less pivotal in events in history that will now go away once they make it so they will not exist if the gang succeeds. Kind of along the lines of what you're saying, MrJawbreaking.

DaForce1 1/12/2013 11:56:44 PM

 It's a paradox. You can't send Michael forward to 2167 to stop the Observers in the 2600's from taking over in 2015, because the Observers from the 2600's created Michael (with their tech) in the first place. In other words, you need the Observers to create your 'ultimate weapon' further in the future, but you can't do that if that future no longer exists. And since we've seen that that future does still exist (when Windmark goes back to the future), we can conclude that the plan will fail and the Observers will win. Which would be a gutsy way to end the series. 

Also, September has told Walter that the boy is important in the past, honestly, I believe the writers are trying to write themselves out of a corner by saying that September meant Michael all along. September also told Peter and Olivia that the Observers didn't want them to have a child, because that child would be dangerous to them. Yeah? Remind me again where Henrietta is again? Like Alias and Lost before it, the beginning of Fringe showed promise, but the ending is proving to be a major disappointment. 

Kaziklu 1/13/2013 9:49:40 AM

 DaForce1, as much as I hate all the little issues on the show, these are actually not among them.

The show mythos has a defineish, but inconsistant use of multiverses, in that multiple universes do exists and are created at specific moments. But they don't seem to happen at every moment based on the way the Observers and at least one other character, manipulates propability to their advantage suggesting a tied universe. (as in the actions of the past and future have a set effect on the future of the universe they occur in without createing new universes (as should happen in they way they set the show up intitally) 

The White Tulip means that in the shows mythos that a person can effect the past without changing the events the lead them to change the past. Meaning that time is someone fluid. (Walter and Peck have a conversation, peck travels back to the past into his own body replacing himself, dies meaning he doesn't exist to go back in time to die.)

Peter also exists from another timeline where his existance was removed from the timeline, suggesting further that the observers are further immune to timeline preception issues, making it more likely that the boy could travel to the future and negate the observers coming to existance. 

The biggest issue is the observers not seeming to have accounted for what will happen. 

As for the Boy being important, the Boy was introduced in the first season and his importance was suggested then to some extent. The show also produced a long term bible which suggest that the boy may have always been known as an observer child whom was hidden. In fact the Boy being important may have ment him all along as the show runners did plan that far a head. 

As for the plan failing, the timeline isn't changed yet. You have evidience of that from the 2026 time line peter was in, just because it existed at one point doesn't mean it will at another. And something changed that resulted in the Observers taking over much sooner then 2026 where they weren't in control, but then took over around 2015 in the new time line. 

Thus Time is very fluid. 

I am frustrated by lots of the silly choices in fringe, but this isn't one of them. 

jdiggitty 1/14/2013 9:48:50 AM

 You can't think of the time manipulations logically. If you do, the fact that we're seeing the plan unfold means they failed. 

rkngl 1/18/2013 2:12:54 PM

Incredible episode!

Loved the jazz scene. *tap!* *tap!* *tap!*

The way the Observers deal with problems was rather original. THey see things as probabilities. And since the Fringe team's plan has a very low probability of success, Windmark's leader just ignores their threat! Their lack of emotions (fear) and compreension of emotions (revenge) will be their doom...



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