TV

Recap: Fringe Turns In Its Star Trekkiest Episode Ever With ‘The Recordist’

©2012 Fox Broadcasting Co. CR: Liane Hentscher/FOX

This week on “Star Trek”: Captain Kirk and company visit the planet of the Tree Librarians. Or, at least that’s what this underwhelming episode of “FRINGE” felt like. Though there were some good moments, with so little time left in the show’s life, we can’t be wasting time on a plot that wouldn’t be out of place on a third rate syndicated SyFy show.

We start up still hanging out in the basement of Harvard, right under The Observers’ noses. I get the utility of reusing the Harvard lab set from a budgetary stand-point, but we’re already straining credulity here, and that’s on a show where people regularly use psychic powers, or turn into monsters. Over the course of the episode, the gang not only hangs out in the middle of Observer territory, they get in and out without problems… And leave Astrid there all by herself.

The problem with this isn’t even so much that the bad guys aren’t finding them – you can explain that away with any number of plot points that have already been covered. It’s the lack of worry that’s diffusing the menace of the Observers’ threat. They’ve got from world conquering force, to bumbling stooges from a Saturday morning cartoon in two episodes time, and it’s disheartening. To jump ahead: it looks like that will be addressed next week, when Windmark and company go on the offensive… But this week, The Observers are about as terrifying as Gargamel.

Okay, so we’re also off on a video game style treasure hunt, and true to Walter form, all his clues are out of order. The Fringe team heads to the woods in Pennsylvania, and there encounters a group of refugees covered in a tree bark like substance. It turns out they’re librarians, trying to record all important bits about human history for when the Observers inevitably wipe humanity out. They know we’re going to lose, they just want to make sure – this time – history isn’t written by the winners.

It’s a good, smart bit here that emphasizes how much humanity has given up the fight, and why the FRINGE team inspires so much hope in them. They got frozen in amber, so unlike everyone else, they haven’t had an entire generation to give up the ghost. They still, naively, think we can win. And to that end, they inspire one refugees Dad to sacrifice his life in order to grab some fuel crystals to power their Observer killing machine.

Mysterious red crystals, those don’t sound like Star Trek at all either, right?

Anywho, the much more successful thread here was Olivia’s growing relationship with Peter and Etta, and trying to figure out how to be a family again. Olivia’s reaction – that she’s holding back from connecting because she gave up her daughter for dead thirty years ago – is a shockingly nuanced and human one, and truly gets explored here. The convo between Olivia and Peter in particular is one of the better scenes here, reemphasizing how Olivia has never truly believed in herself, but will always come through push comes to shove; while Peter is a true believer no matter what.

If you look at the span of the series as we enter the final stretch here, it’s clearly Peter who has grown the most. He went from the guy running away, with no family, to the one who will do anything for his family, and is first to a fight. It’s been a beautiful, exciting character arc for him, and man is he going to die hard by the end of this season, right? Nobody that confident can live happily ever after on a scifi show.

So the gang has their magic red crystals, the refugees will continue to record history, and the Observers lackeys are a bunch of dumbies. That’s the sum of this episode that I hope is the exception that proves the rule, rather than the norm. I appreciate trying to work the case-of-the-week structure in here, but it’s half hearted at best, and reduces the drive of the show in these last few episodes. Next week though? We’re going to make some Fringe events of our own.

RANDOM NOTES:

– Love Walter eating thirty year old licorice after seeing him eating the same licorice on video. That’s so Walter.

– Anyone else get the vibe from the tape that we were going to get a twist… And then didn’t? It was really a pretty straightforward episode, without a lot of conflict.

– We’re definitely never going to hear about Donald, the man who was captured by the Observers again, right? Nope. No way.