"Fringe" finally returns tonight (Fri., Sept. 28 at 9 p.m. ET on Fox), and though fans only have 13 episodes to savor before Fringe Division and all their various iterations fade out of our timeline for good, audiences can't wait to see how the cast and creative team wrap up this epic sci-fi story.
It's been a long summer, and though there have been teasers from Comic-Con and the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour to whet Season 5 appetites, HuffPost TV figured you might need a refresher about where "Fringe" left off, as well as a preview of where the show is heading.
Having seen the season premiere, HuffPost TV can happily report that it's as poignant, gripping and thrilling as ever, blending moments of humor and unexpected whimsy with emotionally raw performances, and once again illustrating that Emmy voters were totally blind for failing to recognize the majesty of John Noble's work as Walter at this year's ceremony. There are light spoilers ahead for the "Fringe" Season 5 premiere, but they're clearly marked below, so spoilerphobes shouldn't feel too threatened.
Since the producers weren't sure whether the show would receive a Season 5 renewal until the eleventh hour, the two-part Season 4 finale, "Brave New World," could easily have stood as a series finale, except for one ominous final scene.
In Episodes 421 and 422, we learned that Walter's (John Noble) old colleague, William Bell (Leonard Nimoy) was the true mastermind behind David Robert Jones' (Jared Harris) scheme to collapse the two universes and create pure and idyllic new world. Bell planned to use Olivia (Anna Torv), with her Cortexiphan-created abilities, as a power source to bring about this destruction and rebirth.
Walter realized Olivia's part in Bell's scheme too late to prevent the universes from beginning to merge, and the only way to stop the two from destroying each other was to shoot Olivia dead and cut off her powers. When Bell saw that his evil plan had been thwarted, he managed to disappear before Peter (Joshua Jackson) and Walter could capture him, while the Cortexiphan in Olivia's system allowed her damaged cells to regenerate and heal the bullet wound that killed her. With Jones dead and Bell temporarily defeated, the government was able to take Bell's biological experiments and research into custody, while Broyles (Lance Reddick) was promoted to general for his team's success in saving the world (again).
Olivia made a full recovery from her actual-death-experience -- although Walter cautioned that her Cortexiphan powers were likely drained by the ordeal. She revealed that she was pregnant with Peter's child, Etta, and it seemed as though everyone might live happily ever after, until the Observer known as September (Michael Ceveris) appeared to Walter to ominously tell him, "We have to warn the others. They are coming."
While Season 5 will tie into the events of the Season 4 finale, this year's storyline is actually a direct continuation of Episode 419, "Letters of Transit," in which we jumped forward to 2036 to discover a world that had been overrun with Observers who ruled humanity with an iron fist, having taken control of Earth in 2015. In the future, Fringe Division's power had been reduced to policing the human "Natives" of Earth under the continuing command of an aged Broyles, but two of Broyles' new agents, a now-grown Etta (Georgina Haig) and her superior, Simon Foster (Henry Ian Cusick), were secretly part of a resistance that was working to overthrow the Observers and reclaim control of the world.
The episode saw Etta and Simon trying to rescue and revive Earth's original Fringe Division, including Etta's parents, who had mysteriously vanished without a trace 20 years before. It soon emerged that Walter (who had been separated from his team), Peter and Astrid (Jasika Nicole) had purposefully encased themselves in amber to avoid being captured by the Observers soon after the bald megalomaniacs first attempted their takeover. Once revived, Walter couldn't remember where the rest of the team was trapped, so he used Etta and Simon to help him break into an old Massive Dynamic storage facility to regenerate the pieces of his brain that he forced Bell and Nina Sharp (Blair Brown) to remove years before, hoping that his increased mental faculties would help restore some of Walter's lost memories and help him figure out a way to defeat the Observers.
Walter's mind was restored to its former brilliance (which also sadly led to a heightened level of arrogance and impatience), and he, Simon and Etta were able to free Astrid and Peter from their amber prisons -- but Simon was forced to sacrifice himself to push Peter free of the amber, and remained trapped as the others made their escape. It also transpired that William Bell was frozen in amber along with the team, and Walter cut Bell's frozen hand off and took it, apparently needing it for a heretofore unexplained reason. Etta tearfully reunited with her father, although it soon became clear that Olivia was not with Peter, Astrid and Walter when they ambered themselves, and would need to be located -- if she was still alive. The episode ended with Walter reminding Astrid what Bell had done to Olivia, and judging by his tone, it wasn't anything good.
WHAT'S AHEAD (SPOILER ALERT!)
We wouldn't dream of ruining the surprises of Episode 501, which is titled "Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11," but there are a few basic elements that we can reveal, to give you some idea of where the show is heading in its final 13 episodes.
We know that most of the action takes place in 2036, directly following the events of "Letters of Transit." There will be a few flashbacks to the past, including, as the trailer has already revealed, the day the Observers first appeared in 2015 -- but they will be used sparingly.
"Fringe" has always relied upon its audience's intelligence and never talks down to its viewers, so fans will be pleased to learn that the Season 5 premiere bypasses zero and starts straight from sixty, counting on its audience to go along for the ride and pick up the clues that point to exactly what transpired in the time between the Season 4 finale and "Transilience." A passing familiarity with "Letters of Transit" (which you can watch online through the link) is strongly encouraged to keep up with the plot.
Since fans will be well aware that Anna Torv is involved in the final season by now, it's safe to say that Olivia doesn't stay AWOL for long, although there are still many question marks about exactly what happened between her and Peter during the time we missed. Needless to say, they haven't quite reached their happily ever after yet.
A few more stray observations and hints from the season premiere:
- Although the Observers travelled back to 2015 because the planet had become uninhabitable by 2609, it appears that they're not taking great care of the world in 2036. If anything, they're actually hastening Earth's demise. Because of this, normal food is scarce, leaving some very unappetizing alternatives and meaning that fresh or natural produce has become a kind of currency.
- Not only are things strained between Peter and Olivia, there's also a fair amount of tension between Walter and Peter, and this time, Walter's the one who's angry.
- Look for the return of an old and eccentric friend (who has become even older and more eccentric since we last saw him).
- The apple didn’t fall far from the tree for Etta; there’s one pivotal scene in which she channels her mom in an eerily exact way. For a second, you'll swear she and Olivia are the same person.
- Music plays an integral role in the episode. The Observers don’t understand it, whereas Walter thrives on it.
- Nothing grows from scorched earth ... or does it?
"Fringe" premieres Friday, September 28 at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.
What are you most looking forward to in the "Fringe" season premiere? Share your hopes and predictions in the comments below!