Walter and company infiltrate the old Harvard lab, now preserved in amber, and embark on a quest to recover the details of his plan to overthrow the Observers.
Fringe‘s final season is rather disappointing so far. The jump forward in time has turned the show into a more routine, more formulaic series, seemingly less imaginative than it once was. Additionally, the hunt for the hidden videotapes that contain Walter’s plan to beat the Observers is as hackneyed as they come and seems a distinct step backwards.
‘In Absentia’ is a fairly predictable parable about torture: how far should the ‘rebels’ go to extract information from a captive? That Etta learns to be more human from her newly-arrived mother is an utterly predictable outcome. The setting up of the ‘hunt for the tapes’ plot suggests viewers are in for a less-than-stellar season-long arc story.
‘The Recordist’ is the first instalment in the ‘tape hunt’, and drops the Fringe cast into an episode of Stargate: Atlantis, a similarity telegraphed by the guest starring role of Paul McGillion. Imagine those Canadian woods were another planet (as they so often were in Stargate), and McGillion’s bark-faced gang were aliens, and this could so easily have slotted into that more by-the-numbers show. That alone is a damning indictment of how reduced Fringe‘s final season ambitions appear to be so far.
Verdict: If we knew this was what Fringe‘s final season was to be, we’d have voted to pull the plug after season four…
Episode 2 ‘In Absentia’: 6/10
Episode 3 ‘The Recordist’: 5/10
Brian J. Robb