It's an episode that comes but once a season. That Fringe episode that makes all others look normal by comparison. It's the show's experimental episode and like is seasons past this one too delivers. Oh boy does it ever.
With an almost Terminator like post-apocalyptic introduction the episode begins with rolling credits and a shocking revelation of the future. Set in 2036 the world is run by Observers who are no longer just watching at a distance, but rule the world with an almost non-existent resistance. The episode reveals that sometime in the year 2015 the Observes made themselves known to the world and then shortly after begun mass killings in the streets to all those conspiring against them; in what history calls 'The Purge'. In 2036 Fringe Division has been resigned by the Observers to police the human race (or 'Natives' as they call them), while those who pledge allegiance to them (aka the 'Loyalist') are more like a military. Two Fringe agents, Simon and Etta, secretly search for the missing original Fringe Team as the last hope to defeat the Observes.
I rarely give a five out of five rating for anything, especially a TV episode where stories are continuous during a season, but damn this was some good TV. Last season Fringe had "Lysergic Acid Diethylamide", the animated episode where Peter and Walter entered Olivia/William Bell's mind, then the season before that was "Brown Betty", Fringe's 30's neo-noir mystery episode, and now this year's "Letters of Transit" for the latest unorthodox episode in the series. And man did it deliver. Hands down "Letters of Transit" is easily the best episode of the season for so many different reasons.
First of all Fringe succeeded brilliantly in creating a modern sci-fi version of a post-apocalyptic society. Sure there are areas where various side or main stories could be told with the series being refreshed by the 24 year leap into the future but Fringe plays smart and keeps it simple. They give a quick history lesson in the episode's opening credits, as well as in some brief dialogue between Simon and Etta (who I'll get to in a minute). Some above TV standard GCI visual effects, great location setups, and some passable makeup work all contribute to making this jump into 2036 feel believable. The story's scope had the possibility for being too huge for the silver screen scale but Fringe was able to compact the idea of a 2036 A.D. future into a story between two characters.
Those two characters are 2036 Fringe agents Simon Foster, played by Lost's Henry Ian Cusick, and Etta Bishop, played by relative new comer Georgina Haig. Both characters being new to the Fringe universe have zero trouble craving a spot for themselves into the series' lure. Cusick was a huge fan favourite from his time on Lost so he could have been the episode's villain and still would have loved. Haig has a striking resemblance to series lead Anna Torv and even borrows some of her acting traits, mimicking more than just her likeness. Immediately after "Letters of Transit" establishes it's set in the future by over 20 years and Haig's Etta is shown on screen I knew who her parents were/are. The episode keeps Etta's full name (Henrietta Bishop) a variable secret until the final minutes but I don't think it took long for fans of this series to figure out what her character's story really was. Etta's obvious identity actually adds to the story and simply justifies her reasoning to find the original Fringe team.
Granted, that even though this episode may have a perfect rating, it isn't without some lingering questions after it is all said and done. I believe that those questions bring mystery and intrigue that only add to the episode, not take away from it. What questions you ask? Well William Bell for starters. Since this is in the new post-Peter time-line it is possible for Bell to still be alive, in one universe or the other. Bell, being the fourth person frozen in amber at end, suggests that he interacts with the Fringe team sometime in this season's current future. Also with Walter and Astrid talking about Bell at the end of the episode and Etta touching a bent bullet on her necklace both suggest that William Bell somehow got Olivia shot and killed. All of those things hint at some amazing backstory coming up for possible Fringe episodes but the reason Bell raises more questions than answers is because of the actor (Leonard Nimoy) playing him. The guy has retired and Fringe fans, as well as Star Trek fans, all believe he has done all of his last favours for J.J. and his 'Bad Robot' projects before hanging them up. Sorry Trekkies but I'll take one last episode with William Bell over one last scene with Spock. Fingers crossed.
The only problem with an episode as great as "Letters of Transit" is I can seemingly keep writing about how awesome it was for pages and pages, but I'm going to stop. I didn't even get to the stuff with Walter which was fantastic. There is a reason Fringe fans believe this show is the best show on television and this episode just confirms it. This may have been a one-off episode, and it may not be, but in either case it succeeded in making this reviewer feel all kinds of geeked-out-giddiness.
Andrew Burns loves film and comics, and can be found writing about when those worlds converge. You can follow him on Twitter at @myAndrewBurns.