Some unexpected emotional highs and lows this episode gave viewers everything from some classic season one style sci-fi, to bold story leaps, all leading to a twist ending. This episode gave fans what they wanted since the shows just to the future (myself included) and then turned everything sideways all within 42 minutes of some damn fine TV.
Okay that might be raising the bar a bit high but there are a bunch of moments and tough choices made, not just story-wise, that I thoroughly enjoyed here. I normally don't warn for spoilers for these Fringe review/recaps since, well the recap part duh, but I will caution you not to read further if you haven't watched this episode yet. For all of you that have watched "The Bullet That Saved the World" (and care what I think to keep reading) lets dive into the episode.
So here is the skinny on the synopsis for the most part. The episode opens with Peter risking the teams cover to go out in the open one night for a trip to a pawn shop. Peter finds a necklace at one, to replace the silver one Etta gave up to help make the laser, but as he purchases it an Observer is there and starts to read him. He can't play it cool and mask his thoughts for very long and makes a break for it, narrowly escaping. That however puts them of the Fringe team's trail. After uncovering another one of Walter's tapes (tape #2) they have a find an item he hid before the amber while now going on the run from the Observers. All the while Cpt. Windmark and his fellow Observers are tracking the team a familiar face returns and appears to aid in their search of his former team. BROYLES! Yup, Lance Reddick is back finally as Col. Broyles, making the show a whole lot better.
I said this last week, with there only being a limited number of episodes left in not just the season but the entire series it just makes sense to use every card in the deck while you can still play them. Having a main cast member like Reddick's Broyles back only enhances the show, even if he is only in it for a fraction of the episode. Same goes for Blair Brown's Nina Sharp but one is better than none.
Before getting into Broyles return I want to rewind a bit and go back to what happened in the episode before their reunion. After Etta gives the team the heads up that them / the lab is compromised and they have to make an exit strategy Walter has a brilliant idea complete with a trapdoor. This idea being that since the Observers appear to always be one step ahead of them, both literally and figuratively, to slow them down as much as they can by using old Fringe cases as both ammunition and distractions. Fringe cases took time away from each season's bigger picture problems in past seasons so the logic is sound. I could gripe about the fact that Walter had conveniently stored all their past Fringe cases and files in a trapdoor under the lab, but who cares because nostalgia can out weight plot holes. There is a part in this episode where they use certain smoke grenades that rapidly produce scar tissue, which basically makes whoever falls victim to it instantly grow skin over their eyes, nose, mouth, etc., causing them to die. This was a Fringe case back in season one (ep # 1.14) and it work brilliantly within the story. I'm not sure what other past events/cases they are draw upon in the coming episodes but I`m on board with this new tactic.
Now as for the return of Broyles, if you all remember from last season`s future episode that I referenced way too many times in the last couple of reviews, him and Nina were the only ones to live the twenty plus years in real time. This means they have both aged and Reddick definitely has to be in the make-up chair for a while longer before he gets to set. In the episode from last season audiences got the impression Broyles wanted to work with his past friends against the Observer invasion, but had been working with the Observers still at Fringe Division. Here in "The Bullet That Saved the World" suspicions are realized as we see Broyles as a double agent helping the resistance and his old buddies from the past. I thought it would be cool just to see them see each other again but it actually turned out to be pretty emotional stuff.
The episode had already been hinting Broyles was Etta's contact within the Fringe Division and the Loyalist camps but the other three on the team (Astrid wasn't AGAIN, but I wouldn't get into that) didn't know who they were about to meet, or rather meet again. Both Anna Torv and Reddick's facial reactions as Olivia and Broyles first see each other was absolutely priceless. It was way more than what I was expecting and I mean that in the best way possible. The two don't have the typical relationship you see other characters on TV have. Normally there are the friend relationships, or romantic, or even hero/villain stuff that can produce that kind of emotional response but I can't think of any employee/boss relationships that create that level of sentiment. But Fringe wasn't done tuggin' on the heart strings there.
The reunion was cut short when the team got followed but a tracking device planned on their getaway station wagon (sorry that was just too funny not to rephrase). Broyles was thankfully able to get away before the Observers all started to arrive but one character was not so lucky. Cornered by Windmark, Etta helps Walter escape by ultimately giving up her life for her family. I was not seeing that coming. I would have thought any of the other main characters would be killed off before Georgina Haig's Etta ever was. Granted I don't think the producers would kill off any of the main three until the final episode but I never thought the catalyst character for which the main three would keep fighting for wouldn't survive the series run. Haig was a fantastic addition to the show and she will be sorely missed.
The only reason I can see for letting her character go this soon would be to focus on the main three (and Astrid who keep neglecting off and on). This definitely throws a wrench in the direction the show could take. Why would any of them continue to fight to save the world after losing Etta? For a second time no less. What 'better world' could two parents that just lost their only child hope to find by defeating the Observers? I'm sure the show's writers and producers had these questions in mind before killing off Etta and I really hope they at least touch on that issue of lost hope or giving up before just moving the story along.
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Andrew Burns loves film and comics, and can be found writing about when those worlds converge. You can follow him on Twitter at @myAndrewBurns.