'Fringe' Review: The Family That Tortures Together...
'Fringe' Review: The Family That Tortures Together...
Laurel Brown
Laurel Brown
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
Walter found the first clue in his quest to defeat the Observers. Olivia and Etta worked on their relationship. A Loyalist soldier learned why you should never feed pigeons.

A lot happened in "In Absentia." That's why we need to go over the important parts here in this Fringe review!

Fringe in 500 Words or Less

Olivia is having stress dreams about losing Etta, which makes sense, considering. Walter can't get his transilience thingamajig to do more than inspire brief spurts of Swedish and Portuguese. In order to get anywhere, Walter needs to go back to his lab.

Because of the Observers, this is difficult. Fortunately, Walter used to drop acid and play in steam tunnels, so the team gets in with little difficulty. There are only two wrinkles in the plan: 1) Walter went and ambered half of the lab (including a video recorder that might include necessary documentation), and 2) A Loyalist guard shows up to feed the pigeons.

The presence of a Loyalist brings out the torturer in Etta. The torture brings out the motherly concern in Olivia. Eventually, the combination leads to the Loyalist, Manfretti, divulging the code needed to break into the Science Building and turn on the power to the lab.

In case you forgot that this is Fringe and therefore must be disgusting, part of Manfretti's code involves etching his retinal individualities onto multiple pigs' eyes.

Peter and Etta dress as Loyalists and make their way into the Science Building. Only minor mishaps occur en route, but the building itself seems to be filled with weird human experimentation. Including -- and holy f'in crap -- SIMON'S HEAD ATTACHED TO ELECTRODES AND BLINKING!!! Thank you, Fringe, for a week of nightmares.

Walter eventually gets his power and turns a homemade laser on the amber. He gets out a Betamax (seriously?) recorder with a single tape. Despite some damage to the video (duh -- Betamax), the team sees footage of Walter in 2015, urging whoever finds this to "Follow the tapes" in order to defeat the Observers.

Now they have to find another tape.

Oh, and Etta goes to drive Manfretti to the Resistance for some more torture and death. But then she stops on the way and lets him go. Both she and Manfretti (who pledges to fight the Observers) were moved by Olivia and are probably better people now.

Mother and Daughter

The main conflict in "In Absentia" lies between Olivia and Etta. That makes sense, of course. Etta has been on her own, lacking a mother, for decades. There is bound to be some resentment there, even if it wasn't Olivia's fault. As for Olivia, she doesn't really know how to mother anybody at this point. She really doesn't know how to mother a fully grown, independent woman.

Add in the normal "You can't tell me what to do!" tension that tends to come up between mothers and daughters, and this was always going to be an emotional episode. Even before the torture started...

The Morality of Resistance

Much to everyone else's discomfort, Loyalist Manfretti brings up an important point in "In Absentia": Is there a benefit to fighting the Observers? And are the Resistance fighters really the heroes we all want them to be?

The first question has, of course, an infinite number of answers. Fringe gave us at least two of them, uttered by Manfretti and by Olivia.

Manfretti: "The world would be a safer place if you just stopped trying to fight them."
Olivia: "We have to win. So that all the people who died, including your son, didn't die for nothing."

There is always that question, with any Resistance or freedom movement, about whether or not the fight is worth it. The answer really isn't always "Yes." And even if it is, there are casualties to any fight.

As for the second point, whether the Resistance fighters are any better than those they oppose, the answer is at least a little more clear-cut. Yes, the Resistance is better than the Observers. But it's not all black and white. When the Resistance fighters steal Observer technology in order to torture their enemies, it's awfully hard to remember who the bad guys really are.

Burning and Kind of Random Questions

Etta in 2015
Seriously, what happened to Etta? We've seen the dream/memory versions of the event from Peter and Olivia now. In both situations, Observers arrives and Etta just kind of disappeared. What happened to her? How did she grow up knowing who her parents were?

What About Jean the Cow?
Why does no one ask about Jean? Was she stuck in the amber? Did the Observers make hamburgers out of her? We need answers, Fringe!

Etta's Jacket
When the team is sneaking through the tunnels, everyone except for Etta strips down to t-shirts. Etta does not. Even when Walter brings it up, Etta stays fully clothed. Was this simply to hide torture devices? Or is there something more?

Manfretti and His "Son"
OK, so after all of that, did the Loyalist captive actually have a child? Yes, Manfretti told Etta that the whole thing had been a lie, but that was when he expected to die. From what we saw, this Loyalist seemed like a kind, empathetic man. He might have lied to Etta -- not Olivia -- because he thought it would be easier on her.

We'll find out either way if and when Olivia goes to look for the kid.

The Tapes
Based on what we saw, Walter and company are going to have to work awfully hard to find more of those tapes. And since the tapes lead to the end of the Observers, that will be important.

The Bullet
What is the significance of the bullet Etta wears around her neck? We have all been assuming that it was the same bullet that briefly killed Olivia. But what if it's not?

Betamax and Purple Licorice?
OK, even for Walter, this is weird. How would he even have a working Betamax system by 2015? I haven't seen one since the mid-1980s. And purple licorice? Yuck.

And a Few Quotes to Remember...

"She's here, and we're here. We're OK now." -- Peter to Olivia

"That's not a problem for someone who's done acid." -- Walter

"The world would be a safer place if you just stopped trying to fight them." -- Manfretti    

"I've never been anywhere I wasn't supposed to be." -- Manfretti, explaining how the other Loyalists knew there was a problem

"They'll pay for what they've done. I promise." -- Peter to Etta after seeing Simon's head

Manfretti: "Do you really think you can win?"
Olivia: "We have to win. So that all the people who died, including your son, didn't die for nothing."

"You don't know my world." -- Etta to Olivia

Manfretti: "I felt for the first time that we were supposed to win. Why are you letting me live?"
Etta: "Something that I saw in her eyes as well. Pity."
Manfretti: "Pity for who?"
Etta: "For all of us."

"You were chosen for this. This is your destiny." -- Walter in the video

What did you think of "In Absentia"? Leave your comments below!

(Images courtesy of FOX)