The titular aberration of “Anomaly XB-6783746” was The Observer Child, aka Michael, one step if not one giant leap beyond (or below, depending on the point of view) your garden-variety lizard-brained bald-headed uber-man from the future. Captain Windmark briefed us on some (but not all) of the feral lad’s cryptic 26th century backstory. “You are mistaken about him: He is no child,” the bald brute told Nina Sharp. “He is a chromosomal mistake. A genetic anomaly. Designate progeny XB-6783746. Like all anomalies, he was scheduled to be destroyed. But. He went missing. It was a great mystery in my time. No one knew what became of him. Until now. I would very much like to meet him.” He did not explain why. Nor did he explain how Young Master XB-6783746 found his way into the past, or why he doesn’t age (or ages so slowly), or what exactly made him a mistake of… nature? Genetic engineering? Methinks an origin story episode – or at least a meaty flashback – would be cool to see, but there may not be time for it. I don’t think there is. Only three hours of Fringe remain, and so much more needs to be said and done before the show drifts away like Etta’s dandelion. Cue tears.
Michael was a riddle to the heroes of Fringe, too. They desperately wanted to know the finely freckled urchin’s significance to Walter’s master plan to defeat the Observers. But the boy wouldn’t talk. Literally. He was mute. Perhaps willfully. Perhaps not. Enticements of licorice couldn’t loosen his tongue. The previous form of communication – Remedial Writing With Olivia (soon to be a spin-off series on PBS Kids) – no longer worked. The problem he presented frustrated Walter more than anyone else, and the agitation further flushed out the hubris-challenged, emotionally deficient “old Walter” lurking like a cranky Komodo in the crags of Bishop’s cracked and rocky brain. The schizoid scientist proposed extreme, even ruthless measures to break into Michael’s egg. How about putting him in a coma like they did with September last season? “We’re not putting him in a coma,” said Olivia. Then how about putting an electromagnetic probe into the base of his skull and pumping him full of serotonin and LSD? “Walter!” said an exasperated Astrid. “He is just a child.” Here, Walter nearly exploded, and expressed himself with a choice of words that echoed the season’s uber-villain: “He is NOT ‘just a child!’ He’s more than a child. He’s an integral part of my plan!”
As the story unfolded, we were left to wonder if what made Michael “special” was the same quality that made him a “mistake” in the eyes of the Observers. Early in the episode, Olivia reminded Peter that the boy was – or used to be – an empath. He communicated through feeling. Emotion: The aspect of humanity that the Observers consider weakness; the aspect that Olivia, just a couple episode ago, identified as our heroes’ key strength. It seemed to Olivia that Michael had lost that ability… although in time, she realized (I think) that she was looking at the predicament the wrong way. He hadn’t regressed. He had progressed. To be plain about it: I think Michael had evolved since he last shared an adventure with the team, into a next gen human being that surpassed both 21st century homo sapien and 26th century super-lizard. In the Darwinism according to Fringe, we will all one day mutate into… extrasensory psychotherapists.
Still: How to talk, how to connect with this space oddity, this star child? Fortunately, Nina Sharp had an idea. The Ministry of Science double-agent had built an underground “black lab.” There, the Resistance experimented on Observers, for the purpose of developing technology and techniques that could help the rebels shield their thoughts from the telepathic tyrants. (This black lab immediately captivated me. All things considered, it would have made more sense if the team had used it as their HQ this season instead of Walter’s Harvard workshop… but I’m glad they didn’t. I know many have complained about the implausibility of our heroes living and working under the Observers noses. But Fringe without Walter’s lab wouldn’t be Fringe at all. And this season has been anomalous enough.) They hooked Michael to an “electro cognitive translator” that would project his thoughts on a screen. But Nina quickly gleaned that Michael’s mind was too sophisticated for the software to interpret. “Something has fundamentally changed with ‘the subject,’” mused Walter, whose chronic inability to call Michael by his name was used as a proof that Bishop was losing touch with his humanity. Nina proposed a solution: “We’ve been trying to get into his mind. Maybe the answer is to let him get into ours.” And so it went that allowing closed-off people to be touched by the Other – even our enemies – would define the heroism for the episode.
NEXT: The Lizard King learns the meaning of sacrifice