"The Boy Must Live" (5.11) is a fantastic episode, primarily because we get so many answers, and I feel like I have been paid off as a viewer since season 1. For starters, we see a return to the tank, even though it is not Olivia who returns to the tank this time but Walter, who goes into the tank believing that he can revive his memories of Donald. I love how Olivia sees that Walter took his underwear off, too, when he got into the tank, and she asks, "Walter, why did you remove your trunks?" He says that if his mind is to be free, then his body needs to feel free, as well, and the trunks felt constrictive; you then see his underwear floating in the water, and this is such a funny scene. During the scene when Walter remembers the apartment in which he saw Donald, he looks from a window and sees that he is a City but is, at first, unable to determine what city that it is. He sees a bridge, and I thought that notable because bridges have tended to be a motif on Fringe. A bridge plays a very pivotal role in "The Man from the Other Side" (2.18), for example, and during "Over There" (2.21) (2.22), Redverse Olivia has a picture on a wall of her apartment that seems to be of the same bridge. Then, Peter builds a bridge between the two universes during "The Day We Died" (3.22) that allows the two teams to work together during season 4. I was initially confused about this because I could have sworn that Walter said during "Letters of Transit" (4.19) that September had been killed for aiding the Resistance, so I went back and rewatched the episode, and he actually does not; he says that what happened to September was unexpected, and I think that because of that, we all, or, at least, a lot of us, assumed that he had meant that September died. However, that was at a time when he had had his memories but before Windmark wiped them during "Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11" (5.01), so Walter knew that September was now Donald.
I am so happy that we finally get to see what the Observers' future looks like, what their world looks like. I said a long time ago that I really hoped that we would see that by the end of the season, and sure enough, we have, and I am thrilled. It certainly looks very macabre, almost like something out of a Tim Burton film, and it's so cool. It is Manhattan 2609, and since Manhattan is spelled the way that it is, a question has been answered for us; we now know that the Observers' future is set in the Blueverse, not the Redverse, so I'm really happy that we got that answer. This episode introduces us to the Commander, who is above Windmark. Every boss has a boss, right? He reports to the Commander and tells him that Anomaly XB-6783746 has been found and is being hidden in 2036. He says of Michael, "It did not exist, but someone wanted it to exist. Someone wanted to ensure its survival because they thought it was important." I love this line because it has a double-meaning for fans, referring not only to Michael but to Peter, who was erased from the timeline at the end of season 3, but because September did not want to stop him from bleeding through and because people such as Olivia, Walter, and Astrid loved Peter, he could not be fully erased from the timeline. September, at the beginning of season 4, was instructed to prevent Peter from continuing to bleed through the timeline via a device, and he failed to do so, deciding not to, and I think that now that we know that Michael is September's son, we understand why that is. He saw the love between Walter and Peter and was reminded of his own son.
I also find it interesting how Windmark, throughout this episode, refers to Michael as it because in the last episode, when he is speaking of him to Nina, he refers to him as he. I don't think that this is inconsistent writing; there must be a reason for it. Perhaps, it is because he was using language that he figured would appeal to Nina the best, since Nina was a human, and since he is now in the presence of a fellow Observer, one above him at that, he is using emotionless, unattached language, and speaking of which, I found something to be really interesting recently because I recently rewatched the "Letters of Transit" episode. During that episode, we see multiple examples of Observers showing emotion. For example, Broyles asks Windmark what he did during his own time to get such a crap detail, and Windmark smirks and says, "I like animals." Windmark smiles quite a bit during that scene, in fact. Additionally, just before the Observer that's killed in the Massive Dynamic anti-matter explosion dies, you see downright fear consume him, and this is in direct contradiction to what the Observer whom Peter kills near the end of "An Origin Story" (5.05) says; he says that the Observers do not experience fear. I would say that this is a possible inconsistency in the writing or that they had originally planned to go down one route that they then abandoned, but I don't think so. Windmark, in this episode, admits that he is beginning to experience emotion, that he has become consumed by the idea of eradicating the fugitives. There is, therefore, something to that, for sure. He also asks for permission for a protocol suspension in order to travel back to a point in time at which he can get rid of them, and the Commander refuses, saying that they are inconsequential. I wonder what a protocol suspension is. A Beacon, perhaps?
We also see during the scene when Windmark and another Observer go to Donald's apartment that, despite what Windmark says back during "Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11" (5.01) about music serving no purpose even though it is tolerated, that the other Observer is tapping his foot to music, as he plays a record found in Donald's apartment. It seems to be music from the 1940s or so, and that is most interesting because the Observers are dressed in suits and fedoras much like that time period, male Loyalists are dressed like Nazis, and female Loyalists are dressed like women from that era. Additionally, we learn that the first movie that Walter and September watched together was Singin' in the Rain starring Donald O'Connor, from which September took his name. This film was released in 1952, fairly close to the 1940s. Donald tells Walter that his fate of being turned human wasn't really much of a punishment, as he has enjoyed humanity and has always had a fondness for this era, and I love that line, begging the typical question asked by good science-fiction of what it means to be human. I wonder, though, if by this era, he is clumping together the entire twentieth century. After all, sixty years seems like a long time to us, but to an Observer who can travel to any point in time that he chooses, that would be relatively insignificant. To an Observer, an entire century may be considered an era, and it might truly be the 1940s that Donald loves. Additionally, Walter, during "Brown Betty" (2.19), tells Ella a story about evil Observers (suggesting that he may have possibly had some insight into what was to come), and he chooses to set it during the 1940s. It's very interesting to me and really makes me think.
Back to the foot-tapping scene, however, we, once again, see the colors green and red on the device above the door that would have killed Windmark and the other Observer had they not narrowly missed the explosion. I also wonder what it is with Fringe and snowglobes. Windmark picks a snowglobe up of Donald's and examines it, and I half-expected him to smash it, but he does not. Fans will remember that this is not the first time that snowglobes have been seen on the series, as Nina used two during "Momentum Deferred" (2.04) to demonstrate what would happen to the two universes if they were to collide - one would survive, and the other would not, and conveniently, she somehow manages not only to just have two snowglobes on hand but also to smash them together will only one breaking. I have always found that scene to be funny for those reasons. Windmark looks kind of disgusted with the other Observer for tapping his foot to the music, and that, again, calls back to what he says to Walter during the season 5 premiere about music. We learn, as was expected, a lot about Donald during this episode, how September became Donald, and a big question on a lot of our minds prior to this episode was - did September become Donald, or did Donald become September? His punishment for interfering with the Resistance and for developing such strong emotive empathy for the people of this era landed him in a situation that involved him having his tech removed, which I find odd because "The Human Kind" (5.08) teaches us that what the technology does to you is not irreversible, but maybe, it's because September was grown as an Observer, whereas Peter was not, or maybe, it's because the Observers have technology so much more sophisticated than what Walter and Astrid had in the lab.
We see that Donald has definitely aged since we saw him in Walter's vision at the end of "Anomaly XB-6783746" (5.10), and I think that this was such a great aging makeup job, as Donald totally looks like he could be in his fifties, pushing sixty or so, possibly even older. Props to the makeup department. We learn from Donald that the Observers are created in labs and come from a donor, and September was Michael's donor, effectively making Michael his son, making the scene at the end of "Inner Child" so poignant, as the look on September's face during that scene now says to us, "How did you get out?" We finally learn why Michael was underground like that; he was scheduled for termination due to his being an anomaly (something that we learned during the last episode), and September took him and hid him in the past where he would not be found. This makes me wonder if September ever went down there to visit Michael, to check on him, as he must have struggled to survive, and he must have gotten terribly lonely since he is capable of emotion. The Observers, when conceived, are raised, like the Borg of the Star Trek universe, in maturation chambers where they rapidly age to a certain age and then stop. We also learn from this episode that there were, indeed, twelve Observers in the original calendared science team, but to my disappointment, we do not learn why they took months as names. It could have just been because there happened to be twelve of them, so that was an easy way to remember. Was September a code name, or did he have a different given name? I am thinking that September was his actual name, as I think that he was created precisely to do what he did - observe.
Someone, I forget who, wrote a post on a website about their issues with this episode, and one was that they had a problem with the fact that Observers are created using the DNA of a donor, yet Peter was able to gain Observer abilities just by putting the technology in his head, and Peter is a human. We have to keep in mind, however, that near the end of "Through the Looking Glass and What Walter Found There" (5.06), Peter encounters an Observer whose neck he snaps, and that Observer tells Peter that Peter doesn't know what he has done. Then, during "Five-Twenty-Ten" (5.07), we see Peter bleeding from his ear and experiencing extreme headaches, so I am going to say that the technology is only compatible with Observer DNA, not human DNA, and that if Peter would have kept it inside of his head, it would have eventually killed him. This would explain why Windmark did not seem concerned that Peter had put the technology in his own head and was developing Observer abilities; in fact, he seemed thrilled by it and said that everything was occurring as he had foreseen, which suggests to me that Windmark knew that it was going to kill him, effectively eliminating him. That is my explanation to that. Unfortunately, Donald does not explain why Sam Weiss was protecting the signal, and it's mildly frustrating because you would think that Olivia would be interested in that and would ask, but she doesn't. She probably figured that there were much more important matters at hand, which is true, and didn't want to waste time by asking. I just know that I probably would have asked, since Sam Weiss was such a poignant figure from her past. It's possible that September, having known that, recruited Sam himself because he knew that he could trust him, and he may have even somehow convinced him of what needed to be done by somehow giving Sam his memories of Olivia.
I am so ecstatic that Walter's memories from the previous timeline have been restored to him. Michael returned them to him when he put his hand to Walter's face at the end of the last episode, and I can only imagine that that is because he can see time so expansively. I love the scene when Walter tells Peter of this and mentions events from previous seasons. It is such a touching scene, especially when they hug. Did anyone else notice that at the beginning of this scene, as he is getting out of the vehicle, he is sporting a black umbrella? Sadly, we also learn from this episode that Walter will have to sacrifice himself in order for the plan to work, and I have been saying that he would die for a long time because it just seemed like, after Walter had caused so much destruction and had stolen Peter from the Redverse, that it would be a fitting end to the show, and I was right. I wonder, too, if Michael did the same for Nina before she died, giving her memories from the previous timeline. We also learn when Observers were first mentally conceived, which was in 2167 by a scientist trying to expand human intelligence by sacrificing emotion for logic, and we learn what the plan is, which is to send Michael to that time period so that he can prove to that scientist that emotion does not need to be sacrificed, and the Observers will never exist. We learn that when September says during "Peter" (2.15) that the boy must live, that he is important, he is not referring to Peter but to his son, Michael. It was an incredibly daring and bold move by the writers to take that piece of the mythology and answer it by undoing it. I absolutely love it; you don't find many shows with clever writers like these. I do have a couple of minor problems with the episode; to start, Astrid is left alone in the lab yet again, and also, since Olivia is on RewardWire and is a fugitive, why does no one recognize her when she walks around with Michael? Quite a few times this season, it has seemed like the team has roamed about freely without being recognized. I still, however, due to the load of answers that we get and the some of the awesome scenes that we get, give "The Boy Must Live" 10 penultimate memories returned to Walter. The big question now is - why the heck did Michael get off the train and turn himself in?