My, how things can change over 20 years. In the year 2036, the Observers are in control, and Fringe Division is reduced to simply policing the “natives” who remain. We meet a young agent named Etta when she intervenes when an observer is applying his brand of justice to “native” Ruddell, who fights back. She has a unique ability, observers can read thoughts but the can alter what they read in hers. She makes excuses and says it’s her job to police him, then she leads him away. It turns out the guy is working with her, an informant, and he was trying to get the observer to “wipe him” to keep him from reading him. They go to a van where he’s keeping a discovery he wants to show her…one of three original Fringe members enclosed in Amber. Before he can tell her the exact location of the other two that were discovered with him, Ruddell is shot from behind. Etta gets away in the van, and when she has time to stop and get a better look at her amber covered cargo, we see that it is Walter.
Etta goes back to Fringe Division and meets with her superior, Simon Foster. They go somewhere they can talk alone, she tells him about the death of her informant, and about the discovery of the original Fringe team. He believes it’s a myth, the old team isn’t really coming back to save them. She takes him to see Walter, and points out the he’s holding an amber device in his hand. He did this to himself on purpose.
The Chief of the observer gang goes to visit Broyles, who is still hard at work as head of Fringe Division. He is concerned about the death of Ruddell, ‘native on native’ killing won’t happen on his watch. He threatens Broyles, if he doesn’t find the one responsible, he will get rid of him and take care of things himself. He tells Broyles he won’t like his methods.
Etta and Simon study the amber, trying to figure out how to get Walter out. Etta goes on an errand, to retrieve old tech for Simon. The guy who gives it to her warns her that people might be watching, she should be careful. The tech is a weapon once used for crowd control. Simon uses another device to momentarily changes the state of the amber, Etta uses the weapon to blast Walter out the back of it before the amber returns to it’s original state. Walter awakens, tells Etta she’s very pretty, then realizes 20 years in amber has left him very hungry. It makes me wonder if strawberry milkshakes still exist in this brave new world, because if they don’t Walter might not want to stay. They do have red licorice, so Walter stays. They show him a hologram of the machine the Fringe Team had been working on before they encased themselves in amber. Walter can’t remember anything, he has forgotten what licorice is, he’s forgotten meeting Etta even though it just happened moments before. They do a CT scan to figure out what’s going on with Walter, and find his neural pathways have degraded. The amber has left him with brain damage. Simon has no idea how to fix him.
Etta meets with Nina, who complains that Etta always manages to come during her lunch hour, then asks her to walk her to her car. Once outside, Nina apologizes, she can’t hide her thoughts from the observers as Etta can. Nina is shocked to see Walter, but he doesn’t remember her. She tells him they’ve known each other for many years. Walter wanders off to play while the grown-ups talk. Nina tells them about the portions of Walter’s brain that were saved at the former Massive Dynamic, removed by Bell at Walter’s request. That could inspire Walter’s brain to heal itself. That old building is full of observers, but they’ve faced tougher challenges.
Simon and Etta go to work on the plan to obtain Walter’s brain matter, while Walter examines Nina’s arm. He still has enough smarts to fix it, and Nina is delighted. The team obtains transit passes and make their way to Massive Dynamic. Walter sees an observer at the station and flips out. A police officer detains them and asks to see their papers for transporting Walter downtown. They tell him he’s Etta’s grandfather, he’s crazy, they were just taking him to see her grandmother’s grave. The officer doesn’t appear to like the story, but he lets them go, saying he won’t be so nice next time. At the former Massive Dynamic, they manage to break in, but they unknowingly trip an alarm. Broyles is notified of an intruder at Massive Dynamic and he notifies Capt. Widmark, the observer who visited him.
Back at MD, they retrieve Walter’s brain matter and prepare the transfer process. They have pills for Walter to take, and don’t have to tell him twice. He’s swallowed them before Simon even gets the words out. Walter is quickly losing consciousness, and playing “Simon says”, ready for them to treat him. Etta worries what will happen if it doesn’t work, but Simon says it has to. Well, as long as “Simon says,” then it must be so. He tells Etta a story from his youth, when he was in college. On the television in the common room there was footage from all over the world, the year was 2015, observers going house to house and dragging people into the streets, killing them. Simon’s parents sent him far away for school. They were killed, and he knew then he wouldn’t give up until the observers were gone. Etta is touched by his story. She was four last time she saw her parents, she can’t even remember their faces any longer. She touches a pendant on her neck, and they are suddenly startled by sounds of Walter waking. The procedure worked, Walter knows who he is and what he’s doing.
An observer leads troops into the former Massive Dynamic. They see footprints, and the observer gives the command to shoot first, ask questions later. They storm the halls, searching for the intruders. Walter, meanwhile, is studying the hologram of the machine, and telling his hosts that the observers weren’t all bad. September had tried to help them. He thinks he can build the machine. Etta encourages him to remember where his other team members were, so they can help them, too. Walter looks into her eyes, and seems to have a moment of recognition as he says “you.” Before he can continue, though, they become aware of the troops closing in. Walter knows a secret way out. It gives them a brief head start, but the observer blasts the pathway so he can pursue them. Etta and Simon lose Walter during the escape and have to go back to find him….they find him implementing a plan. He uses Simon’s watch and plants an impromptu device to erase the building, for lack of a better term. They get outside and have just gotten enough clearance when the observer finds the device and realizes (too late) what it is. The building suddenly vanishes as the heroes and a number of bystanders watch from the street.
Walter tells Etta and Simon he knows where his other team members are ambered, and they go after them. Inside a now abandoned building, where the team was stashed, Simon questions Etta about that moment between she and Walter back at Massive Dynamic. She brushes it off, blaming Walter’s loose grip on reality. Broyles, meanwhile, receives an update about what his Fringe team has been up to, and orders Simon’s tracker to be activated.
Simon tells Walter that he’s what they’ve all been waiting for, someone to show people they don’t just have to accept their fate, they can fight back. Walter thinks Simon talks too much, should spend more time doing and less talking about it. They use the same devices they used on Walter to free the other team members. The first team member they free is Astrid. Unfortunately, the device breaks. Simon tries to repair it while Etta monitors the other member still trapped. Astrid stops in front of Amber containing Bell that has apparently gone unnoticed. Walter stands beside her and motions for her to keep quiet, he’s holding a tool in his hand.
Etta calls out to Simon that the activation light on the next amber is changing colors, something is interfering. Simon realizes he’s being tracked, and they need to hurry to get the next member out of the amber. Simon has an idea, he sacrifices himself to get him out. Simon is trapped inside the amber, but Peter is now free. Broyles arrives, finding the building empty, but when he finds red licorice lying on the shelf, he seems to know what has transpired.
Astrid questions Walter as to why they left Bell there. Walter can’t forgive what Bell did to Olivia. Astrid wonders how they can get the access they need without him. Walter shows her Bell’s hand in amber, and says they have all they need.
Etta holds the pendant on her neck, and we can finally see that it’s a bullet. Peter approaches her and expresses sympathy for what happened to Simon. He promises they will do all they can to get him back. She looks at Peter and hopefully asks if he knows her. Peter doesn’t know how he could, he’s been in that amber for 20 years…then it hits him. Henrietta? She smiles and says “Hi, Dad,” and they hug.
Fringe airs Fridays at 9/8c on Fox.