Season 5 of "Fringe" has been very different from the rest of the series, with the exception of the episode "Letters of Transit" in Season 4. In addition, the first two episodes were different from each other. The third episode, "The Recordist," also stands apart from the other three. It might have thrown fans for a loop at first until it's realized that "The Recordist" seems to be an episode all about the fans!
The recent episode manages to introduce a whole new group of people, makes us care about them, then creates a hero of one of them. You may not realize it right away, but these people seem to represent fans of the show. Perhaps that overall symbolism was not intentional, but there are a few elements that directly relate to fans.
Meet the Fringe Division fans
The team is on the hunt to track down some rocks referenced on the next of Walter's (John Noble) Betamax recordings containing The Plan to save humanity. The tape tells them to go into a forest in middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania. There, they find a group of people with a strange condition: They're growing what looks like bark on their faces. They are outcasts, just as sci-fi shows tend to be the outcasts of TV, destined to be canceled before their time.
The group's records
These bark-faced people just happen to be huge "fans" of Fringe Division. They are attempting to record all of human history since the Observers took over on "data cubes" in an attempt to prevent history from being rewritten by the Observers. That includes all the great things Fringe Division did for humanity and a record of who each of the members of the team are as people. They even have a comic book devoted to Fringe Division's initial attempt to save humanity. These are some hardcore fans!
One of the bark-faced people (Paul McGillion) does something extremely honorable: He sends the team on a wild goose chase so he can sacrifice his own life without objections. The only way to get the next piece needed to save humanity was to sacrifice someone to the tunnel from where the condition with which the bark-people are afflicted is emanating. The closer one gets to the area, the worse the condition, until survival is no longer possible.
He sacrifices himself in order to send up the rocks needed by the team. The rocks just happen to be a bright red color, just like the hearts of "Fringe" fans captured by the Fringe Division team. That may be reading too much into the moment, or it could be the wrong interpretation entirely, but it's fun to look for clues in a seemingly symbolic episode. What symbolic clues can you find in the episode?
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