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A Farewell to Etta Bishop

2012 October 30

If you have watched the latest episode of Fringe season 5, “The Bullet That Saved the World,” read on for Gabby’s goodbye to Etta Bishop:

Oh Etta, we hardly knew you.

Introduced in Fringe’s season 4 episode,  “Letters of Transit”, Olivia and Peter’s daughter is now gone, assassinated by Captain Windmark (or, as I like to refer to him, Captain D-bag). In just five short episodes, I was made to care for this woman with a purpose. And if I trust in the reaction following her death on my Twitter feed and Tumblr dash, I wasn’t the only one feeling the loss. What is it that was so charismatic, so appealing about this character portrayed by Georgina Haig? I believe that she is a symbol; a symbol for hope in this Observer occupied Fringe. Perhaps more than that, though, Henrietta is a fully realized, three-dimensional woman. When we first meet Etta, it is not explicitly said that she is a Bishop, or that she is Olivia and Peter’s daughter. This is a great way of establishing her character without immediately brandishing her as a symbol for hope. She’s clearly not afraid to stand up to the Observers and is an important part of the Native Resistance. She can block out the Observer’s thoughts, and is motivated by the state of the world to restore it to a natural order. Mostly, though, we learn that she’s motivated by something much stronger: love. 


Imagine the strength of character one would need to possess to follow in Henrietta’s footsteps. She was wrenched from her parents at a very young age and learned to fend for herself in a world dominated by strangers. More than that, she’s been planning to overthrow the occupation, while working for them. If that’s not stoic and heroic, I don’t know what is. However, through the cracks peers a girl that doesn’t want to be alone anymore. We see it through the twirling of a mysterious bullet hanging from a chain around her neck and time spent looking at it. We see it through her determination to reunite the old Fringe team.


Then, there’s a shift. It is made clear that Etta is a Bishop and that she’s looking to reunite her family. She finds her grandfather, Astrid, and her dad, and together, they find her mom. The reunion between mother and child is poignant and filled my face with tears. It is that much more touching when I remind myself that they are experiencing two completely different emotions: Henrietta has finally found her mother, after decades of looking for her, while Olivia awakens, after what seems to her like a night, in front of her fully grown daughter. This creates a very interesting dynamic. Unfortunately, living a life as a double agent in tough times comes at a price: Henrietta finds herself hardened. In “In Absentia”, she tortures Gael Manfretti with seemingly no pity, grilling him for information. It is now apparent that mother and child differ. Olivia sees the good in people, whereas Henrietta knows that more often than not, in this world, people deceive you. She’s angry with the Loyalists, she’s angry with the Observers. She wants revenge.


But, Etta’s not alone anymore. She has found “her people”, as it were. So she puts her trust in the people she loves, and lets Manfretti go. She learns from her mom that there shines a light in the dimmest of places. And then Henrietta opens up, letting her parents in, letting her grandfather in. Through the course of the first four episodes of season 5, she has moments with all of them, moments that I’m sure they will cherish. And just like that, Henrietta is gone. She dies of a wound to the chest, but not without first taking out a bunch of Observers with an antimatter stick. The goodbyes between parents and child were short, but sweet, with a resigned Olivia telling Etta she loves her and an already grief stricken Peter hanging on to her for dear life. I think Georgina Haig said it best, so I’ll leave it to her to analyse Etta’s death:

It’s not completely clear in the way it was written exactly what she’s feeling when she dies. But amongst all the violence and blocking it out in rehearsal, it became clear to me that she’s at peace in that moment. She’s not fighting anymore. She’s thinking about the fact that she’s finally been loved. She’s at peace because she’s been loved and she’s thinking about her parents and she’s not fighting with Windmark anymore and she’s not blocking her thoughts. She just lets him feel that. And then she goes, in peace. (link)


Now, Etta has been turned into a martyr, which might motivate the Resistance to continue fighting the good fight. This is another another way in which her existence has been used as a symbol. At first, she’s a symbol of peace, coming to Peter and Olivia post-saving the world in season 4. Then, she’s a symbol of chaos, disappearing when the Observers took over. Finally, she’s a symbol of hope, a bright yellow dandelion springing from the rubble in this time of desperation. And now, with her death… She left a perfect little soul shaped hole in the Fringe team’s hearts, and in mine.

Gabby is a human woman working on her Masters degree in Social Work in Ottawa, Canada. Her studies come secondary to the amount of time she spends watching TV and tweeting about it (@GloryisBen). She is also a contributor for Fantastic Fangirls, where she geeks out about comics and pop culture through a female perspective with a plethora of talented writers. You can find her on tumblr.

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