The Boy Must Live
Season 5, Episode 11
Air date January 11, 2013
Written by Graham Roland
Directed by Paul Holahan
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Cast | Transcript

"The Boy Must Live" is the eleventh episode of the fifth season of Fringe.


As time dramatically ticks down toward the end of this acclaimed series, Peter, Olivia and Walter stop at nothing to save the universe from Observer rule. Walter enters the infamous deprivation tank in an attempt to uncover a key piece of information about the mysterious figure, Donald. Meanwhile, Captain Windmark sets out on a revealing mission of his own as long-standing questions are answered.


Walter is recovering from the visions that that child Observer Michael gave him by touch, including that which revealed that "Donald", the man who helped Walter in the past with the plan to defeat the Observers, is really September. Realizing that the visions came from his own subconscious mind, Walter decides to use the sensory deprivation tank to explore the visions further. With Peter's help, Walter is able to review the vision of September as Donald and locates the experience as having occurred in an apartment on the east side of New York. The Fringe team travels there with Michael, during which Walter reveals to Peter that he remembers things from the original timeline, including the relationship he and Peter had before Peter had entered the Machine. Walter helps identify the correct apartment, and they find it occupied by September, who has not seen Walter for more than twenty years.

September explains that after helping Fringe in the past, the Observers had stripped September of his Observer implant and performed a "biological conversion" to make him human. He and Walter had spent time together following this, and September took the named Donald from Donald O'Connor from the movie Singin' in the Rain. September further explains that in 2167, an experiment in developing human genes, sacrificing human emotion for intelligence, would eventually give birth to the emotionless Observers. The Observers developed asexual procreation techniques; in the case of Michael, he was born from September's genes but came out as an abnormality having both emotions and great intelligence. Michael normally would have been destroyed, but September decided to hide him in the past. September now suggests that by sending Michael forward in time to 2167, September would hope that the original researchers would see the error they are about to commit (their assumption that emotion hinders intelligence), they would be able to prevent the experiment from being performed, and the Observers would never come into existence. Should this happen, time would possibly be reset from the point of the Observer's first interference with the past; Olivia takes this as an opportunity for them to get Etta back again.

Walter remembers that he was given the hologram of the plans for the device from Etta (Letters of Transit) that would be able to send Michael forward in time, which will be constructed from all of the components collected by following the tapes. The group, with September, take leave to recover an item in a nearby storage locker that is another component of the device.

Elsewhere, Captain Windmark travels to his future of 2609 where he meets with the Observer Commander, warning him that the child Observer has been located in their relative past. He learns of the child's relationship with September, and of September's past transgressions in helping the Fringe team. Windmark informs the Commander of the interference of the Fringe team and requests to go back to a point in time where he could prevent this, but is refused, and told that his current operations are on their planned path. On his return, he learns of September's location, and travels there with other agents, finding the apartment empty; a bomb rigged by September goes off but Windmark and his agents escape in time. Loyalist agents help to identify the Fringe group leaving and roadblocks are put into place.

At the storage facility, September finds the device and gives it to Walter. Walter confides in September that he worries that Michael's visions imply that Walter may die from the plan, and realizes that September's warning, "the boy must live", from 1985 (Peter (episode)) was about Michael and not Peter. September reminds Walter of the time he had received a drawn white tulip as a sign of redemption (White Tulip), and that he had recovered that letter for the future; however, while he still has the envelope, the location of the tulip itself is unknown, but September says that Walter will find his redemption when he finds the tulip.

The team prepares to leave but Donald reveals that he needs to do something else first and will meet up with the team at the Harvard lab. When the team discovers the roadblocks, they split up and make their way to the train station, which is heavily patrolled by Loyalist guards. Just as the train is about to leave, Michael steps off before Olivia can stop him, and he is taken away by guards to Windmark.

Notable Quotes[]

Walter: Peter, before I met him I didn't think it was possible to love you more, but now, knowing what we've been through and everything we've had, I do.

Olivia: Walter, why did you remove your trunks?
Walter: They were too restrictive. My body needs to be as free and open as my mind so I can find September.
Olivia: Are you feeling sufficiently free and open now?
Walter: I am. Let's get started.


  • We are shown how Observers are created in the future.
  • Michael is revealed to be September's son.


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