Fringe Review: All Good Things
Fringe is really over. I needed a few days to get my final thoughts together, and this recap/review is going to be brief. I participated in a podcast about the finale last week with two other fans and reviewers, and there’s a link to it at the bottom of this article if you’re up for a more in depth discussion about the finale of our favorite, now departed, science fiction serial.
I’ll say up front that the finale held little (if any) surprises for me; I’d guessed how the series would end several weeks ago. That’s not a bad thing—in fact, I’d argue that in the finale of a long running fan favorite, it’s best to end things the way your audience is expecting and not try to throw any last minute curve balls that could leave a bad taste. It seems to me that Wyman & Co. were hyper focused on giving us the ending we wanted, and with the final episodes open for them to tell the story they envisioned, everything fell neatly into place.
Last week September (Michael Cerveris) reminded Walter that part of the plan included his sacrificing himself, but the final two hours began with the problem of getting the Observer boy back from Windmark and the other psychos preparing to cut him open to learn his secrets. Using Broyles’ connections for what will turn out to be the last time, the Fringe team learns that the boy is being held onLiberty Island—a location that, in this dystopian future, is impenetrable.
Olivia (Anna Torv) brings up the possibility of using the alternate universe to sneak onto Liberty Island, but since the bridge was closed no one has crossed over in twenty years, the question of how immediately arises.
Luckily (?) Walter still has come cortexiphan in the lab (God love him) and thinks that because Olivia’s brain formed new neural pathways as a child, injecting her with a large amount of the drug now should allow her to recover some abilities—or it could kill her. Peter (God love him) is understandably worried for his wife, but she tells him that they’re going to get their daughter back and this is how they’re going to do it.
In a rather horrific scene reminiscent of Fringe’s early days when Walter prodded Olivia on a near weekly basis, she takes several cortexiphan injections and crosses to the alternate universe with a two-hour window to get the boy and return.
Boliva and Lincoln Lee (Seth Gabel) welcome her with more than a little surprise, but it’s a sweet, pleasant interaction (aside from Olivia’s hallucinations). The alternate couple are aged and married, parents to a grown son, and of course they agree to help Olivia cross onLiberty Island. I really loved getting to see them one last time. Really.
She manages to Michael with marginal trouble, then back to Battery Park and the Fringe team before she completely loses her ability to travel. Windmark (Michael Kopsa) was negatively affected by the boy’s presence, increasing his anger and other strangely un-Observer like emotional responses. The Observers do learn that the boy’s brain has the capacity for emotion as well as high intelligence, but he’s gone before they can probe further.
So the final hour of the show begins, with the team in a bad position because the time travel device September was building is missing a piece. He tries to procure it from one of the other original twelve Observers but Windmark and the gang get there first, leaving our team and the boy stranded in their present (our future). Then Peter (Joshua Jackson) and September come up with the idea to commandeer one of the Observer shipping lanes, redirecting it to the year they need to access using the giant magnet, and send the boy and Walter through.
Except September begs Walter (John Noble) to allow him to take the boy into the future instead. Since they will be erased from the past no matter what, he would like the opportunity to show his son that he loves him the only way he knows how—by holding his hand as they walk into the unknown. Walter agrees, grasping the chance to avoid the final goodbye with his own beloved Peter.
In one of my favorite scenes of Season 5, Walter and Peter watch a tape meant to be Walter’s final goodbye and explanation to his son after his sacrifice. That they get to watch it together gave my gut a special kind of clench, and the moment they hug, tears in their eyes, as Walter tells Peter he’s his “very favorite thing” will undoubtedly be one of my favorite things for a long time to come, and is definitely the standout moment of the finale.
Astrid’s poignant goodbye to Walter also tugged at my heartstrings, and I love the writer’s for including it.
Nothing is, of course, as easy as it looks on paper. Windmark has captured Broyles (Lance Reddick), who is willing to sacrifice himself for the cause. Peter and Olivia need to procure one of those cube devices to tilt the shipping lane to their benefit, and no longer have Nina’s help getting in and out of Observer warehouses. They use another old Fringe case (which I like to call “squid babies”) and end up not only finding a cube but rescuing Broyles as well.
The final showdown begins, and ends in a bittersweet victory as Windmark finally gets what’s coming to him, Olivia saves the day (I so loved seeing my kick butt Liv back in action for the finale), but September is shot, meaning we have to say goodbye to Walter once and for all.
Time is reset to the day I suspected—Olivia, Peter, and Etta playing in the park—and no Observers invade to steal away their bright futures. Back home, Peter opens a letter from his disappeared father to find a single white tulip—Walter’s symbol of hope.
As I said at the beginning, there were few surprises. The tension wound tight as we began to believe perhaps Walter would survive, but the fact that he was finally able to make up for (in his eyes) damaging two worlds for his own selfish gains makes it bittersweet instead of tragic. I may have guessed the ending but it still made me smile a sad smile, and had Peter, Olivia, and Etta not ended up together and healthy, it would have tainted my five year viewing experience in a disappointing way. It was, as series finales go, as much as any of us could ask for.
In the podcast linked below I talk about my favorite moments of the finale, along with a few things I didn’t understand, and we discuss whether or not tying the series up so neatly is a good thing, bad thing, both, or maybe neither.
All I know is that I’m thankful that I got to spend the last 5 years with this cast, these storytellers, and an intricate world the likes of which we can’t find anywhere else on network television.
In a conference call last week, Josh answered a question about what he would miss most about Fringe:
Joshua Jackson: “The hardest thing to walk away from over a long-formed TV show is the camaraderie of the company, both the crew and the group of actors that you have together… I feel like instead of either stretching to show on for too long or having it sort of cut off in an abortive way, I feel like we got to tell the ending of our story. So for that I’m really satisfied, but I will miss the people that I was working with for the last four years.”
When asked for a final comment, Josh had something to say that every fan of Fringe deserves to hear. I know it made me smile.
Joshua Jackson: “I just would like to say to everybody involved here tonight and to everybody who has come on this journey for these five years of this show, it is—and I’m going to speak out of turn here, because they’re not all represented, but we collectively, as a group, as a cast, as a crew, as writers, are so thankful to the support that we have been given over these years and have been often in awe of the passion that people have felt for this show. So I personally, and I know we collectively, hope that we finish this season and ultimately this series on a positive note tonight that is satisfying to the people who have given us so much over the course of the five years. So thank you to everybody for listening today and if you could pass on my and our great thanks to everybody who has come with us on this journey.”
And thank you from me, to those of you who have loved Fringe and have stuck with me through years of recaps, reviews, tears, and uncertainty. Catch you next time.
Here’s the link to my podcast, if you’re interested in more details about my favorite parts of the finale (including Astrid, Gene, and where they earned tears) and what shows I’m looking forward to next.
Season 5, Episode 12 and 13 “An Enemy of Fate” and “Liberty” (originally aired January 18th, 2013).
Images courtesy of 20th Century Fox.