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Published on January 19th, 2013 | by Alan Danzis


Fringe Series Finale Review: A Meandering Plot filled with Powerful Moments

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Fringe Season 5 Episode 13: An Enemy of Fate

It’s extraordinarily hard for mythology-heavy shows with a sci-fi bent to end satisfyingly for fans. Look at Lost and Battlestar Galactica for starters. Chuck was the last show with a phenomenal finale that paid of its mythology—but in that show’s case, it was light on the sci-fi.

I walked into Fringe’s series finale last night not loving the last two seasons, not excited about what the producers seemed to be setting us up for and wishing for the days of season 2 and 3—I’m currently re-watching the end of season 2 right now, and wow, it is fantastic.

Unfortunately for me, the plot doesn’t make sense, and it meanders, in the series finale of Fringe. But wow, is it filled with incredibly powerful moments from all of the actors—none of which will get noticed come Emmy time.

All season long, I’d been hoping so much to see the other universe again. Remember when the war between the two universes was what the show was about? Instead, it seemed like fan service when Olivia used the other universe as a way to break into Liberty Island on her side to free Michael.

Sure, we got to see Lincoln and Bolivia aged and learned they have a child. But Walternate isn’t shown and instead thought of as an after-thought that “he’s off teaching at Harvard.” And while I screamed “NO!” when I thought Lincoln and Bolivia’s life was in danger, their appearances provided very little emotional weight. (Though I did laugh when Bolivia accused Lincoln of checking out her younger ass.)

What did carry emotional weight, however, were some of the final goodbyes amongst the team. Peter and Walter in the lab where Walter attempts to atone for all he’s done, while Peter calls him Dad, is a great moment. And later, Walter finally tells Astrid she has a pretty name—and calls her by the right one for perhaps the first time in the entire series. That’s something that was truly earned and impactful.

Broyles and Astrid both got moments to shine in the finale as well. And while I appreciated the insane level of callbacks to past episodes when Peter and Olivia used past Fringe cases to kill Observers and Loyalists to get a crucial piece of the device, it did seem like it was, again, just fan service.

There was a callback I was expecting the show to do, however, and when it didn’t happen, I couldn’t decide if they wanted me to make the connection in my head. Or if they honestly didn’t make it themselves.

Most of the episode we were told Walter had to accompany Michael into the future. We were given a lame excuse for why he couldn’t come back. But then off-screen, Donald/September said he would do it. He of course is killed before he gets a chance do it, meaning Walter must make the trip.

The sight of Walter taking another young boy by the hand and walking through the wormhole to the future is emotional and powerful. Not because Peter mouths the words “I love you Dad” but because I couldn’t help but recall the last time Walter did that—when he stole Peter from the other universe. I even hoped the show would show a flashback to that, but maybe it wasn’t needed.

Those scenes of love and forgiveness were incredible powerful and will likely stay with me a few days, even after I’ve completed this review and moved on to others. The pay-off, however, may continue to bug me.

If the Observers don’t exist, doesn’t that mean Peter isn’t saved by September in the lake?

I guess it’s just best to ignore that. Go with it. Go with the happy ending in the park with Etta, Olivia and Peter.

In season 4, arguably the show’s worst since the first, the show rebooted and most of our characters forgot all that came before—save for Peter, and eventually Olivia and then Walter this season. The show reboots yet again at the end of the series.

We the audience know the sacrifices of our characters. But Peter and Olivia don’t.

Or do they? In the final moments, Peter gets a picture of a white tulip from Walter in the mail after he gets home from the park. There’s an extra moment or two of reflection in his eyes. Is he remembering the future and what happened in that other timeline? Or is he just wondering why his father sent him that picture?

If the characters on our screen don’t remember all the pain they went through, but we do… does that mean the show didn’t mean anything? It’s something fans will continue to debate for a long time.

Like Lost, I didn’t love how Fringe ended. But with Lost, I tend not to look back on the mixed bag of a finale. I remember the raft, “Not Penny’s Boat,” “We have to go back!” and more.

With Fringe, I’ll remember Peter’s hospital bed admission that he knew he wasn’t from our side. The phrase “Mr. Secretary.” The first time we met the other Fringe team. Peter and Olivia, OUR Olivia, falling in love once Bolivia went home. Peter bringing the worlds together and telling them to knock off their shit and work together. And Walter and Walternate, bitter enemies, sitting on the floor next to each other just as the bridge is about to close.

Not September with hair. Or Michael getting ret-conned into being the “boy who must live.” I’ll try and forget moments like that.

It’s been a fun ride recapping Fringe in this final season. Leave your comments below. Curious what everyone else thought…

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  • Terry Boyden

    The Wire was the last great finale. Fringe, Battlestar Galactica, Lost… meh, not so much…

  • Ernie Estrella

    I dunno, I enjoyed the five year ride. I thought Seasons 3 and 4 were really excellent and set up this final season pretty well and perhaps that’s why I probably enjoyed this final season more than you, Alan, and that’s fine to disagree. What I’m saying though is that my satisfaction really comes from enjoying each season and you had already framed that you weren’t pleased with Seasons 3 and 4, so perhaps that’s why when you got to 5 and the finale, it fell flat. I was surprised to see the alternate universe at all this season because they had closed off that world, and was fine not to see all of the players on that side, but the nods were nice. It wasn’t the end all great finales but when you consider how much money was cut for this season, the fact we were able to see the showrunners end it sort of on their terms. Fox’s 13 episodes were a gift, but I’d love to see it if they had a full season order to walk off into the sunset. Still, I think they told a solid final season and will miss it on Friday nights.

  • Alan Danzis

    Yeah, I think I just felt closing off the universe was a horrendous idea. Focusing on the Observers I felt wasn’t the strongest idea for a season. But yes, thank you to Fox for letting them finish it out.

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