Thoughts on the Fringe Series Finale – Liberty / An Enemy of Fate

by Amy Yen

fringe finale

Of course.

I mean, of course it was a white tulip. The moment you saw it–the last image of Fringe ever–you knew it could never have been anything else. (It’s kind of like Lost in that way.) There were a lot of things wrong with “Liberty” & “An Enemy of Fate,” the series finale of Fringe, but Joel Wyman got the last moment exactly, perfectly right.

I’ve watched every episode of Fringe and consider it one of my favorite shows ever. To me, it wasn’t a perfect finale, but it got enough of it right that I can say goodbye the way I wanted to. I think it’s all we can ask for.

What I loved about the episode was all of the last hurrahs for the staples we’ve loved about the show for five years. One last crazy trip across universes. One last gruff but well-meaning Broyles exchange. One last Walter & Astrid moment in the lab. One last bad-ass Olivia sequence. One last Walter & Peter father & son moment.

“The time we had together, we stole. I cheated fate to be with you. And I wouldn’t change it for the world.” Isn’t this what it comes down to? The original sin of the entire show was Walter tearing a hole in a universe to take a son that wasn’t his. Now that he knows the damage he caused, if he had it to do all over again, would he?

How could he not? Maybe that’s what Walter is actually asking forgiveness for. Not that he did this horrible thing. That he would do it again. Without question.

fringewhitetulip

So what does the white tulip mean? September took it from the original timeline to give Walter strength. Walter sends it to Peter when he knows he will disappear from the timeline. I think it can be interpreted a number of ways, but I took it to mean he’s found his forgiveness, his peace with what he’s done & what he will do, because one led to the stolen time he got to have with his son and the other to the time his son will get with his daughter. That’s an ending to these characters I can live with.

In the end, I stand by my admiration for this show because of its fearlessness to completely disrupt the status quo, even when maybe it didn’t need to be disrupted. To tell the story it wanted to tell, and never mind anyone else. There’s probably not ever going to be anything else like it.

If nothing else, it definitely had the highest average number of acid trips shown on screen per season ever. I’m willing to bet on it.

One last thing. It’s clear that the writers went out of their way to include callbacks this season, like little gifts for long-time viewers. But while many of them have felt simply like inconsequential Easter eggs, I thought the attack on the Observer headquarters was fantastic: a lovingly assembled greatest hits of the show’s grossest of the gross. So fitting because Fringe was about many things–identity & humanity & fathers & sons & love & loss–but it was also about showing the weirdest & most disgusting images you could possibly get away with on network TV, & doing so in the most entertaining, gleeful way possible.

I really am going to miss the hell out of this show.

More random thoughts on “Liberty” & “An Enemy of Fate”:

  • My God. How did they get through these two episodes without a single major character getting killed? (Unless you count September?) Not even Astrid! And I was terrified that Fauxlivia or Lincoln were going to end up as collateral damage.
  • Speaking of whom, it was so great to see the red-verse again! I really have missed them. I’m so glad to see Fauxlivia & Lincoln getting their completely adorable bad-ass Fringe agents happily ever after.
  • “You deserve all the happiness that you got.” So great to see Seth Gabel back, however briefly. That little moment when he first sees Olivia again & lets out that little breath, it’s so terrific. I like that there’s still that awkwardness between them, after all this time. And I like the moment between them where she tells him it’s okay that he got to be happy. Like their own white tulip moment. Lincoln was always one of my favorites.
  • I also loved the easiness between the two Olivias, which is remarkable when you remember all they’ve been through. Even if you discount the original season 3 timeline, remember just how much they hated each other at the beginning of season 4? Now they’re like old friends.
  • I think that overall, the scavenger hunt nature of this final season didn’t really pay off. I wish the different pieces of the puzzle came together in a more clever way, instead of just being random components. As it is, the pieces could have been anything.
  • What is it about “this era” that makes the Observers–all of them, as it turns out–develop emotions? If it’s being among our humanity that causes it, couldn’t it have happened in any era?
  • “It’s a beautiful name.” “What is?” “Astrid.” So wonderful. It’s funny, all these years, they never ran out of awesome names for Walter to call Astrid. It’s such a nice moment for a character that meant way more than her development ever gave her any right to be.
  • Also lovely to see Gene the cow one last time. I found it to be a way more emotional moment than I ever thought any moment involving a cow could be.
  • “Because it’s cool.” Nice moment of levity. Also another cool callback to another standalone Fringe case (“Os” from season 3).
  • “It’s not about fate, Walter. Yours or mine. It’s about changing fate. It’s about hope and protecting our children.” You know, while I like the nice parallels between Walter & September, I kind of see September’s & the Observers’ expanded role this season like the Jacob/Man in Black stuff in season 6 of Lost. It’s just a little too disconnected from the rest of the series, where it doesn’t quite feel like this was the inevitable endgame. But I do like this moment between two fathers.
  • Nice parallel imagery of Walter holding hands with Michael, walking into the wormhole, calling back to him walking with Peter through the door back to the blue-verse, back when this whole thing began.
  • Lovely Tilton score through the entire 2015 sequence.
  • Did you catch the bloody handprint on the wall during the attack sequence? It had six fingers like the glyph. Nice touch.
  • Among the callbacks in the attack sequence: the orifice-sealing bio-toxin from “Ability,” the giant cold germ from “Bound,” the killer imaginary butterflies from “The Dreamscape,” the exploded head from “The Box,” the bone-disintegrating powder from “Concentrate & Ask Again” & possibly the grossest of them all, the horrible tentacle worm parasite thing from “Snakehead.” Bravo, Fringe, you’ve really made me regret eating dinner quite a lot in the last five years.
  • Can’t go without saying the performances were, as usual, outstanding. I mean, hey, why not, one more John Noble Emmy moment for the road.
  • PS: If you’re a total Fringe geek like me, be sure to check out TVGuide’s oral history of the show, EW’s extensive podcast about its history and of course, my mythology episode guide & standalone episode picks, should you be so inclined.

One last time, thank you cast & crew of Fringe. It’s been an amazing ride.

J.H. Wyman, Anna Torv, Lance Reddick, Jasika Nicole, John Noble, Joshua Jackson

Thoughts on Fringe’s Final Season Premiere: Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11

by Amy Yen

There are a lot of ways you could describe what kind of show Fringe is. It’s really well acted. It has a rich & terribly complex mythology. It’s got a lot of ludicrous science that doesn’t make any sense. It can be, in the same hour, terrifying, thrilling, hilarious & heartbreaking.

It’s incredibly brave.

Whether you thought the Peter disappearing arc really paid off or not, or whether you think they really told all the story there was to tell in the red-verse before closing it off, or whether you think it’s the best choice to set the final 13 episodes in 2036, you have to admit, Fringe doesn’t do safe storytelling. That may mean it can go off the rails a little, but you have to admire it for trying it in the first place.

Fortunately, based off of “Transilience Thought Unifer Model-11,” this final leap may pay off yet. I found 2036 this time around completely engaging. It was smart to bring the entire core team forward, so that we haven’t actually missed very much of their story. And Etta — perfectly cast Etta (who, looking at her now, I can’t believe we went through “Letters of Transit” without knowing who she was, because it is so very obvious) — Etta is exactly right, exactly who a daughter of Peter & Olivia would be. A wonderful performance from Georgina Haig, highlighted by the scene reuniting her with Olivia. 

Really, every performance was pretty much amazing in this episode, although it would be a crime, which should be punishable by horrible Observer mind-probing, to post this without saying that John Noble was, for the millionth time, incredible. And although I found the scene between Peter & Olivia, where they explain to us, but mostly to each other for some reason, what happened to them after they lost Etta, clunky & unnecessary, I did think Joshua Jackson did an admirable job selling it. I just don’t really see why it was necessary to break them up again. (It reminds me of Amy & Rory’s break-up in this year’s Doctor Who premiere. Is it just that the writers think it’s more interesting when they’re a little star-crossed? In both cases, I just feel like the characters have developed beyond that.)

Anyway, overall, I found the whole thing reason to hope, like a single dandelion growing on scorched earth, that this final season, which we are lucky to have regardless of what it turns out being, is going to give this story the ending it deserves.

More random thoughts on “Transilience Thought Unifer Model-11”:

  • I thought the callbacks to the some of the familiar little things we know about these characters, like Walter trying to eat egg sticks like licorice (“What a miserable future.”) and calling Astrid “Afro,” were used really well. Not only did it bring a little humor, but it was kind of subtly sad, calling back on something that was lost in this future.
  • “You seem much more interesting as a human being than a vegetable. But, all things being equal, I don’t mind which one you end up.” They’ve done a great job of making the Observers straight-up terrifying.
  • If Peter & Olivia lost Etta when the Observers invaded when she was three, how does she know who she is? And what exactly happened to her?
  • The carbon monoxide thing was a nice touch. If you think about it, the air is only going to get more polluted in the future, where the Observers came from, so it makes sense they’d adapted to it. And ironically, by polluting the air on purpose now, they may be speeding up the ruining of the world that eventually leads them to go back in time in the first place.
  • I did think during the scenes at the resistance headquarters that those bits would have been so much more interesting with Simon still around. Stupid Scandal, ruining everything. (I don’t mean that, I actually quite like Scandal.) Now that Henry Ian Cusick’s available, I really hope they find a way to bring him back. With the way the bit of dialogue referencing Simon was written, I have to assume we will.
  • I wonder what happened to Ella, Olivia’s niece, in this version of the future. If you remember, in the “The Day We Died” future, she ended up a Fringe agent.
  • It’s kind of nice to see Markham again, even if him using amber-ized Olivia as a coffee table is really messed up. I have the feeling we’re going to be seeing a lot of familiar faces on the farewell tour this year.

Fringe: The Comprehensive Mythology Episode Guide to the Best Drama on TV

by Amy Yen

In case you are wondering, yes, this is where I’m going to pretend like the World Series didn’t happen. Think of it like the denial stage of grief, although, after it was all over, I did anger & depression together, like a misery cocktail of doom & despair. Ugh. And on top of everything, Game 7 pre-empted Fringe. Seriously? Kick me when I’m down already.

In preparation of the show coming back this week after what has been a two-week hiatus, I thought I’d do a post about how people—& by people, I mean the majority of the American television viewing public, since they spend their time watching NCIS & terrible VH1 reality shows—can catch up on Fringe, which they should, because it is, in fact, the best drama on TV.

I say this, but I’m aware that Fringe is a particularly hard show to get caught up on. Worse than Lost even. At least when you’re watching Lost, even when it’s meandering around throwing out questions that will never be answered, you don’t usually know that what you’re watching isn’t really important. The main problem with Fringe is, throughout most of its run, it’s insisted on trying to stay somewhat accessible to casual viewers, which means a solid half of its episodes, maybe more, are of the standalone monster-of-the-week variety, where you can tune in randomly & be able to mostly follow what’s going on. And while those episodes are fun to watch, as fun even as most X-Files standalones, when you’re trying to get caught up on 3+ seasons of an extremely dense mythology, they feel like treading water.

So, when I lent my co-worker my Fringe DVDs, I eventually also provided him a guide of mythology episodes, the ones you really need to watch to understand the core story of Fringe, the real reason it’s such a great show. If you’re going through it for the first time trying to catch up to the live episodes, I would recommend watching these first, then going back & watching the monster-of-the-weeks over the summer when you have more time to sit around & be grossed out by mole-rat babies & mutant fungi.

PS: I really liked this post, which does something similar. Her “things you should know about Fringe” are especially good.

Warning: This episode guide contains minor spoilers. Click More to read on.

Update [01.27.13]: Updated through end of series! Of 100 total episodes, I ended up recommending 55. 55 essential episodes to getting the gist of Fringe. I’d love to hear if someone tries to watch the series using this guide & what your experience is like. If you do, please drop me a comment! Thanks again for reading.

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