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

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Thoughts on Fringe Season 4 Premiere Neither Here Nor There

by Amy Yen

More than almost any other show on TV, it’s wonderful to have Fringe back, just in terms of my almost complete certainty that I will get an enjoyable hour of television. The only other show I would put in its class would be Parks and Recreation (whose premiere was excellent, btw). Fringe is wonderful because even when it’s not quite what you want it to be, it has so many layers & interesting things to think about, it will still almost always be better than 95% of everything else on TV.

So, the season 4 premiere, “Neither Here Nor There,” wasn’t quite the epic mythology piece we were all not-so-secretly hoping for. Instead, the producers (or more likely, the network) decided to backtrack on last year’s (wise, I thought) decision to abandon all notion that they were going to attract any new viewers & just went neck-deep into the mythology. Maybe it’s that the sudden surge in genre-friendly Friday programming re-opens up the possibility of people discovering the show…but I have to say, as much as I thought this episode (& from what I understand the first part of this season) was trying to be as accessible as possible, I can’t imagine someone tuning in for the first time & the first scene being Olivia Dunham arguing with an alternate version of herself.

So, maybe I don’t know so much about this new direction, but I did think this episode did do a good job of setting up the new dynamics of the season, at least for the blueverse, & also introducing a lot of very interesting questions about how characters are affected by Peter Bishop’s being erased from the timeline. It did a particularly good job of re-introducing the blueverse version of Lincoln Lee, who in this timeline, never investigated the “Stowaway” case with Peter & Bellivia last year.

I loved the first scene with Lincoln at his partner’s house. What a remarkable little scene. Think about it, it’s the only scene with the partner & it makes you care about him in about three minutes. And it makes you care about, understand, this Lincoln we barely know, with the combed-down hair & the dorky glasses & buttoned-up suit & tie. (Again, such a simple & elegant job of contrasting him with the cocky, wild-haired Lincoln we know from the redverse.) But in three minutes, you get him.

As dorktastic as this Lincoln is, he is both completely capable on handling himself & also shows himself to be as naturally brilliant of an investigator as he is on the other side. It’s again smart writing because this Lincoln is totally different from the one we know, but you can see that they’re still the same person, the same way Walter & Walternate and Olivia & Fauxlivia are.

I really liked Olivia’s slow acceptance of Lincoln throughout the episode, how difficult it was, despite the fact we knew it was going to happen. Lincoln has to prove several times that he is a good investigator & a worthy partner for this Olivia, who has been alone for so long (“There is no one else. There is only me”). It is because Seth Gabel is so compelling in portraying this version of him (essentially a brand new character) that I didn’t miss Peter’s presence much at all this episode.

Not to say I wasn’t constantly thinking about how Peter’s absence affected things (more about this in the bullets), it’s just that Lincoln being there makes it less urgent to me that they bring him back immediately. I think they can take their time & let the story play out. Of course, I have no idea how it will. I’m still confused about September the Observer & his increasingly bizarre actions. Wasn’t Peter being erased from the timeline what he predicted (& presumably caused somehow)? Why is he suddenly so queasy about finishing the job?

So, overall, I’m still not convinced on whether this whole Peter storyline is a good one or not, but Fringe is one of those shows that has earned itself a lot of blind trust on my part. It’s not like I won’t be tuning in. And you should too.

Other random thoughts about “Neither Here Nor There”:

  • Orange (oh as EW pointed out, amber!) credits. Among the new phrases listed: Viral therapy, quantum entanglement, time paradox, psychic surgery, gravitons, existence. As vague as usual, except for quantum entanglement, which we’ve already dealt with. And existence, which seems…ominous.
  • “He just never had anything to tether him to the world.” The subtle & not-so-subtle differences in all the characters, the Peter-shaped hole in their lives, are all pretty fascinating. Olivia & Walter are pretty obvious, but the brief bits we get with Fauxlivia seem telling too. She’s definitely not quite as likable as she had grown to be last year. She’s back to who she was in Over There Part 2, when she first made the switch & infiltrated our side. Except in this timeline, she didn’t fall for Peter, didn’t change & start to care, didn’t ever come to want to stop Walternate.
  • I wonder if that also means that redverse Lincoln & Charlie never came to suspect Walternate’s evil ways, since Fauxlivia’s non-pregnancy means they probably never found out about the switch. Can’t wait to see how things are changed in the redverse.
  • Interesting that the blueverse Fringe division is both more official (& has seemingly more resources) & more secret in this timeline. Wonder why that would change, based on Peter not being there.
  • The translucent people/pseudo-shape-shifters quite deliberately called back to John Scott’s condition in the pilot. I even thought for a second this might turn out to be the same case…a situation in which Olivia & John never caught up to the bad guy from that episode, so he never exploded his lab or John.
  • “Just so you know, I know what it’s like.” So in this timeline, John Scott never recovered at all? Is that because Peter never forced the suspect to talk using completely illegal interrogation techniques?
  • “There’s more than one.” Oh, we know. We know.
  • One glaring thing that does still need to be explained regarding the new timeline: if Peter never existed or died as a child, how did the chain of events leading up to the universes merging even happen? Because we know in the original timeline, it all started when Walter ripped a hole between universes to try to save the Peter from over there. If he never did that, what caused all the damage on both sides that is referenced by the Olivias in this episode?
  • “What I do know is that this tech isn’t from here.” “Not from here? You mean like, from China?” “No. Not China.” Heh.
  • The red room scan totally gave me Alias flashbacks.
  • Love the grin on Fauxlivia’s face when she spots Lincoln. Seriously can’t wait for the Lincolns to meet each other.
  • After seeing Ringer, I’ve gained a whole new appreciation of just how good the Fringe cast, particularly Anna Torv & John Noble, is at playing against themselves.
  • “Sometimes answers lead to more questions.” I would say, almost always, in a JJ-verse.

Thoughts on Fringe Season 3 Finale The Day We Died

by Amy Yen

What…just happened?

Fringe is a remarkable show in that it asks its cast to play multiple versions of themselves, and not just wearing wigs to varying degrees of success, but as fully fleshed-out characters. By the time we reached the end of season 3, I felt like I knew Fauxlivia & Walternate, & Alt-Charlie & Lincoln Lee, their motivations, their passions, their relationships with each other, just as well as I knew our Olivia, Walter & Peter. What’s more, I liked watching them just as much.

So as much as I enjoyed getting a little glimpse at yet another set of characters, the black-verse, otherwise known as blue-verse circa 15 years in the future, what was ultimately a little disappointing about “The Day We Died,” the Fringe season 3 finale, was that we spent so little time with the two sets of characters we actually already cared about.

It’s not to say that if we spent a season in the future, I wouldn’t care about those characters just as much, but I didn’t have time to. That’s why, besides the brutal way it happened, the death of Future-Olivia failed to either move me, or surprise me, considering we knew the death of a major character was happening this episode. It’s why, besides the lovely moment in the lab with Walter, reminiscing about Gene the cow, Future-Fringe Agent Ella Dunham failed to make an impression. It’s why Peter & Olivia being married didn’t mean nearly what it should have to me.

In a way, the future-verse was a little bit of a love song to the show we do love. Suddenly, we’re back in the pilot & Peter’s getting a bearded Walter from incarceration. They’re going back to the Harvard lab (“So much has happened here. So much is about to”). Peter gets Walter Twizzlers & calls him ‘dad.’

All of those moments are lovely, but they are still rendered pretty much meaningless unless we go back & spend more time in that world. Otherwise, the only thing that matters is Walter’s revelations about the wormholes in time & them being the “First People” who send the doomsday machine back to ancient times to be buried. All that really matters is the part of the episode I liked the least, because I don’t understand it.

Peter served his purpose. He never existed.

What? I can’t even count the ways that doesn’t make sense. If he never existed, Walter never would have gone ‘over there’ to save another him, therefore none of this would have ever happened. If he never existed, the two Walters, the two Olivias never would be where they are, or else they’d be there because of a completely different set of events. And how about like, if Peter never existed, then Fauxlivia never would have had her baby? What about that? And also, do the Observers mean he’s erased his existence with his actions? Or, do they mean he literally never existed, as in they fabricated him to move things to where they are now?

This is why the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that “The Last Sam Weiss” should have been the season finale. That episode ended on a huge twist, but not one that completely leaves the reality of everything that’s happened so far in jeopardy. Could they really be pulling a Lost season 5? Exploding a hydrogen bomb to make it so the plane never crashed?

In Pinker & Wyman we trust, right? Right?

More random thoughts on “The Day We Died”:

  • Black credits! Among the items listed: Thought extraction. Brain porting. Chaos structure. Wow, we’re intense in the future.
  • FutureAstrid’s hair is B-A. FuturePeter’s hair is a tragedy.
  • I would love to get the story behind “what happened in Detroit” & Senator Broyles’ eye…
  • In this world, everybody knows Walter Bishop’s name. It’s an interesting idea, people demanding someone to blame for the end of the world.
  • “Will Astrid be there?” Aw. Really wished we could have seen those two together, although it’s cool to see Fringe Agent Astrid in the field.
  • Bummed we didn’t see the alt-Fringe team at all this episode. I suppose the bit at the end of “Bloodline” with Lincoln & Charlie realizing the Secretary is hiding things from them is just set up for season 4, but it’s disappointing there wasn’t time to build that out this season. The red-verse better not get destroyed before we get some resolution on our alt-Fringe friends.
  • Also bummed we didn’t see Sam Weiss again. Hopefully he shows back up next year because otherwise, I feel like he was definitely hyped more than he paid off.
  • The light bombs set off by the End of Days group go red, red, red, green, opposite of those other lights we’ve seen before.
  • So, Pinkner & Wyman say that Josh Jackson is still under contract for season 4 & I doubt they’d write out one of our main three leads for long. I guess this is why I’m not sold on this twist…I just have no idea whatsoever where they’re going to go from here. Like, I can’t even guess.
  • “It can’t be worse than this.” Why did you say that? Of course it can be worse than that!