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 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!

Thoughts on Fringe Season 2 Finale Over There Part 2

-by Amy Yen

With the big finale coming on Sunday, there’s been a lot of talk at the upfronts this year about networks looking for the next Lost. It wasn’t Flashforward & it wasn’t V, that’s for sure. I have to think it’ll be a while before we ever see anything quite as revolutionary as Lost again. In my opinion, the only show that’s already on the air that comes anywhere close is Fringe.

Fringe is quintessential JJ Abrams, it almost can’t help but become more & more mythology-based as it goes along. But the smartest thing Fringe did was let us in on the key underlying mythology of the show—the idea of the alternate universe—very early on…and then show us that our three main characters are all closely intertwined with this mythology. Fringe is a fun show: it’s weirdness & gross-outs & there’s a cow & the best character is, essentially, a crazy person. But for all its week-to-week monster chasing, Fringe has always excelled in telling very human stories about its characters within the frame of its sci-fi universe.

In that way, it’s a lot like Lost. Obviously, it’s a completely different show—I’m still not convinced it was ever a good idea, or even a realistic one, to try to make Fringe more accessible to a larger audience by making the majority of the episodes, particularly in season 1, mostly self-contained stories less dependent on myth-arc. I think that the audience that would watch Fringe is always looking for myth-arc, that’s why we’re there. Monster-of-the-week is great, it’s fun & Fringe does it well. There’s something incredibly entertaining about Fringe’s enthusiasm for general weirdness. But especially as it moves into season 3, I don’t see how they can possibly keep it up. The audience that will tune into Fringe now wants the story to keep going every week.

It is because of the great job that the show has done to grow its characters & to make us care so much about these three people & what they mean to each other that “Over There,” the two-part season 2 finale left me shaken. I wouldn’t say it topped “There’s More Than One of Everything,” the season 1 finale, which had two of the greatest reveals you will ever see on television. But the idea that the Olivia that came back over to our universe with Peter & Walter is not our Olivia at all, but the Olivia of the alternate universe, there to infiltrate our world as part of the Secretary of State Walternate’s ultimate plan to destroy our universe as revenge for Walter taking his son, all those years ago…that’s still a hell of a reveal.

I came out of it with a feeling of dread because the producers certainly weren’t kidding when they said this would be a game-changer. The thing is, a big part of why I like Fringe is the interaction between our three main characters—the “family unit” Peter talked about, before things went south on his & Walter’s relationship. So the idea that that aspect of the show won’t be there, or will certainly be drastically changed, is a scary one. But I applaud them for taking the risk. I have absolutely no idea where they’re going to go next season, but I will definitely be tuning in.

A few final thoughts on “Over There, Part 2”:

  • What a chilling final scene with Walternate looking in on Olivia—our Olivia, imprisoned & terrified in complete darkness on the other side. It’s unsettling to realize how long she might be stuck there…there’s no way for our Fringe team to get back “over there” now that the other Cortexiphan kids are all dead, as is William Bell.
  • I was very pleased that Bell turned out to be not evil after all. This was a fine send-off for Leonard Nimoy into his retirement. Especially loved his reunion with Walter (“I see you’ve aged.” “It appears I’m not the only one.”) & his arsenal of gadgets of awesomeness that he both geeked out to AltOlivia & AltCharlie to & then used on the AltFringe team.
  • I really don’t see how AltOlivia can possibly maintain her cover for long. For one thing, her interactions with Peter after our Olivia went from like a 3 to a 10 on the shipper scale with him in one episode are going to be interesting. Great to see the typewriter communications device to the other side again (who’s receiving those messages? Walternate?), although how did AltOlivia know the procedure to get in touch that way for orders? Didn’t she just learn about our universe like a day ago? And she definitely didn’t know she’d be going there until right before she went.
  • How creepy was the alternate universe quarantine procedure? Loved that it turned out to be the amber from “The Ghost Network,” all the way back in episode 3 of season 1. Remember, it was used to trap everyone on a city bus, like mosquitoes in amber. It was creepy then, but is about 45 million times more disturbing when you think about it being used on Madison Square Garden or the entire city of Boston. Especially horrible that they just leave it there, with all those people trapped inside.
  • All the performances were excellent. Joshua Jackson has been really impressive with his emotional deliveries in both parts of the finale. Going from his relief & sadness at seeing his real mother to how hurt he was over Walternate’s betrayal of him…he’s just a really good actor. Anna Torv has been criticized a lot for Olivia’s coldness & general lack of relatability, but Olivia & AltOlivia are clearly two separate people & you have to admire how hard that is to play. Plus, come on, that fight scene was awesome. And I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again: John Noble. Emmy nomination. Make it happen. I don’t care if you don’t like genre shows. Watch that scene with him & Bell at the Harvard lab. Just brilliant.
  • PS: The video I included at the top is a summer blockbuster-style trailer put together by Fox “for all audiences in THIS UNIVERSE.” Good stuff.