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

Top Five Standalone Fringe Episodes

by Amy Yen

With Fringe finally, FINALLY returning this week (unfortunately, that’s the only good news), I thought I’d do my top 5 standalone episodes to go along with the mythology episode guide that I recently posted. Fringe is one of the few mytharc-based shows where monster-of-the-week episodes can be some of its most compelling & engrossing stories, & although, as I’ve mentioned before, the mythology is what makes the show what it is, many of the standalones are definitely worth checking out.

PS: Regarding the bad news out of the FOX TCAs, I still think there’s a chance Warner Brothers works out a deal for a 13-episode final season, but I do think we need to be realistic. This is the first time Reilly & FOX have been so candid about the financial hit the network is taking on the show & while I think part of it is a negotiation ploy to put the ball (& the blame for the cancellation if it comes to it) in the WB’s court, I also think Reilly is trying to prepare us for the inevitable. I mean honestly, it’s a miracle we’ve gotten four seasons with the ratings being what they are.

I think the bigger issue is, if there really are only 15 episodes left, whether the producers can wrap this thing up in a satisfying way. I’m as big of a fan as there is, but I think there’s a lot of validity to the criticisms about the Peter storyline from the beginning of this season. For the show’s status being what it is, with this in all likelihood being the final season, the amber-verse storyline just hasn’t paid off nearly enough for all the time that has been spent setting it up. It just feels like we have a limited time left in this world & I just want to  spend as much of it as possible with the characters we’ve grown to care about the most, that being the blue-verse & red-verse versions of these people.

For all we know, the payoff is still to come & the promo for this week’s intended fall finale does look incredible, but if this is the end, I desperately hope this thing goes out with a bang & not a whimper. It’s a great story that deserves a great ending.

Still catching up? Here’s my top five standalone Fringe episodes:

Note: This post contains spoilers for aired episodes.

Honorable Mention: Northwest Passage
This episode didn’t work for everyone because it lacked the defining “team” dynamic that’s at the heart of Fringe, but I really liked it. It’s a moody Twin Peaks-esque episode that features an appealing guest spot by Martha Plimpton & just enough mythology tie-in, in the form of our old friend Thomas Jerome Newton, to keep things interesting.

5) One Night in October
An extremely clever exercise in how to execute a cross-universe adventure, this story also crystalizes the main idea of the multi-verse premise of the series: that little changes, the smallest of differences, can change who you are drastically. John McClennan from the red-verse is a serial killer who steals people’s happiest memories, while John McClennan of the blue-verse has the same impulses but learned to control them after he met a woman named Marjorie, one night in October. Fauxlivia’s mom is still alive, so she didn’t have to live with an abusive stepfather who she was eventually forced to kill, so she’s more carefree, more happy, than our Olivia. And Fringe once again proves to be the gold standard when it comes to actors acting against themselves. (Whatever, Ringer.)

4) Marionette
This is cheating a bit because if you go back & look, I actually included “Marionette” on my mythology episode list. But in actuality, it’s more of a standalone dealing with the emotional fallout of all the mythology episodes preceding it. This is a particularly good example of something Fringe does extremely well, which is tie the themes of a standalone story in with what’s happening with its main characters. Olivia’s “She’s taken everything” speech to Peter at the end is heartbreaking & you feel awful for both of them at the same time & it’s just devastating.

3) And Those We Left Behind
Besides that both deal with time travel, this episode shares a common theme with my top pick, “White Tulip”: the lengths people will go to to be with the ones they love. It’s that theme that also makes Peter’s dilemma in season 4 so tragic. (I would argue Peter’s realization of not belonging to the world he’s found himself in reflects our feelings that the amber-verse is not quite the show we’ve all loved for three years.) There are lovely guest spots from real life husband & wife, Stephen Root & Romy Rosemont, and a very cool execution of Lost-esque plays with time. Like many of Fringe’s best standalones, the strength of the episode lies in its ability to build very complex, textured one-off characters whose stories we become invested in very quickly.

2) The Plateau
From a pure narrative standpoint, this is one of the most riveting stories the show has ever told. Michael Eklund makes a brilliant guest spot as the one-off “monster-of-the-week,” Milo comes off, like many Fringe antagonists, largely sympathetic, even as he is killing innocent people. I also love the clever mytharc tie-in where the fact that Olivia, brainwashed into thinking she is Fauxlivia, isn’t from that universe that saves her life & allows her to capture Milo. Plus, it’s just fun watching all the Rube Goldberg scenarios Milo sets into motion using a pen (another fun red-verse detail).

1) White Tulip
This episode manages to tell a poignant and deeply romantic story using probably the most sci-fi device Fringe has ever touched (besides, you know, the whole alternate universe thing), time travel. Peter Weller’s terrific Alistair Peck’s tragic story mirrors Walter’s own overwhelming guilt over the grief-induced mistake he made all those years ago & their conversation is the highlight of the episode. Even more than usual for Fringe, which has feature-level cinematography, this episode is beautifully filmed & scored. I especially liked how there wasn’t sound in the scene when Alistair finally makes it back in time to his fiance & you realize (as is a theme with many Fringe “monsters” of the week), this man isn’t a monster at all. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone & he is, in fact, acting on the most human of instincts, to find where belongs. He know it’s not where is he now, in a world without his love. He’s just trying to right a wrong, to go with her when he should have. He even gives Walter the sign he so desperately needs, a tremendous act of kindness. “White Tulip” isn’t an alternate universe story, it doesn’t involve Observers or Cortexiphan or Massive Dynamic. In fact, it’s standalone story in the ultimate sense: by the end of it, it’s like it never happened at all, at least to our main characters. But it actually has everything to do with the emotional condition of our beloved characters & their relationships with each other at this point in the series, & that’s what makes it excellent.