'Fringe' Finale: An Enemy of Fate
Part of the fun of watching series finales is seeing just how far the characters have come from the very beginning, but also how much has stayed the same. When Fringe began in 2008, Olivia Dunham was an emotionally distant, play-by-the-rules FBI agent who didn’t have a clue about “fringe” science. Peter Bishop was a con man wasting his intellect on bogus business schemes. And Walter Bishop, the mad scientist who ripped apart the fabric of the universe to save his dying son, was in a mental institution.
Fast-forward five years later to the series finale, or should I say, to the year 2036. Never one to play it safe, Fringe decided to put the stoic Observers (the bald, fedora-clad baddies with a whole lotta brain and not a lot of heart) front and center as this final season’s villains. Even with this time-jumping change (which not all fans, myself included, were really fond of), Fringe stayed true to its core values until the very end: heart, humanity, and just a little bit of havoc.
The son became the father as Peter felt the pain of losing his and Olivia’s daughter, Etta, and maybe even Walter, too. Olivia still had her fighting spirit (not to mention some Cortexiphan coursing through her veins) as she took charge of the finale’s first hour, “Liberty.” And Walter ended where he started, clutching the hand of a little boy as he set out to alter the future and the past, erasing himself from existence.
Writing this, I’m not sure how I could really hate on the finale. It gave each character a moment in the spotlight and, for once, a semi-happy ending. Still, I found myself feeling a little empty. I wanted things to be the way they were before, but in true Fringe fashion, my expectations were subverted.
To be quite honest, though, I didn’t totally love the fifth season of Fringe. To me, the show was at its strongest when it wholeheartedly embraced its central concept of alternate universes, hinted at in the season 1 finale and finally expanded on at the beginning of season 3 (which many critics consider Fringe’s best season). Most of this fifth season played out like a fetch quest in a video game, with our heroes traversing the post-apocalyptic world in search of materials to complete the nebulous “plan” to defeat the Observers and reset time.
But I can’t deny that I loved having these characters around for a little bit longer, both red- and blue-verse. Sure, the jaunt to the alternate universe in the finale wasn’t totally necessary (why didn’t you stay on the train, Michael?!?) but I didn’t care. After closing off the bridge between universes at the end of last season, a lot of fans hoped that, somehow, Fauxlivia and Co. would make a reappearance. And they did: twenty years older but still as badass as ever. And did I not mention the nod to all the previous Fringe cases? Because that was pretty awesome too, a little bonus for fans who had stuck it out over the years.
Fringe shouldn’t have lasted for five seasons. It was relegated to the “Friday night death slot” during season 4 and pulled in consistently low ratings. The series finale drew in a little over three million viewers. Chances are most of the people who read this (if there are any) have never seen the show.
But somehow, Fringe, the show that questioned the laws of the universe, defied the odds. It was gifted with a final run of 13 episodes, a love letter to the fans, to let the show end on its own terms.
So, to borrow a phrase from Walter: The time we had together we stole, Fringe. And I wouldn’t change it for the world.
- What did Peter remember at the end when he saw the white tulip? Does he know what happened to Walter? Did he realize he forgot to close the garage door? The suspense is killing me!!!
- Nice touch: As September closed the door to December’s apartment, we saw the number 513, a clever nod referring to the final episode (the thirteenth episode of season five).
- I wish we had seen a shot of grown-up Etta; that’s the version of her we really got to know. But maybe in a Fringe movie…make it happen, Abrams!
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