Fringe finale review

Review Billy Grifter 21 Jan 2013 - 09:37

In his final ever Fringe review, Billy salutes the passing of a show that will be sorely missed...

This review contains spoilers.

5.12 Liberty & 5.13 An Enemy Of Fate

It’s always sad when a good show ends because it’s like waving goodbye to a person you know you’ll never see again. But as important as how Fringe has been for the past five seasons, it was critical that it went out in some style, especially as Fox had been uncharacteristically magnanimous in giving it the fifth half-season to put its house well and truly in order.

I wasn’t expecting it to be Shakespeare, or even the best TV ever, but the two final stories of the Fringe era were certainly designed to be a love-letter to those who have watched from the outset. Where other end-chapters have a single returning character, or some other acknowledgement, both Liberty and The Enemy of Fate were fully-loaded with all manner of references, nods and reappearances.

The reunion party started with Liberty, the entire story of which was Olivia going to get Michael from Windmark’s clutches by way of the alternate universe. Fringe was probably at its best in the Alternate world, and it was great for her to take one more trip to the parallel dimension. I can’t say I really liked Altivia’s older look, but it was great to see Agent Lincoln Lee, even if Walternate was too ancient in that dimension to make even a brief appearance. This was also the point where we were shown Windmark’s world start to unravel as he tries to interrogate Michael. It was predictable, but fun. All the signs are that Michael can precisely predict what will happen, so none of this is a surprise to him it seems.

The continuation into the thirteenth episode sees all manner of nasty ways to die that Fringe has previously brought us, unleashed on Loyalists and Observers alike. All to save Broyles in what appeared to be a creative salute to the Morpheus interrogation scene in the Matrix. The Pandora’s box of deadly intent sequence was pure entertainment, though I was more than slightly relieved that the flying Porcupine people didn’t make an reappearance too. Phew!

There were so many clever and obtuse references to previous Fringe stories salted through both final episodes that it’s easier to mention what they didn’t put in here. William Bell never did come back sadly, and none of the previously defined as dead did either.

Where things started to slightly go wrong plot-wise in The Enemy of Fate, and where the events didn’t stand much scrutiny, was the portal plan. It was clearly outlined that they were to create a portal to a specific date when scientists start the path that leads to the Observers, and by sending Michael there it will redirect that research and alter the future. The problem I have, as pedantic as it might seem, is that if the Observers didn’t exist, then Walter would have never travelled to the alternate universe, and Peter would never have come to ours. The general hint, but it’s never implicitly said, is that they were destined to be together and the universe(s) would have found a way. Really?

Given how convoluted Fringe has been on occasion to get things to join up, to ask at this stage for faith that this all works out seems odd if not contradictory. Because of that, I found the final scene slightly annoying, mostly because we’d already seen what it contained a number of times before. The significance of the white tulip is a nice element, but I can’t reasonably see how Peter could understand it without remembering the timeline that no longer exists. I’d have preferred if it had ended with Walter bringing the boy to the scientists and then declaring he’d really like a fresh milkshake.

But then the show often did wear its heart on its sleeve, and for many fans the highlight of the final stories would have been the affection shown between the main characters. In each of these tender moments, it was easy to believe that some grain of real emotion was coming through from actors who have worked together for five years. Or, rather I'd prefer to think that than these are entirely professional performers who in reality can't abide each other. The scene where Walter comments on the beauty of Astrid's name was very touching, given his amazing scope to call her anything but that name over the seasons.

So what’s the Fringe legacy? This show had very high and some more occasionally low points, but it certainly shrugged off the label of X-Files-lite, and created something entirely unique and engaging.

But what I’ll forever recall is the marvellous characters the show introduced us to, specifically Walter, Peter, Olivia and Astrid. I can only commend those who assembled the acting team, because all these characters required brilliant acting skills to realise them. I must especially talk about the amazing John Noble, who I’d only previously noticed as the insane Denethor in The Lord of the Rings. The show became something of a showcase for him and his fellow performers, and anyone wanting to cast a character with emotional depth need look no further than this bunch.

Along with the key characters, Fringe also gave us some special moments, probably too numerous to mention them all. But the ones that I'll always remember are: the Twin Towers finale to season one, Olivia coming through the windscreen in season two, the Brown Betty singing episode, the animated Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, Doctor Jones being cut in half, Astrid meeting her alternate self, Altivia's adventures with Peter, the cow, numerous gruesome autopsies, Peter's amazing back story, the mercurial Sam Weiss, milkshakes, Nina's robot arm, Broyles' cold stare, shapeshifters, the wonders of cortexiphan, inter-dimensional typewriters, and a million other wonderful things.

Fringe has been a narrative rollercoaster that I've enjoyed, and one that can't be accused of outstaying its welcome. It will be missed.

Read Billy's review of the previous episode, The Boy Must Live, here.

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I think it's definitely the case Peter remembers in that last shot.

It's not too far a reach to have him do so. I mean the guy's pretty impossible already. In the time line of season 4 onwards he shouldn't exist at all anyway.

I do think the final episodes were far more satisfying than Lost or Battlestar Galactica's endings, both of which left important questions hanging.

Well said what a fantastic ending to a great show, would have happily watched another 5 seasons ;)

I think it fell a tad short of BSG's finale, but was very good all the same. I also have a sneaky suspicion that that last shot of Peter is a tease for a possible spin-off movie or something. I mean, why not somehow try to get Walter back from that future? We are told Walter will 'disappear' from that particular timeline at the point the Observers should have invaded. Its not a stretch to think that the Fringe agents wouldn't investigate and try to bring Walter back. Or maybe Walter get tired of the future and figure out a way back himself.

Regards the paradox of there being no Observers to start the entire story arc (distracting Walter from seeing the cure, saving Peter from the ice etc) I guess its not a great leap to assume its all alternate universes/timelines.

What I took from the White Tulip is that we should assume everything happened as we saw in the previous 4 seasons. As that point then in 2015 when the Observers originally invaded Walter & Michael disappeared (nature correcting the paradox) so they could live on in 2167.

Superb show, sorry to see it come to an end. I do think it floundered a bit after Peter was erased from the timeline, season 4 and 5 werent of the quality of previous as they took things a twist too far, however it really came back to the strength of these characters in the last few episodes, and I will miss that dynamic.

Peter still exists as he not from the timeline in question, so the September we saw did not pull Walter and Peter from the lake.

Well said mate

massive void now left to fill, only game of thrones and walking dead are on the same level

I thought the objective of the plan was to show the observers that there was a way to keep the intelligence and the emotions, not to eradicate the observers. This would mean that the reset was back to 2015 when the invasion took place. I've only watched it once but I recall Walter telling Peter he would get the tulip letter, then go to the lab to find him and find the tape containing the message they watched together earlier in the episode.

The plan was to get to the scientist who started the process that led eventually to all humanity becoming Observers in an effort to get him to follow the evolutionary path offered by Michael - someone even more intellectually advanced than the Observers but still with human emotions.

In the new timeline without Observers- September never needed to pull Peter out of the water, because the only reason Walter went to the other side was because September distracted him from seeing that he had found a cure for Peter, so in the new timeline Walter sees that he found the cure for Peter and saves him, sans crossing universes.

The Walking Dead is awful hahaha. Try watching something good like Boardwalk Empire.

Wrong. The Walking Dead is not awful ("hahaha"). . .

"If we shoot then with bullets they'll be dead, why do we need them to float?"

"Because it's cool."

Best line of the night.

Maybe it's not awful, but it's not quality TV either, to my mind.

I have enjoyed this show so much, feeling satisfied at the end of each
season yet getting enough of a taste of the next to long for it to
begin (no insulting half-plot cliff-hangers, thank goodness). I found
myself caring for every character (rare) and did NOT find myself hoping
the bad guys win (even rarer these days). In the end it felt to me to be
about parenthood - nicely done.

That's the key: to your mind. TWD is a wonderful show.

Perhaps that explains why Honey Boo Boo is doing quite well in the 'States, eh?

Thought it was pretty poor, amazed everyone was so glowing about it... did I watch the same finale?!?! Slow paced, massive plotholes, just argh...

That's what I took from it as well. I'm happy now as I got my John Noble fix tonight from watching him present a show called 'Dark Matters' on Discovery Science. Happy days :-)

well its a personal thing on how you felt about the lat two episodes ( i watched them back to back on sky) but please dont sue me because as penance and a show of loyalty im buying the box set as it is im my opinion quite simply an outstanding piece of drama in its own right never mind the fact it was sci fi. As previously commented john noble puts in a stella performance, but his supporting cast do not let him down and at the end you are left wondering.......did he remember it all?! bloody paradox's they confound even doctor who and he invented them :D. A fantastic series that made the x files look amateurish

I watched that too, Got to love some John Noble. :-D

I've just seen the end of fringe and it's another black mark against Abrams. Seriously, how is this guy still getting work? He ruins everything he touches.
Back in the days of Lost I would scan over the forums, seeing all the theories as to what certain symbolisms might mean, the possible reasons behind particular random events etc. It turns out that none of it meant anything and when that's the case, what's the point?
It seems a similar thing happened with fringe (I was a casual viewer so didn't bother checking forums etc), there were re-occurring symbols etc that amounted to nothing.
This guy infuriates me, you have a concept, an arc and and ending, you see that concept through to the end and let the audience form their opinions on your story. You DON'T leave everything open to interpretation 'yeah but that could have meant this' 'maybe she thought xyz' no, you tell people the answers and stand by your convictions.
To say he is a lazy writer is a massive understatement. At best he's a concept man, he has good initial ideas but lacks the skills or intellect to realize them. He isn't a writer he's a tour guide 'and if you look out the window you'll see a dinosaur...'
"Wait, what? A dinosaur? But why is....."
'and here's a pyramid'
"Yeah but why is a dinosaur....."
'and the grand finale, a spaceship!'
"oh f*^k off"
He writes himself into corners where the only solution is to 'reboot' and start again or go for the whole 'it was only a dream' angle. Absolutely disgraceful.
Ridley Scott did his job on prometheus, it looked amazing and epic. The rest was so weak it was laughable, inconsistent characters, moments of "WTF? He/she wouldn't say/do that!" and another lacklustre childlike ending.
Prometheus - Dying old man spends billions of dollars chasing potential creators, the sentient being takes one look at him and kills him. The end. No other explanation given. Abrams in a nutshell.
"But hey! They'll be itching to see the next one to get some answers!" No JJ, that just means you haven't done your job, it pissed people off and that's the last thing I would want to do if it were me.

You suck, go find some pseudo intellectuals and psychologically arouse each other. I suggest a job in an art gallery.

Personally I just didn't enjoy this season as much as previous seasons. It somehow felt like the show changed from being like The X-Files to being like a more adult sci-fi version of The A-Team, constantly "hiding from the government" and "fixing the problems that no-one else can help with". OK, I enjoyed the A-Team back in the day, but frankly I felt this season of Fringe was a let down.

Here is my comment and thanks to the writer for reviewing the finale. Fringe lost its way big time in Season 4. Seasons 1, 2, 3 were amazing. The first season was like the x-files but with more going on and better characters. Seasons 2 and 3 were epic with an amazing core story arc. The great stuff was mostly do with the mystery and the constant little feeds of information you got all the way through. Yes it constantly jumped the shark but little bits of jumping were fun. When Peter dissappeared the fun ended and season 4 was a total mess. The jumps became bigger and bigger.
1. Peter and Walter hid the machine in the past, they built it. Massive paradox. When did they build it, when did they hide it? WTF?
2. Peter being deleted from time, eh?
3. Peter reappearing because of love, eh?
4. Olivia remembering events she was never at?
5. Strange tacked on story arc of Robert Davy Jones (daft name) and Spocks alternate universe with weird creatures, and Olivia's bullet defying death scene.
6. And to cap it all off. Observers are evil despite always been seen as benevolent. Sunddenly becoming underpowered. All the time I was thinking just time travel back 5 minutes before any meeting with Peter or whoever and murder him. In fact just reset time again after Walter and Micheal reset you. Your timeline still exists in another dimension or whatever, so just travel back five minutes before an event and do them in.
Thing is once you put time travel into a story pretty much anything is possible and explanable (see Lost for equal jumps in the believable).
That said it was one of the better shows on TV and far better than lost in that at least it answered questions but those answers were totally bonkers.
Oh and the finale was weak, I wanted to see Walter and Micheal meet the future people and to explain the machine better.

Robert Davy Jones is bit more wacky than David Robert Jones, the character's actual name. Also, David Bowie's birth name.

Fringe did leave a lot on the table in the finale, but it was constantly fighting for its life as a show. I don't agree with all of the choices they made, but I did enjoy the ride.

IIRC, Windmark asked the commander for clearance to a temporal wipe (or some such thing). Basically to go back in time and remove the Fringe team from existence. The commander told him they were inconsequential and denied his request.

I would like to have seen Olivia's cortexiphan abilities tapped earlier in season 5. That coupled with Peter the Observer they could have waged a serious war against the The Observers here and now while they worked on their plan to alter the future and recent past. The discovery of Michael and Donald could have been used to not only actualize the plan, but to recover Peter's emotions seeing as both Michael and Donald represent the brighter evolutionary side of humankind.

I will very much miss Fringe.

You are completely right about the tulip. Walter tells Peter in the recording that by now he (Peter) should have received a letter that he would find strange. So there was nothing that suggested that Peter understood what the tulip meant.

I'm not a particularly huge fan of JJ Abrams either and I felt the quality of Fringe declined significantly after season three. However, your criticism of Abrams seems unfair considering he only actually co-wrote around five episodes and they were in the first two seasons (at least according to Wikipedia anyway).

He didn't have anything to do with Prometheus either. That was written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof so you should really be annoyed at them.

There was one problem with the final. If Observers moved back in time and change the past than the future that Walter went to with Michel would not be the future that led to creation of observers.

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