Fringe season 2 episode 22: season finale review

Billy loves this Walternative show so much he'd give up his personal zeppelin to see the next season now...

This review contains spoilers.

2.22 Over There Part 2

Having set the wheels in motion with the first part of this season finale last week, I found that the second part went far too quickly for my liking. It was like they’d made it 30 or less minutes long, because, seemingly before we’d really begun to rock, it was done and dusted. Damn it!

But before I get more specific, and I’d like to, I’m issuing a spoiler alert now to those who’d like their plot twists unsullied by my appraisal. If you’ve not seen this episode, don’t read on, please.

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Because this is effectively a single story, the action moves entirely seamlessly from the first part, with Olivia and William Bell trying to track down Walter, while Peter begins to understand the scope of Walternate’s (I love that name!) dastardly scheme.

What takes up most of the show is a series of critical meetings, some of which have never taken place before or in the context of the series. Walter and Bell are finally together, and it’s like an acting version of Ali/Forman where John Noble and Leonard Nimoy duke it out for total screen supremacy. As we’ve not seen much of Nimoy for some time, I was actually a little shocked at how good an actor he can be. The sparks fly between him and the resentful Walter, portrayed by Noble, as they try to cope with how their friendship has altered both of them.

John Noble is the rock on which Fringe was built, and he manages to distil every drop of pathos from a character still trying to cope with 17 years in a mental institution. While Nimoy goes for the ever logical and pragmatic Bell, never for one moment doubting he’d done the right thing.

Their meeting was epic, but then we have Peter encountering the alternate Olivia, who is obviously not the woman he’s fallen for, even if she’s remarkably similar looking.

It was here that I got a indication that the real fun was about to ensue, as was pretty predictable last week when Olivia steps into the shoes of her alternate, and finds them a nice cosy fit. I must comment on Anna Torv (Olivia) fighting herself, which she does really convincingly irrespective of the obvious challenges to achieving that feat. Why she gains the upper hand over the other Olivia is unclear, but there might be a suggestion that she’s more motivated by her undying love of Peter. Ah…

How deep those feelings go has only been hinted at in previous stories, but when she finally tracks down that inter-dimensional playboy, she locks lips just to make sure he’s not under any delusions where she’s coming from (and where they’re going to…). Olivia has a great speech which leads to this kiss, and it’s truly pivotal moment in the whole Fringe adventure. I guess she’s over John Scott, it’s safe to assume.

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There is only one destiny for these star-crossed lovers, and it’s not in the dimension they’re currently vacationing in. With the help of William Bell they must come back to their own dimension and stop Peter being used to shatter that dimension forever.

And now, as Fringe has demonstrated a penchant for doing previously, comes the wicked curveball, right on cue. I’ve watched this part of the story at least 10 times looking for clues, but this is what we see, I think. Bell and Olivia are holding off Walternate’s people while Peter and Walter prepare the ‘door stop’ that will allow them to return to the other side. At this point Olivia is wearing a black leather jacket with a red vest underneath, while her alternate is wearing a blue jacket with a white top. The alternate gets special instructions from Walternate, and outflanks Olivia and Bell, before a big explosion knocks Bell unconscious.

When he wakes ‘Olivia’ is there, and takes him to the ‘door stop’. She’s wearing the clothes of the real Olivia. Bell sacrifices himself to send them back, but which Olivia was it that made that journey?

The writers (Akiva Goldsman, who is also the director, and Jeff Pinker) massively tease us with Olivia turning up at the typewriter shop used by the shape-shifters, and then another scene with Olivia imprisoned by Walternate in the other dimension.

I’m going to stick my neck out here and say I think this is a wonderful double bluff, and the real Olivia came back, irrespective of what Walternate thinks. Why am I convinced of this? Well, a couple of things, but not least that it was the special Cortexiphan-modified Olivia who could open a crack to the other dimension, and without her doing that, how did they return? But also the way that the imprisoned Olivia reacts, makes me think it wasn’t the one from our dimension. I could be entirely wrong, and probably am, but that’s my take on what is an excellent launch point for season three. And, I’m sure all will be revealed in the opening episode as to which way that particular door is going to swing.

Season two has actually been a much more consistent experience overall than the first, even if it did start with that shape-shifting story where the pieces didn’t fit together well in the final act. It might seem odd to say it, but the best stories this year have been some of the standalone ones, White Tulip and Johari Window being prime examples.

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The bigger plot arc has progressed, but this season has been undoubtedly more about character progression. None of the main characters are exactly who they were last season, and they’ve all developed in interesting ways.

I’d love to see Astrid get more screen time, as those bits with her and Walter can be very touching. He even got her name right once, I think, which must mean something significant.

It’s sad that we’ve seen the last of William Bell, although they certainly gave Nimoy some memorable scenes and dialogue with which to bow out gracefully.

Fringe has now evolved beyond its X-Files origins, and as one of the few science fiction shows left on TV, I’ll be tuning in this fall to see where it will take us all next.

Read our review of episode 21 here.