This review contains spoilers.
4.14 The End of All Things
If Fringe does nothing else, it makes the viewer think, but this week my overriding thought was that I’m not really happy with where this is all going.
But before I dive into those aspects I’m not thrilled with, a short burst of applause is due for the excellent exposition section in the middle of the story, where Peter goes inside September’s mind, a very odd place that looks like a cable car gondola.
This whole sequence was an information blip-vert for all the questions we’ve had about the observers and what their place is in the greater scheme of things, including the mistake that September made, and his numerous attempts to patch up the consequences.
But there’s the paradox: you can’t go and observe historical events without altering them even in the most subtle ways. Early in the show it was explained that they’d appeared in paintings and photos of historical events, probably obscuring someone else who would have otherwise appeared. It’s the classic Butterfly Effect, and once they’d stomped their boots on the timeline, the trail they leave exists from that point onwards. Surely these future humans with the technology to flit between time and space would know this, no?
Apparently, it’s all a surprise to them, as these scientists don’t understand the fundamental difference between ‘observation’ and ‘interaction’, which as Erwin Schrödinger would tell you if he were still alive, is nil in this context.
The critical information that we get is that Peter is ‘important’ for some future event, and as such needed to be saved from drowning in the lake and from being erased from time.
September then slugs him with the Altivia’s baby news, a life he unintentionally ended when he stepped into the machine. If you’ve not watched this show from the outset, this is the point where you’d probably be entirely lost, if that wasn’t already the case. I guess Henry Bishop is going to make a comeback, even if Peter doesn’t make it to the show’s end.
The rest of the episode is a vessel for this scene, and if I’m honest, not remotely as interesting. The whole subplot with Dr Jones holding Olivia and someone who looks like Nina is pretty contrived from the outset. The rather obvious plan here was to get the viewer rooting for Olivia to work out that she’s being duped by Alternina, when in fact she worked out not long after we did that she’s part of a greater charade. But then on that basis, why did she tell them to get Peter? Yes, it enabled her to ‘activate’, but if she hadn’t achieved that she’d have put him in jeopardy to boot.
What I didn’t care for is where we were left when Peter rejected Olivia. So Walter was wrong, but he’s right, from an emotional perspective. Really? Maybe it’s my problem because I just don’t see any tangible difference between the Olivia he has now and the one he’s trying to get back to. It would serve him right if he managed to get back and discovered that while he’d been away ‘his Olivia’ had taken up with Lincoln Lee on the rebound. He might take a moment to consider that he’s taking advice from a man who technically isn’t Walter either, if we’re getting into semantics. And if we are, then surely Peter can’t have his Olivia, because he’s not supposed to be in the dimension where she exists, but the one where Walternate and Altivia are? I don’t see how the original Olivia and Peter being together can bring balance to the universe, or the force.
There was another element in here however that I really liked, for entirely geek reasons.
Making a wonderfully gruff appearance as Dr Jones’ heavy was veteran actor Monte Markham, who is 76 years young and still looking good. He starred in almost every major seventies and eighties TV show made, plus a host of big movies including Battle of Midway, and Airport ’77. It was great to see him still working, even if Olivia did fry him to a crisp using her Cortexiphan created power. Interestingly, he was in episode 7 of this very Fringe season as Dr. Blake West, so they must enjoy his company on the show.
But back to the bigger issue of where Fringe is taking us. I’m beginning to wonder if the show has strayed so far from the path it once took. Has it passed through too many doors and locked too many others? I hate the current moral dilemma they’ve decided that Peter must suffer, and they’ve overplayed the whole alternate dimensions plot entirely. What happened to the original Fringe that I loved, and do I need to go in a big machine and be zapped out of existence to get it back?
Read our review of Fringe season four episode 12 here.