The time that we have been dreading has arrived: the final two episodes of Fox’s underrated, undervalued, underappreciated sci-fi gem have finally arrived. So does the finale deliver?
Let’s bitch it out…
It’s easy to forget just how easy it is to eff up a finale. For every success, there’s an equally disappointing example. Look no further than Fringe‘s spiritual predecessor, The X-Files, for a demonstration of how easily a science-fiction finale can go off the rails (and continue to do so in the form of an extremely awful film years later).
So while there aren’t many surprises in the double combo of ‘Liberty’ & ‘An Enemy Of Fate’, the finale is a success because it delivers emotionally and remains true to the ideals of the show, which has been one of network television’s most innovative, risk-taking projects for the last five years.
Narratively speak, many of the things TVAngie and I guessed would happen do happen. There is the requisite death (Michael Cerveris’ September is not-at-all-shockingly killed at the least opportune time), the requisite sacrifice (TVAngie has long predicted John Noble’s Walter would volunteer his life to save the future) and the requisite return to the picnic we first saw in the S5 premiere (when the Observers launched their attack and Etta was kidnapped).
As Noel Murray at AV Club suggests there is a lot of “busy-work” in these final two episodes, with several set-pieces dragging on. We know Olivia (Anna Torv) will go after Michael (Roman Longworth) against Peter’s (Joshua Jackson) protests, that she will be successful and that the final hour will see the construction of the time machine. In this way, the finale echoes a number of issues that have plagued this final season in that many of our expectations have come to pass, but at a slower pace than we would have perhaps liked. I for one kept yelling at folks to move their ass: “Olivia – stop chatting with Lincoln and get back before you get stuck!”, and “September – get out of the middle of the road when Loyalists are shooting at you!” etc.
However, for all the frustrations, there’s are a great many “Hell Yeah!” moments and tear-jerking secrets. Among the former, the return of Liv’s Cortexiphan powers allow her to finally destroy Michael Kopsa’s Captain Windmark in a bloody, satisfying telekinetic car crash. Among the latter, I may have shed a few tears when Walter compliments Astrid’s (Jasika Nicole) beautiful name – and finally says it correctly – as well as when Peter mouths ‘I love you, dad’ before Walter steps into the wormhole and out of existence. (Side Note: I only cried a little bit…it was in no way a scary, sobbing, hyperventilating Claire-Danes-from-Homeland hot mess or anything. Nooooo)
When fans remember the finale, I imagine that they’ll return to these emotional moments. Unlike previous season finales, the producers knew that this was the end before the season began so they’ve had the opportunity to plan for these moments. It makes sense that the finale would focus on the emotional beats between characters that we have grown to love – in particular the father-son relationship between Walter and Peter (Joshua Jackson).
I know that in all of my television watching experience, I have yet to see another show in which the relationship between father and son is so important. If you think back to the most memorable/important episodes, I’m willing to bet many of them feature Walter and Peter’s relationship in a prominent way. So even as Observers are floating through the air, or giant magnets are propelling futuristic technology into wormholes, it is the quiet moments between Walter and Peter (and to a slightly lesser extent, the discussions about fatherhood between Walter and September) that grounds the series finale and gives it its depth.
Like many of our reviews of Fringe, I feel that I need to single out John Noble. As the most “kooky” of all the Fringe characters, Noble has had the most challenging job: making a potentially jokey character the emotional core of the series. Even when he’s tripping on LSD, eating licorice during autopsies or saying the most inappropriate things to perfect strangers, Noble has always imbued his performance with a child-like innocence regarding the amazing potential of science. I would argue that this is one of the reasons why Walternate is so striking: he’s such a different character from our Walter that it seems inconceivable that they’re two versions of the same person.
The fact that Noble (or any of the other actors) has never been formally recognized with an acting award is a huge oversight, especially when he can do so much with something as simple as “You’re my very favourite thing, Peter. My absolute favourite thing.” Absolutely heartbreaking…
- Regarding TVAngie’s issues with The Plan, I’m not certain Walter’s actions have completely eliminated the Observers. I’ve read some responses that believe that Walter and Michael simply stopped the invasion, but the twelve original Observers will still be created in 2167 and sent back in time to observe. Others think that the Observers are gone, but the events in which September saved Peter from an icy death still occurred back in the original timeline (remember Peter is an anomaly in this timeline after he activated the machine in the S3 finale)
- I honestly though that there would be a higher body count. Besides Windmark, September and poor unfortunate December (Eugene Lipinski), our crew got away without a lot of bloodshed. I am really happy that a few characters I thought might end up on the chopping block *cough Broyles (Lance Reddick), cough Astrid* did survive
- Hurray for the return of Lincoln Lee (Seth Gabel) and Fauxlivia from Over There! Do I wish we could have spent a little more time with them or that the production had spent a little more money on their make-up? You bet I do, but still…as someone who always harboured a soft spot for Lincoln and multiple universes, I am desperately happy that we got a few minutes to see how their story turned out. Plus they didn’t kill Lincoln (that we know of), so that’s a bonus
- No Nina (Blair Brown)? Unacceptable! She’s still alive Over There
- Perhaps you’ll think less of me, but I really liked that Astrid and Walter spend a few moments appreciating Gene, the cow, where she’s encased in amber in the Harvard lab
- How sad to think that we won’t be seeing John Noble, Jasika Nicole, Joshua Jackson and Anna Torv on our TVs on a regular basis from now on? Ugh…that’s depressing
Finally, one of the things I have to mention is how much effort Fringe makes to reward its loyal viewers with Easter Eggs and callbacks to previous episodes (one of my all time favourites is the re-use of the case from the pilot for the fourth season finale last year). The finale brought back a host of ’em, including:
- The Universe Window that can peer into another world, here used to examine Liberty Island (last seen in 2×20 ‘Brown Betty’)
- A host of toxins unleashed at the Observer compound, including the snakehead parasite (2×09 ‘Snakehead’) and the toxin that melts faces (first used in the pilot and more recently in 5×07 ‘Five-Twenty-Ten’). This is also a nice callback to their tactics our crew used in 5×04 ‘The Bullet That Saved The World’ when they deployed the orifice closing toxin at a Loyalist compound
- Osmium bullets that suspend Observers in the air like helium balloons are from reminiscient of the thieves who used Os to steal in 3×16 ‘Os’ (and yes, Walter, they are indeed “cool”)
- Lastly, the White Tulip dates all the way back to an episode of the same name, 2×18 ‘White Tulip’ (and of course it was referenced last week as Walter’s symbol of hope). I can’t think of a more perfect beautiful, moving image to end the series on: the simple image is symbolic of both Walter’s enduring dedication to his son, as well as his hope for a better world
- The producers and cast provide an oral history of the road to the finale at TVGuide here
- There’s a nice critics’ retrospective (favourite episodes and moments) on Huffingpost here
- Does the series’ end mark the end of an era for sci-fi on broadcast TV? Wired thinks so (Many are holding out hope for Syfy’s Defiance in April, though I would direct you to check out Continuum, which just started its US run)
Now it’s your turn: what did you think of the finale? Were you happy with how things turned out? Did you cry? Did you spot any other callbacks to earlier episodes? What’s your fondest memory/episode of Fringe? And which character will you miss the most?
Fringe has reached the end of its run after five seasons and 100 episodes (hello syndication!)