Fan favorite and critical darling Fringe came to an emotional conclusion tonight with two hours that John Noble hoped would resonate as one of the best of all time.
With "Liberty" and "An Enemy of Fate," conclusions were reached, but I'm not of a mind to compare it to the best ever.. I'd not even give it a top 10 spot. Let's find out why...
Early on in the first hour of the finale, Walter almost shared with Peter his belief that he needed to sacrifice his life, but instead it ended just a touching moment between father and son. That was a hint of what was to come, but first, Olivia finally got her due. No matter how many times I saw Olivia, or any character, get injected with potions into their spine, I never failed to squirm.
When I saw my beloved Fauxlivia (I can't help but call her that, even if just for old times' sake) on screen again, I erupted in spontaneous tears. Age was good to Alt-Livia Dunham. She was just lovely and had a life Lincoln Lee. Joel Wyman told me at Comic Con that I was wrong in needing my closure from the alterverse, but need it I did.
I enjoyed every moment of their short time on screen and Olivia's interaction with them. I loved the subtle makeup they used on Anna Torv to progress her aging. Just a bit to pad her face, which happens naturally, and some light lines to finish out the job. She will always be a gorgeous woman.
Knowing they found their happy ending was just as important to me as knowing our core family had theirs. After all, they are only one universe away from being the exact same people. If Peter had lived in both worlds, their lives would have practically mirrored each other, but Lincoln was able to slip into to the story and two wonderful men had a taste of Olivia Dunham, and her incarnations gave birth to two beautiful children. A daughter in our world and a son in theirs.
It was especially sweet that Olivia acknowledged how her life could have been different if she had chosen to be with Lincoln instead of Peter. She, too, might have had a traditionally happy life. It was good to know she had no regrets and didn't begrudge them their blessings.
I was a bit confused when Alt-Liv said to Olivia, "So you found her..." in reference to Etta. I have to assume that we missed part of the conversation as Olivia nearly blacked out because we had no reason to believe the doppelgangers ever met again after the bridge was closed.
Elsewhere throughout the hour, Windmark was attempting to get information on Michael. His emotional decision to end him and capture the team was all encompassing. But...I didn't care. I never for one moment imagined Michael would let anyone actually hurt him. Poke, prod, take a look - sure. Had they actually started cutting, I imagine that scenario would have quickly changed. A being as intelligent and different as Michael had to be one up on the entire process, right?
Staff writer Carla came pretty close to honing in on Walter's sacrifice in "The Boy Must Live" Round Table. Just as the Observers needed to know when Peter sacrificed himself at the end of Fringe Season 3, it all came down to whether or not Walter could let Peter go. The Observers, upon entering the era of 2036, found they were getting more emotional just by being there. I don't have any idea whether that was only the original 12 or all Observers, or why the technically enhanced would behave in the same manner as the biologically created ones, but perhaps that wasn't for us to know.
Their promise to each other never to speak of it outside their circle of 12 changed when September had Michael, and he knew a plan had to be devised to help the human friends he had come to know, to save not only them, but ensure the course of evolution didn't go awry with the erasure of all extraneous brain activity other than intelligence. It was the understanding of their progression in the face of their human counterparts that lead him to ask Walter for help getting Michael to the future to set things right.
Walter's decision to go to the future and be Michael's guide was his way of punishing himself for stealing time with Peter. For he believed that in tempting fate, he had brought about all of the changes in the universe and must atone for his sins. The sacrifice wasn't his to make, as Donald rightly pointed out. As Michael's father, it was Donald's job to hold his hand with love and guide him to the future to change the course of history. After all he, too, had a hand in the universes as they came to be and Peter's life with Walter.
Unfortunately, as it is with life, all things are not always in our hands. Fate has its own mind and that day it was of mind to take the life of Donald. As the quote says, the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. You can never count all the mitigating factors that will come into play, and nobody could have imagined Donald falling to his death in the street at the moment his son needed him most. But Walter was prepared. The earlier heart to heart he and Peter had meant everything as he took Michael's hand and lead him into the future.
Changing the past through love made the plan a lot easier to swallow. What it didn't do was change what we (the public) had been surmising since Etta died. There would be a time reset and Peter, Olivia and Etta would be in the field, Etta blowing the seeds off a fluffed dandelion. This time, there would be no Observer invasion.
What wasn't clear was exactly what happened to Walter on the day in the field. If he was right in 2036, then he just disappeared off the planet in 2015. The only clue he left for Peter that something might be amiss was the white tulip.
The biggest problem with leaving the white tulip? It was sent (from what I could tell) via the US Mail. For the timing of the tulip to have reached Peter in the delivery on the day he returned from the field with his family was, if you can believe it, the most far-fetched thing in the entire two hour block. At the very least, a special delivery on the date and time would have at least made more sense from a timing perspective.
Essentially, Fringe Season 5 never happened. Olivia and Peter have no memories of the future, of their elder daughter or of her dying and Walter's sacrifice. Everybody is still alive, happy and working for the Fringe Division, except that Walter has disappeared. I think. While that's not a bad ending, it didn't come with the wow factor that I would have wanted. I didn't need a happy ending, but I did need closure.
The love story between the father and the son was complete, and yet entirely unfinished, as the final chapter never passed through Peter's brain. Will he gain enough resolution from the white tulip to know something as gigantic as what Peter went through when he was erased happened to his father? The relationship ended on a more positive note for Walter, as he will retain the memories of their time together and cherish it.
There was a side story with Windmark and Broyles, and the latter's discovery as the leader of the resistance, but overall it didn't impact the story arc to a large degree. We all wished for a kick ass moment for Astrid in the finale, and this was as good as it got:
Walter: It's a beautiful name.
Astrid: What is?
Walter: Astrid. | permalink
After years of calling her by every name but her own, it was a fitting end for Astrid to be acknowledged by Walter for the truly beautiful woman she was, even if I wished for more.
Now it's your turn. One last time, bring your thoughts on the episode to the comments section, and come back in about a week for the last Fringe round table, as we'll gather for some final thoughts on the series finale. Bring it on and pour your guts out. Thanks so much for reading and sharing your love of Fringe with us over the years.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.