How can one properly eulogize a series as rich and rewarding as Fringe? The series, which reached its conclusion last night with the two-part finale "Liberty"/"An Enemy of Fate," effectively sealed its legacy as one of television's sci-fi greats. It was a series that pulled off the feat of simultaneously being uncompromisingly weird and emotional, and the finale did nothing more than provide a beautifully written bookend.
"Liberty" was an okay episode, though it, like many others this season, fell into the tiresome trap of a scavenger hunt-style plot, and was redeemed only by the nature of the hunt itself, which brought us back to the alternate universe for one last visit. Altlivia and Lincoln, twenty years older than when we last saw them, were living happy lives and helped Olivia complete her mission to regain Michael -- though not without a bit of waxing philosophically about the strange directions in which life can take you. The plot of the episode was largely inessential, but it provided a nice closure to the alternate universe, which we hadn't glimpsed since last year's "Worlds Apart."
There was less time for reflection in "An Enemy of Fate," but the callbacks were still there. The show's earlier, gorier cases came back with a vengeance in one invasion sequence, which in the matter of a minute saw callbacks to "Snakehead," "Pilot," the six-fingered hand glyph, "Bound," "Ability," "The Cure," and "The Dreamscape." A rather hilarious reference to season 3's "Os" came later. While season 5 has largely seemed like a disconnected entity from the rest of the series, these callbacks -- and the ones not yet mentioned -- solidified the season's place within the overall arc. Showrunner J.H. Wyman constantly referenced how the finale would "recontextualize" the show, but it was hard to expect how right he was.
But while the show's mythological elements were back in full, satisfying force, it was the focus on Walter's character arc that really made the episode -- and the series as a whole -- feel worthwhile. Fringe has always been a show with a number of clear themes -- family, home, redemption -- and Walter's storyline in the episode knocked all of them right out of the park. His goodbyes to Astrid and Peter were almost tear-inducing ("You are my very favorite thing" was a line beautiful in its simplicity), and his conversation with September called back to the idea of defying fate. When September was inevitably killed, Walter stepped forward to take his place, taking Michael's hand and stepping through the portal into the future. The parallels to his rescue of Peter back in 1985 were poignant, as was his final, silent goodbye to Peter.
The final emotional kick, though came in the final scene of the series, which saw Peter and Olivia in a reset 2015, with their daughter still alive and their lives happy. When we first found out in "The Boy Must Live" that the plan was to reset time, this was the groanworthy happy ending I expected -- but with one crucial difference. Peter found an envelope from Walter that held the drawing of a white tulip that Alistair Peck had sent Walter way back in season 2's "White Tulip."
In that episode, the drawing served as a beacon of hope for Walter, that he had been forgiven for his sins. He hadn't yet reached the atonement he was seeking, though -- his sacrificial act in "An Enemy of Fate" was that atonement, and the white tulip was symbolic of Walter finally reaching emotional peace. The element of resetting time makes the entire storyline of season 5 seem like one long retelling of "White Tulip" -- but just as it was cathartic then, it's cathartic now.
And then there was that ambiguous look from Peter that could possibly be reminiscent of Breaking Bad's most recent cliffhanger: Are we seeing just a simple reaction to this mysterious message, or are we seeing a deeper realization? Is Peter remembering his father's sacrifice? You can bet the ambiguity is intentional, and it's the absolute perfect way to end the series.
I'll be rewatching (and writing about) Fringe over the coming year, but in the meantime, my fond memories of the series remain undisturbed. "An Enemy of Fate" was the perfect cementation of Fringe's core themes and characters: brilliant closure for a brilliant series.
What did you think?