Fringe: Did the series finale provide a satisfying resolution?

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? 

- John Noble
- Fringe

Written by: mcpherson
Jan 19th, 2013, 12:20 pm


Message Posted On Jan 22nd, 2013, 12:03 am
Can someone with TVRage administrative access please rescue my margins? (They seem to have fallen into the abyss.)

Message Posted On Jan 21st, 2013, 11:56 pm
A satisfying and heartfelt finale to one of my favourite shows of all times. *** Nice review, I enjoyed reading it. I also think Sam touched on something really poignant, when he wrote that: "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." -- Absolutely. And, if I could sharpen further: the overarching arc of 'Fringe' (i.e. beyond the episodic x-file-esque mission/cases) began with Walter having made a selfish (albeit grief-induced) choice which he forced on the, shall we say, 'verse matrix (_a_sacrifice_of_the_collective_for_the_sakes_of_the_individual -i.e. Walter, himself- one which then went on to risk the integrity of both his local 'verse and the respective partner one from which alternate Peter was supplanted from); whereas, in the finale, Walter does the very opposite, by selflessly taking Micheal's hand during the gun fight, and walking both of them into the one-way wormhole solution, with the knowledge that he will never see Peter again (this time, an_individual_sacrifice_for_the_sakes_of_the_collective, one which permanently healed the 'verse, and moreover, did so in way -i.e. vis-a-vis the Observers- that, causally, went outside and beyond Walter's own original hubris'y error/sin and its associated ramifications). So, a very satisfying redemption allegory, that didn't feel too superimposed or forced, and yet, remained perfectly negation-al. *** (p.s. I purposefully neglected discussing the various problems that could stem from the related time paradoxes (and contradictions, and absurdities), because a certain measure of irreconcilability is unavoidable when it comes to a closer examination of time and 'verse-travel. So, so long as it isn't stupid or stooping-to, which I did not find this to have been, I am okay with it.) *** I cannot, however, neglect mentioning how awesome it was when Olivia showed Capt. Windbag a glimpse of her superpowers, to his everlasting demise. That was a nice touch, as were various (and sometime unexpected) homages. And I was also pleased to see Olivia and Peter rescue Phillip Broyles -as well as being happy with the rescue scene itself, which I found to have been loads of fun- not to mention, a heroic act so true to both of their convictions. (Yes, even if we consider that this posed a wholly unnecessary risk, one which, ultimately, would make no difference; seeing that even if Broyles would have died -i.e. ala-Etta- the re-written timeline would have undeathed/re-lived him.) *** Lastly, the happy ending final scene was really touching, I found. And, indeed, contained therein was one final, tiny dose of mystery - appropriately, in the very-last second. *** What a moving and thoughtful conclusion to an amazingly imaginative and daring and progressive (and fun!) series!

Message Posted On Jan 21st, 2013, 6:10 am
My only hangup with the Finale was the "plan". If going to the future to this doctor who created the observers could change the past. Then why didn't it reset THE entire timeline. I mean if observers never existed.. then no one interupts Walternit in the other universe.. which means Walter doesn't steal Peter.. which doesn't disrupt time....etc The truth to what I can make out is.... Observers still exist but are not emotionless. So they do not destroy thier universe and try to come back and take ours over.

Level 2 (11%)
Since: 13/Apr/10
Message Posted On Jan 21st, 2013, 5:14 am

First of all: It is kinda obvious, but still you should mark the topic as SPOILER!

btt: I am really dissapointed. The whole fifth season was crap, aside of John Nobles acting of course. He is my favourite actor. The fifth season was not thrilling at all. Just going the invasion with the old fringe cases morphed into weapons was cool, that felt like "dont you mess with the fringe devision, idiot observers LOL". But not beeing thrilling was not even the worst thing... it was the story itself. I hate what they did with the observers overall. Timetravel (back in time) is ALWAYS illogical. But the one in fringe was over the top illogical. I know that Fringe was more of a fantasy show then really scientific, but this blows the illusion. Let me clarify:

The observers invasion itself changed EVERYTHING and might lead to not creating the observers in the future, which in fringe logic would make everything obsolete, BUT granted in the multiverse logic (which is the only acceptable for travel back in time) its irrelevant, because the observers created then an alternate (universe) timeline after the invasion

Sending the boy into the future changes the past? Its not possible.. the past already happend. They could create another timeline, but for THEM nothing would change. Edda would still be dead and stupidest of all: the observers would still have invaded and still be there.

The Walter Paradox, vanishing from 2015... To be honest... I didnt get that completely, but Im almost sure, that it was bullshit. If he was going to vanish at all, it would have been exactly at that time, when he passed through the portal and not after the invasion in 2015. Since he was in amber in the first timeline he could have lived until beeing 90 before vanishing.

But since the CHANGE would have been for another timeline and not for THEM, it doesnt matter. Everything that happend, happend and Walter walked into the portal with the boy, going to the future. Thats when he vanished.

*sighs* Fringe was a brilliant show in the first 3 seasons, okay in the fourth and crap in the fifth. Im still going to miss it, though.


Message Posted On Jan 20th, 2013, 9:07 pm
when i watched it kinda felt as if olivia knew what was going to happen and was waiting to see if etta was going to taken or not? As if they rembered everything and wasn't certain if time was reset. Overall it was good but i do feel a bit cheated by not seeing at least a glimpse of Walter and Michael in the future.

Message Posted On Jan 20th, 2013, 2:34 pm
Loved it, was glad to see the leader get his comeuppance, especially at the hands (head?) of September's son. I'll really miss Fringe, it morphed from an X-Files type clone into a truly significant show.

Level 1 (20%)
Since: 08/Aug/11
Message Posted On Jan 20th, 2013, 8:12 am
We never forget FRINGE....I will miss it very beadle

Message Posted On Jan 20th, 2013, 7:51 am
My husband and I, not realizing we were watching the very last episode of Fringe, feel 'gutted'. We are in tears and silence. We will never forget it and the pleasure it gave us, the characters will live on in our hearts. I guess, like all good things, it must end, eventually. Bummer! Couple from Oz 21st January 2013

Level 1 (59%)
Since: 07/Jun/09
Message Posted On Jan 19th, 2013, 11:46 pm

This season has been I think one of the best!

now the last epp was I must say a little disappointing apart from a small gun fight witch was a bit

amateurish and poorly executed, the rest of the epp was a little slow and very predictable, seems a

shame to me as the rest of the season was so grate leading us to what i thought would be a much

faster passed and action packed ending but no I think the writers lost there vava voom in the end.

I no if i wrote it id be disappointed. 


Level 3 (92%)
Mood: cheerful
Since: 15/May/08
Message Posted On Jan 19th, 2013, 9:14 pm

One of the best shows ever made for TV,will be sadly missed,saying that it was a brilliant ending,juat a shame Donald(September) did not make it.

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