On Friday, 1/18/13, the series finale of “Fringe” – well, the airing of the last two episodes – definitely wrapped up the series. But, the more I think about it, the more emotional I feel about the show – over both how much it left behind and its imperfections versus how much it did achieve and and that so much storytelling was pulled off with a warm affection for the characters that I had to respect and enjoy.
And, really, I feel sad that “Fringe” is over. Man, what a bunch of five seasons! (well, 4 1/2, but at least FOX gave us a 13 episode farewell, even if it barely made sense to me).
I leave to others to comment and review on the finale itself – whether it was that great or not. I think my feelings on series finales are always going to come down to feeling sad and bittersweet. I look to see if the showrunners can give their characters some fair resolution onscreen, and especially if they cared about their characters. I stand by what I said about the series finale of “Lost” – I want some heart in the story, thanks.
I do think that “Fringe” had a fair end, even if I wish it wasn’t over and I liked how Walter’s end – even if it meant a sad final redemption to give his family a better future than the mangled past he had given them – came to be meaningful (God damn time traveling and rebooting!).
If you want more on the series finale or overviews of the series or the last season, I suggest the following:
Over at Entertainment Weekly: I don’t always agree with Ken Tucker’s tv criticism (but he’d be the first to tell you that that’s the point of tv criticism), but he’s pretty on point about the Fringe series finale (you probably shouldn’t read this post unless you like spoilers). And, Entertainment Weekly has Jeff “Doc” Jensen’s take on the series finale – wow. Powerful. I was also moved by the post on “Fringe” over at the AV Club. And, aww, even Slate gives “Fringe” a farewell. Sniff.
So, while I won’t go into the series finale, here’s my overview blurb of (probably incoherent) thoughts on “Fringe.” Pardon my rambling; this mostly makes sense if you’ve followed the show. Or don’t mind the weirdness of what I’m saying.
I had a lot of mixed feelings about the season 4 reboot, where the loss of Peter Bishop in time created and rebooted different Red and Blue universes than I became fond of in season 3. While Season 4 was all very exciting, I couldn’t really quite like or fully accept it. I kept wondering if there had been a way to save the pre-reboot multiverse, but it was not meant to be, apparently, and I couldn’t grasp the rebooted Blue (Amber?) universe and I missed the pre-reboot Blue Universe, even if was a crazy place that looked an awful lot like our crazy world.
Rebooted Agent Olivia Dunham was – for me – not quite the same as pre-reboot Blue Olivia, the woman who dealt with her abusive stepfather, missed her late mom, had put up with her clueless sister and her cute niece, and figured out how to deal with weirdo cases and overcame having been a lab rat for mad scientists Walter Bishop and William Bell’s weird experiments. Rebooted Olivia supposedly didn’t have old Olivia’s psychological baggage, yet was somehow the same Olivia, without ever having had Peter in her life? Heck, no – I didn’t even feel that she quite had the same old toughness of the prior seasons. It was hard to even imagine Olivia dealing with Walter without Peter (even if I didn’t quite buy Olivia and Peter’s romance for quite awhile).
And, rebooted Nina of Season 4 completely confused me. Whose side was she on, and her revised mother-daughter relationship with rebooted Olivia really confused me. And, I was sorry that they dropped the strange romantic chemistry that Nina had with Broyles in the pre-reboot universe.
And, honestly, we viewers never truly got to know Astrid. When Astrid’s back story, or insight into it, got revealed, it was that of the rebooted Astrid, so was it really the “same” Astrid? I don’t know…
Charlie – all forms of him – never had a proper farewell.
The Sam Weiss and the First People arc was more or less completed, but I wished it had been better fleshed out, considering what fascinating twists and turns that arc had with the multiverses – in terms of space and time.
Lincoln Lee was another character who I wished we as viewers had gotten to know better. The glimpse of pre-reboot Blue universe’s Lincoln Lee had a spark of cool geek bromance bonding with Peter (who really needed a friend of his own other than Olivia, Walter, and Astrid – and until the reboot, Peter was even developing a sort of friendship/alliance with Broyles; and as far as friendships – as the meaning of “friends” went, Olivia did have Charlie). Pre-reboot Lincoln of the Red Universe was quite cool and great – the physical scarring and the sharp mind made him quite the character. Rebooted Blue/Amber universe Lincoln of Season 4 was a bit more irritating, because he had the angst of losing his partner and being attracted to an Olivia who didn’t know she missed Peter and was grappling over how her rebooted life wasn’t quite her life. I suppose it was nice that rebooted Blue/Amber Lincoln found a new life in the rebooted Red Universe, but that was at the expense of Rebooted Red-verse’s Lincoln.
And, I never quite knew what the viewer was supposed to think or feel about William Bell. Actor Leonard Nimoy’s appearances as William were terrific, but while he was clearly not like Walter – he was indeed a mad scientist who might very well not have felt guilt and might have been “Evil” – pre-reboot, William was trying to make amends in trying to stop the war between the multiverses and somehow save them all. He even sacrificed himself so that Olivia could live (or so I thought). But, then the end of season 4 and the beginning of season 5 made rebooted William really evil – or at least amoral to the point that relationships with Walter and Nina (one as friend and the other as friend/lover) could not save him? I was/am confused!
I also was sorry that the story of Elizabeth Bishop, Walter’s wife and Peter’s mother, in both Red and Blue universes (and the rebooted Red-verse), was left a little unresolved and mostly sad. At least Red-verse Elizabeth had the consolation of knowing that Peter was alive somewhere.
And, the mystery of the Observer known as September. Got to credit actor Michael Cerveris for pulling off this challenging and subtle role of a time traveler becoming human.
So, yes, things often left me confused, and yet the ride – the journey – was exhilarating. Each season was a renewal of new stories, as crazy as it was and it was – even if a little irritating – strangely fun. I cared about these characters and their adventures, and their adventures went somewhere and came to resolutions or solutions (or more questions, but reasonable questions, if the whole “where did the really evil shapeshifters come from?” can be said to be a reasonable question – for a show like this, yes, it is).
If nothing else, “Fringe” is that great comic book/graphic novel where the play on narration is the fun itself. There were the variations on relationships, alternate worlds, the twists of time – and calling back and looking forward. Themes are played with too – protect your children, but let them go; love your parents, but be better than them – or at least recognize that you are all human; love/fear/beware/be aware/hate/trust/doubt the consequences of science; fate versus free will; nature versus nurture; the power of love and the destruction of hate; and have a some ethics during this thing called “life.”
The last season of “Fringe” was often a lot like the last season of “Lost.” Each episode often felt like set up to the last five minutes of each episode, which ultimately lead to the endgame of the series finale – that final sacrifice that we saw coming, even if we didn’t want it to happen. A life’s journey comes to an end, even if we’re not sure how and hope it all works out.
“Fringe” was thankfully not like “Heroes” – it went somewhere, and wasn’t afraid of pursuing stories and resolving them as possible and letting the characters push forward. It was like “Lost” that way – and even got away with enjoying it all. And, like another J.J. Abrams project, “Alias”: “Fringe” does come down to the unification of a family (and about what your parents would do for you, come to think of how both “Alias” and “Fringe” ended). Friends and family – what nice things to see on tv!
Ultimately, I credit the Fringe crew for their creativity and affection for their characters. The scale of ambition was deep (even if the budget and FOX’s support didn’t go all the way). Sigh. We’ll always have the two universes, the shapeshifters, the Evil Charlie, the two Lincoln Lees, the two Olivias, the two Walters, the one Peter, Gene the Cow, rebooted timelines, etc., in DVDs or reruns.
Links to my past thoughts and observations on the series “Fringe”:
The complicated but ultimately loving father-son relationship between Walter and Peter Bishop got to me even in the early days of the show.
I had “Fringe” on my 2008 list, by the end of the year.
I was glad that, at least, “Fringe” was able to resolve its first arc; really, I admired how Olivia transitioned from the loss of first love of her life, Agent John Scott (even if we never knew what the heck was Scott involved in). How many shows give a character a chance to say goodbye properly to someone they once loved?
Of course there was the infamous episode where Agent Charlie Francis (in his original iteration in Season 1) dealt with the maggot infection as the Monster Of The Week (and wherein we learned that Charlie was happily married). I think it’s funny that this becomes an inspiration to the bug-infected Red Universe Charlie (Charlie lives!), who later gets into that nice little romance with the bug scientist (awww).
In 2010, I called Red Universe Charlie “Alternate Charlie” (Charlie lives!), and somehow, Olivia came back to Blue Universe, but with a sad sacrifice in the Red Universe (i.e., poor pre-reboot Red-verse Broyles).
“Fringe” made it on my 2010 list, and sadly, neither Anna Torv nor John Noble were nominated for Emmies for their acting feats in playing so well Olivia and Walter and their alternate selves.
By March 2011, I realized that the life arc of Peter was a mess. I suppose it’s only fair that this season 5’s Peter arc pretty much reflect that he’s a guy who goes really far until/unless someone pulls him from the brink.
By 2011, “Fringe” made Fridays fun, even if the themes of fathers messing with science for their sons and how friends who mess with science without thinking about consequences were themes that probably were beating us on the heads.
Spring 2011 was where Walter, Peter, and Leonard Nimoy’s William Bell made that trippy trip into Olivia’s head and Broyles somehow ingested Walter’s LSD.
As even this post notes, I really got into Ken Tucker’s posts on Entertainment Weekly about “Fringe.”
The time traveling in “Fringe” gave me a headache.