Fringe Review: Love, Fate and The White Tulip

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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.

Will Olivia Survive?

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.


Editor Rating: 4.4 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.8 / 5.0 (531 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter and on Google+.


Hi. Remember when Peter uncovered a tape in amber in which Walter explains that he shall receive a letter on the day of the invasion and he will no longer be found because he would be far away? Well if Peter ever finds that tape he would know why and what sacrifice Walter made to restore order.


I am of the opinion that Fringe is the best show to ever be on television. Since that is almost entirely impossible to prove, i guess it would be ok to say that it is the best ever in the genre (sorry x-files). I have always been more appreciative of mysteries and phenomena turning out to have scientific explanations. Fringe could have gone on for at least three more years if the network had realized the true potential. the fourth season scare of cancellation forced the writers to go in a direction they probably didnt want to go yet, if at all. although i am heartbroken Fringe has ended, i will never stop promoting this show to others or stop continuously watching season 1-5 over and over again. always remember....RESIST.


It seemed to me that Michael was giving thoughts to Astrid when she came up with the idea of the shipping lane and power to Olivia to take out Widmark then he made the shush sign with his fingers. He was a Godlike creature supposedly capable of incredible things.
I don't think it's necessary that a show like Fringe cover every plotline, when is the last time you saw a giant porcupine man in this universe or any other?
I ask only that a show be entertaining, well written and definately well acted. Fringe delivered in all those things and more. Loved every minute of it!


Final thoughts about Fringe. For a show all about love, couldn't they have found a romantic couple at the center with a little more chemistry? I swear, every time Peter kissed or caressed Olivia it looked to me like Torv was about to jump out of her skin. And it wasn't like she was incapable of showing some passion early in Season 1. Anyway, John Noble was hands down the best thing about the show. Without him, it would have been nothing.


... continued ... The retrospective of all the Fringe horrors in one giant bio attack was fun. But the elimination of Windmark was unbelievable. He had ample time to warp the hell out of there before being crushed between 2 cars. Really, how did he get lead feet all of a sudden. Anyway, my 2 cents. I got some kicks from the show but some day somebody will have to make a show that relies a little more heavily on science and less on winging it. Fringe started out promising to toe the science line, but confusion about how things work obviously crept in ... big time.


I've watched Fringe from day 1. Must say, I'm disappointed with finale. Premise is stale and based on incorrect thinking. If Walter takes Michael to the future and causes Observers to not be created, then September would never have existed to create Michael and Michael would cease to exist. So the stuff needed to create the time portal would also not be there and Walter would be back in the present when the Observers were supposed to have invaded. Very lame stuff, very shallow thinking. On the other hand, if you agree with David Deutsche's supposition that there are no paradoxes and that time travel is travel to a different universe, then Walter going to the future would change nothing because the Observers always invaded the past and always existed. Walter is simply going to a different universe where the Observers will never exist. So, altogether, a severe disappointment from the plotline perspective. I thoroughly enjoyed the visuals and tension. The restrospective of all the Fringe horrors in one giant bio attack was fun. But the elimination of Windmark was unbelievable. He had ample time to warp the hell out of there before being crushed between 2 cars. Really, how did he get lead feet all of a sudden. Anyway, my 2 cents. I got some kicks from the show but some day somebody will have to make a show that relies a little more heavily on science and less on winging it. Fringe started out promising to toe the science line, but confusion about how things work obviously crept in ... big time.


Walter could have made that tape before the Observers invaded because September knew exactly when it was going to happen- he is from the future remember? All of his tapes could have been made prior to the invasion, but what bothers me about this foreknowledge is that Walter should/would have warned Peter and Olivia so they would not be caught unaware in a park when it happened. Maybe he was in the lab when it happened and September came to warn him then. Who know? As everyone has said, lots of unanwered questions.


John: Tim - the tape was created before Walter disapeared. Walter existed up till 2015. What happens after the final scene is essentially what Walter describes in the video (which Peter would be going to watch)
Yeah, but that tape was made post Observer invasion in 2015. In the timeline Peter is now in, Walter would have never had a reason to create that tape (since the invasion had yet to/never took place). So there'd be no tape of Walter telling "explaining" such things to him - nor of Walter telling him about a letter he wouldn't understand. So the question is unanswered - presumably Walter existed in 2015 - I guess we all assume he disappeared at the moment the Observers WOULD have invaded - but I'm not sure why that is. The timeline Walter travelled to the future from no longer exists - because of what Walter did in a 2036 that no longer needs to exist. Paradox.


Yes Marie is correct - but as we've already seen, for this show you have to suspend reality. Is it really that much more of a stretch to accept that "young Peter drowned in the lake, yet adult Peter exists in the 2015 timeline/universe" but then be unable to jump to a finale in which "young Peter survived in the alternate universe, yet adult Peter still appeared in the 2015 timeline/universe with memories of a timeline that in fact never happened?" I guess that just sums up that Abrahms has created a show/finale in which any paradox is just that - a paradox - and we're supposed to accept it. It's an easy way out, but I'm zen with it.


If there were no observers, Peter would have never been in the lake, let alone drown in the lake. Walter wouldn't have been distracted by the observer when he found the cure for the original Peter. He would have saved his son, and have no reason to travel the alternate universe.

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Fringe Season 5 Episode 12 Quotes

Walter: The sacrifice is hard son, but you're no stranger to it.
Peter: Neither are you, dad. You sacrificed a lot.

Peter: It was on Liberty Island. We closed that bridge 24 years ago. For all we know, the Observers could have invaded as well. We have no way of knowing what happened.
Astrid: Not necessarily. The universe window. Why don't we just have a look?
Walter: Of course. That's brilliant Ashcat! Ha. Peter. Help us with the window.