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.

Review

Editor Rating: 4.4 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.8 / 5.0 (530 Votes)

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

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CONTINUED FROM BELOW...past remains unaltered - because September will always save them, no matter how unemotional or emotional he is as an Observer. That's my theory and I'm sticking to it! LOVED the finale. Have no idea how these "Olivia" & "Peter" camps developed because I have always seen the core characters as one family. The inclusion of the Altverse, Olivia's cortexiphan past, and former Fringe cases being factors in saving Earth's future was awesome. Loved the weirdness, Fauxlivia's cool streak of gray in her hair, and learning that Walternate was still at Harvard. Also, how fitting that Windmark was literally crushed by Olivia's emotional response to Etta's memory! What made it the most perfect end for FRINGE though is, in many others' words (not mine), what started with Walter bringing a boy through a portal also ended with him doing the same thing. Walter made it right and his son knew he loved him. The discussion btw him & Donald about parents risking everything for their kids made me tear up. BRAVO!

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I'm with you, Triphazard85, with regard to the Olivia Dunham poster.
I'm going to miss this show. A lot of it didn't stand up well to over-analyis, but it's a show after all and meant as entertainment. Would like to have seen Windmark float away after being shot with one of those "cool" bullets, but his end at Olivia's hands (or brain) was more satisfying. Loved it when Walter finally called Astrid by her proper name. Judging from his sly smile, it appeared that he always knew it and it was just his private joke to call her by similar sounding names. I always enjoyed listening for the "Astrid d'jour" on each episode...kind of like watching for Hichhock to make his traditional appearance in his movies. The only thing that left me scratching my head was how and when Walter mailed the white tulip. He went off into the future, but it would have to have happened before the Observer invasion. But I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. Just sad that the series has ended. My only other remaining addiction is Person of Interest. (Was bummed when Stargate Universe was cancelled). Farewell all, I've also enjoyed reading your reviews and comment (even "Olivia Dunham's rants).

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As always, those who are unsatisfied with a time travel-based finale are those who think of time as linear and possibilities as black & white. Therein lies the time paradox and the danger of overthinking these kinds of finales. Michael & Walter convinced future scientists that emotion is of equal important as intellect in the development of future humans. But, that doesn't mean that the Observers erase their own future. Not even December & Donald knew what would happen to them. They just knew they would be different. Donald/September can't be that different as an Observer because then *Michael* wouldn't exist. I propose that the "Observers" (catch-all phrase for future humans) develop with emotions and that they continue to time jump because they can & are curious. Also, that even though they try not to change events of the past, an Observer with emotions would be less able to resist saving a father & son who are drowning. That's the reason the Bishops past remains unaltered.

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Ok just to explain my theory why Peter still exists. Peter still exists due to the fact that he is from a different timeline. Peter is an anomaly he should never have existed in the first place due to the machine in season 3 which had had nothing to do with the observers. Hence September did not save him from the lake, Walter did not cross over to the other side etc.
I will miss this show all the characters were well thought out. It had a good balance of drama, Sci-fi, Humour and action.
The only thing I am glad about in this ending is the fact I never have to see any of the comments from the narrow minded, obsessed and mentally disturbed poster known as 'Olivia Dunham'.

Gatorgal

Ok, just saw the part again about Peter finding the tape and watching it and Walter explains when Peter gets the letter, he will not understand it, will probably call Walter to ask about it, get no answer, then go to the lab, where he will not be. I would imagine that September told Walter of the future invasion and they started making plans well before 2015. But how could he not have warned Olivia and Peter ahead of time if he already knew? I guess if the invasion hadn't happened in the first place and Walter was still there, he would have come up with some crazy reason for sending Peter the tulip.

Gatorgal

@ Endoftime figure= Please, tell us how you really feel :-P.....
I think I read someone mentioning Fauxolivia saying "So you found her" meaning Etta. It is clear that we missed Olivia's entire explanation from that day in the park to where they are today. It wasn't necessary as it would have added time to the show, we already know it, and Fauxolivia's remark lets us know that she and Lincoln now know the whole story. While I too would have also like more time on the other side, time was not on Olivia's side and I think they were trying to portray that. She couldn't sit and have dinner and drinks with them, she had a mission.

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Loved it & will miss it.

Gatorgal

Sorry for the stupid typos, re-watching the finale as I type is never a good idea. ;-)

Gatorgal

Also, was any explanation given for Olivia's missing wedding ring? I couldn't tell from the reset back to the park if she was wearing one. Also, as gross as the exposure to "fringe" events was, some of the things we saw explained the screen fades: the butterfly,the six-finger hand print, and I know we saw the frog and apple on the doors when they went through that portal to find Michael. I would have liked an explanation as to the importance of the sea-horse, the leaf, the frog, the apple, the butterfly, the handprint..have I missed any? I'm glad Walter didn't die, but I hope Peter, Olivia and Astrid find the tapes. But I got the impression that they weren't made until well after the invasion. Could be wrong, though, since Walter had no idea.

Gatorgal

Just a few observations: I also had wondered if the Observer's never existed,then September could not have save Walter and Peter from the lake. So apparently they had some way to "restet" time to 2015? I don't think Olivia smashed Windmark. She made the lights go out which caused him to look at cock his head like a lizard (kudos to Nina!) which gave Michael his moment. THat child was powerful, as the interrogation revealed. After Windmark was smashed and Michael put his finger to his lips: "shh, our secret". I am wondering if at some point Walter gave Peter inserted a submlinal message in Peter that would be triggered by the tulip. Maybe in 2015 mail delivery was so good that you could guarantee a delivery date for first class mail (in our dreams) I just hope he wasn't with Astrid and then he went "poof" as he was milking Jean. That would be too traumatic. :-)

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.

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