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
  • 4.4 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.8 / 5.0 (530 Votes)

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

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I am happy with the season finale. I know I may be a little morbid, but it was great satisfaction to see how some of the observers and loyalist come to their demise. They writers brought back previous friends from the other seasons, the creature who popped out of your gut, the team shooting the observers with the virus and seals your mouth shut and seeing one of them with no head. I cheered seeing how Windmark met his demise. He just stared at Olivia as if she could not touch him and when she saw her bullett,she gathered her strength and he finally came to his end.
I was happy to see what happened to the cow,since she was a part of the show for the last four seasons, Donald explaining how the observers came to be and how much Astrid and Walter really loved each other. Hearing him saying her name many many different ways was always funny. The finale answered many quesitons for me and it is hard to saying goodbye to a show that was creative and engagin. I wonder what will J J Abrahms next seris will be since Alcatraz did not pan out.
Overall it was a really good season finale from showing them as a family unit,that it does not have to be by blood, questioning about God and willing to take a leap of faith that everything will turn out all right.

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Now that fringe is over, let me give this show two big middle fingers for the utter and shitty way they handled Peter bishop for 5 years. You underused josh, you made his character be the "emotional one" who did NOTHING. Olivia gets the last laugh while Peter is made to look stupid, useless and incompetent. Everyone is bragging away about Walter and Olivia but then go and trash Peter. Everyone else gets their moment in the sun and they get awarded for it. Josh gets his moment and he gets HATED and criticized for it. And let me say how DISGUSTING it is that Olivia kills windmark making Peter look stupid. I hate this show, I hate all the characters, I cant stand this fanbase and I will never watch another Joshua Jackson tv show if he has to support the female lead. Screw this show.

Watchestoomuch

1. No mentions of how Olivia, charged up with cortexipham and fired up by her love for her daughter, turned out all the lights in Manhattan and flattened Windmark with a pickup truck? 2. The father-son love thing was laid on way too thick this season, and especially in this episode. If there was one thing I could change, it would be that. 3. No mentions of how callously our heroes slaughtered the loyalists using the hydra-creature-gas? They might not have had a choice, but there wasn't a hint that they minded. And treating the anti-gravity bullets as a joke was sick. 4. It wasn't a great finale, and it wasn't a terrible one. Given the unnevenness of the series, especially in the first half of Season 4, I'm thankful that I didn't walk away disgusted.

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If the observers were never there, September wouldn't have prevented Walternate finding the cure for Peter in 1985 and Walter wouldn't have crossed universes. Therefore none of the series of Fringe would have happened...

Modwild

Sorry @Jim, but we didn't know that going into the season. When Etta was still alive, we didn't expect a time wipe.

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"Essentially, Fringe Season 5 never happened." The entire season was about putting together the pieces of a plan to re-set time and wipe out the invasion and everything that happened after. So, obviously, we all watched this season knowing that the point and the ending to things was a re-set of time. It's not like that came out of left field like Dallas when they wiped out an entire season as a dream.

Modwild

@Segun - You had me at Defying Gravity. Talk about a life cut short. At least Fringe got to see an ending done according to its creator.

Modwild

@jmcdermon I always thought the original 12 Observers were sent back to study humans. I think their interference with 2036 was an afterthought to the series end due to time constraints, but that's just me. They needed the context in which we lived, at first. Until we discovered last week September meant a different boy must live. Unless it was a last minute writer change. We'll never know for sure!

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It still hasn't hit me that its gone. It's not as bad as the end of Farscape, but still. A lot of Fringe reminded me of the final season of Stargate Atlantis and what might have happened if things had gone a different way. I know some people aren't going to be happy with this season but I'm satisfied. One of the things I always remember about Stargate Atlantis and even Farscape was that the ending no matter how good wasn't what I remembered the most. It was the little things, the scenes that best exemplified the characters I had grown to love. Maybe a short lived show like Defying Gravity had a better series finale but Fringe has always been about looking at the whole. It was a good run, a confluence of events that had to be experienced to be believed. You'll be missed old friend.

Modwild

@osofine - don't get me wrong, just because I didn't put the finale in the top ten of all time doesn't mean the series itself isn't. It will forever be captured as unique, fresh, emotional and ultimately rewarding. A finale can't ruin five seasons, but a fifth season wrap up will be coming, as well! :-)