Welcome to the latest edition of the Fringe Round Table!
This week, staffers Sean McKenna, Carla Day and Carissa Pavlica - as well as Fringe fan Nick Shere - attempt to make sense out of what could have been a senseless death in "Anomaly XB-6783746," while also debating the return of fan favorite Michael Cerveris as Donald. What a wonder some hair will do.
Nina's swan song: your thoughts?
Carla: An honorable sacrifice. What a shift Nina made from her somewhat questionable motives when we first met her to being a truly incredible woman in the end. Despite her dismal future if she lived, it was still a sacrifice for the cause and for those who became her family. With each life lost, it becomes more urgent for the team's plan to be successful and for these losses to mean something.
Nick: I thought it was apt. Each character confronts the Observers in their own way. Olivia is a fighter. Peter is a technologist and opportunist. Walter and Nina are scientists -- but different kinds of scientist. Nina at the last is the same as Nina as we first saw her -- a part of Massive Dynamics, a mad science organization. Her knowledge manifests in secret labs and questionable experimentation. But it's also more systematic than Walter's. She's addressed the Observers as a problem of cladistics and evolutionary biology. Her knowledge of them is a mirror of their knowledge of us, and that parity is at the heart of her defiance.
Sean: Unfortunately, I feel as if Nina has only really popped in here or there to assist the plot this season. That said, she had a great verbal battle with Windmark, before making the ultimate sacrifice to save the boy, and potentially the world. Hopefully it all pays off.
Carissa: I've always had a soft spot for Nina, no matter her timeline or incarnation and I couldn't be happier that she had an opportunity to go out as a hero. She was able to flush the unflappable Windmark with her cutting remarks about taking evolution so far backward. I wonder, though, if she would have been able to go through with it all without Michael showing her how much impact her life had on those around her. I'd like to hope so, but I'm also happy she had the peace to travel well.
What's the next reveal for Donald?
Carla: I'm really at a loss for what this reveal means, but clearly September/Donald is integral to the plan to save the world. Were all Observers Human at one point? Or, can they be evolved into Human? If that's the case, perhaps the shift is what is necessary to save the world.
Nick: I have no idea. The glimpse we had of him seemed somewhat old-timey - my first thought, before we see him clearly, is that it might be Walter's father Robert Bishop/Bischoff. But I have no idea where they're going with this -- is that the future? The past? A disguise? An alternate evolutionary path? A healed/reformed future for the Observes? No clue.
Sean: Donald has hair! That shocked me more, maybe. He obviously has a huge part in the final plan and it makes me feel as if he is the link between the Observers and the humans. I wonder if he can speak normally now too?
Carissa: I'm just glad we are going to find out what happened to September, even if it's only through an ancestral link of some sort. I have a feeling Michael will be connected, maybe a clone or something? I'm wondering what an "anomaly" in Observer terms really means and why it meant so much to Donald.
Michael's connections go deeper than Observer tech. Does the tech circumvent their evolution? What's the deal?
Carla: That's the question, right? We saw with Peter that the more Observer-like he became from the tech, the fewer emotions he felt. Plus, Walter's tests showed that the tech overrode the areas of the brain that control emotions. Michael didn't have the tech and he cried when Nina died showing emotion. Could Michael, the Child Observer, be the bridge between the Observer and Human worlds? A hybrid of sorts and ambassador to save the world?
Nick: Well, the conversation between Nina and Windmark suggests that the observers have engaged in some kind of program -- whether through breeding or genetic engineering -- to produce a species better adapted to future conditions, and that Michael is from their standpoint perhaps a throwback. If as a throwback he is more able to coexist with our version of homo sapiens, then perhaps he could be a template, and the other Observers could be made more or less like him.
Sean: It makes me wonder about what Nina said in reference to the Observers being the animals. The tech may have allowed them to do certain things, but it does seem to be holding them back from human emotion, something that Michael - and it looks like September - have been able to show. The Observers may think having feelings and emotions are a weakness, but really they are humans greatest strengths.
Carissa: After listening Nina, it seemed to me the Observers stopped their natural evolution out of some sort of fear. That emotions would somehow impede their ability to make rational choices, which they apparently think are always the best choices for the greater good. As we know, some of the best decisions are made against rational thought, and that's why the Observers come off as such cretins. I hope if the idea is to make a Fringe world where Observers are more like Michael and September that we get at least a glimpse of what that might be like.
Do you expect any further surprise returns in the last three hours?
Carla: I expect we'll see September/Donald again. I'd love to see the taxi driver Henry again. He played such a pivotal role in the past that it would be amazing to see him play a role in saving the world.
Nick: This isn't going to happen, but if they're going to fiddle with the timeline, I'd love to see at least a solid callback to Peter Weller's character from White Tulip. That's one of the episodes that really encapsulates a huge part of what the whole series is about, and it's certainly relevant to where we seem to be headed. Alternatively: I would love to see young Peter and young Olivia again in flashbacks or even time travel.
Sean: I've got a feeling that this is probably never going to happen, but sometimes I think it would be cool if Mark Valley, who played John Scott way back in season one, might find his way back to the finale. Now that's a real throwback.
Carissa: When I think of the end of Fringe these days, I'm picturing the hospital scene of the movie "Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang." If you haven't seen it, firstly, do, and secondly, it's where all the characters, living and dead make an appearance and there is a happy ending, per se, even if it isn't necessarily warranted. What the hell?. It's Fringe.
The Boy Must Live preview suggests a Fringe timeline reset. If you were the writers, in what time period would you choose to reset and why?
Carla: I didn't watch the preview, so I'm not sure what it showed. I have mixed feelings about a timeline reset. It wouldn't be unrealistic given the show, but at the same time I wonder if it would be a copout. A common theory is that the reset will be back to the day that the Observers showed up with Peter, Olivia, and Etta having a picnic on the grass with the sun shining bright. While that would be a happy ending, the more I think about it, the less I want that to be the ending. It seems too obvious and Fringe has rarely gone with the expected. The only other time that would make sense is when Walter jumped universes to save Peter. If it reset to before he did that, it would negate the entire series and that would be disappointing as well.
Nick: It depends. If the goal is to resolve everything comprehensively, then I would find a way to keep both Peters alive, and then close with some hint regarding how our known timelines would linger in a world without the pattern, or cortexiphan children, or holes in the universes. If the goal is to resolve everything in a way that seems to extend rather than wipe out our present story, then it would make the most sense to intervene at a point soon before the Observers begin to go irretrievably wrong.
Sean: The timeline reset worries me a little because I don't want a crazy long battle, only to have at the last moment the easy fix. I guess the show seems to allude to finding a way to bring Olivia, Peter, and Etta back together, so perhaps back when they are having a peaceful picnic, but without the invading Observers? I do wonder if the series will end with a rebuilding after their victory (I mean, they have to win, right?) or jumping way back to ever prevent the Observers from being bad guys in the first place.
Carissa: I've never thought about Nick's ideas, and if they could pull that off, it would be something else. With a flash scene at the end showing how it would have affected everything since. But, I also feel it will be a cop out to reset. They should want to reset, but realize in the end it's just not a possibility to do it all. The ending doesn't have to be happy, it just has to be satisfying and make sense in this incredible set of universes they have created. That's one hell of a request for three hours of programming; far less than three with commercials.
Be sure to catch up with all of Fringe Season 5 while we anxiously await the next new episode airing January 11, 2013!
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.