by Josie Kafka
I suppose there could be a group of people who found this finale unsatisfying. And I can’t fault them for that, since they likely take issue with it for the same reason I found Season Four troubling. But I hope that most—even all—people felt as I did: that this show ended well, ended with dignity, and it did so with more optimism than I expected, and more beauty than I’d hoped.
Throughout the episode, I was reminded of just how respectful the Fringe writers are of us, the audience. They trust us to understand various scenes and their relationship to scenes from years long past. And we, in turn, appreciate that trust. The return of December, and the brief illumination offered by Donald’s explanation of their “emotive development,” was both touching and a wonderful callback to previous seasons. So were the great Fringe cases unleashed by Peter and Olivia onto the Observers and the Loyalists. (I was most excited to see the slashy butterflies of death.)
The white tulip, last mentioned in “The Boy Must Live,” is another example of Fringe trusting us to see connections between plots, themes, and concepts. The choice to end the series on the stylized image of a flower representing redemption and hope, sent from a paradoxical future, was a lovely final shot. Walter’s exit is more understandable to us than to Peter, but we trust Peter to understand eventually that something has happened (he certainly has the life experience to make that conclusion). And it is perfect that both Walter and Donald got to sacrifice something for their very different reasons.
We understand the tulip, because we have “lived” the events of Season Five, even though Peter, Astrid, Olivia, Broyles, and the rest of the world (except Walter) have not. I have no problem with the possibility of paradox, and Fringe, via Walter, has previously expressed comfort with the paradoxes of time-travel. I don’t think they’re taking the easy way out, either: numerous SF texts swim into the depths of paradox, from Heinlein’s The Door Into Summer to the Terminator franchise, which defies any attempt at logic.
That’s right. If, for some odd reason, you are reading this review without having seen the episode, I will spell it out: Fringe once again re-set the world. This time, all of Season Five has been erased, except in the minds of Walter and Michael, now living in the world of 2167 and beyond. But how could we have wanted anything more? Did anyone expect a different ending? I’d worried more would die, that Peter and Olivia would worry that paradox would prevent them from seeing Etta and sacrifice themselves to the world, but I had hoped this terrible future would go away. And, blessedly, it has.
This season opened with a scene of Peter, Olivia, and young Etta at the park. Tonight, we got to see the conclusion of that scene, with a mundane return home for baths and dinner. The Dunham-Bishop family in 2015 has no idea of the fate that has been avoided thanks to Michael, Donald, and Walter. They will continue to live their (hopefully) rather boring lives in peace and happiness. And that is a beautiful message for us to take with us after five years of this show: love and appreciate what you have, especially the simple things. A happy family life may not make for exciting TV, but hopefully it will make for fulfilling lives for our heroes.
• Peter: “How do we get them to 2167?”
Donald: “That’s what we need the magnet for.” This made me laugh; magnets always make me laugh, especially when someone says, as they always do…
• Donald: “If we recalibrate it, we can reverse the polarity…”
• I’m happy Walter got to say goodbye to Gene, and to talk about strawberry milkshakes with Astrid.
• And another shout-out to Michael Giacchino, whose scores are always perfect.
Four out of four happy endings. Thank you all for letting me be your Fringe reviewer for all these years.
Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)