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Fringe: An Enemy of Fate

“Because it’s cool.”

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.

Tumor-Inducing Cellphones:

• 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?)


  1. Thank you Josie, for all the marvelous and much researched reviews.
    My Fringe week wouldn't be complete without reading your article.

    Thank to you, JJ Abrams and to your outstanding writers and production crew for bringing us mostly mind boggling TV viewing for the last five years.

    Thank to John Noble, Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, and Jasika Nicole for bringing to life characters we have come to love and root for each and every episode.

    Kudos to all the actors who have played recurring and guest roles in the series, notably, Lance Reddick, Leonard Nimoy, Seth Gabriel, Blair Brown, Kirk Acevedo, Mark Valley, Michael Cerveris, Kevin Corrigan, and Georgina Haig.
    Some of them we have come to both love and hate.

    I am not really very surprised about the ending.
    Aside from the circuitous path the story ended, I somewhat also thought that it will end where the Observers started.
    I am sure that a lot of viewers also thought the same.

    I will miss Team Save The World very much.
    But I will be thinking of them in a very happy note.

    Let us always remember that this show has made us embrace one thought in one word:


  2. Thank you Joise for all the wonderful reviews. And thank you to the cast of crew of Fringe for five wonderful seasons. I teared up several times watching this. The plot may have not lived up to my expectations but it got to me where it mattered most - my heart. And ending with the white tulip was the perfect way to end the series.

  3. And now, part two of my josian amazement this morning. (Girl, you rock)

    Epic ? Not in the typical way, but yes in the Fringian way, especially this season when I said that it was so intimate against a bigger background. So intense...in a personal way.

    Edge of the seat ? Oh my, even more than the previous hour.

    Satisfying ? Oh yes, and that's an understatement.

    John Noble ? Awesome, but the rest of the crew is also excellent. But since he's the oldest and the father figure, he gets the gold.

    My prediction for the end ? LOL I was on the nose for the BEFORE the last scene. Close call. Big smile on the dandelion.

    White tulip ? BRILLIANT end. Brilliant. I have to say it a 3rd time : brilliant !! And even a bigger smile.

    DVD set ? Please, do NOT make us wait 6 months.

  4. More.

    This finale is way superior to the one from last season. If Fringe would have ended last year, I would have been disappointed. But this "extra" season adds a great layer to the show's Mythology. Personally of course, very satisfying ending. Oh yes, very.

    And now, you can put the label "cult" on Fringe.

    LOL Was happy to see the butterflies too. And I surely wasn't expecting such a drastic.....biological warfare. And quite graphic too, wow.

    Josie, you were inspired too : excellent reviews.

    5 years of great stories, 5 years of great acting, 5 years of great writing, 5 years of great music (cd's for seasons 4 and 5 would be greatly appreciated please, thank you).

    5 amazing years. And now, the chapter is closed. Turning the page. Sigh. Life. That's the way it is.

    Thank God P of I is still out there, because now there is a huge void in my TV week. Huge. But, contrary to the people at the end of the great movie The Truman Show, I won't turn the page without forgetting the impact that show had on me.

  5. Well, count me among those that found this finale unsatisfying. I did get a bit choked up in a few spots (especially the Walter-Astrid-Gene scene), but ultimately, the logical inconsistencies and paradoxes were so HUGE that they eclipsed my ability to find this emotionally satisfying.

    It makes absolutely no sense that time would reset to 2015 if the Plan worked and the Observers never existed. No sense whatsoever. What about all their interference in points before that? How on earth did Peter and Olivia even get to that moment in 2015 if the Observers weren't involved in their lives prior to that point? September, in particular, had a significant influence on their lives and the way they connected.

    I don't regret the time spent with these characters, and I have found parts of the journey quite touching and rewarding (even these last two seasons). But I wish the writers had had a bit more respect for the continuity and for logic in the end.

    1. It's a totally different timeline that the timeline of seasons 1-3. When Peter disappeared from time the Fringe team still came together without Peter and without Observer interference. In this timeline the observers play a much smaller part in events than the previous timeline.

  6. Well, I cried. I cried a lot. I'm such a wuss.

    I was glad that the horrible future went away, that Peter and Olivia and Etta got their well-deserved happy ending. That tulip in the mail was simply beautiful, with its layers of meaning. The expression on Peter's face? He knew something had happened, something important.

    I hated Fringe when it started. The first two episodes turned me off so much that I didn't try the show again for years. But when I did, it eventually got to me. It became a friend, an adventurous friend that did the unexpected, that gave us moments of unique and intriguing science fiction. (And Walter, who is a character in a class by himself.) And now I feel like I just hugged an old friend and said a sad but satisfying goodbye.

    Thank you so much for reviewing this series, Josie. I never would have tried it a second time if it weren't for your excellent reviews. You drew me in, just like Fringe.

  7. I very much enjoyed the journey. With a big THANK YOU for the reviews.

    I do think, though,that the time reset should have gone all the way back to NOT having September walk in and disrupt Walternates cure for Peter.

  8. Thank you for all the reviews Josie! Congrats on finishing the series :)

    The bit that made me cry was the Walter/Astrid/Gene scene. I think it was the freshest - not exactly unexpected, but less telegraphed than most of the other emotional beats.

    I confess, I've had a suspicion all season that we would end up back in the park with the invasion not happening - they'd returned to that scene so many times it was inevitable. It didn't annoy me because I went through my phase of being annoyed with Fringe for rewriting history halfway through season 4, when it became clear that the world(s) and characters we'd followed for three years (or in my case, 3 weeks) were gone and weren't coming back. When re-watching, I'll probably stop around the end of Season 3 - though my love for Lincoln Lee might persuade me to look at bits of season 4. The point is, Fringe already annoyed me as much as it possibly could with this sort of thing, so I felt less strongly about it this time, even though logically it makes no sense whatsoever.

    (I may also be affected by having re-watched Doctor Who's The Pandorica Opens last night. Now there's a plot that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Fringe both makes more sense than Moffat-Who and feels more emotionally true, so it gets a big pass from me).

  9. Oh, and September running towards the wormhole, holding Michael's hand, was really hot. Walter, less so.

  10. Jess

    Good point. Problem with sci-fi and shows like Fringe is if you start analyzing and rationalizing....well, a lot will be inconsistent.

    Logic and the heart rarely get along.

    Hum, and that applies to James Bond too.

  11. For some shows, I'm willing to let emotion eclipse logic. In fact, I'm often able to walk away from shows, movies, and books feeling very deeply satisfied on an emotional level, even if the narrative doesn't quite cohere logically. I'm sure I've even done that with this show on numerous occasions.

    But the emotional hook of this show has always, always gone back to that moment when Walter chose to take Peter, and all the consequences that spilled out from that decision. And September played a huge role in the moment, even in the iteration where he didn't save Peter from drowning in Reiden Lake.

    So for the writers to now ask us to just ignore the full implications of a Plan whose sole purpose was to erase the Observers as we know them from existence --- it is just too much. It doesn't work from a time-travel perspective, and it doesn't work from an emotional perspective. For me, anyway.

    That doesn't mean that I wasn't moved by Walter telling Astrid she has a beautiful name, or happy to see Fauxlivia and Lincoln Lee again, or totally jazzed to hear Broyles tell Windmark the hate was mutual. Those were great moments.

    But the return to the park and the white tulip were not a fitting or emotionally resonant end point from my perspective. At least not via the path the writers took us there.

    Of course, I seem to be largely alone in that assessment. Such is life. :)

  12. Aren't we ALL alone ????

    You may get less praise from me (Billie and Josie know), but nonetheless, I appreciate your writings Jess.

    Besides, it is impossible to please EVERYBODY. (some people got bored with the Life of Pi; I was enthralled)

  13. On another note, I stand corrected. There IS a soundtrack for the 4th season. Yay.

  14. Funny how things strike you...the reasons that I was unhappy with the Lost ending - unanswered questions, plot holes, things that happened - yes - but ultimately didn't matter as a whole...etc that for some reason (for me) outweighed the satisfying emotional ending...those same things bothered me less here with Fringe. I loved this ending...yet, as Jess correctly points out, there was a major plot hole. I don't know why that bothers me less here than with Lost. Perhaps I am more emotionally connected with these characters? The parent-child relationship? Who knows...

  15. I'm not sure if it was this episode or the one just before it since I watched on DVR, but when Walter told Astrid that she had a beautiful name, I teared up.

  16. Oh, absolutely. That moment with Walter telling Astrid she had a beautiful name got to me, big time. So did Walter telling Peter that he was his favorite thing. John Noble is a treasure. He's what made me try the show again, and he's the one I'll miss the most.

    Jess, your comments are always terrific, even if I don't agree with you. :)

  17. Forth season suddenly makes sense, I mean think about it. The original timeline was dependent on September's interference in the timeline, that event never happened in the world where Peter and Olivia had Etta except in Peter and Olivia's mind which in itself is an echo of a world that no longer exists. So in a way they protected the timeline, allowing for that ending by what they did in season 4.

    Even without that explanation, I loved the ending. Walter sacrificing himself fit so well with the series as a coda to his actions. September becoming human, loving his child, and then handing having Walter save HIS child made so much sense.

    Plus we got a bunch of really great moments. Astrid and Walter, Olivia blacking out an entire city with her power. The cocktail of fringe experiments. It was a really satisfying ending. For me at least.

  18. Maturity involves the acceptance of opinions divergence. And there's a lot of maturity over here (except when CrazyCris and I goof, but humour is essential to mental health).

    John Noble was exceptional during these 5 years. And Walter had a chance of sating to his (our) beloved Gene.....

    And good point Sooze about Lost.

  19. No, it still doesn't work. Because even the timeline established at the beginning of S4 is dependent on the Observers. September still caused the distraction that resulted in Walter crossing over; he just didn't subsequently save Peter from drowning. And you kind of need the Observers to exist to overwrite the timeline in the first place, yes?

    Sorry to keep harping on the point. Last night, I was actually hoping that today someone would explain why it all works so I could feel happy with the resolution, too. But no one has, as of yet. Alas.

  20. Josie, I'm going to chime in with everyone else and say BRAVO for all these fabulous reviews!!!

    On to the episode: emotionally fulfilling, but I'm with Jess on that major plothole. From the moment they discovered the big "plan" was to reset time by eliminating the creation of the Observers, with Olivia telling Peter "We'll get Etta back", I was actually dreading the Series ending! Because for me, eliminating the Observers meant eliminating them from the very beginning... which means no more September distracting Walternate, so he finds the cure for his Peter, so Walter never crosses over, so Peter grows up in the alternate universe and there are never crossings-over between the universes and the whole show means ZILCH! Now that ending would have been really annoying! Ugh! And so, to avoid such a dastardly deed, I'm willing to forgive them their lack of logic and just hit the reset button with the Invasion. But it's still a point which nags me and doesn't let me appreciate the finale as much as I'd like! :o(

    Notes: VERY happy to see all those Fringe events coming back to life, especially since they resulted in Broyles rescue!
    Also, VERY happy to see Widmark get his due, even if we were resetting the timeline! :p
    Another, so SAD about September's tragic ending and Walter's ensuing farewell. :o(
    LOVED that it ended with the White Tulip and not the park.

    Farewell Olivia, Peter, Walter, Astrid, Broyles, Nina, September, Lincoln, Fauxlivia... may you enjoy your now peaceful "boring" lives! And THANK YOU to all the fabulous actors who brought you to life and the writers who gave them the words to do so. Adieu!

    CelticMarc: who are you calling a goof?! NON MAIS!!! :p

  21. Cris

    Je suis le goof en chef; je ne fais que t'inspirer (bordel de merde)

  22. Dans ce cas ok. But I prefer to be called crazy than goof! Much more accurate. ;o)

  23. Ok

    Préférable la folle espagnole que la goofette !

    La prochaine fois je serai le Schtroumpf celte et toi la Schtroumpfette Espagnole ! Ça te va ? Pouah !!

  24. Sauf que cette Schtroumpfette est Celte aussi! :p
    Faudrait peut-être qu'on envahisse pas ce thread puisque c'est le dernier épisode... Another time! ;o)

  25. Another time, another place. (A Space 1999 episode from season 1)

    See ya in the REDverse !

  26. I'm going to miss this show so much. Yes, Season 4 was not super, but it was still better than a lot of other stuff on right now, and part of me (and even more so, my wife) wishes they would have just stuck with weird, bizarre cases of the week - the way the show started - but this season was just so intense. Yet another case for a short run of a dozen or so episodes that a lot of shows seem to be doing - Game of Thrones, Dexter, Doctor Who. It was so touching - rarely does a show on television make me feel so much. I cried a few times last night. Oh, I'm gonna miss this show! Great job with the reviews, Josie!

  27. Hey guys , there are a lot of interesting theories by "commenters" over on fringetelevision where Josie's review is also posted. A few people have some nifty solutions to the various "plot holes".

  28. I thought this was perfect. I've not enjoyed this season as much as previous ones, but its still been vastly better than any other show on the air, and any show that makes you think this hard can only be for the good.

    Jess, and all the others that have issues with the timeline, I've managed to rationalise it like this. Yes, the plan would wipe out the observers as we know them, but it would create other more emotional observers. September already told December (and us) that they didn't know the original 12's expedition was the prelude to an invasion, so what if in the new timeline we still had (an admittedly more emotional) September coming back to the past, and making all the same mistakes. Peter still lives, but the invasion never happens.

    However, that doesn't answer my issue with the timeline, which is "Why do any of them expect to be dealing with the scientist in Stockholm in 2169, surely as they're in an observer controlled present, they'll travel forward to an observer controlled future.

    However (last however I promise) I'll let that slide, because Walter told Astrid she had a beautiful name, because of the resolution of the arc between Peter and Walter, because Peter and Olivia finally managed to be happy, and mostly because when I imagine the look of glee on Walters face when he walks around in 2169, it makes me smile.

    Because that's why I love Fringe, not for the wacky science, but for the extremely nuanced characters that wacky science allowed us to explore.

  29. Jess:

    My off-the-cuff-theory is that Walter spent the next decade or so developing a time machine (he's done it before, after all), and then used it to fill September's shoes at the two most critical junctures, namely the distraction of Walternate and the rescue of Peter from Raiden Lake. Presumably he then returned to the 2167 timeline (for fear of doing truly irreparable harm to the universe*), content in the knowledge that he had given his son the life he deserved.

    (Most of S4's long-term plot developments could easily have occurred in a very similar fashion without Peter ever having been erased from existence; I'm STILL mildly baffled by that plot device.)

    *Given that he was only repeating September's actions, I'd posit that the two "adjustments" mentioned don't constitute much of a risk, in the long run.

    ... So Yeah. My take on it. According to my brother I've managed to "fix" both Predators and Prometheus via similar wild theories, so I hope it works for you. :)

  30. Thanks to all trying to "fix" the plot holes for me! I'm still not buying, but I appreciate the effort. :)

    As noted earlier, my dissatisfaction with the final resolution doesn't ruin the entire series for me, and I don't regret spending time with these characters. Especially since they all got fairly resonant arc resolution at the end of S3. For future series viewings, I shall follow the Juliette approach and end with S3, pretending that the final moments of memory erasure never happened. And I may occasionally foray into S4 for visits with "Clark Kent" Lincoln Lee.

    And, since I didn't say it earlier, Josie, thanks so much for getting me into this series and for your thought-provoking reviews. They definitely enriched my viewing experience.

  31. Thank you Josie for wonderful reviews of Fringe! It was actually your reviews that were posted at FringeTelevision that prompted me to check out this site (which I love!)
    The scene were Walter took Michael's hand and it cut to Peter mouthing "I love you" was the heart wrenching moment for me in this episode and probably this season.
    Plot holes aside, I am satisfied and happy to think that Peter and Olivia are raising Etta in the reset timeline and I think that the way the series ended represented the core elements of Fringe... Hope, Love, Family and Relationships.
    Fringe will be missed due to the fantastic, albeit, sometimes convoluted writing, the impressive acting and emotional connections the actors displayed and just the sheer fun of watching!

  32. Final thought :

    Has anyone of you noticed how the loyalists civilians looked like people from the 40's, maybe 50's ? Nice touch !!

  33. Jess,

    This comment that I am copy and pasting over from FringeTelevision.com seems to me to be a good explanation.

    "The Peter in season five is an anomaly. In that time line both young Peter's died. He appeared because of "love" as September explained. He was not bound to the past events." - Ffringefan100

    I don't follow well with theories of time travel, loops and paradoxes, so a good argument could possibly be made against that theory, but it makes sense to me.

    And I loved the finale! Thank you Josie for getting me into this wonderful show! I would have never have seen it if it weren't for your reviews. And that would be a shame, for it became one of my favorites.

  34. Loved the finale but I'm more concerned about the new reset world that still has a rather malicious William Bell Running around with out a Walter to stop him

  35. I'd completely forgotten about William Bell. Maybe Peter ambered him anyway out of sheer rage!

  36. Public announcement :

    may 7th !


    I'm doing this exceptionally (and only once (mixture of english and french accent for our Brit readers) because Fringe was, yes, exceptional.

    Hum.....a 7th.....and guess what's coming on NBC this Feb 7th ?........

  37. Thank you Josie for bringing such insight to this show through these reviews. I began watching this show knowing that you reviewed it and recommended it. I'm glad to see that I was right (once again) in trusting your taste.

  38. After 6 months, I've finally finished watching this series, and I was just astounded as to how much I loved this finale, and this season, in fact.

    Everything about it was pitch perfect. Between the small character moments, I particularly liked the milkshake talk too, Josie, and that heartbreaking but necessary ending.

    Even more so, I loved that Walter's sacrifice was made without him feeling that it should have been made out of guilt. He made it because he knew it had to be done, not to make amends, but to do the right thing.

    There's a lot more I could say, but I'm genuinely overwhelmed by this series. From that slow start all the way up to this amazing finish, it just goes to show how amazing some shows can be if they're given the right amount of time to tell their story. Not too much that it becomes stale, and not too little that we don't get the resolution we need.

    All your reviews were amazing, Josie. I read most of them as I watched the series through, and you hit the nail in the head with most of them. You just get Fringe, and it really shows.


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