Not to be melodramatic but all good things must come to an end. That's right Fringe fans this is the end of mine, and maybe yours, favourite sci-fi series. Just as Fringe hits their milestone 100th episode mark they are also saying there final goodbyes and finishing their last Fringe case.
For the sake this final review I won't summarized this finale. It's been a week since "An Enemy of Fate" aired and the spoilers are already out there so I'll just dive right in. As expected, like most of television's series finales, it's a balancing act of tying up loose ends and saying those last goodbyes. The emotional stuff might take a little longer I'll start with those loose ends first.
Leading up to this finale practically the entire fifth season this year has been prepping for the 'plan' that will defeat the Observers. Since the opening episode of this final season the Fringe team have been collecting seemingly random pieces of tech and other materials as parts for the mysterious 'plan'. In the episode just before ("Liberty") we got to see September assemble every piece, minus the giant magnet (and Michael of course), and then in the end its all for nothing. Looking back on the series as a whole the reveal that the Fringe team can't use the machine they built for the 'plan' kind of sours me on this entire final season. Don't get me wrong, for the most part this fifth year was great and I'm more glad that the show got a fifth season rather than only the four most thought they would get. Just from a story telling perspective it felt like a cheat that only Michael, and maybe the two cylinders, were what they ended up needing after they fought so hard to get everything else. I watched this finale with some friends who are also long time Fringe fans and it wasn't just myself that felt conned by the lead up to the 'plan'. If this were any other episode but the finale those indiscretions would too infuriating to look past. Yet this episode isn't any other episode, it's the finale, and there were too many fantastic moments to let those misused pieces drag it down.
Sometimes the best moments are the least practical. Before the teary-eyed moments really begin for everyone, Olivia and Peter risk the entire world's fate and go rescue Broyles. Sounds ridiculous right? Well it is story-wise but for the sake of series nostalgia the rescue op gives fans one last look at same classic fringe events/cases. Being significantly outnumbered and out gunned Olivia and Peter break into the facility where Broyles is being held armed with aerosolized viruses of old fringe events. Most of these are throw backs to early season one fringe cases, giving those long-time fans of the show glimpses of some of their all-time best episodes. Great ones like the giant leaches that grow inside a person, the toxin that seals up every orifice, the parasite the attaches itself to someone's heart, and my personal favourite which I like to call 'Fringe's Butterfly Effect'. If you don't recall it was from an episode from the first season called "The Dreamscape" where the infected person's thoughts affect their physical self. If I remember correctly that early episode is what made me fall in love with this show, so getting to see that fringe event one last time was a real trip as fan of the show.
Like I mentioned before it wouldn't be a series finale without some emotional goodbyes and "An Enemy of Fate" had its share. The first one happens early on between Peter and Walter. Even though there is a switcheroo possibly with September wanting to take Walter's place in taking Michael to the future the show covered their bases and made sure fans got one last Peter and Walter moment together. For time constraints reasons, not to drag out the end climax, it made sense to have that farewell moment between father and son at the beginning of the episode and just leave their actual goodbye to just a look; no words. The emotional Clint Tilton & Michael Giacchino score didn't exactly help audiences hold back the tears during that final moment either.
In the chaos of the team racing to execute the 'plan' barely any other full farewell scenes make it in to this finale. Olivia and Peter share short moments together where they daydream about seeing Etta again if everything goes according to plan, but other than that the only other real send-off is between Walter and Astrid. And honestly their goodbye choked me up more than the two Bishops. Astrid takes Walter to a corner of the lab still ambered where Gene the cow is frozen in time. The moment probably hit the hardest emotionally because it was so genuine and unexpected. John Noble (Walter) and Jasika Nicole (Astrid) have had arguably the best onscreen chemistry together over the years so it felt appropriate that their farewell had little dialogue and was mostly reactionary. Much like the Walter/Dad exchange earlier Walter gets Astrids' name right one last time.
Fringe doesn't shock viewers with some big sci-fi twist ending, rather plays to its often overlooked dramatic strength. Even if this last season was shorten, and the writing & storytelling not quite up to what most viewers have come to expect of the series, there is still five years of invested interest in these characters. You root for them to succeed, you can't help but smile at their corky idiosyncrasies, and you even shed a tear or two when one of them passes. Fans of JJ Abrams' other TV projects might have been expecting the show's final shot to bookend the entire series like Lost had done, but Fringe's felt just as fitting. That final shot where Peter opens the envelope from Walter and all that's inside is the drawing of the white tulip wasn't for the casual viewer but for the long-time fan of the show.
With this being the final recap/review for one of my all-time favourite shows I'd like say thanks for reading and watching alongside another fellow Fringe fan over these past couple of years. I've had the privilege to rant and rave about how amazing this show is since the beginning of season three. Over these last three final seasons I've got to share my thoughts and theories about this odd yet stellar TV series and even managed to turn a couple of people on to this show because of these reviews. My own sentence fragments and many other countless grammatical mistakes aside I have no regrets covering this series and I still stand by my claim it is/was one of the best shows on TV.
Fringe has been different from the start but never to a fault. The show began its run with an amazing pilot, the unconventional 'Remote Free TV' format that limited commercial breaks to 60-90 seconds max, ultimately survived the dreaded Friday timeslot and went out on their own terms. I gave up hope after season four for the cast to be honoured, either by the TV's Emmy Academy or their peers, for their countless award worthy performances because the show didn't fit into most conventions. Fringe defied practically all the norms within network television. It's a sci-fi drama with a strong female lead and smart writing. That's probably the best way to sum up the series in a nutshell; without getting into the crazy science behind it all.
Did fans get everything in the Fringe finale we all wanted? Maybe not everything. Not entirely at least, but from a fan's perspective audiences got more than they thought they would ever get. It was touch and go for a while there after the move to Friday nights, so even though out of the five seasons I had the most of my issues with this past fifth one I look at it like borrowed time. Borrowed time that very well could have been used for another show. Sadly that time is up and the last Fringe case is closed for good.
Thanks again to all you Fringe fans for reading and watching alongside me here at Showbiz Monkeys.
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Andrew Burns loves film and comics, and can be found writing about when those worlds converge. You can follow him on Twitter at @myAndrewBurns.