22
Jan
13

Because it’s cool! (A Fringe Retrospective)


fringe olivia dunham

THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS. I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH. SPOILERS!!! IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FINALE OF FRINGE, DO NOT READ ON. OR DO. YOUR CHOICE.

I first came to Fringe midway through the second season, with the description that it was “like the X-Files, but updated“. It’s a description that I have adopted myself, so you can guess from that how accurate it was. I have, since then, been well and truly hooked.

In truth, it’s rather different to the X-Files. Rather than gloomy conspiracy theories, it favours zany almost-science. But both  have the same penchant for real, people-centric science-fiction.

And now it’s over.

But what an ending. Yes, I watched the finale, the two-parter “Liberty”/”An Enemy of Fate” yesterday, and loved it. I don’t know what others thought, quite possibly they hated it — I have form for that; despite the fan backlash, I thought that the conclusion of Battlestar Galactica fitted excellently — but I did not.

It was a tall order really. After four seasons of monster-of-the-week episodes loosely tied together into a story arc revolving around an alternate universe, the writers catapulted the previously background Observers into the fore and completely changed the format for the final spin of the wheel.

With Peter, Olivia, Walter and Astrid (this is not, and nor was it ever a three-character show) pitted against an occupying army of emotionless humans from the future, I was a bit sceptical at the sinking into scavenger-hunt plotlines, but I maintain that the end of the first episode of season five, “Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11“, had every bit of emotional beauty which Fringe has built itself on.

The reason that the final episode(s) worked for me, was that it drew on everything which had come before. The scenes of Peter and Olivia storming the Observer building using a host of the monsters-of-the-week of previous seasons was spectacular. And the father-son dynamic with Peter and Walter, replicated with September and Michael, has simmered beneath the surface the whole way through before breaking into the fore. Not unlike the Observers.

It also ended. It didn’t pad out and out, closing off loose threads one at a time. Staggered endings afflicted Lord of the Rings, and, yes, Battlestar Galactica. In that, they muted the impact of the finish, complicated things. With Fringe, the writers managed to give a clean, neat, and satisfying finish.

Granted, I think if I were writing it, I would have ended with a shot of a bald, Observer-ed Walter, watching Peter, Olivia and Etta in the park, placing a fedora on his head and walking away into nothing. But I’m honestly not sure that would be any better.

The overriding feature which has kept me watching Fringe through five seasons, is its sense of fun. It has mixed serious drama with comedy so effectively as to make a potently addictive show. Walter is in turns sympathetic, tragic and hilarious, and the slick presentation of the series has been a real asset. It was something which the finale made a great nod to, in this scene:

Yes, Walter. It was cool. And now that it’s over, I’m really not sure what is going to fill the gap.

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