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Fringe Season Five: Five Questions We May Never Get Answers For

Fox’s Fringe may be taking a week off this week – Next Friday sees the return of Agent Broyles, almost ensuring that the episode will be worth the wait – but that just gives us time to think about the future of the show as we know it. After all, three episodes into the new season, we have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the rest of the year… and what not to expect. In that case, are these five questions about the show’s mythology ever going to be answered?

What Happened To The Parallel Earth?
Surely the biggest of the unanswered questions of the series, the fact that Season 5 seems to be entirely avoiding the subject of the alternate Earth that was essentially the point of Seasons 2 through 4 seems somewhat strange. Sure, the idea of a war between the two Earths has been resolved, but unless something has happened to change things, severing the link between the two should have at the very least left the parallel Earth in a perpetual state of decay, from what we knew of the way things worked. Given that we now have characters we care about over there – Lincoln! – is it too much to ask that we get some kind of update about what happened to the second Earth? And, on a related note…

Why Hasn’t The Future of 2026 Come To Pass?
Yes, that’s right; I said 2026, but 2036, the show’s new time setting. Because it was 2026 that Peter flashed forward to at the end of Season 3, to see a war between the two Earths caused by the ecological collapse of both that could only be prevented by binding the two worlds together. While the two were bound together for most of Season 4, they were severed in the penultimate episode… so, even if we’ve not seen a war between the two Earths, shouldn’t we at least see an Earth that’s been massively affected by cosmic decay ten years later? (This has an easy answer; the Observers stopped it, somehow. Wonder if we’ll hear that referred to in the series at any point?)

What Was The Secret At The Heart of Massive Dynamic?
For four seasons, there were subtle and not-so-subtle hints that Massive Dynamic was up to no good, and Nina Sharpe was not to be trusted. Even when it seemed as if she was working on the side of the angels, there were still projects and information being held at the company that seemed just a little out of place, considering… (We’ve even seen both William Bell and an alternate Nina be behind nefarious dealings at the company at times). But, so far this season, Massive Dynamic has been totally absent, and from “Letters of Transit” last year, we know that it’s been shut down long before 2036. So, are the secrets of the company going to stay secret forever…? If so, it’s a big disappointment after all this time.

What’s The Deal With Cortexephan?
Another long-standing plot thread that’s seemingly been abandoned, the Cortexephan trials that Walter and William Bell carried out in the 1970s appeared to be trying to create a race of super humans for some unknown purpose – I think we’ve had at least two suggested reasons now, in different timelines – but the end result is that (a) we know there’s a drug that can turn kids into super humans, and (b) we know that it’s apparently left Olivia immortal, to all intents and purposes. So… Shouldn’t some of this be mentioned in a world where Olivia is leading humanity’s fight against, to all intents and purposes, alien invaders? Or have we simply moved on to another subject now?

What Is So Special About Peter?
This goes back to the question of the parallel Earths again, but Peter – a character who was born on one Earth, but lives on another – is somehow so cosmically important that not only did the Observers see fit to try and delete him from time, but he was also somehow able to come back. Was the latter something inherent to Peter, the work of Observer dissident September, or because of the healing power of love (I joke, but there has been at least a hint that Olivia was somehow involved)? Given the particular experiences of Peter and Olivia, you’d think that the Observers would make finding and killing them a top priority, and not leave it to half-assed Loyalists as they seem to be doing. Has the show defaulted to the position of Peter just being a regular human again…?

What other dangling plot threads are out there, seemingly abandoned in the show’s new status quo? And do you think any of them are likely to come up in the ten episodes we have left? Use the comments to share, people.


  • Dean M

    1 & 2) The parallel Earth story is over. The bridge connection started the healing process on both Earths, negating the war and what we saw in 2026. With the disconnect, their Earth wouldn’t get any better, but also wouldn’t get any worse.
    3) Good question. I guess that, with the team about to launch Fringe events of their own against the invaders, we’ll see more of the Massive Dynamic’s secret projects in action. (I wonder if Brandon is still out there somewhere, still working for the resistance and Nina?)

    4) There’s not enough Cortexephan left in the world to matter, now. They couldn’t make new soldiers (but could still use the older ones).

    5) Peter’s importance is tied to Etta’s importance: a child of two universes, with latent Cortexephan abilities from her mother, she may be the key to defeating the invaders.

  • Lyn

    Joel Wyman has said that in season 5 we will find out why September said “the boy is important, he has to live”. The answer is not just related to the birth of Etta.

  • Michael

    Sometimes the mystery is best left a mystery (see: Lost).  

  • Juan

    I thought the Cortexiphan was used to make the kids soldiers for the “war” between two or more universes which already came and passed.

  • Tom

    Not quite related, and I haven’t watched any of season five (so sure I’m behind the eight-ball), but this show is an example of what really irritates me about U.S. television: the need to keep pushing onwards. I largely enjoyed the 4 previous seasons but let’s be honest, it’s a story that could have been told in three or so seasons that’s been stretched out far beyond.
    I have no doubt people disagree, but there’s so many fillers and superfluous twists just designed to prolong the life of the series (and that goes for many more other series too; X-Files and Stargate spring to mind).

  • Esteban Pedreros

    I think that the “cosmic decay”, was stopped because the other Earth started to heal during season 4.

  • jack O’Dea

    1) That story is over mostly. I mean I wouldn’t mind a little hop over by Peter and Olivia for a couple minutes in the finale or something to say “hey BTW our world is safe, hows yours?”

    2) BECAUSE Peter bridged the two worlds, there is no destruction in 2026. Also, in 2026, if you weren’t paying attention, THE OTHER SIDE WAS DESTROYED! That was a huge part of the episode! As September said. There are many possible futures. The future of 2026 kept repeating and repeating, but this time, our Walter figured out that he had to pull Peter’s mind into the future ALA the guy from that episode Making Angels, who also I think helped create some of the Observer-tech such as the seeing time at the same time.

    3) The big secret was that William Bell was using Massive Dynamic as a shield for his evil ideas, such as ZFT and creating a new universe (Well ZFT’s main goal is creating a new universe. DRJ went to the other side not to kill William, but to meet up with him and continue their plans for world creation MWAHAHAHA!)

    4) Cortexiphan was at first used as a test to created weaponized humans, but William came up with the idea to use them as guardians against the other side. But Williams TRUE idea was all to help him create his new universe, by using them to create those ripples. But since that failed because of the closed universes, he had to use Olivia, who is sort of like the Cortexiphan Messiah, more powerful than the rest. 

    5) IDK. Apparently we will learn in season 5 as Wyman said.

  • jmurphy

    As you know, Graeme, Lincoln has already died twice. He’s probably dead now, so you needn’t worry about him anymore.

  • Mgronemeyer01

    I have a feeling we’ll at least see Lincoln somehow before the season ends, but as much as I miss it (funny after my initial feelings about other world episodes when they first came on), the parallel uni is not all too essential to this season, and I can live with that loose end. And I’m sure Massive Dynamic will be integral to later portions of this story, Walter is carrying around Bell’s severed & ambered hand, lets not forget.

  • JAV

    I would love to see someone break down Peter’s Importance to the Time Line of Earth Prime, or Earth One, or whatever the reality he was not birth in.

    Gong back to look over all those first and second season episodes where Peter was instrumental in solving the case or episode. Just for example, the saving of John Scott. If Peter hadn’t broken the fingers of the twin to get the list of chemicals store in the self-storage containers in the first episode, John Scott would have died. If Peter hadn’t built that digital wax record burner for Walter the Team would have never been able to find the Pyrokinetic girl or the traitor boss of Olivia.

    Those are just a couple of examples that come to mind, but I’m sure there are many more. My point being is that the Fringe unit might have not existed after Peter was erased from the Time Line. Peter’s return to a re-written Earth Prime Time Line would have been even more alien than it was in Season Four. Just for starters, How would they have been able to activate the bridge device if Peter was the original power source?

  • nailsin

     What Happened To The Parallel Earth? The story ended. They now live happily ever after.
    Why Hasn’t The Future of 2026 Come To Pass? Peter ceased to exist so the 2026 future never came to pass. He only exists now because super powered Olivia wouldn’t let him go.What Was The Secret At The Heart of Massive Dynamic? Massive Dynamic would’ve been libel for all of Walter and William’s experiments so Nina’s main concern was covering that up. William Bell
    is a villain only after Peter changed the timeline.

    What’s The Deal With Cortexephan? They were to battle the alternate earth which clearly had superior technology.Olivia is not immortal. Her cortexephan powers were used up when she regenerated after Walter shot her. If she still had the powers then William Bell’s new earth would’ve happened.
    What Is So Special About Peter? Because he was the only one who could operate Walter’s machine. A better question would be: where is the machine?
    The Observers wanted Peter erased because he wasn’t supposed to exist. Remember Walter screwed up the universe by saving him. That’s the whole core of the show.
    There’s no ‘hint’ about Olivia’s love saving Peter that’s exactly what happened.September was baffled that Peter wasn’t completely erased. He was ordered by the Observers to erase Peter but he didn’t only because he felt sorry for Walter. That’s when September goes rogue not unlike the earlier Observer who died protecting that woman who was supposed to die.

  • Demoncat4

     one and two is really over with when the bridge was shut down and lincoln stayed . massive dynamics and mia no doubt will show up soon like maybe nina is helping the observers. the coxophin drug would not be surprised if it shows up as another piece of walters plan to send the observers packing along with  why peter is so special still .

  • Dean M

    They were originally meant for the parallel Earth war. There’s no reason why they couldn’t be used for the Observer war.

  • alistaircrane

    Oh God, no. The ending of Lost was horrendous. Fringe desperately needs to avoid going down that route.

  • jrau18

    The original plan was for 10 seasons. Obviously, if they had gotten all of that, the connections between the storylines would’ve been much smoother. As a result, things are kinda jarring and broken up.

  • Joshglondon

    I think that the references to the coming war were always about the Observers.  The Cortexephan trials weren’t so much to deal with Peter’s universe as they were to figure out a way to fight the mental powers of the Observers.  The Pattern could have been as much about fighting them.The Observers are not our descendants.  Too many paradoxes would be created if they came back in time and killed many of their ancestors.They are from a possible future – but not ours.But maybe Peter’s universe? I think that by the time this is over certain moments from season one will click.  Some standalone stories (“Inner Child”, for example) will make more sense.I do think there will be one more trip to the other side if only to give them the technology to defeat the Observers should they arrive there.There would be a nice symmetry there.

  • Patrickmaloney

    I honestly believe that we are going to get some mention of the Parallel Earth, perhaps tying into the main story

  • Ben

    At the end of the mostly animated episode from season 3, Olivia nonchalantly says: “I think that he’s the man who’s going to kill me”, referring to the man wearing the X shirt encountered on the zeppelin.  Has that ever been paid off? When she did get killed, it was by Walter (and then she came back), so that wasn’t it. And since the timeline changed, I suppose logically its moot, but from a storytelling perspective…well, it kinda sucks that there’s no followup to that particular question. 
    Or did I miss something?

    Also, not so much a question but a missed opportunity: I kept waiting to see the alt-universe version of Mark Valley’s character, John Scott. Olivia was never curious about the fate of her near faux-iancee?

  • Thomas Wrobel

    I think thats the point, Lost answered almost everything – but the answers were horrible ones.
    (magic! ghosts! island gods!)

    BSG took the other route – no answers whatsoever….and also pissed people off. 

    You need answers and they need to be good imho.

  • Thomas Wrobel

    Its not one story though – its lots of them merely with the same characters.

    Look at Buffy – each season a self contained arc. Would it have been better to end at S1?

    Fringes only problem is not its length, but what seems to have been lack off planning with the observers. They were never evil, why invade now? whats  with the paradox if they are from our future? Why arnt they time traveling anymore? etc.

  • Dean M

    It’s been explained elsewhere that the X symbol on his shirt was the same one William Bell used as a signature for his experiments. You can see it on the infectious nanites from 4.21 (Brave New World). The man himself was meant to be a symbol of the machinations of Bell; he’s not an actual person.

    Mark Valley was never going to come back. Not after he and Anna Torv got divorced.

  • ChadWick

    First of all – have you seen the show?  Her  name is Sharp – not Sharpe.

    Second. Did you at least see Season 4?  2026 never happened because Peter never grew up. They both died as kids. Peter from S1-S3 only re-happened because the S4 timeline needed him (fate/destiny/whatever) to set things right… his destiny. Nobody else had a S1-S3, so all of the precursors to 2026 were never set in place in S4 time 

  • Pearlsmile12

    Come on, is LINCOLN really that important? No he is not. The show began with Walter, Olivia and Peter and the show will focus on them. Enough of this whining over the altverse.

  • Trish

    I remember in the first season, there were a few fringe episodes where the team discovered shiny glass discs hidden in human bodies. Has everyone forgotten about them?

  • Murphy12

    All good questions and comments.  I thought of a couple of more and perhaps I just missed an episode and didn’t see an answer.  1.  What was the significance of the bullet that Etta wore around her neck?  2.  What happened to the boy child that Alternate Olivia had in one of the previous seasons?

  • Fringe Geek

    I believe I have answers to all of these questions.
    1. The parallel earth is safe from Observers and nothing really big happened. (See “Liberty”)2&5. Peter was important to stop the future(2026) that would not allow Observers to evolve. By connecting the universes, he did so. I am still confused as to why damage did not start again after they closed the bridge. Did they just not want to have to deal with it? I think that it is because Peter created other holes connecting the universes other than the bridge. The other holes were large enough to stop but not reverse decay.3. Every company has secrets. Maybe they were helping with Bell’s plan and did not want to admit  it. Maybe they knew that they had to be secretive with the FBI because many of their experiments were illegal. No big deal either way.4. Cortexephan was created to tap into the unknown and evolved away from human abilities. It has many applications. Walter wanted it so he could return Peter, it was used to prepare soldiers for a universe war, and it was used by Bell to try to create and destroy universes. It was also revealed to have healing powers.I hope this helped.

  • sheiky

    Another question, where is Peter bishop’s son whose birth was accelerated with the other Olivia from parallel universe?

  • Stiltz

    The end of season 4 reveals that Bell and pre-removed-brain-parts Walter had been on a quest to destroy the universe and remake it as they saw fit. The viewer finally is told, through this, that everything that has befallen the world and that the fringe team has been up against the previous four season, as well as the fifth season, is Walter’s responsibility. The Pattern, the war with the alternate universe, and even the Observer invasion is Walter’s fault. Bell said that Olivia was the power source for the destruction of the universe, and the fact that destroying the universe was Walter’s idea suggests that the cortexephan trials were to create a human which they could use to power that destruction. We learn how evil the old Walter really was. The thing that saved him was saving Peter. Saving Peter was actually an act that saved the world a few times over. First, it changed Walter, then September, and then later Olivia. Peter is mostly special because he is the linchpin that keeps the universe together. He comes back because he needs to. Peter is there so that the universe can rebalance things because of what Walter had done. That’s why it’s great that Walter is the one that finally ends the series with a final balancing act of his own.

  • Barb

    When Peter was erased from time, so was his son. When Peter went into the mind of the observer, September, the observer told Peter he had the son, but with the wrong Olivia, and when the war did not happen because Peter caused the bridge, then Peter was erased and so was the son. Peter did not exist, therefore, he could not procreate.