Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
And so, it’s all over: Fringe finished its five year run on Friday with a double-episode, “Liberty” and “An Enemy of Fate,” bringing an end to the Weird Science saga – and specifically, the plot about the Observers’ occupation of a future Earth. Did it all end in tears? Were all questions answered? Unsurprisingly, we have five thoughts about the way that everything ended up.
Fauxlivia and Lincoln Age Really Well
Man, I only hope that I look as good as the Other Olivia and Lincoln in twenty years’ time; of all the unconvincing aging that we’ve seen in this season, those two took the biscuit. Nonetheless, I was very, very happy to see them again, and get some update – and closure, perhaps? – on the alternate Earth. Even though we didn’t exactly get closure, as such; did everything really just end well for them after all, or did the Observers invade that Earth too, now that they found it? Still: Earth-2 wasn’t entirely abandoned! This was a good thing. Also in the “Remember that?” file, there was…
Finally, Olivia Gets Something To Do
I’ve been fairly vocal about this season’s treatment of Olivia, and the way in which the character who had been the most capable and pro-active in earlier seasons was reduced to a reactive and mostly passive presence this year. Thankfully, then, “Legacy” gave her one final chance to save the day (and for it to be her idea, too, which I appreciated greatly). For one episode, at least, we got to see the Olivia that had won us over in the first four years of the show again. Between that and the return of the second Earth, that hour made me nostalgic for what Fringe used to be, and sad about what the show had turned into as it headed towards its finale.
Looks like you really can’t deny fate. Even after September decided that he was going to replace Walter on the trip into the future, a well-placed gunshot meant that it had to happen anyway… And so, just as he’d doomed the world by opening a bridge between Earths at the start of the series, he ended up saving humanity at the very end. It was a fitting end for the character – and one oddly reminiscent of the Amy/Doctor separation in Doctor Who, or perhaps that was just me? – but one that I wish was more of a surprise. If only we hadn’t been told last week that Walter had to sacrifice himself, then the ending would have had more impact (And I wouldn’t have spent the entire finale expecting a last-minute reversal).
The 21st Century Gives People Feels
Oh, “An Enemy of Fate.” You tried so, so hard to make us feel everything: Excitement at the daring break-in of the Observers’ base and rescue of Broyles, sadness as Walter and Peter said goodbye to each other early (“You are my favorite thing” was a beautiful line, and John Noble killed in that scene), fear as Windmark showed up to ruin everything at the last moment, that unexplained feeling that the return of Gene the Cow brought… And, yet, it all seemed a little too much; it seemed, to me, an overly-busy episode, too cramped with everything happening and preventing any of the important scenes to have the weight and impact that they deserved. Even though we had two hours of Fringe on Friday, I found myself wishing that there had been a little bit more time.
The Many Missed Opportunities of Season 5
Watching the break-in to the Observers’ HQ, I found myself sad that the show had taken the “How far are our heroes willing to go to save humanity?” question – Because they were weaponizing some terrible things far more than the bad guys had done in earlier seasons, and seemingly without remorse – and avoided it in favor of the dead-end “Peter is an Observer! Oh, no, it can be reversed, just kidding” plot instead, which turned the moral quandary into pantomime. Similarly, the reprise of the scene that opened the season at the end of the episode – except now, it ended happily to show the re-written timeline – reminded me that we never actually found out where Etta went after she disappeared when the Observers invaded, despite that question being asked a lot early on this year. Catching a glimpse of one of the propaganda posters featuring Etta’s face on a wall during the episode, I wondered whether there had initially been a point to that development, seeing as it never really came to anything, too.
Season five of Fringe, more than any other, felt very much like a series of… if not missed opportunities, then at least constant reversals of direction or abandonment of ideas and plots in favor of something that I’m not quite sure really came together properly in the end. It was clearly intended to be not only an epic adventure, but also some kind of grand statement about individuality and uniqueness and a defense of the odd and weird and wonderful (the Fringe, if you will), but instead, it became a number of false starts and frowns that lacked the wit and heart of the earlier years for the most part.
I found myself, during this year, getting bored of the show for the first time, and missing a lot of its earlier charms (Something that “Liberty” really reinforced); while the final two hours tried to tie everything up as best as it could, it felt more like a rushed attempt to close out this future storyline than give the entire series a fitting send-off. It deserved better, but at the same time, I find myself glad that it wasn’t so much worse.