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Fringe Season 5: 5 Thoughts About “Liberty/An Enemy of Fate”

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.

Walter Leaves
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.

Story continues below

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.


  • Spike

      Well, nothing will ever catch the charm of the first year.   I did like the fact that Walter took one mans child that started it all, and took another mans child to end it.
       I did enjoy all the old “weapons” or viruses that were brought out at the end.  The worms and the imaginary butterflies.   Sure the ending felt a bit cramped, but it was nice, especially the white orchid at the ending.  My only real complaint…or regret, is that Astrid didn’t get more time on screen.  I would have LOVED another Astrid episode.

  • Juan

    I thought it was perfect. But then again, you’ve seemed to have missed lots of things in your fringe ‘reviews’ so far, i’m not surprised if you missed many important things from the finale….i’m not trying to be hateful or anything, im just stating the facts.

  • Weirdz39

    My only question was that if the Observers never came to the past, then who would have saved young Peter when he fell through the ice when Walter crossed over to the other dimension to save him? If that was the case, then would any of the Fringe timeline exist at all, including Etta??

  • Valeria Kementari

    The entire season was boring as hell. William Bell should’ve showed up in the finale, as well as Nina. I’m going to pretend season 5 never happened and season 4 was the last one. 

  • Username

    By the end of Season 3 Peter was completely erased from existence and he came back during Season 4 out of “love”, as September explained. Peter is still kind of an anomaly so he shouldn’t exist in the first place, so there’s no need for him to be saved by September since he never actually existed after Season 3. If that makes any sense anyway.. 

  • James Bellanca

    I was wondering that, too…

  • Ele Libelle

    Strangly enough. That really IS the only explanation…

  • Ls 1200

    I don’t think that makes much sense, no. So far it seems like a huge plot hole, unless I’m missing something.

  • Donny B

    I had that thought too, but it actually goes back further than that – if the Observers never existed, then September would never have distracted Walternate in the first place. Walter’s only (stated) reason for crossing over to the other side and bringing Peter back with him was because Walternate had the cure but didn’t realize it. If September never entered the picture, Peter would never have left his universe. And as a result, there would never have been a Peter for Olivia to marry and have a child with…

    Of course, we can theorize that there may have been another reason for Peter to cross over (perhaps Walter was only using the cure as an excuse to steal Peter. Perhaps he would have rationalized a different reason to cross over and take Peter back with him) but in the end, I fear that the variables might prove to be too numerous and complex for us to have a happy ending that is simple enough to make sense…

  • Username

    You know, I was also thinking. With Walter’s interference in the year 2167, does it mean that the Observes simply ceased to exist or was it just that a new breed of them, much like September and Michael, was still created, sent back in time for observations and everything up to 2015 happened one way or another? Observers were still around, they just weren’t colossal a-holes to invade earth in that year, and from 2015 on a new timeline was created. I don’t know man, I need to stop thinking of it and move on I guess haha.

  • Donny B

    Yeah, I considered that too. And it’s totally conceivable that the Observers would still come back and observe… But, there are some variables to that theory also…

    First, you have to try to figure out what exactly they’re capable of in terms of emotion. Are they going to be fully human in terms of what they feel? Or are they going to surpass that (as we learned from the Observer’s examination of Michael, he is far more than any Observer could ever be, or even understand. It was stated that Michael is capable of not only *thinking* in a greater capacity than normal observers, but also *feeling* in greater capacity than anything the Observers had seen) … We don’t know if the “new and improved” Observers are even going to want to study the past at all.Second, we should also consider that September made the comment that the original scientific team had no clue what their real mission was. The twelve *thought* that they were simply observing for scientific gain, but in reality, they were sent to the past as scouts to make way for the invasion. So it stands to reason that if no invasion was ever planned, then no Observers would ever be sent into the past (unless of course if they do in fact decide to simply observe, with no ulterior motive).

    Third, if they come back, they won’t be the same type of beings that the Observers that we are familiar with. They will likely be *much* better at controlling their curiosity (ie, September distracting Walternate) and their emotions (ie, August falling in love), and also much better at controlling the repercussions of their actions. I think too many things would play out differently than what we have seen in the show’s history…

  • twincast

    Well, like always there’s at least one glaring mistake if you look at the details of his post (a) the Observers did not find Earth-2 just now and b) since they won’t exist they’ll never find it). However, as far as the broad strokes go I think he’s right on the money this time — the ending is riddled with plot-holes the size of Nebraska and for such a short final season there were way too many abandoned plots.

  • Username

    Unfortunately, those theories sound plausible as well haha. I don’t know, in the end I guess I’m going to go with what you said about them being good at heart not caring for an invasion whatsoever or that there weren’t Observers to begin with and everything somehow led up to this end. Thanks for your input.

  • Donny B

    Thanks for reading ;)

    I realize that the more I think through everything, the less *any* theory makes sense, haha. Finding a happy ending that satisfies the fan in me is what I’m going to settle on, too. Theorizing is endless, but contentment is priceless. Inception taught me that ;)

  • twincast

    Which is exactly why I don’t care for the ending (or in fact the whole season). It’s had some quality moments, but it simply makes no sense whatsoever. A good thing the series is easy to enjoy as a whole without it, I suppose.

  • Otto66hb

    Thought that Peter getting the Tulip in the mail and the look on his face ment, that maybe, Walter wasn’t lost in the future. What a kick it would be if Olivia came back in a TV movie and crossed paths with Sydney Bristo.!

  • Jscimmortal

    I thought the finale (and this whole season) was great.  Was it riddled with plot holes, mistakes and missed opportunities?  Yes it was but I think if Fox had given them a full 22 episodes to play with we would have had a much better season 5.
    Fringe was a great show despite all of its flaws thanks to the cast and the story of the characters they played.  It was about family, love and parenthood above all else and to me that’s why I love it and consider it one of my all time favorite Sci-Fi shows. 
    I will miss it greatly and wish the cast all the best.  Now let’s get some Red Vines and a strawberry milkshake and watch it all again on DVD.

  • Joshua Marquart

    I had been hoping little Etta was abducted to the parallel universe.

  • Juan

    I’m sorry that it works for u like that. I thoroughly enjoyed it and didn’t find major plot holes with it, I thought they explained it fairly well enough. And the emotional character arc was ended perfectly that it felt everyone was at the place they were supposed to be!

  • September

    No, the question is would Peter and Olivia ever have met? If September never came to the past Walternate would not have been distracted when he found the cure for Peter’s illness, so Walter would never have cross over at Reiden lake.

  • Ziggy Blumenthal

    Can someone name a single show with a complex mythology who’s finale can stand up to the scrutiny shows like Fringe, Lost or BSG get?

  • August

    Peter was able to “see” Windmark’s future. Why couldn’t the observers themselves “run futures” and see what September/Walter’s plan was or see what was going to happen?

  • OverThere

    Best part of Fringe was Over There, and 512 was by far the best episode of season 5, it had all that made Fringe great:
    Olivia central, Over There, cortexiphan.

    Anna Torv proving once again what a great actress she is, another AltLivia, just a few scenes but clearly she changed in attitude etc in the 20 years,
    no help from the writers, just acting.

    Compare that to the overload Noble has gotten constantly.

    Biggest mistake of Fringe: All the writing went most of all to Walter, second to Peter, third to 1 relationship Walter and Peter.
    They got all their backstory and history told over and over and got story arcs that dealt with thiet past.
    Olivia Dunham after 5 seasons still nothing about her backstory, name father? scenes about her mother? etc. And no story arc to deal with her past , abuse, victim.
    We are now told that Olivias growth was via being dumped and lied to and humilated by Peter each season.

    Wyman has treated Anna Torv disgustingly this season, half the time not even lines, all for Noble getting all the credit and Jackson to be the star,

    I want to see Noble with the lousy material Anna has gotten. Anna Torv was brilliant , her silent . non-verbal acting beautiful, but as the lead she should have been central this season.

    To the Bishop fans who claim that Fringe was all about the Bishops:

    Olivia saved Peters ass in Iraq, and Olivia got Walter out of st,Claire,
    without Olivia there would be no Bishop Boys. 

  • OverThere

    Walter and Peter got their arcs, Olivia did not get an arc at all.
    Olivia had to worry for Peter and mourn for Etta, no writing, and at the very end she did not even get a scene with little Etta,
    but a scene was filmed of Anna carrying that girl.

    They spent more time writing for Donald and Michael, and they got their backstory told.

    The entire use of cortexiphan was a last moment  We forgo to write for Anna, lets give her AltLivia, she likes that, etc.
    On paper this was a Olivia heavy episode, I saw regular screentime for the mainlead, but it was announced as Olivia heavy,
    It seems that a number of Olivia and AltLivia scenes were cut, but we do get endless Walter and Peter scenes.

  • OverThere

    If season 2 still has any value, we were told then the Observers were around during the French Revolution,
    what has that got to do with Peter?

    Season 5 is a rewrite, Wyman has rewritten everything, and erased the importance of Olivia with it.

    And when asked about the plot in season 4 , that only Olivia remembered the old timeline, Anna Torv said this:

    It does not make sense, just as much as anything else on Fringe makes sense.

  • Davidb5x

    Plothole such as if they nullify the Observers’ existence then Walternate wouldn’t have been distracted by September so Peter would have been cured and continued living on Earth 2 but remained dead on our Earth, so there never would’ve been any Etta.  With no excuse to travel to the Other Side, Walter never breaks the dimensional harmony, negating the majority of the Pattern/Fringe events, leaving only whatever machinations Bell carried out.

  • demoncat_4

    have to admit part of the episode did not match fringes earlier charm but at least the show ended with the bad guys not winning much and at least peter and oliva got a some what happy ending being a family and raising etta. plus even walter got a happy ending his and peters love is not able to be destroyed.

  • Theplaintruth

    if only Fringe had as many viewers ….as stupid articles from Graeme [im an idiot] Cracker in the 5 years it was on…it might still be around… nothing made me dislike the series more than the incessant  misinformational posting from cracker every time it was on

  • nailsin

    I will miss Fringe. I will not miss these articles.

  • Ben Perkins

    Not only that, but, there would be no September to distract Walternate and he’d have his cure to save Peter. Then no universe crossing. 

    I imagined the show, after Walter and Micheal go through the shipping lane, to flash back to 1985 and see out Walter, watching Walternate and a young Peter playing, or doing homework, or something.  Something that would have rewritten all that history and sent us off with that feeling of hope. 

    To me, while the arcs for the Bishops were great, I thought that the ending was a little one note, and let me a teeny bit unfulfilled. The great thing is I’ll be able to watch them all again very soon. 

  • Ben Perkins

    This was my biggest issue. The characters themselves kept saying and referring to the time jump to ‘get rid of the Observers’. 

    I imagined the show, after Walter and Micheal go through the shipping lane, to flash back to 1985 and see Walter, watching, through the window, Walternate and a young Peter playing, or doing homework, or something. Something that would have rewritten all that history and sent us off with that feeling of hope. A little something to say that Walter completed his mission, and that he was able to redeem himself and save not only his life, but, everyone’s. Maybe even a flash to a young Olivia, happily living with foster parents, jumping further and seeing her as a teacher, or something. That’s just me. I’m a sucker for a happy ending. I think we got a good ending, but, it was more a sense of closure than real happiness, for me anyway. 

  • Ben Perkins

    Also, why did the Observers need to invade. They talked about success in 2036. What success? What was their goal, their aim? Why did they need to control that time? Was it to guarantee that they would exist in the future. I’m thinking that a full season was really needed to flesh out this history. Maybe their timeline was threatened by Micheal, and they went back to make sure that he kept from going to the future. 

  • Go

    well since the observers never existed september wouldnt have distracted walternate when he did discover the cure for peter.

  • Erik Galston

    how could NIna have showed up? they killed her like 3 episodes previous to the finale… 

  • Ellen Jane Swartz

    “I want to see Noble with the lousy material Anna has gotten.”  How infantile. You want to punish another actor because he got more or better lines than your fave? Can you be any more ridiculous?

  • Andoid227

    Thank Galactus that Firelfy only lasted one season.  Any more episodes and you’d surely have found details to ignore and faults to find with that one too.  Fringe was a great show that will survive the needs of the anally obsessive.

  • Ray Feighery

    I found the Finale rather satisfying. Yes it was a bit rushed but that was unavoidable when a planned 22 Episode Season had to be reduced to 13. I still found the ending poignant in that Walter would “sacrifice” himself but at the same time live out his life in a scientifically advanced time and have a second chance at being a Father.

  • Juan

    Olivia got the arc of being the mother, who ended up with her daughter. But even beyond the season, she ended up in a place where she felt she belonged somewhere, which is not the person she was 5 seasons ago. But if that’s how you look at it, so be it, that’s entirely up to you.

  • Aalomasinsa

    My wife is upset that Fringe is over TOO SOON.

  • Donny V

    Still doesn’t answer how Peter and Walter exist since the Observer is the one that pulled them out of the lake when Walter brought Peter back from the Earth 2. 

  • Esteban Pedreros

    So… I finished watching the episode and thought: Well, if the Observers didn’t come to exists, then they never sent 12 of them to the 20th century, therefore Walternate did found the cure for Peter, Walter never travelled to the alternate universe… many of the Fringe cases didn’t exist, and etta could never be born at all.

  • Esteban Pedreros

     It’s Worse than that. There is no reason for Walter to travel to the other universe. Without September Walternate would have found the cure for Peter.

  • Esteban Pedreros

     I don’t agree…. they weren’t cut short of episodes. they knew how many they were gonna get from the getgo. Whatever plot holes they couldn’t solve are the ones they couldn’t/wanted to solve

  • yoyo

    The scenes in the last episode did bring back a quick essence of what Fringe’s earlier seasons used to be, particularly the third one. The Telekinetic power of Olivia, moving through alternate universes and the biohazard impact on the Loyalists/observers. Those gory moments were really missing from the later seasons, which imo made Fringe what it used to be. I felt there should have  been more room for Fringe to conclude.

  • Shanijordaan

    As a Los Angeles native who grew up surrounded by the film industry, I can tell you almost for certain that they shot two endings (one in which Dontember goes with Michael and another in which Walter does). If not, they at least scripted two endings. The fact is, the one they went with—Walter departing into the future with Michael, sacrificing himself and his family for humanity (and an Etta-inclusive timeline) was the most poetic, beautiful ending possible. Witness Walter’s character arc. He began as a selfish, overly curious (to the point of ruining the world) scientist, hell-bent on fundamentally changing the fabric of his world, at all costs, to (re-)gain Peter (any Peter, from his side or REDverse). The negative ramifications of his hubris were far-reaching. So, to have him voluntarily pay this all back, demonstrates phenomenal character growth. In addition, the parent/child (particularly father/son) narrative continues through Walter and Michael’s archetypal father/sun sacrifice. They leave their actual respective fathers and sons behind but it is for the greater good. What an amazing show. Fringe, thank you for being a thinking person’s sci-fi show. I will miss you!

  • Yvesklein

    It’s not that the Observers never existed. It’s merely that they never turned into the autistic monsters we know them as but were more balanced. Perhaps they still did an Earth investigation for other purposes (not to take over the planet), and all went as in the original timeline–save for the invasion bit. 

  • yvesklein

    Clearly it makes sense that they were around throughout history (even during the revolution) as they were intending to take over the planet and were ascertaining through their scientific team the best era in which to do that (and probably also taking scientific measurements of the oxygen levels in the air, etc.). Remember, they could hop around different time periods in a flash. This would all have been a part of their research, no?

  • Aggie In DC

     Don’t forget that Walter went to the future with the memories of BOTH timelines. So he could still advise them to avoid making emotionless humans and, in addition, how to keep the timeline intact.

    So instead of emotionless Observers we get Observers with emotions who carried out the same actions so event still lead to the same outcome.

    Walter did say that at 2015 he AND Michael would disappear from the timeline, so in order for there not to be a paradox all the previous events still need to occur.

    However, NOT once was that brought up in the show. So it was never specifically addressed. They just focused on the paradox of him being in the future and in the past.

  • Valeria Kementari

    yes because in a show like Fringe it’s so completely implausible to resurrect a character