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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Fringe Finale: The Day We Died recap, thoughts on the show as a whole, and ways it could be improved

Fringe ended its third and best season this week with a finale that will completely change everything. This season has been great, because it finally picked up the pacing. We love the high-concept elements of this show, but the creators could make it a little easier for most people to follow. Next season, we want some interesting side characters other than the main three, quicker pacing, some heart, a sense of urgency (the writers need to watch some 24 for the perfect example of how to do that with cold characters the viewers care little about), and more creepiness. This show has the convoluted plots just right. It needs to get us viscerally and emotionally more. It comes off as cold and a little slow.

It's rare for a show in this genre to completely swear off supernatural or spiritual elements. These things add an eeriness. Possibilities such as uncontrollable events, higher powers, prophecies, bone-chilling evil, and incredible displays of love open up when you add these elements. Unlike LOST, The X-Files, and Alias (successful shows of this type that achieved cult followings and levels of addictiveness to which Fringe aspires), Fringe is purely scientific in its world view. All of the weirdness can be explained by science. While it's cool and unique to see that, and it allows some original concepts to play out, it's less interesting to the viewer. LOST and Alias MIXED mind-bending science with unsettling philosophy and spirituality. Fringe needs to inject some of that into its formula to become less mechanical.

You may think that it's too late to deepen and warm Fringe with spiritual concepts, because the world of science has been so firmly established. But we disagree. Take a look at The Matrix trilogy, a flawed but special series of films that fumbled the ball with its ending. Plot-wise, The Matrix was completely technologically and scientifically driven. But much of it was a spiritual allegory and it propounded religious and philosophical teachings within its scientific world. Fringe could introduce something like that into its narrative, deepening a layer of existential investigation, asking questions, commenting, and paralleling spiritual matters. Fringe needs to pretend to be about science but really be about spiritual matters. It would have to be less heavy-handed than it was in final two Matrix films, and it would have to be more emotional as well. But, done right, this could make the show relevant to actual people. This should get rid of the emotional coldness, because spirituality contains a huge emotional component. The other way to do this is to really make us love the characters and create connections between them and depth that is undeniable. But this is more difficult.

Onto what happened in the finale....

The episode started with Peter in 2026. Was Peter REALLY supposed to pass for his late 40s in this episode? It’s hard to hide that fat baby face on Peter, even with ridiculous spiked up hair. But we went with it. Olivia simply need a matronly haircut. Bleck. Peter had been taken to the hospital after suffering an injury. He’s also an agent of Fringe Division, like Olivia, Astrid, and Olivia’s grown niece, Ella. Dang, this show sure knows how to give its leads popular but still unique names. Peter is married to Olivia, and Olivia has Broyles’ old job: head of Fringe Division. Olivia also has full use of her telekinesis. Sweet. Peter wants a child, but Olivia doesn’t think it’s a good idea to bring one into the futureless world. We were Team Peter on this.

In the future, our universe is tearing quickly because of the successful destruction of the other universe that was closely linked with ours, and there is a terrorist named Moreau causing mayhem. We need to keep our eye on the French, it seems … Moreau blew up an opera house in the beginning of the episode. Some people have no respect for classical music. He is in the Walternate-led terrorist group “End of Days,” an organization that is helping our universe’s inevitable destruction along. The plan this episode? To put a wormhole in Central Park.

Walter is in prison, facing the consequences for starting this whole mess anyway. Using his connection to Senator Broyles (nice promotion), Peter gets him out and back to his lab for the purpose of stopping the mayhem. Peter gets close enough to Walternate to confront him and ask for the mercy that Walternate’s own world was denied. Walternate shoots Olivia in the forehead. So we guess that’s a no? They totally ripped that Olivia funeral off of First Knight and LOST. We consider it a bad thing that we weren’t sad when Olivia died. Maybe we knew it wasn’t permanent or even real, but when a major character gets shot in the head, we should feel something, right?

We found out that Walter was the one who sent the machine back through time (via some people who took it back for him), a choice he could not change. We found out that Walter pulled Peter from 2011 into his future body, so that when Peter’s 2011 consciousness returns to the moment he hops in the machine, he will make a different choice. Peter disappeared at the end of Walter’s explanation. Peter went back and used the machine to create a bridge between the two worlds, bringing the doubles face-to-face with each other.

There is a hole in both universes in the rooms that hold the machines where the people from the two universes can come together to fix things. Peter explained this to his fathers and disappeared mid-speech. No one noticed his disappearance. Cut to the observers, who say, “They don’t remember Peter. How could they? He never existed. He served his purpose.” Head spinning? If you are missing how this happened, don’t worry. The show has yet to spell it out for us. But theories abound. One theory says that Peter is the one who took the machine back in time, and he will come back or be found later.

Good ending. Episode Grade: B+. Season Grade: B+


  1. I, too, enjoyed this season a great deal. I agree with your main point that "Fringe" is on the cusp of greatness, and is just missing that little something special that shows like "The X-Files" had.

    Whether they inject a spiritual twist is anyones guess, but I think not. Science is where this show wants to live or die. I think that is a mistake, but that is what my gut tells me. Personally, I would love to see a merger of the two disciplines. Time will tell.

  2. A part of us loves an all-science show. In theory. In execution, it robs us of mystery.

    We agree that they won't change it. We will get another season like this one, then the show will bow out. Still worth watching, but not great.