'Fringe': End of a chapter
You want a pay-off. Those past 20-odd episodes better have been building to something.
You want an event. The explosions have to be bigger, louder and more damage-inflicting than anything so far. And that includes the emotional bombshells.
You want to have a peek at what’s to come. A taste. A great season finale makes you curse the summer months. All that sunshine and picnics keeping you for finding out what happens next. You’re craving September more than a stay-at-home mom with six kids.
Did “Fringe” deliver an incredible season finale?
Let’s go down the list.
Payoff: This season brought the slow reveal of Peter’s past. In the first few episodes, it came out in tiny hints. Comments or observations. It almost became a game, waiting for the mention of Peter’s origins. Then the hints grew larger, building to the winter finale, when Olivia learned the truth. It was only a matter of time before Peter figured it out himself.
Did it pay off? And then some. Not only did Peter learn the truth, but he traveled back to the other side with his true father, Walternate. It’s a bittersweet return. Last week, we got the sweetness from Peter’s interactions with his biological mother. In the second half, we got the bitterness. The episode begins with Peter’s flight to meet Walternate where the helicopter pilot explains the differences Peter sees in the New York landscape. That becomes a theme for Peter through the finale as he realizes even though this universe is where he’s from, it isn’t where he belongs.
Plus there was the payoff I didn’t even see coming. Season 2 began with a shape-shifting soldier from another dimension who tried to stop Olivia from meeting with William Bell. Gradually through the season, the shape-shifters found their leader, put together the pieces of Walter’s brain so they could find out how to open a door, and then opened that door so Walternate could pass through and persuade Peter to return with him, but Walternate also wanted to use Peter to power a machine that would destroy our universe.
That might seem like just a run-on sentence, but it shows how well planned Season 2 was from the start. So few shows, especially shows doing 22 episodes, seem to put that much forethought into a season, and I can’t thank the minds behind “Fringe” enough for that extra mile.
That not enough of an event for you? How about finally seeing Walter and William Bell reunite? It was great to see them bicker and poke -- the way only two people who know each other extremely well can. Too bad Leonard Nimoy is retiring. He and John Noble could do a movie together called “Grumpy Old Scientists.”
Plus we got a fight between Olivia and Bolivia (as show runners Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman refer to her). Olivia goes to her other self to find Peter. She is aided by their similarities, knowing where Bolivia keeps her spare key or how to tug on her counterpart's heart strings, but she is undone by their differences. Specifically, where they keep their backup firearm. Olivia not only knocks out Bolivia, she takes her doppelganger’s hair color. Good thing too. It seems Peter prefers her as a brunet.
The finale gave us emotional events as well -- the top of which was Olivia confessing the main reason she wants Peter to return to our universe is because she needs him to be with her and following up with a little smooching. Personally, I felt this was a little out of the blue, but I like how it played out so well, I’m willing to run with it.
And don’t forget the actual explosions. Nimoy got to play the action star: shooting, running, blowing up cop cars. Not a bad way to say goodbye to acting.
A peek at what’s to come: Of course, everyone’s going to be talking about the ending. Bell sacrifices his millions of atoms to power our Fringe Division’s trip back home. Only ... during the detonation of one of Bell’s experimental grenades (that were not to be jostled), Bolivia pulled the old switcheroo. Now Bolivia is on our side, playing spy for Mr. Secretary, while Olivia is locked in a cell on the other side. A+ cliffhanger.
But there’s so much more than that. We got a peek at the new relationship between Walter and Peter. Peter can’t understand why Walter did the things he did, but he knows Walter crossed universes twice to save him. What an interesting dynamic that will bring.
We also got a peek at Walter getting a peek at the disaster his original crossing caused. The blight. The quarantine. Another heaping load of guilt to pile on an already guilt-racked mind.
So on my scale, “Fringe” went above and beyond all the goals of a season finale. The producers, writers, cast and crew deserve all the praise I can give them, followed directly by my hatred. Now I have to wait all summer for new episodes. Maybe I’ll stick in my DVDs of Season 1.
Quick notes: There were so many details I loved about the finale that I couldn’t fit in anywhere else: like Bolivia’s ring tone from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” or Walter saying of Bell, “nice of him to finally show up." I also really appreciated the amber from Season 1 returning as the quarantine. And I’ll say right now that I can live with all the “Fringe” product placements for KFC and Ford as long as they keep putting in details like the issue of the Red Lantern/Red Arrow comic book hanging in Peter’s alternate apartment.
Astrid Action: Astrid got in right under the wire on this episode. She’s spent all her energy from worrying about Peter baking and eating, but she’s nowhere near ready for a lapband.
Spot the Observer: I was so wrapped up in the finale, I didn’t even think to look for our little bald-headed pal. I’m still trying to track him down in “Northwest Passage.” Oh well. It’ll give me something to do over the summer.
-- Andrew Hanson
Upper photo: Anna Torv. Credit: Fox Television
Middle photo: Leonard Nimoy. Credit: Fox Television
Lower photo: John Noble. Credit: Fox Television
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