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‘Fringe’ recap: Closing the door

April 28, 2012 |  9:12 am

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Three years ago, the first season of “Fringe” ended with Olivia stepping into a parallel universe. She was promised a meeting with the elusive William Bell, the president of the mysterious Massive Dynamic Corp. (back when it was Massive Dynamics). That moment revealed the central concept of the show: There are two worlds, identical in countless ways but also vastly different. Now as we head into the end of the fourth season, “Fringe” slams the door between those two universes, but not before getting in a few emotional goodbyes.

Everything stems from David Robert Jones’ secret plan. Jones has been our big bad the entire season. He’s been growing new shape-shifting super soldiers and stealing precious minerals. He’s creating human/animal hybrids by the pair and loading them into boats. Walter connects the mad scientist dots and in a dream realizes that Jones’ endgame involves collapsing the two universes together into a second big bang that he can safely ride out and then rewrite the laws of physics. Not too shabby as far as evil plans go.

The next step in Jones’ plan involves breaking some cracks between the two universes. In order to do that, he recruits the Cortexiphan children, all those kids that Walter and William Bell experimented on, to prepare them for the coming war between the universes. Jones has convinced them that he’s on their side in the war of the worlds. He strategically places them around the world at specific times to create multi-universe earthquakes. Unless Fringe Division finds a way to stop Jones, the earthquakes will break the borders holding the two universes apart. 

Our heroes get a bit of luck when the doppelganger of one of the walking tremor generators walks into the alternate universe’s Fringe Division. It’s none other than Nick Lane. Nick first appeared back in Episode 117, giving Olivia all his bad dreams. He popped up again in Episode 221 when Walter needed Cortexiphan subjects to help open a passage to the other side to rescue Peter. Nick is the go-to messed-up former lab rat. In this version of reality, he’s pushing his suicidal thoughts onto his sister. Jones showed up telling Nick that all his pains happened for a reason, he jumped at the chance to be a warrior against the other universe. So much so, he’s willing to trick Olivia to keep her off Jones’ trail.

Since Fringe Division can’t use Nick to track down Jones, they have to go with their black-up plan: turn off the device keeping the bridge between the universes open. It will stop the earthquakes threatening to tear the worlds apart, but once the door is closed, who knows if they can open it again. The bridge has also been healing the damage done to the parallel universe. If they shut it down, all that will end as well. It’s a tough decision, but they’re not given any choice.

This is where all the real fun comes in. I’ve been waiting forever for some great Walter vs. Walternate moments. They finally arrive, and they’re not at all what I expected. Walter is intimidated and embarrassed in front of the secretary of Defense. Who wouldn’t be? That version of Walter is scary as heck. Walter has more to be nervous about. He did break the guy’s universe and steal his son. Once the decision to close the bridge has been made, Walternate talks with Walter about the man Peter has become, sharing in the delight that he has all the traits they’d hoped he would have and more. It’s too much for the emotionally challenged Walter. He runs and hides on the floor of a hallway, and Walternate joins him and acknowledges the fear that turning the device off might also make Peter vanish once again. In this amazing you almost forget the two characters are played by the same actor. If this isn’t the year that John Noble gets recognition for his performances in “Fringe,” it will be a crime.

The two versions of Fringe Division line up as Walter switches off the device. Olivia and Fauxlivia share their admiration for each other and the traits they see in their mirror selves that they wish they had. Lincoln decides to jump universes. Over here he has little going for him: his partner is dead, Fringe Division is a secret, and Olivia is in love with Peter. Over there members of Fringe Division are heroes and he still has a shot with Fauxlivia. Plus they have shuttles to the moon. I fully endorse Lincoln’s decision, but I’m sorry to see him go. 

And with that, the bridge is closed. The door is slammed shut. I assume. I mean, the Fringe Divisions from both sides and David Robert Jones did manage to jump back and forth without the bridge. Heck, Olivia made the trip a few times using only her mind. Maybe now that the device has powered down, those options will no longer work either, but I don’t think it will completely stop Jones’ plan to destroy the universe. We still have two episodes left. 

Renewed -- “Fringe” will be returning for a fifth season next fall, it was announced Thursday after much debate. “Fringe” went so far as to film multiple endings to the Season 4 finale just in case it suddenly became the series finale as well. Luckily for all us “Fringe” fans that alternate ending can now be a DVD extra. “Fringe” will have 13 episodes to end the story it started four years ago. More importantly, the minds behind “Fringe” go into those episodes knowing it is they’re grand finale. Each season while doubters claimed “Fringe” was on the verge of cancelation, the show got more daring. Next year, they’ll literally have nothing left to lose. Can’t wait to see what that brings out. 

Astrid Action -- Astrid has come so far from that first season. When we first met Agent Farnsworth she mostly stood around and reacted in shock to Walter’s more creative tactics. She was a dutiful sidekick, helping with experiments and making food runs. Endless food runs. Now Astrid is the old salt of Fringe Division. She’s at the table that got to decide whether or not the bridge got closed. That’s a big step up in the world. Though I’m sure she’s still running out in the middle of the night to get ingredients for strawberry milkshakes.

Spot the Observer -- I’m pretty sure I saw the Observer in Sydney, Australia, while the Cortexiphan kids were lining up to create the quakes. If anyone saw him someplace else, let me know. Those Observers have been a bit tricky this year. 

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-- Andrew Hanson

Photo: Peter (Josh Jackson) makes adjustments to his machine. Credit: Fox Television

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