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‘Fringe’ recap: The end … for now

May 12, 2012 |  9:06 am

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Well done, “Fringe.”

Season 4 was probably one of the most daring risks in television. The kind of bold leap only a show teetering on the edge could make: erasing its own history. Though “Fringe” took that experiment and used it to explore its past. The details may have changed, but the themes of scientific ethics and how far you will go for the people you love came through even stronger, building to this week’s finale. It was the culmination of the past four years, and it came together in a way that was dramatic, personal, surprising and ultimately uplifting, a true gift to the fans who stuck with this show through its often rocky life.

The past few episodes brought to the foreground story lines that have been developing since the first season. There was David Robert Jones’ evil plot, which turned out to be William Bell’s evil plot, which turned out to be Walter’s evil plot. Olivia learned the full extent of the powers given to her by the Cortexiphan and why she was given them in the first place. Plus we saw the true purpose of a few early “Fringe” cases like the were-porcupines. Everything was connected, and it all built from one of the oldest concerns of dabbling in Fringe Science: playing God.

That was the plan all along. Walter speculated this a couple weeks ago. He even made a PowerPoint presentation. He felt that everything David Robert Jones was doing pointed to him trying to collapse the two universes in on each other, riding out the resulting catastrophe in a safe location, and then literally creating a new universe out of the ashes. A universe that would obey a different set of rules. Turns out Walter got everything correct except who was pulling the strings. Jones was simply another piece in the game. William Bell faked his death so he could sit back and be the god of a new world.

The episode starts with a glimpse of the world William Bell is attempting to create. It doesn’t look half bad, even with the lens flares. Speaking of God, Bell thinks it's divine providence that Walter found him. After all, Walter was the one who came up with the idea of creating a new universe. After both versions of Peter died, Walter hated God. He wanted to create a new universe where the rules wouldn’t allow such a thing to happen. Though once Walter realized the extent of his plan, he asked Bell to cut out those missing pieces of his brain so he wouldn’t remember how to do it, but once Bell had the idea, he couldn’t let it go.

Peter and Olivia get back from saving the city from Bell’s sun beam. Peter’s still a little out of sorts from being Olivia’s puppet. They get a call from Jessica Holt, the woman Olivia saved from the nanobots last week. Ever since Jessica left Walter’s lab, she has felt like she’s being watched. Or observed.

After the check in on Astrid at the hospital, they go off in search of Walter but instead end up finding the Observer. Seems that Jessica Holt was an innocent victim. She was working for William Bell the entire time, lying about having a daughter to trigger more of Olivia’s Cortexiphan powers. Jessica used a crazy rune on the floor to trap the Observer. Bell knows the only way to activate Olivia’s powers is to put people she cares about in danger. Though apparently Bell never tells any of his henchmen that activating Olivia’s powers will get them killed. September is able to catch Jessica’s bullets, but when she pulls out her faster gun, Olivia is the one to stop the shots, and she throws them back. September vanishes into a little bloop to go into the future and see what he meant when he told Olivia she had to die.

Without any leads as to where Bell took Walter, Peter does the only thing he can think of: reanimate Jessica’s dead brain. Argh. What a creepy scene. Jessica’s eyes moving out of sync, talking in harmony with herself, her memories jumping around. But it gives them the information they need. Walter is on Bell’s ark and Olivia is the energy source that will power the universes’ collapse.

This puts them on trajectory for their final confrontation with Bell. They slip onto his boat but by the time they get to Walter and William, it’s too late. Bell’s plan is in full swing. Olivia is overcharged. She’ll power the collapse whether she wants to or not. There’s no way to stop, then …. BLAM! Walter shoots Olivia in the head.

Did not see that coming.

Dead, Olivia can't fuel the collapse. William Bell escapes through his crazy teleporting bell, and Walter leaps into action. As we saw last week, the Cortexiphan has amazing regenerative capabilities. He scurries to get the bullet out of Olivia's skull so she can heal. Watching this scene, I knew the outcome. There was no way they were not going to save Olivia, but after four years of fantastic writing from John Noble and Josh Jackson, the moment was still full of tension.

So they stopped William Bell and saved both universes, but that doesn’t mean everything goes back to the way it was. In thanks for their extraordinary efforts, Fringe Division gets a well-earned bump in budget, and Broyles gets a promotion to general. Getting shot in the head apparently flushed most of the Cortexiphan out of Olivia’s system. She will still have some abilities, but she’s no longer an unpredictable batter of insane power. On top of that, she’s pregnant. Our little “Fringe” family is growing.

When I spoke to show runners J.H. Wyman and Jeff Pinkner on Friday, they said each season finale was like the end of a chapter. If that’s the case, this was the end of the "First Book of Fringe," the conclusion of one story, but an open door to endless others. “Fringe” has already been given a fifth and final season, but it feels like this world and these characters could live long beyond that.

Astrid Action -- After Astrid got shot last week I feared she was dead. Luckily while William Bell is trying to destroy all of creation, he is still nice enough to drop Astrid off where she could be found and rushed to a hospital. While recovering from her wound, Astrid manages to find the time to pick up a little licorice for Walter. In thanks, Walter finally manages to call Astrid by her actual name. A wonderful moment to sum up their evolving relationship over the past four years. Our little lab assistant is all grown up.

Spot the Observer -- September played a large role in the episode, but he also popped back in for the finale scene, warning Walter that “they” are coming. Who are “they?” I’m not even sure if the writers know. It’s generic in a way that opens them up to endless possibilities. I don’t care. I’ll be right there with them whatever they come up with. See you next year for Season Five.

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Complete 'Fringe' coverage on Show Tracker

‘Fringe’ Friday: Show runners talk Walter, Bell, Season 4 finale

-- Andrew Hanson

Photo: Leonard Nimoy, right, as William Bell and John Noble as Walter in "Fringe." Credit: Fox Television

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