It’s been a fabulous five years but, as they say, all things must come to an end and the two hour series finale of Fringe is the last goodbye for a show that reminded us just how cool science—applied or theoretical—can be.
The gang is all together at the lab, wracking their brains on trying to locate Michael. Time is running out and the young boy is paramount to the plan. Olivia calls Broyles who doesn’t answer but does his job for the team by discovering Michael’s location on Liberty Island. It’s been awhile since we’ve last seen Broyles but he hasn’t lost any of his intimidation abilities.
On Liberty Island, underneath a deconstructed Lady Liberty, Windmark questions the shackled and silent Michael. When the young boy offers no verbal answers to his questions, he tries reading the calm and collected “anomaly” and gets a veritable punch in the mouth. Hearing only his own questions to Michael, Windmark is taken by surprise when his own medicine—bloody nose and broken blood vessel in the eye—is thrown back at him. After Michael gives him what amounts to a “take that, punk” glare, Windmark leaves the room but not before demanding the remaining scientists to run a diagnostic on the boy, the “find out what it is”.
In order to make contact with the Fringe crew, Broyles goes Mission: Impossible, throwing together half a dozen devices to make sure his call’s untraceable. He informs them of Michael’s whereabouts, most specifically that he’s in the Neurological Unit of the facility. But it’s the five level security and triple redundancies that make it, for all intents, an impenetrable fortress. Unless they jump in from the other side. Olivia’s suggestion is out in left field but it’s their only option. After thinking on it, Walter surmises she just needs a jolt of Cortexiphan to reignite her abilities to cross over. There are serious risks, risks Peter finds too deep but she wants to do it, reminding him how Etta died for the cause. One snag they hit is not knowing what’s happened in Alt-Earth over the past twenty years. Astrid suggests using the temporal window to take a peek and they travel over to Battery Park to take the snap shot glimpse. They are heartened to find that things are looking pretty good. Getting in touch with the resistance, the team sets up shop in a safe house and start prepping Olivia for the Cortexiphan injections. Because she needs to shift four times, she gets for injections for her troubles with each one causing her body and the rest of the crew severe stress. Peter wants to stop but the harder, more demanding part of Walter shows up, taking charge and finishing up with the procedure.
While Olivia rests, her body adjusting to the Cortexiphan, father and son discuss the sacrifices everyone has had to make during their fight against the Observers. For a few seconds, it looks as if Walter is going to tell Peter the price he will pay to complete the mission but holds back. They wake Olivia and Walter hypothesizes that she will have 3 ½ hours before the Cortexiphan is burned out of her system. To make things a bit more daunting is the fact that each jump will burn the Cortexiphan out faster, possibly bringing on signs of withdrawal—including blurry vision and hallucinations. They reach the site and each Bishop says goodbye to Olivia separately before she shifts to the tune of some psychedelic effects. Her incursion to Alt-Earth is immediately identified and it’s not long before she’s taken to a stunned Faux-livia and Lincoln Lee (and it looks like the two are one awesome couple now). As Olivia asks them for her help and fills them in on the situation in her world, she starts feeling the initial effects of the withdrawal. She shakes it off and they get to working on the logistics.
The testing on Michael reveals the boy’s substantially enlarged limbic system and how it’s inextricably linked to the intellectual portions of his brain. It’s nothing they’ve ever seen before and Windmark reports the findings to his Commander. The superior Observer sees the opportunity to improve their evolutionary development—Michael is superior to them in all aspects—but Windmark wishes him to be destroyed, surmising the fringe crew want to use him to destroy them. When the Commander agrees for the boy to be disassembled the Captain Observer nearly cracks a satisfied smile.
Of course, he wouldn’t be smirking if he was aware of Olivia’s plans. After sharing a brief “what if” moment with Lee, Olivia crosses over and successfully infiltrated the Liberty Island facility. She stalks through the halls, killing Observers and loyalists with extreme prejudice and reaches the trussed up Michael just before he’s cut open. The boy offers her a silent smile before she grabs him and shifts back over to Alt-Earth. A couple Observers follow them but get bullets to the chest for their troubles. As Lincoln stays behind in case of more Observer incursions, Faux-livia ushers Michael and her counterpart back to Battery Park. The two say their goodbyes before Olivia and Michael make their final jump back to their world.
While the team focused on rescuing Michael, Donald was busy assembling the machine. He ends up getting it powered up but said power doesn’t last long before powering down. Disappointed, Donald ends up reluctantly knocking on December’s door. “You owe me” he tells the elder Observer and explains to him about the initiating reactor losing its charge. Like an older uncle, December reminds Donald how he, as September and another of the original 12 (August) lost control of the emotional changes that affected them being in this world. Donald reminds him how they were never told of the true purpose of their mission but December believes that humanity of the 21st Century’s destiny has been cast but Donald doesn’t believe it. He believes the people of this era are worth saving and something in his words reaches December.
On their way back from Battery Park, Walter calls Anil, ordering him on how to place the magnet when Peter talks to Broyles. The former fringe chief has to pick up a few things at his office before rendezvousing with the gang in Boston. Unfortunately, after talking to the guard, Windmark knows Broyles is hiding something. He searches his car, propping up the sound gathering device to listen in on Broyles’s conversation from a few minutes beforehand. He meets up with Broyles just before the latter is able to depart. Windmark gives him a softball interrogation before letting him go though there’s no doubt the Observer chief will be monitoring Broyles, something he has to know.
They arrive back at the lab and Donald informs the group on December gathering a new initiating reactor for them (though someone else will need to retrieve it). The next few minutes are a science freak’s dream as Walter and Donald (with a bit thrown in from Peter) the logistics of the device and what they need to do are discussed. Broyles calls the group, realizing he’s being followed and when Olivia tries gleaning his location, he reverts to the classic Broyles. “Get it done,” he tells her before hanging up and stalling for time by leading his tail all over the city.
Under some serious time constraints, Peter is lasing through the amber in hopes of reaching the a sychroscope (needed to
stabilize the wormhole window) when Peter finds a syringe kit and tape addressed to him. He sits down and watches it with Walter offering no resistance. In the first truly heartrending moment of the finale, Walter says goodbye to his son. This is the one moment in these last two hours of Fringe that has come full circle from the first episode. When the show began Peter was a man who wanted nothing to do with his father. Now the prospect of letting Walter go is unbearable.
Olivia and Astrid go to retrieve the initiating reactor from December but they find his beaten body hanged and the reactor gone. They return to the lab and are at a crossroads. Olivia asks Michael on what to do but the boy just puts a finger to his lips. Offering another kick ass solution, Astrid suggests using an Observer shipping lane to power their wormhole. With the stolen manifest in hand and the information decoded by Astrid, they know the time and place of the next shipment. All they need is one of the suitcase cubes used to help maintain the doorway to the shipping lane and reverse the direction to send. Peter and Olivia are down for the task and armed with some serious biohazard equipment—fringe event chemicals and catalysts. Knowing things are nearing their end, Astrid takes Walter to a familiar face; Gene, the lab’s resident cow. The two share a tender moment and whereas Olivia is like a daughter to Walter, Astrid is more like his granddaughter. As she walks away Walter tells her that Astrid is “a beautiful name.”
Though he provided the group valuable time, Broyles ends up in the hands of Windmark. Trussed up, the Observer gives him the lowdown on the 12 original Observers and their ‘infection’ by irrational emotion before admitting to feeling his own emotional changes; hate. “The feeling’s mutual,” Broyles replies before Windmark begins the less than pleasant interrogation. As the wait for their contact to provide entry into the Observer’s downtown office, Peter gives Olivia back the bullet. He’s confident they will get Etta back and nothing else will matter. When the do get into the building, the drop some nasty business into the ventilation system, whose effects are deadly to loyalists and Observers alike. As they traverse the halls, searching for the cube, five years of Fringe events are played out on the dead and dying bodies of the Observers and their quislings. They find the device as well as a welcome surprise in the shackled Broyles, happily willing to take him with them and rendezvous with the others at the shipping lane coordinates.
Before leaving for their destination, Donald tells Walter that he will be the one going with Michael. Despite his emotional connection with humanity, it wasn’t until watching Walter and Peter together that he realized the feelings he had for Michael and what the boy meant to him. “It’s not about fate, Walter yours or mine,” he says. “It’s about changing fate. It’s about hope…and protecting our children.”
Everyone is in place as they are waiting for Peter and Olivia to arrive. The couple (with Broyles in tow) gives the go ahead and all hell breaks loose. They engage in a major gun battle with the loyalists as they work to get their equipment set up. After a few tense minutes the wormhole opens but just before they can get Michael ready and into the tunnel Windmark arrives. He goes straight for the boy and moves to teleport him out but Peter intervenes. The three do jump a short distance away and Windmark proceeds to give Peter a sound beating. His lieutenant shows up and is promptly killed by Astrid while Olivia goes for the head baldie. Windmark tosses her away and moves toward the boy when Olivia spies the bullet that saved the world lying on the ground. It’s as if the bullet acts as a key, allowing Olivia to focus on all her rage and heartbreak over the years into a single moment. While impressive, her power up and subsequent smashing of Windmark between two cars is quite an anticlimactic end to the season’s ‘big bad’. Donald then rushes over to Michael and drags him towards the wormhole, with no respect to the gunfire crackling through the air. A miracle they make it as far as they do, but Donald is shot down not twenty feet from the wormhole entrance. Distraught, Michael makes due the only way he knows how; he pulls out the windup music box and starts to play as his father slowly passes. But Walter is right there and, without hesitation fulfills his desire to make amends and takes Michael’s hand. He and Peter say their goodbyes with unspoken words before Walter leads Michael into the wormhole…
…and we are at the park. Peter and Olivia watch their daughter play in the grass. They are ready to leave and Peter calls Etta to him. For a split second, I wonder if we get thrown a curve ball and Earth’s destiny to be taken over is inevitable but when she throws herself into Peter’s arms, the answer becomes clear. When they get home, Peter goes through the mail and opens the letter from Walter. It’s a single sheet of paper with a familiar white rose on one side. Hope is what the rose stands for and hope, for a better future, is what Walter has given his family and the whole of humanity.
It’s difficult to put into words the ending of a series like Fringe. Though by no means emotionless, sometimes the design of the episodes called for a more logical approach in analysis. With that said, the Fringe finale made one thing abundantly clear. Though Olivia was center stage for the life of the show, this wasn’t about her. This was a show about a father and son who, after years of being apart slowly make their way back to one another. Fringe was a story of family. A story of love. A story of hope. I cannot help but to, for the second time in these pages reiterates Donald’s words to Walter.
“It’s not about fate, Walter yours or mine,” he says. “It’s about changing fate. It’s about hope…and protecting our children.”
Nineteen words…they sum up the journey that was Fringe. And while we will not see another television entry in the Fringe-verse, I chose not to say goodbye to Walter, Peter, Olivia, Broyles, and Astrid. Instead, I will say good night and see you on the other side.