Was the climax to the fourth season of Fringe as brave as it made out, or just bells and whistles? Read out review to find out.
- For 30 minutes the episode whizzed along at an enjoyable pace, hitting plenty of right notes.
- Olivia going Super Dunhamnator to save September. Despite the issues with the handling of her powers of late, there’s no denying it was a super-cool moment.
- Dead Jessica’s interrogation was well-done and served as a nice callback to the first season.
- The final scene with September warning Walter was obviously tacked on, but given the fifth season continuation it worked as a better ending than pregnancy.
- This episode was not the series finale. Had it been, Fringe would have went out on a relative whimper. Hopefully a satisfying and less predictable conclusion can now be mapped.
- While I normally advocate show over tell, Bellie failed to convince me with his ‘new world’.
- The final third of the episode was hamstrung by the reveals in “Letters of Transit” and the fact that it was filmed as a possible series ender. It was clear that both Olivia and Astrid would survive, thus removing much of the weight from the finale.
- The finale further highlights that too much time was spent on ‘standalone’ episodes instead of strengthening the central arc.
- The credibility of William Bell was further tarnished. I struggled to believe that he was behind this season’s overarching conflict. At times he felt like a caricature. His defeat was underwhelming. David Robert Jones was a more believable antagonist until he went belly up.
- The episode lacked real stakes and emotionality. It was very predictable.
The opening scene was the most WTF? moment in the trailers, but one of the most disappointing in context. While it’s in line with Bellie’s transgenic plans, it really required Bellie to convince me that his vision was anything more than half-baked. He failed in that regard and I’m not exactly sure how he was going to craft this world of his. While I appreciate the visual, more insight was needed to supplement it.
Still, his upcoming debate with Walter about destiny, men and gods worked better. It was neat the way Bellie’s ambitions were tied back to Walter. I’ve long been cynical of the fact that Walter had his memories removed because he was afraid of the man he was becoming, plagued by the sins he committed. It always struck me as a convenience that made him appear to be better person in Peter’s doting eyes than Walternate, the actual victim who had no such reprieve.
It’s interesting to have more context, both allegorical and specific to this timeline, on the fact that Walter’s designs on becoming ‘god’ powered Bellie’s. Crucially, I believed this plot point; Walter has had a scarred relationship with God. His eventual acceptance of a higher power and the boundaries of humankind’s domain hasn’t come easy. Unlike certain other plot points, this has been developed over time, so it lands better.
While I failed to believe that Bellie believed what he was saying at times, I was intrigued by his acceptance of destiny in acknowledging the inevitable ‘intervention’ of his trusted colleague and dearest friend. The story lends itself to these notions, so that worked for me, even though I feel it ‘masks’ some of Bellie’s contrivances.
Say what you will about William Bell, there’s no denying that his mythology carries weight as it ties together so much of the ongoing mythos. The duality that is Fringe can be traced back to two minds that went off in different directions only to converge again and again. Bell’s acceptance of God is another interesting note, given his own designs on becoming one.
Astrid in peril was lackluster, not even Olivia faux patting her head in concern was enough to rouse me into caring. Don’t get me wrong, Astrid’s cool, but faux-peril doesn’t work for me. I’m not against “Letters of Transit,” but clearly it’s had negative consequences on the final three episodes of this season, as well as positive. I just don’t think Astrid getting shot was necessary for the story since it did little to advance or deepen it.
I struggled to buy into the notion that anyone but Bellie was at threat from his attempts to ‘collapse’ the universe, but my question brain was suckled by my acceptance of Olivia and Peter putting the “team” in “together we are a team”. I liked her reflection that even after all these years, “nothing’s changed, I’m still that little girl” — still Bell’s experiment. Peter’s response was warm and glowy, “something has changed, this time you’re not alone.”
I’m not one for shipping, heck, I’d struggle on Bellie’s boat, but when P&O works for the story, then I’ll admit it. I liked this moment, it encapsulated the notion that even though she was in love, Olivia was still carrying her own baggage to a large degree. Peter may have one working arm, but he was able to share that weight before the dawn, which was nice.
While there was no Jones for the faithful to swoon over, additional antagonism was delivered through Jessica Holt, who was actually an elaborate plant to activate Olivia. It’s interesting that Bellie knows about the Observers, and how to stop them, and it makes sense that he would want to prevent our most invested Observer from intervening in his plans.
That it explained the mystery of his gunshot wound earlier in the season, as well as his warning to Olivia, worked for me. I enjoy the cyclical nature of this story and this mini cycle was fun to see come together.
Throw in Olivia repelling Jessica’s go-faster bullets right into her loaf you have a particular high point in the episode. In this context, Olivia’s earlier ‘Real Steel’ activation ends up helping this scene. I would have liked more development and exploration into Olivia’s abilities, as I feel it’s been a bit messy of late, but with a beloved character in unusual peril, the moment worked.
I flinched a bit when Peter went all scratch-n-sniff on the stasis runes holding September, but they had to get him out of there somehow. More importantly, I enjoyed September and Olivia’s reaction to their non-linear choice/destiny connection, and the notion that for once it seemed as though our heroes were one step ahead of September, for whom “Back To Where You’ve Never Been” hasn’t happened ‘yet’, and the title of which takes on additional context.
The ‘Jessica of the Dead’ interrogation was another highlight, as Fringe dipped into her bag of callbacks to bring back an oldy but goody.
It was fun seeing Jessica all crazy and glitching like something out of Dollhouse and a bit like a certain scene from LOST. It took our dear Olivia while to realize that, yes, she is the power source (shocker!), but seeing Jessica go the way of Sandford Harris (sort of) brought a flutter to my heart. Sure, I’d have liked a bit more insight into Jessica, and the rest of Bellie’s loyal followers, but it worked well enough.
Meanwhile, the Bell-arc rode the waves to reveal that he injected himself with Cortexiphan to slow down his cancer. The Cortexiphan mythos is becoming a bit wibbly-wobbly, but his illness is at least used to contextualize his motivation. This meeting of minds between Bishop and Bell wasn’t up there with some of the story’s best, but one thing I appreciate is that these big sweeping debates are often about perspective, rather than ‘good or evil’ (Hello, Once Upon A Time).
We can see that Bellie is a bad cookie, but Walter also has that in him. The show might not spell it out, but through his actions he is the Big Bad of the story — at least for me. Which, while fuel for my fire, is also deeply compelling because it illustrates, with little prejudice and some hope, that the way humans see the world is much about perspective, circumstance and choice, and how that can change to produce different results.
So while Bellie’s ambitions of a ‘brave new world’ gave me a sinking feeling, I was kept afloat by the depth of the larger concepts which activated my intrigue.
I liked Olivia and Peter working together to leap onto Bellie’s arc. Sure, I could pick holes in the technicalities, but the concepts weren’t rustled from thin air, so on this occasion I just went with it and leapt from the helicopter with them.
Admittedly, things went a bit down hill from here and the goodwill that had been pumped through my veins was put to the test. I was disappointed by Bellie’s ‘reaction’ to the fact that Olivia and Peter had strolled onto his arc.
Obviously, he didn’t gamble on Walter taking extreme action by shooting Olivia in the head and thereby breaking his New Universe Battery. Yet, this is the same guy who had the foresight to put the brakes on September? The same guy who got thisclose to creating a new world. The same guy with that hair. Really, Bellie? You’re going to go out like that, huh? Not even a peace out?
Walter’s decision to shoot Olivia was interesting, the sacrificial lamb slaughtered by the men who recreated her in their image. But given that Cortexiphan is so intimately known by Bellie, it’s somewhat odd that he didn’t consider Olivia could be fixed. Maybe the moment was lost, but more baffling was that he allowed Walter to get anywhere near a gun, and then proceeded to reveal why Olivia was important to him. For the sake of exposition, he went very close to one-dimensional evil mastermind. It’s such a fine line alright.
Of course, he will live to ring another bell, but the way his elaborate plan fell apart felt rather weak. He was just ill-prepared, over-confident, and 47 bells short of a bread basket. Thematically Olivia’s death and resurrection works, but the stakes were low. No Etta, no Olivia death.
Of course, Fringe often plays towards the consequences rather than the moment, which is fine, but I can’t say this was one such occasion where it passed with flying colors. I was OK with the symbolism, particularly the reinforcement of Olivia’s curse turning out to be her gift, but it would have been greater if the struggle felt less predictable.
Still, I was pleased with the momentary conflict that existed between Walter and Peter, and then warmed by the gentle butting of heads as they accepted that Walter had ‘done the right thing’ in killing the Dunhamnator.
And so Fringe Division saves the worlds again, and barely a soul knows. How right you were, Peter, to point out that silent truth way back when. I’m not overly confident that they will make the best use of their new kitty, though I hear Broyles has invested in a new desk, while Olivia just splashed out on a billion dollar nursery for baby Etta, because she’s ‘special,’ apparently. But hey, they can use the rest to pay for the soon to be rising cost of amber.
Speaking of which, I knew a little Observer-action would sneak in at the end. Since this was not the series finale, I imagine this ending was tacked on to provide a clear door into Season 5. I took immense joy in giving September a taste of his own medicine by predicting EXACTLY what he was going to say before he said it: “They are coming”. I knew LOST would come in handy…eventually. 😉
- Bell injected himself with Cortexiphan to slow down his cancer.
- Olivia was Bellie’s power source.
- September’s prophesy was right, Olivia did ‘have’ to die. However, she was brought back to life by her own Cortexiphan and Walter’s mercurial thinking.
- We can infer that Man X was indeed a representation of William Bell – the man responsible for killing Olivia.
- It’s probably safe to say September is referring to the Observers when he warns “they are coming”.
- How did Bellie know about September and the Observers?
- How did Bellie know stasis runes would trap September?
- What will Bellie do next? Where did he go?
- What will the first signs of Observer invasion look like?
Best Moment: Jessica vs September, Olivia and Peter.
Best Performer: John Noble
Best Quotable: “I don’t suppose you’re here for a sandwich.” (Walter to September)
9/10 Seriable Stars