FRINGE: How Many Burning Questions Were Actually Answered In Season 4?


Prior to the fourth season of Fringe, we compiled our list of 30 unanswered mysteries from the sci-fi serial’s first three seasons. With Season 4 now at a close, we thought it would be interesting to go back to see exactly how many of those mysteries have been answered and which ones continue to mock us with just 13 episodes to go in the fan-favorite story. Find out below.

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[wptabtitle] 30-29[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]

30. Why did Broyles send Olivia to the storage facility?

Unanswered: No further insight was coughed up in Season 4, though it’s still possible that he was putting her through her paces, ‘testing’ her as it were.

29. Who was Sanford Harris working for?

Allegorical Answer: This plot element is still somewhat muddy, but if the fourth season is used as an allegory for events in the first, it’s reasonable to assume that Sanford Harris was working for William Bell, as was David Robert Jones — though they may not have known they were working for the same man. While this may never be confirmed one way or the other, it seems the writers were making efforts to retroactively provide an answer.


[wptabtitle] 28-27[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]

28. William Bell’s Decoder Key?

Unanswered: Season 4 offered no follow up on Bell’s decoder key.

27. Olivia Predisposed?

Answered: Walter’s early-series reference about Olivia and the other Cortexiphan kids being “predisposed” to something which made them viable candidates for the clinical trials, was answered when Nina tells Olivia that she was hand-selected for the trials due to her huge natural capacity for feeling. In other words, Olivia was immensely compassionate as a child, and we can assume that the other subjects each had heightened traits that made then viable for Bell’s Cortexiphan plans.


[wptabtitle] 26-25[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]

26. Detroit What?

Unanswered: As the story did not return to 2026, the mystery concerning what Peter and Broyles “lost in Detroit” remains a mystery.

25. 2026 Broyles’ Eye?

Unanswered: Ditto above, the story didn’t revisit 2026 or provide much in the way of allegory, although we did get a reference to Simon Foster getting ‘new eyes’ in the 2036 episode “Letters of Transit“.


[wptabtitle] 24-22[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]

24. Alternate Nina?

Answered: Alt-Nina was finally introduced in Season 4 as the accomplice of David Robert Jones.

23. Altlivia’s Memories Completely Gone from Olivia?

Unanswered: Olivia was not fused with Altlivia’s memories in the new timeline, however, she did regain her original memories thanks to Peter and Cortexiphan. During this time there was no indication that her old memories still contained remnants from her doppelganger.

22. What Became of Brenner?

Unanswered: While Olivia was treated with Cortexiphan in the new timeline, further light was not cast on Brenner’s disappearance following Olivia scorching the day care center room as a little Cotexi-girl.


[wptabtitle] 21-19[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]

21. Kayak/Zeno?

Unanswered: The significance of the kayak and the word ZENO remains a mystery.

20. Recurring Red Balloon?

Unanswered: No further follow-up or sighting of the curious red balloon was made in Season 4.

19. The Pattern?

Allegorical Answer: The Pattern was given additional context in Season 4. Pattern events illustrated in the first season were directly linked to William Bell in the fourth season. Given that we’re dealing with a new timeline, this doesn’t necessarily mean this was the case in the first chapter of the story, but it does indicate Bellie’s possible intent.


[wptabtitle] 18-17[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]

18. Gone Bellie Gone?

Answered: Our question of whether “Bellie [would] become another Man X-type entity – a consciousness embedded inside Olivia’s mind?” was answered right at the death of Season 4, as Bell turned out to be the man behind David Robert Jones’ earth-shattering schemes and the enigmatic Man X, who would be responsible for Olivia’s ‘death’.

17. Number of Observers

Answered, kinda: The fourth season revealed that the Observers seen most commonly throughout the story are scientists from the distant future with code names based on months of the year. A slew of Observers were introduced in the future-visiting “Letters of Transit” episode. So, not answered exactly, but there are lots and lots of them, which is a good enough answer.


[wptabtitle] 16-14[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]

16. Little Observer?

Unanswered: No follow up on the little Observer from “Inner Child”, though a fifth season return to the story’s future could yet yield answers on this front.

15. Peter’s Consciousness 2026?

Unanswered: The methods by which Walter drew Peter’s consciousness to 2026 remains open to speculation.

14. Sam Weiss?

Unanswered: The Sam Weiss storyline was completely benched in Season 4. There are said to be “no plans” to bring the character back. Looks like fans may have seen the last of Samuel Weiss.


[wptabtitle] 13-12[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]

13. The Beacon?

Answered: The Beacon is a.. beacon. It enabled September to find the right universe after the other Observers hid it from him as punishment for helping Peter return to the timeline. How this ties in with its appearance in “The Arrival” remains to be seen, but given the nature of past, present and future essentially occurring at the same time for the Observers, it’s not ridiculous to think that this aspect of the mystery can be explained in Season 5.

12. Green/Red Sequence?

Unanswered: The green/red color sequence reappeared on many occasions throughout the fourth season but no specific explanation as for their meaning has been divulged.


[wptabtitle] 11-9[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]

11. Who Took The Boom-Boom-Machine Back In Time?

Unanswered: No follow-up on this mystery due to the new timeline focus and the BBM rarely featuring (side from a few moments).

10. Who Created The Machine?

Answered: Upon emerging in the new timeline, Peter confirms that Walter built the Machine. Not all fans are happy with this answer because there’s seemingly no explanation as to how Peter came to know this. It seems like this is the show’s way of letting the audience know their intended answer to this mystery without really explaining it. Peter may be unreliable, but we can take this as an answer for now.

9. Rogue Observers?

Possibly Answered: There’s a whole heap of totalitarian Observers coming in the story’s future, could they be related to the possible Rogue Observer John Mosley, seen in “The Arrival”? It’s also worth noting that technically, September himself went ‘rogue’ when going against the orders of his fellow Observers in order to reunite Peter with his loved ones. By no means a full answer, but we seem to be getting there.


[wptabtitle] 8-7[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]

8.Man X?

Answered: Man X is William Bell. In “Brave New World: Part 1”, it was revealed that Bell was the designer of the nanite compound bearing the X signature — the same that Man X was seen wearing in 3.19. Therefore,  Man X was the representation of Bell that Olivia’s mind projected.

7. How Many Time-Loops?

Unanswered: Time-loops were touched on in Season 4, particularly in the episode “And Those We’ve Left Behind,” but the number of cycles our heroes have travelled was not answered. It remains to be seen if this a question the writers want to tackle.


[wptabtitle] 6-4[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]

6. Observer Objectives?

Answered: The Observers are here to Observe their beginnings. However, due to September’s naivete, they went about their plan to erase Peter to correct the timeline, to put things back to how they were supposed to be. The invading Observers seen in “Letters of Transit” apparently have other, more aggressive goals.

5. Observer Origins

Answered: The Observers are from the distant future. Their abilities are based on future technology. “Making Angels“, “The End Of All Things” and “Brave New World: Part 2” provide helpful explanation of this.

4.. Is Peter?

Answered: Yes, Peter exists following his disappearance in the BBM. While the fourth season didn’t explain where he went, it was illustrated that he was brought into the new timeline courtesy of Olivia/Walter’s subconscious love for him and the Cortexiphan energy dispersed by Cameron James.


[wptabtitle] 3-1[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]

3. Who is the Narrator?

Unanswered: No real follow-up, though September does serve as an exposition guide for Peter in “The End of All Things” and we do get an opening crawl in “Letters of Transit”.

2. Science or Faith?

Unanswered: As it probably should be. However, the fourth season offered continued food for thought on this front.

1. New Timeline Motivations

Answered: We’re led to believe that differences in the new timeline are predicated on Peter’s death in Reiden Lake, coupled by the different choices that stemmed from this circumstance. As for Walter’s motivation for “shattering” Walternate’s universe, this was the same as the original timeline — his Peter died, so he tried to save/kidnap alt-Peter.


[wptabtitle] RESULTS[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]


  • Unanswered: 16
  • Answered: 11
  • Other: 3

In terms of pure numbers, that’s not bad for a season’s journey. It we add the partial/other answers to the ‘anwered’ list it’s almost a 50/50 split between resolved mysteries and those that remain open. There are certainly some open questions from this list that could use answering before the series ends — as well as additional questions that have been raised in Season 4. Likewise, there are some unanswered mysteries are not overly important to the satisfying resolution of the story. What say you?



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  1. Erin M. says

    Awesome article…but as for #8, I have to disagree. I think Mr. X is actually Walter, not William Bell. the X on the nanite was recognized as being William Bell’s design by Walter, but then William Bell went on to explain that Walter had come up with all of the ideas (then had his brain removed because he realized the consequences of those ideas and no longer wanted to move forward). Bell simply picked up Walter’s pieces and attempted to bring his realization to life. Walter didn’t recognize the nanite as his own work because he didn’t have the memories to be able to recognize it.

    In two different timelines we’ve seen Walter kill Olivia now, so I think that Walter, and not Bell, is Mr. X.

    Like: Thumb up 5

    • says

      Erin – interesting perspective. I can definitely see where you’re coming from with Walter, and in many respects that makes sense. However, my take is that since the “X” represents William Bell/his nanite design, and it was his intention to do Olivia harm (culminating with Walter shooting her to stop his old friend), I think it fits slightly better if Man X is Bellie. Though granted, it can be read either way.

      The producers also confirmed Man X as Bell in this post-finale interview.

      Like: Thumb up 1

  2. Castle says

    Peter indicated that he decoded the shapeshifter tech in Novation – I choose to believe he did so by way of William Bell’s decoder key.

    It’s a stretch, but call me an idealist =)

    Like: Thumb up 1

    • says

      Castle – Interesting shout. I agree that it perhaps doesn’t count as definate decoder key follow up, but it’s something to work with.

      Like: Thumb up 2

  3. matt says

    I hope they bring back Sam Weiss for some crazy mythology reveal scene with him and Bell (and maybe Nina)!

    Like: Thumb up 1

    • matt says

      also, I wonder who arrived when the beacon first appeared in “the arrival”. I get the feeling thath title will mean something different or poin tot a person or group of people when this is all over (and who the hell as John Mosely trying to find it? who was he looking for?)

      Like: Thumb up 2

      • matt says

        i also get the feeling mosely may not have been an observer and rogue observer refers to August and September

        Like: Thumb up 0

        • matt says

          for my millionth comment today, sheesh I know,

          it also seems like thought the observers are totalitarian they have a good cause at heart in that they are trying to prevent humanity from destroying itself/the planet which is pretty cool even though they’re being dicks about it lol

          Like: Thumb up 0

          • matt says

            i get the feeling that in terms of observer goals, they did come back to observe their beginnings and then walter changed everything by crossing between worlds and altering the timeline or something so now the observer science team’s role has expanded to fixing the timeline so that (instead of their future reality being sidelined or something in the multiverse/so that they can have a direct path back here through time or something) the rest of the observers can come back and stop us from destroying the planet

            Like: Thumb up 0

            • Rick Terry says

              I always took it as; The Observers destroyed their planet Earth, so they came back to ours to get a second chance. But since they don’t belong with us they took us over given the fact that they are much more powerful than us.

              Like: Thumb up 2

              • Underseer says

                Agreed. In ‘Letters of Transit’ Walter seems to pretty much put to bed any notion that the Observers are here to save us from ourselves.

                They’re here, as you say Rick, because September tells Walter that they “finally ruined the planet. They poisoned it – the air, the water, and when it was fundamentally uninhabitable, they travelled back through time and took our planet from us”

                So unless September was lying, Matt, there’s no indication that they have a good cause at heart. The only cause they seem to have is their own survival. If their intent was good, why wouldn’t September have told Walter that?

                As to why they’ve been ‘observing’ history, I suspect that implicit in this is the mission to ensure that their version of the future with them in it, comes to pass. Perhaps September had been lied to about the real reason for ‘observing’, that it wasn’t passive, or he had a crisis of conscience and decided to act.

                Of course, a paradox again arises in Letters of Transit. By travelling back in time to take our world, they are altering events that led up to their world. Perhaps that’s what the ‘purge’ referred to in Letters of Transit was about: ‘pruning’ history by eliminating individuals who they saw could threaten the Observers coming to be.

                This all gets a bit shaky though – because how come the Observers haven’t foreseen Walter’s return? How can resistance be possible when your enemy can leap forward in time, see an undesirable outcome, then go back in time again to prevent it? Fringe kinda skirts around this problem several times without really confronting it.

                Like: Thumb up 4

  4. matt says

    reading all of these questions birthed a thought:

    if Nimoy doesnt come back I hope they dont have the season 4 finale serve as the answer to all of our questions from the previous seasons and then move forward ONLY with all the new observer future questions. I’m counting on Nimoy returning cause he;s such a mensch so I hope it wont even have to be an issue, but IF he doesnt I hope they dont just put it behind them like ‘yup we addressed that’ and move on. i doubt they will oreven could, but just a thought

    Like: Thumb up 0

  5. matt says

    also, I hope that the observers’ abilities are not all tech but also evolution of tech-assisted evolution like theor mind reading. if it’s all tech and only tech (even though it fits perfectly into the story as an example of or maybe the real reason walter saying sufficiently advanced tech is like magic) I will still be a little tiny bit disappointed somewhere deep inside

    Like: Thumb up 1

  6. Surun Tunne says

    walter did not build the machine.
    peter said to him in 405: “you built the machine” and walter answered: “there is a machine but I didn’t build it”

    which makes sense because noone did.
    they found the pieces, put the machine together, sent it back in time, then they found the pieces again, and so on. it’s an endless loop.

    roco, please google: “bootstrap paradox”

    Like: Thumb up 0

    • says

      @Surun Tunne: I’m aware of the bootstrap paradox, I think I’ve said somewhere previously that I’d quite like it if ‘no-one’ built the BBM, as that would make a certain sense. That said, Peter’s claim that Walter built the BBM seems to be the show’s answer. Unless this is followed up in season 5 it’s a difficult statement to ignore out of hand, whatever our personal feelings. Personally, I’d love to know why Peter came to this conclusion (Walter’s denial is neither here nor there due to the new timeline conceit).

      Like: Thumb up 2

      • Surun Tunne says

        I think peter just came to this conclusion because he thought that it could’ve only been walter.

        I am pretty sure that all of this will not be followed up in season 5 and I am very ok with it! :-)

        Like: Thumb up 0

        • says

          Ah, Peter. Our ever-reliable narrator :)

          True, it does seem like the story has other matters to contend with in season 5.

          Like: Thumb up 3

    • Castle says

      The impression I got from Peter’s saying that Walter built the machine was that his consciousness spent more time in 2026 than we saw on screen. While he may not have been present for them sending it back, he could have potentially have witnessed Walter constructing or beginning construction on the machine. Granted, why build one if you have the one they dug up…or would not building it create another paradox within the paradox? My head hurts…

      Or we could just accept the human answer. Peter is assuming Walter built the machine based on limited interactions with the 2026 future. We all make assumptions, but it doesn’t necessarily imply that they’re right.

      Something else to chew one: Recall in Over There part 1 that the Fringe team state the BBM had a unique design i.e. William Bell’s design. Perhaps this supports the fact that Walter built it (using his connection with Bell for inspiration, or somehow working with Bell to construct it…whether that be via soul magnets or some strange reincarnation of Bell).

      In conclusion, while I like direct answers, I do find it enjoyable to speculate on some of the more open-ended pseudo-answers the writer’s sometimes leave us with. Unless it’s something that has no rational explanation within the context of the show.

      Like: Thumb up 2

      • says

        The impression I got from Peter’s saying that Walter built the machine was that his consciousness spent more time in 2026 than we saw on screen. While he may not have been present for them sending it back, he could have potentially have witnessed Walter constructing or beginning construction on the machine.

        It’s definitely possible that Peter either saw or sensed evidence to support his claim beyond the scope of what we saw.

        Good detail regarding the Bell reference – I’ll have to go back to see what I thought at the time, but it does look like the story was heading in that direction. It would be a nice way to tie it together.

        I agree that a certain ambiguity is good — too much spoon-feeding during serial often leaves a bad taste in the mouth. It’s a fine line.

        Like: Thumb up 2

        • Dave says

          With number 11: I don’t know how ‘canon’ they are but in the Beyond Fringe comic book series (which started just before season 4) 2026 Peter is shown taking the pieces back in time which *spoilers* culminates in 2026 Peter talking to in the machine 2011 Peter and explaining how he must save both universes.

          Obviously this should be taken with a grain of salt but they are produced by the guys of Fringe (some of them apparently written by Joshua Jackson himself) and I personally like to believe this is what happened.

          With that said I don’t think it’ll actually be confirmed one way or the other.

          Like: Thumb up 1

  7. Aria Mohtadi says

    Thanks Roco,

    Great list.

    I remember the producers would tease about “the true meaning of Fringe” which would be revealed in season 4…

    I didn’t quite catch that… :\

    Like: Thumb up 2

  8. says

    yeah, #11 is followed up on [and #7, at a glance] in the first beyond the fringe comic, basically as the opening sequence of the story:


    Standing at the wormhole that goes back in time in Central Park, 2026.

    WALTER: We’re sending her [the BBM, or “Daisy” as they nickname it] back in time and restarting the cycle. When you step into the machine again in 2011, she should bring you forward in time, to this exact year, and you’ll witness what will happen if you make the same choice.
    PETER: Sometimes I wish you were just making this stuff up.
    WALTER: The details will work themselves out, but you have to make a different choice, Peter. The universes can’t exist without each other. You have to choose to save them both. That’s the only way to save Olivia. Hand me that wire.
    PETER: So, we’ve already sent the machine back in time? We’ve done this all before?
    WALTER: Oh, yes. An infinite number of times.
    PETER: We’ve had this conversation before?
    WALTER: I imagine so. Fascinating, isn’t it?
    PETER: But that means I’ve already seen the consequences, I’ve seen this future. So why do I always make the same choice?
    WALTER: That I don’t know. Only you can answer that, Peter.

    then the BBM goes in the wormhole, peter follows and finds himself with dinosaurs. haha.

    Like: Thumb up 2

  9. phx219 says

    the machine no longer has an origin, but there had to have been a timeline, before the time loop, before interference, where the machine was physically built, presumably by Walter or Bell, and sent back in time, *before* the events of the loop come into play.

    Since the loop overwrites whatever came before it, the “original” origin of the machine will never be accessible, and the machine as we see it, has been looping around from 2026 to prehistoric times, until the loop is finally broken.

    another comment, the Observers are from a “possible” future of mankind, one of many, so if they are from the future of another universe, they do not worry about how they influence *our* universe. They are from somewhere else. Somewhere more advanced from us. Somewhere that an overuse of technology has destroyed the world. The fight for the future… that we need soliders for… that we need to be ready… because its them or us… (ie, all the ZFT manuscript stuff)…. i think the entire story has been about the Observer Invasion from the beginning. I think the AU was the biggest red herring EVER. Hehe.

    Of course, its also possible that William Bell built the machine, and sent it back in time using his Observer-stolen tech, after his plans were derailed in S1 and S2, in order to reset the chessboard and gain all his pieces back… 😉

    Like: Thumb up 6

  10. Patrick Bateman says

    I don’t think that they ever explained quite a significant issue properly – in the original timeline Olivia gained various powers via the drug, including moving between universes and the ability to influence physical reality (fire, electricity). In the altered timeline, she apparently hadn’t developed those abilities.

    So how come when her “old” memories came back, she didn’t seem to know about any of that, but she remembered everything else?

    Like: Thumb up 0

  11. Leonardo says

    Oh, i do not watch fringe, but i do see Agent Snow on the top of the page. Damned Agent Snow, why are you here? ( if you understood… You’re awesome! )

    Like: Thumb up 1

  12. Flávio says

    What about those guys that were chasing Peter in the first season? The haven’t showed up anymore….. :/

    Like: Thumb up 0

    • says

      @Flávio – Big Eddie? I’m not sure it needs to be answered at this stage, given where the story has gone. It was just a device to apply dramatic tension to Peter’s storyline, but you’re right, it hasn’t been resolved on the show.

      Like: Thumb up 1

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