All good things must come to an end. This is a saying that TV fans can relate to more than most as we’ve all been victims of that horrible empty feeling that lingers once one of your most loved shows comes to an end. Whether it’s through poor ratings, a decline in quality or a natural completion of the story; it’s an unavoidable conclusion that we all must face and it’s not an easy pill to swallow when you have invested so much time and emotion into something you’ve let into your life. For the most avid fans of TV our favorite shows become more than just a show as we form emotional attachments and bonds with the characters. Outsiders may look at that and proclaim “It’s just a TV show” or “he/she is just a TV character” but when you invest as much time as it takes to watch a TV programme that runs for a few years, they become much more than just TV shows and characters, they become part of your life. I’ve been in this place before, first with 24 and more recently with Entourage and Chuck but now it’s Fringe that left me with that hollow feeling of knowing that a TV show is no longer part of my life and I’m sure there were plenty of Fringe fans with similar emotions as they woke up this morning.
All I wanted from the Fringe finale was to be satisfied with a happy ending. I went into season 5 wanting all sorts of answers from previous seasons, answers for a number of questions left lingering over timelines and universes or holes in the plots. However, as the season developed I become less worried about those questions and concentrated more on wanting a satisfying and happy ending for Peter, Olivia and Walter.
As far as finale’s go, it wasn’t the greatest and as far episodes of Fringe go, neither of the two were spectacularly strong either but for me, it is forgivable as I got the emotional satisfaction and happy ending for the characters that I wanted. I know it’s disappointing for the show to sign off with a couple of episodes that were far from the strongest that the show has ever produced, but considering what J.J Abrams did with Lost, I’ll more than take it! Ironically, the finale actually left more questions than it answered as there were plot holes galore and a few things that didn’t really add up, which would have had me tearing out my hair 6 months ago, but I’m willing just to overlook these and leave the finale for what it was. Looking back at season 5 now, I don’t think the show’s final season was ever meant to be a source for answering all our questions, it only had one job and that was to bring the story to a completion and give us a satisfying ending, which I wholeheartedly feel it did.
I’ve mentioned that individually, the episodes were far from the best that Fringe has produced and the first hour in particular wasn’t great. As much as I loved seeing Fauxlivia/Bolivia (maybe oldlivia would be the most appropriate now?) and Lincoln back, it all felt a little shoehorned in just for the sake of nostalgia. I know Olivia crossing over was essential to save Michael but I do wonder if there really was much need for Windmark to take Michael in the first place, it all felt like an emotional device from the show to fill some time and give them an excuse to cross back over to the other side, although I suppose the Cortexiphan dose Olivia received is what defeated Windmark in the end. How great did Oldlivia look by the way? I mean there is supposed to be a 21 year difference between her and Olivia, they could have aged her a bit more than that! I shouldn’t be too upset with the first episode though as I’ve been saying all season that Olivia needs more screen-time and more input on proceedings and with this episode we finally got just that as she was Cortexiphan-ing it up and, kicking observer and loyalist ass as if the Olivia Dunham we fell in love with had never left. Her best Cortexiphan induced moment was yet to come though, but we’ll get to that. The second episode was much stronger, but still didn’t wow or shock me as much as I would have liked. The battle against the observers to save the world has been simmering along nicely all season long and in the end it was somewhat anticlimactic.
Just because the episodes were disappointing doesn’t mean they weren’t full of great moments though, they were littered everywhere. I’ll start with Walter as John Noble’s performance in the finale, the season and the show since the very start has been nothing short of magnificent. Those face to face moments with Peter, Astrid and September were outstanding scenes of television and I’m man enough to admit I cried like a baby through all 3 of them. Noble is a master of his craft and it angers and upsets me that he’s never had any real critical recognition for his role as Walter Bishop. The Peter and Walter stuff has been slightly overplayed in the build-up to the finale but try and tell me you weren’t moved by the pairs goodbye as Walter told Peter about his plan to take Michael into the future, it was heart wrenching material to watch play out, especially when Walter said “You are my favorite thing Peter, my very favorite thing” and even more so when Peter mouthed “I love you, dad” back at him as Walter headed for the portal later in the episode. Aw man, I don’t know about you, but there were tears everywhere in my house!
Walter’s scene with Astrid was also emotional, not just because we finally saw a reunion between Walter and Gene, but because of Walter telling her that Astrid was a beautiful name, it was a real sweet way to end things between them given the running joke about him always getting her name wrong. The relationship between Walter and Astrid is one I would have loved to be given more insight into. We watched as he constantly got her name wrong, barked orders at her and at times took out his frustrations out on her, but all along we all knew fine, as she did that deep down he had a special place for her in his heart. Speaking of Astrid, I was really happy with Jasika Nicole’s performance in the finale. A couple of reviews back, I wished for her to be more involved in the show and hoped she had a large part to play in saving the world and she did, it was great to see her character given so much influence on the final proceedings and for a character who’s been undervalued and underused for the entire show’s run, it was a fitting end for her.
Another fantastic moment was the scene where Olivia and Peter walked through observer HQ while loyalists and observers lay dead or dying from some classic Fringe weapons previously used through the show’s run. There was epic-ness stamped all over that scene and it was good enough for me to hold on to and use to help forget the things I didn’t like so much about the finale. The anti-gravity bullets were awesome too and allowed for a little Walter humor to sneak in, which was sadly but understandably in short supply over the 2 hours. As I hinted at previously, the whole battle scene was anti-climactic, I mean come on, we’ve been waiting months for this showdown, but the moment where Olivia summoned her Cortexiphan powers, shutting down half of Manhattans power in the process and crushing Windmark for good was brilliant. (It’s been pointed out to me that it may have been Michael that killed Windmark and not Olivia. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section!)
I have to say, there were some special performances in the final season of Fringe, none more so than Walter and Peter but Captain Windmark deserves an honourable mention. Michael Kopsa’s performance throughout was flawless, he was an outstanding protagonist and for me will go down as the best we saw on Fringe. Towards the end, we discovered all about September and his 11 observer colleagues learning to feel love but having the balance of having Windmark learning to feel hate was fascinating to watch play out. By the end you were left in absolutely no doubt that Windmark did hate his opponents, just as easily as September had learned to love his son and Kopsa done a terrific job of portraying that. The acting from everybody in the final season was top notch; I don’t have a single complaint about anyone. For everyone to bring their “A game” in the final season has confirmed my belief that the show has definitely ended a season or two too early, but ratings are all that matter in this business and if we’re honest, we were very fortunate to even get this final season as ratings for this show had plummeted, which is something I’ll never understand. I often see Fringe as described as “the greatest show that people never watched” and I’d be inclined to agree with that statement.
For me, the ending was perfect. Sure, it meant the whole of season 5 never actually or never will happen and left plot holes and questions galore but I’m willing just to leave all that aside and be happy that Peter and Olivia got Etta back and got their happy ending together, where they belong. We’ve seen that scene in the park play out so many times this season and to see it one last time, with no observer invasion and nothing but smiles on the faces of Peter, Olivia and Etta was hugely satisfying. I thought the final snippet showing the white tulip to show Walter has got the forgiveness from god that he has always so badly desired was a beautiful moment for the show to end on and although we’ll never know to what extent Peter understood that message, it’s ok as they were always going to leave a small tease in there somewhere and I’m happy for that moment to be it as all the characters have got their happy ending and so have I.
Fringe will always remain one of my favorite shows and a big thanks goes out to everyone involved in making the show what it was. It’s been one hell of a ride and it’s one I’ll never forget!
Ross Hunter – @Rossco1893