Saturday, May 7, 2011

Television Breakdown: No More

Fringe: 6:02 AM EST/The Last Sam Weiss/The Day We Died

I've gone through a considerable process in managing my thoughts on the epic season finale of Fringe, first by watching each episode individually. I then went back to the final installment to get some sort of idea of what actually happened. Finally, I went back through the entire three-part endeavor to gain some sort of cohesive intelligence. And you know what? I'm still absolutely confounded by what Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman have done. I thought I knew where this was all going, and I was proved wrong in the ultimate gut-punch of the season. I'd like to just get to that final scene so that I can try to make some sort of prediction of where the series will go from here, but let's start from the beginning.

6:02 AM EST kicked off with Walternate accelerating the endgame of the show by activating the machine via the blood ascertained from Peter and Fauxlivia's son. Suddenly our world is starting to unravel at an increased pace, with a vortex swallowing up a herd of sheep and their unsuspecting owners with them. It turns out that the activation over there triggered an activation over here, and the race is on to find a way to hasten our world's decay, or else to turn off the machine. Before suspecting that they wouldn't give us a moment of peace or happiness, the morning scene with Olivia running into a nude Walter gave us a glimmer of hope heading into the finale.

The entire episode was everything that we expected from the season finale, from Fauxlivia going AWOL against her side in order to bring Peter over to her universe, to Peter submitting to his fate and entering the machine. It was all that we had predicted, but that's not to say that it wasn't as emotional as it needed to be. The one-on-one sentiments between Fauxlivia and Lincoln, Walter and Broyles, Walter and Peter, and even Walter and God, managed to deliver a heavy emotional tension. Looking back, I really wish that it had ended that way. Peter dies, and the two worlds are left in indecision about their worlds still collapsing, be it not at as fast a rate as before. It's still filled with heartache, questions, and emotion, but it's something that I can understand. Unfortunately, Pinkman and Wyman had other plans in store, and decided to blast Peter away, straight into a coma.

It turns out, in the next episode titled The Last Sam Weiss, that the machine is acting like a damn fool, thinking that Peter is already inside and covering itself in a protective shield. As such, Olivia teams up with the mysterious Sam Weiss in order to find a "crowbar" that could pry open the shielding, allowing Peter safely inside. We also got some array of "answers" as to who Sam Weiss is. We've been lead to believe that he's one of the first people, but it turns out that he's just the last in a long line of first people enthusiasts who are trying to figure everything out themselves. Or at least that is what he claims, but I don't think the writers would have left in that tidbit about him being older than he looks for no reason.

It turns out that Olivia is the crowbar for the machine, and the first people have drawn a sexy picture of her as well. At this point it starts to become a little convenient that each of these characters, brought together by happenstance, all play a part in the machine. It's something that the final part deals with rather perfectly, but we'll get to that soon enough. In any case, Olivia has to use her telekinetic abilities to shut off the machine's defenses, and there's a really tender scene between her and Walter as she tries to interact with our old friend, the typewriter. It really brings Walter's journey throughout this season to a close, as he now accepts that he's insane, and he's happier for it. It speaks volumes about how much he now respects himself, and how much he has always respected Olivia.

There's also a tangent of Peter's memories being jumbled up by the machine, and it really speaks to how much his identity has shifted across this series. He barely knows who he is, but he still has some semblance of what he believes. He believes there's a way to end things peacefully, but he also believes in the father, the woman, and the world he now calls his. He will do anything for that, and that's what drives him into the machine in the final moments of the penultimate episode. And which side survives? I can't possibly give you a short version of this, because even I am not sure. All I know is that in those final moments, Peter's consciousness is pulled into the year 2026, where the alternate universe has long been gone. Instead of joy and happiness, Peter is in the bombed out street that resides in front of ground zero, but instead of the same pile of rubble, they've built the One World Trade Center in its place. It serves as a powerful dystopian image, as well as an informative one. It tells us that 1) we're in our universe, 2) we're in the future, and 3) we are totally screwed over.

The season could have ended then and there, but Fringe left us on an even more disturbing and unpredictable note than we could have ever imagined. The Day We Died takes place almost entirely in this future that Peter is glimpsing, and if we don't get a taste of how awful things are from the cold open, the opening titles in gray settle us into a feeling of dread. At this point, it doesn't matter which universe we are in. They're both going the same way. I find it fascinating that one of the fringe concepts listed in the titles is "hope", implying that such a thing is just silly at this point.

There are definitely a few prolific changes in this distant future, such as Olivia's niece Ella being a Fringe agent, Astrid sporting a HOT new haircut, and Olivia and Peter being a happily married couple. This isn't some alternate universe. This is what would have come to pass if the circumstances happened as they did, and it's not something that doesn't exist. This is a world that absolutely does exist, and the people who die really do die. It's very much like how life over there was, with the characters trying their utmost best to live happy lives. Even Walter, who has been locked up permanently as reparations for the crime he has committed, finds a way to look on the bright side. Yes, he is a total wreck, but he seems in a sort of peace with that. He is serving the punishment that he asked of God two episodes ago. That being said, we wouldn't want to keep him in that hellhole for the entire episode, so we've got to get him out.

It turns out that a group of terrorists are ripping holes in the fabric of the universe, attempting to hasten the decay of our world. And who is in charge of this group? Well, we are at first meant to believe it to be a man called Moreau, but it turns out that he is just working for Walternate. At this point in the viewing, my father decided to call out the man as being insane. Walternate is hardly above reproach, but he is not insane. He is the ultimate victim, having had his son stolen from him, his son renounce him as a father, and his world destroyed by that same son. He has every reason to hate both Walter and Peter. The events of this show have changed the dynamic between these two men.

The scene between Walternate and Peter is filled with such tension, as these two enemies now speak to each other with full understanding. And then Walternate reveals himself to be just a hologram, meant to lure Peter away from the ones he loves in order to cause one ultimate act of evil: kill Olivia. As much as we suspected that this world wasn't real, it felt cold and disturbing when Walternate finally killed our girl. The pain of that defeat finally sank in as Olivia's funeral carried out. I wish I was stronger, but this episode could have been called The Day We Cried, because that happened a lot more often than death.

And now we finally get to the endgame of everything, where the mystery is revealed and our questions are answered. Walter rushes over to Peter's house, having finally figured everything out. It turns out that they are the first people, and that they sent the machine back in time through the wormhole they made. That's why Peter and Olivia have such a reaction to it. They were destined to be involved with it, and were thus destined to be together. Then, Walter discusses with Peter on bringing his younger consciousness to the future in order to change everything, which is in fact what's happening right now.

We're suddenly back in the present day, with Peter bringing Walternate, Fauxlivia, and their team to our side. Somehow this has been inferred to mean merging the two universes, but not so. Or at least I don't think so. To tell the truth, I'm still fuzzy on what happened, because as soon as Peter starts to explain everything, he disappears completely. AND NOBODY SEEMS TO CARE! The Walters immediately quibble amongst each other, and Olivia suggests they try to find a way to fix their worlds. Meanwhile, the Observers are outside discussing the events that transpired, and September lets loose the chilling final line of the season. "Of course they don't remember him. He never existed. He fulfilled his purpose."

At this point the most terrible of sinking feelings descends upon my chest, and the entire world ceases to exist, much like it did when Olivia was trapped over there. How could they have forgotten that Peter existed when he is such a major part in the events of the show? I'm sure that this won't seem as horrifying when we figure out what happened next season, but for now I'm just pissed as all hell that this season is over. I'm glad they decided to end the way they did, because if they didn't end so intriguingly, I wouldn't be coming back for more. It doesn't make the Summer any less unbearable. And as I reflect on what happened, one phrase still rings true for me. "Don't trust Sam Weiss." The man is obviously not done with this show, or at least I believe he isn't. I ask myself if he is responsible for what happened to Peter. Would things have resolved themselves if he didn't interfere? Did he mean to interfere, and know that Peter was going to disappear on us? Fringe has crafted a confounding cliffhanger that leaves us absolutely clueless. After Olivia switched with Fauxlivia, we had an idea of where Season 3 was going. I have no idea what's ahead for Season 4. There are so many questions, and one still rules above all. This is what will be keeping us up all night. Where the hell is Peter?

9.6/9.4/10 out of 10


  1. The first 2/3s of the finale were AMAZING, but the last third (episode The Day we Died) I found underwhelming. Yes a lot of the stuff there was exciting but those final minutes had me going "What?" and then "Thats it?" And I doubt that was the reaction the people wanted from the viewers.

    I don't mean to sound negative, its just that that Fringe finale would be the second time that I was dissapointed by something that I was hoping would be mega awesome and so far since Thursday I've had a lot of pop culture related items dissapoint me (the latest Vampire Diaries episode, Fringe season finale, and Thor)so I just feel like blah.

  2. I don't watch "The Vampire Diaries" currently, so I can't really comment. However, I do understand how many fans were left with a feeling they could only explain as disappointed. It's a very polarizing finale, which is something that I love about great science-fiction. The fact that I have no idea what happened in the end, allied with the powerfully pessimistic feel of the episode, left me awake for hours. As much as some may think the show has "jumped the shark" by adding in time travel, they're certainly going to tune in next year to find out just what happened.

  3. I must, must give the writers props for having the balls to end the season like that. And its not that I found the ending to be pessimistic but I'm glad I wasn't the only dissapointed by the finale, I felt like this with the season two finale so I guess its going to be a trend with the finales from here on out for me. (oh wait he did MI 3, that was normal)

    And really, people are saying the show has jumped the shark by adding time travel? Bull. It's a show about FRINGE SCIENCE, how can it not deal with that, and how else would we go back to the present? I mean I had a theory that Peter technically didn't jump, his mind did the jumping but his body stayed there. And its a J.J. abrams production, how can it NOT have time travel? Even Felicity, the closest thing he did to normal, had time travel and witchcraft. Please.

    As for The Vampire Diaries, I felt that like Fringe these last few episodes are one big episode that have been leading to one event (the sacrifice ritual for Klaus to become a powerful Vampire/Werewolf hybrid, not the season finale) but the last act, despite a shocking event and several leads people dying, left me with the same reaction as Fringe.

  4. P.S. I hope we don't have to wait 15 years for Astrid to sport that haircut.

    Oh and isn't it amazing how advanced botox and other stuff will be in 2026? Olivia and Peter would be near 50 yet they still looked the same (amazing). Same with everyone.