Episode 12: Liberty
Episode 13: An Enemy of Fate
By: Carlos Uribe
Fringe is a show about a small team of people who are trying to save our world from the Observers.
One of the most difficult aspect about writing a television series is actually ending it. This is because of what makes television a unique medium. A film or a novel are able to tell stories from beginning to end with more control over how long they can dedicate to the narrative. A movie, even those belonging to a series, will often be self-contained. The only time they end in cliff-hangers or build up a plot is when the film producers know that there's going to be another film. In some specific cases, they generally have an idea of how many films there's going to be and arc the plot as necessary. It's the same with a novel. Literary authors and filmmakers have an advantage in that they know how much time they have to develop a story. They can develop each chapter and scene so that it adds up to the ending they have in mind. A television series is different. The writers don't know when, or even if, they'll have to wrap up their plots and they have to keep making them until the network tells them to stop. The closest certainty a writer has is that specific season they have. This leads them to develop seasonal arcs where the characters grow. This explains the existence of filler episodes-something you'd shouldn't find in a movie or novel. These seasonal arcs have to tell a story but they can only end if the writers know that the show isn't coming back. They often aren't told until after it's too late that the series has been canceled. It is very rare for a series to know when it's going to end and to allow the writers to develop a season towards wrapping everything up. I bring this up because Fringe did it.
This can lead to it's own challenges. Now the writer has to look back at each season and find a way to wrap it all together for a satisfying conclusion that rewards long-term viewers. A series finale has to find a way to close a show with an ending that is thematically appropriate while having those final scenes mean something to the audience and the characters. There's a reason why so many series finales simply haven't been able to keep fans happy. A finale might try to force a happy ending which doesn't fit the tone of the rest of the show. It might not have been able to tie up the plot properly, leaving too many questions unanswered. It might not have given the fans an ending that they think the characters deserve. Why do I bring this up? These last two episodes acted as the series finale of Fringe and they both did a wonderful job. The two episodes manage to take the plot from the five seasons and wrap them up successfully. It managed to have an ending that fit the theme from the series. It managed to have the final shots that made it all mean something to the audience while giving the two main characters the ending that they deserve. It might not have been the perfect ending as it's filled with plot holes but it does provide a satisfying finish to the journey that began so long ago when Olivia was brought on her first Fringe case. You truly get the sense that this was the ending that was intended from the very beginning.
The first season of Fringe had weekly missions as it slowly drew the viewer into the show. It was a good start to the show but it merely hinted at the greatness that was to come. It was the season that introduced the Observer kid, which has become crucial this season in defeating the Observers. Considering how that episode had hinted at this role in that first season episode, there is a chance this might have been the plan from the beginning. At the same time, we're slowly learning about Olivia's powers that are used in future seasons and in the finale's climax. The second season was more about exploring the idea of a parallel universe before actually developing it. The third season explored the alternative universe before bridging it with our universe in the finale. The fourth season dealt with Peter being erased from the timeline while dealing with a bridged universe. It seemed for a while that's what the show was really about. Then the fifth season came and it became all about the Observers-which was a brilliant stroke by the writers. Using the mysterious characters that had been there from the very beginning as the final villains once again gave the impression that the show had a plan all along. The alternative universe itself played a role in this episode when Olivia had to go to the other side in order to breach a fortress. The show managed to use the elements from the previous seasons and wrap them up in a satisfying conclusion. It's unknown how much was planned and how much was put together this season by the writers but it was all pretty good writing.
The series itself is able to end on a theme that remains true to the show. The sacrifice necessary to defeat the Observers meant that Walter had to go to the future. This meant that from the day of the invasion onward, Walter wouldn't exist in the present. He has to live the rest of his life in the future even in this new timeline. It's brilliant and fits the show perfectly in it's demand of sacrifice. This leaves a tinge of sadness in the happy ending. Peter and Olivia might be happy parents to Etta but they will no longer be able to be with Walter. The ending with the White Tulip is not only a reminder that he's gone but it's a symbol of hope. That's what Walter had given Peter and Olivia: a bright and hopeful future as a family and for their daughter. The tulip had also represented forgiveness and Walter was able to finally achieve redemption when he took the boy into the future with him. In sacrificing himself from his family, he was able to achieve forgiveness. That's all he's been seeking for this whole time we've known him. It might not be the perfect ending for the characters but it fit them all perfectly. In the end, they all got at least most of what they wanted. It's all explained by one simple white tulip.
Fringe is now over. This is a show that I've fallen in love with and now I'll miss it. It was a fun show that explored the fringe science. It is a science fiction that took it's characters seriously and wove a beautiful tale that just happened to involve alternative timelines and now time travel. Fringe is over now but it has done what very few series have accomplished: have an end that completely satisfies every aspect: character, plot, and thematically. In crafting this final season, Fringe has been able to deliver the perfect ending with it's white tulip.