Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Fringe Series Finale

Warning: if you haven't seen the series finale of Fringe, stop here. There are spoilers ahead.

Fringe is over. Five years have passed, although it doesn't seem like it can possibly have been that long. Initially, I was excited to begin watching a new series by the creator of my then-new-favorite show, Lost. It sounded like it was going to be an updated version of The X-Files, another favorite of mine, and the show that inspired the kinds of stories I write (and plan to write).

However, at the time, I found watching it difficult. My wife was pregnant with our second child and was constantly tired, so it was up to me alone to pretty much put our toddler to bed, and by then, the show was over. Since we don't have a DVR or any service like that, I stopped watching. I hadn't grown hooked on the show by the first two episodes, so I figured I'd rent it on DVD.

Once I did, I was hooked. I watched all of the episodes back-to-back, then glued myself to the television for Season Two. There was so much that was excellent about this show: the strange science-based cases, the dynamics between the characters, Walter's randomness... and the Observers. The introduction of the Observers mythology carved the path for the show. September was such an intriguing creation that I couldn't help but ask questions and debate the possibilities.

I loved every minute of the show. To keep it alive in my mind when I wasn't watching, I bought all of the soundtracks for each season. I was nervous during the Fourth Season when Peter was removed from the timeline, but they quickly got back to the same dynamics viewers came to know and love. And perhaps this made us care for them more, as we realized what could have been lost.

As Season Five began, I found the initial episode depressing, feeling horrible for Walter and the Fringe Team. Waking up only to find the world a worse place to live than when they left it... what a horrible fate.

Yet fate has a way of changing. Which brings me to the final episode. I sat on the edge of my seat, eager to see how they would carry out their plan. I knew they would succeed; they had to. But it was the interlocking elements of the show that made it so powerful. Walter's conversation with Peter was heartbreaking: "You're my favorite thing, Peter." Thinking back to the first episode when Peter and Walter were at such odds, it is amazing to see such a transformation in both of them. And did it really surprise anyone? After all, the show is as much about their father-son dynamic as it is about the science and the Observers.

References to past episodes abounded. The way they stormed the Observers' headquarters by unleashing their past Fringe cases left me excited (and a little bit grossed out). And in its final moments, Fringe showed the audience what we knew all along: this is not just a show about action, it's a show about emotion.

As in any Hero's Journey, there is a final moment in which the Hero (or Heroine) has a "Resurrection" in which they apply all they have learned. And I'll admit, I got chills as I saw Olivia framed by the city behind her, facing off with Windmark. The car alarms sounded, lights flashed, and the city was drained of its power. Wow. A perfect Resurrection moment; Olivia always was the main hero of the story.

I think this is why Michael allowed himself to be taken by Windmark to Liberty Island. This way, Olivia would be dosed with Cortexiphan once more, allowing her to channel her telekinetic powers. Of course, it seems that Michael is imbued with different abilities than the traditional Observers. He is a supposed anomaly; perhaps he is an anomaly of the timeline, just as Peter was. Most viewers assumed that when Michael and Walter went to the future, it would mean no more Observers, and thus no more invasion, no more interference, etc. But this isn't exactly the case. Maybe it meant that the Observers were still created, but this time, they had emotions intact like Michael did. They still observed and interacted to some degree, but never had the inclination of invading the era that Season Five revolved around. Perhaps Michael is an anomaly in the sense that his creation is the product of his own interaction with the future; after all, he could remember both timelines when Olivia had asked him about it. Perhaps by being "outside" of time, he could not be affected by any paradoxes that would arise.

Of course, with time travel, everything gets tricky. I believe there are answers, ones the writers might reveal someday. And if not, Fringe is still an example of a wonderful story. I will miss it, and I think that the network made a mistake in cancelling it when they did. But maybe it's not over. Maybe in an alternate universe, my alternate self is still watching it.

And maybe there's an Observer standing over me, remembering that there's more than one of everything.

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