Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fringe 3.22: "The Day We Died"

“Philip, if what we lost in Detroit still means anything to you, just give me one chance. That’s all I’m asking.”

“The Day We Died” was a very ambitious third season (not series, surprisingly) finale for “Fringe.” It faltered on the execution a bit, but as always with “Fringe” this season, and for most of last season as well, I appreciate the effort at creativity. This episode introduced yet another new world to us, differentiated by a white background title sequence as opposed to the blue sequence for episodes in our universe’s present day, red for the Other Side, and 80’s retro (my personal favorite) for flashback. The new world is fifteen years in the future, and only our universe has survived. That doesn’t mean things are all sunshine and puppies, though. Our world is apocalyptic because there are still holes being torn thanks to the destruction of the Other Side. I’m not sure I fully support this plot twist. I usually love dystopian future stories, but I kind of have a problem with this one. First of all, if this was just a one-off (which, given some of the plot developments, seems like a possibility), it feels like it was kind of a waste of a season finale. On the other hand, if this is yet another world we’re going to be shifting to periodically, I think that could be just one twist too many. We already have two complete worlds of characters to keep track of and invest in. A third is too much.

The episode opens in the future with Peter being taken to “Fringe Medical” after an accident. They do all sorts of futuristic-looking medical stuff to him to help him recover from his injuries. A young woman approaches the entrance to the hospital and asks about Peter. It turns out she’s a grown up Ella (Olivia’s niece), and she is now a Fringe agent. I found this to be the most interesting aspect of this particular future. Olivia, who is now married to Peter, meets up with her niece at the hospital, and soon after that, Peter is released. The three talk about the situation that led Peter to be in the accident. A terrorist called Moreau is leading a group called the “End of Days.” This group’s mission is to plant devices at soft spots and try to cause accelerated tears in the fabric of the universe.

We then see Moreau and his team execute one of their attacks. This one is at the opera house the team used to cross to the Other Side in last season’s finale. A light bomb goes off, and the entire opera house disappears. The Fringe team is on the case, of course. Peter examines a device that was left behind by Moreau and his crew, but it’s technology he has never seen before, and he just can’t figure it out. He asks Olivia to see Walter, because Walter is the only person he knows who might understand this technology. There’s only one small problem. Walter is in prison for the crime of starting the destruction of the universe. Peter pays Walter a visit in prison for the first time since Walter’s incarceration. Walter wants an update from Peter about whether things are as bad as he has heard, and Peter confirms that they pretty much are. Time vortexes have even begun to crop up. Walter looks at the device Peter found, but he says that to really help, he would need proper tools and equipment.

Peter decides to call in favors to make Walter’s request happen. Specifically, he goes to Broyles, who is now a United States Senator. Broyles is very, very reluctant to grant Peter’s request, at first saying that Walter will only be allowed to consult on the case from prison. Peter accuses Broyles of caring only what his constituents will think on election day, but Broyles shuts that down pretty quickly. The reason he doesn’t want to let Walter out of prison is because he’s genuinely horrified at all the destruction Walter has caused, including a massive vortex in the middle of the Thames. Peter finally wins the day by invoking something that happened between them in Detroit. Walter is extremely happy to get back into his old lab, even if he is in chains. There’s also a very sweet reunion with Olivia, who is coordinating the return of all of Walter’s equipment from evidence. Walter and Peter have another chat, which pretty much serves to tell us how things got so bad. When Peter got in the doomsday machine, it destroyed the Other Side. The two universes were connected, so that spelled doom for our universe, too. The best part of that exchange was that Peter actually called Walter “dad.”

In a scene that’s probably just there to make us feel really extra sad about events that happen later in the episode, we get to see a glimpse of Peter and Olivia’s home life. Peter shows Olivia a drawing that their young neighbor made for them. It shows the two of them with a child, which their neighbor is so sure they will have soon. Peter uses this to segue into talking to Olivia about how he really wants kids. Olivia would like a child too, but she doesn’t think it would be fair to bring a child into this harsh, apocalyptic world. Peter thinks their neighbor is doing just fine as a child in this world, but he doesn’t win the argument.

Walter wakes Olivia and Peter up with a phone call about a breakthrough. He has found that the canister from the opera house has a distinctive radioactive signature. Fringe’s science division tracks the radioactive signature to a remote forest location. Peter finds a key there, and he hides the key from Olivia, looking kind of sinister about it. It turns out it’s the key to the Reiden Lake house, and that’s where Peter heads immediately. He finds Walternate sitting in the kitchen, and Walternate is only too happy to use the opportunity to make a big, dramatic Evil Speech of Evil. Meanwhile, the rest of the Fringe team is dealing with a report of Moreau and his team breaching the containment area around the wormhole in Central Park. A light bomb goes off, and the Fringe team is knocked unconscious. When Olivia comes to, she sees the wormhole has gotten worse.

At Reiden Lake, Peter tries to negotiate with Walternate and apologize for destroying the Other Side. Walternate’s not having it, though. It turns out he was only appearing in the Reiden Lake house via hologram. He’s really in a van in Central Park. He jumps out of the van and promptly shoots Olivia in the head. This resulted in quite a few expletives from me. Peter presides over a Viking-style funeral for Olivia, with her casket burning on a barge in the water. This made me wonder what the writers thought they were writing. Doctor Who? Star Wars? I guess the Viking-style funeral is the go-to funeral for genre. Following the funeral, Peter is being very (understandably) broody in his apartment, but I was distracted from the melancholy by the contents of Peter and Olivia’s refrigerator. There was steak in a can! That just struck me as a fun bit of whimsy, made possible by telling a story that takes place 15 years in the future.

While Peter is grieving, Walter and Ella have a talk at the lab where they try to come to terms with what has happened, Ella mentions that there “are no happy endings anymore,” which I thought was a lovely callback to “Brown Betty.” In that episode, a very young Ella demanded Walter change the ending of the story he was telling to make it happy, and Walter complied. After talking to Ella, Walter makes a breakthrough on the End of Days case thanks to something he sees on his computer screen. He visits Peter to make a request based on what he has figured out. He essentially wants Peter to use one of the vortexes, the Central Park wormhole, to travel back in time and make a different choice. He wants Peter to choose to do something other than destroy the Other Side when he gets in the machine. Walter explains in detail why he can’t change the past but Peter can (something about how Walter already affected history by sending the parts of the doomsday machine back in time). It all reminded me very much of the Doctor and his rules about “wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff.”

Peter’s future consciousness gets sent back into the Peter who is in the machine in 2011. Instead of destroying the Other Side, Peter creates a bridge between the two universes. Walternate, Alt-livia, and a bunch of Fringe scientists (and their office) suddenly appear inside our Statue of Liberty. Peter stresses to all of them that they need to work together to find a way to fix both universes. And then he promptly disappears. Olivia takes over the cause, reiterating to everyone that they need to work together. Walternate looks dubious, of course. I don’t think he really wants to solve anything. He just wants vengeance. To cap off the episode, we see several Observers congregated outside the Statue of Liberty. Their job is to try and explain to us viewers what the heck just happens. Apparently nobody remembers Peter now because he served his purpose and therefore never existed. In other words, he’s Rory from the second half of series 5 of “Doctor Who.” So where is Olivia’s engagement ring to remind Olivia of Peter like Amy had to remind her of Rory?

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