Sunday, January 27, 2013

Fringe 5.12 - 5.13 "Liberty/An Enemy of Fate"

“If we shoot them, they’re dead. Why do we want them to float away?”
“Because it’s cool.”
-Peter and Walter

Yet another twisty, creative Bad Robot show has reached its end. The end of “Fringe,” I believe will prove in time to be less controversial than that of its creative ancestor, “Lost.” Much of the plot played out fairly predictably, really. Earlier this season, I was concerned that the creative team would push the reset time button and take the easy way out, with everyone being happy at the end. I worried about this given the show’s history of pushing the reset button after shaking things up in really significant ways (the most important characters getting their original timeline memories back, for instance). In reality, that is what they did, however not everything was perfect. There was still a fairly significant, permanent price to pay for that reset. The way everything played out put the final touches on the story. There is really no satisfying way that the story could continue after this point, and I think that’s really what should happen at the end of a television show. In the process of getting to that point, there were also some nice nods to what has come before, and even an assist by Alt-livia and Lincoln. As much as I would have liked to imagine how the investigations and wacky hijinks could continue in perpetuity, I think, overall, it was a satisfying way to end our time with these characters.

The first hour, “Liberty,” focused on the team’s efforts to get Michael back from the Observers. Thanks to a tip from Broyles (which costs him his life until the reset), the team learns that Michael is in a detention center on Liberty Island where the Observers are experimenting on him, trying to figure out why the fugitives care about him so much. They do figure out about his capability for emotion, and it leads them to decide to destroy him. Liberty Island has extremely dense security under Observer rule, so an alternative needs to be figured out. The solution the team comes up with for Olivia to cross over to the Other Side and, presuming the Observers haven’t taken over there too, cross back over in the middle of Liberty Island. Olivia has burned up all the Cortexaphan in her system, though, so she needs a re-up. And that re-up involves an extremely painful looking series of injections to the brain stem. Peter is really nervous about the side effects (and Walter lists quite a bunch of them), and Walter also warns Olivia to cross back immediately if she starts to experience withdrawal symptoms, but none of that really comes to anything (sorry…spoiler alert).

Olivia crossing over sets off alarm bells on the Other Side, and she’s soon greeted by a 20 years older Alt-livia and Lincoln. They seem to have created quite a nice family life with each other, which was sweet to actually get to see, even if it was implied they would end up together late in season 4 when Lincoln made the choice to stay in red universe when the bridge closed. Long story short, the double cross over plan works, despite a little suspense where Olivia seems to be having withdrawal symptoms and an inevitable Observer attack. While all this is going on, poor clueless September breaks into the lab and wonders where everybody is. He then starts using the lab equipment to concoct part of what he needs for the big reset time plan. He’s missing one piece, though, something that’s like a spark plug, and he has to go visit another one of the original twelve Observers, December, to try and procure one. He tells December that December owes him, and I was curious to know why. I guess I don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of Fringe mythology like I do for some other shows.

As we move into the second hour, September eventually reunites with the rest of the team (who had taken Michael to a safehouse). Over at the lab, Peter unearths another tape from the amber. It’s basically a goodbye message from Walter. He says he’s going to disappear and send something strange to Peter in the mail. That’s when Peter starts to realize something is up. September and Walter have a talk about the upcoming plan to send Michael to the future. September asks to be the person to take Michael to the future. Especially after seeing more of how Walter and Peter interact with each other, September can’t bear to leave his son after such little time together. Walter really wanted his chance at redemption, but he agrees to let September do the job. There’s a bit in a snag in getting to that point, though. Peter and Olivia go to December’s apartment and find December dead and the spark plug missing. The team has to go with a new plan. They’re going to have to use an Observer shipping lane to create the time traveling wormhole.

Eventually all the pieces are in place, and there’s a big Fringe team/Observer shoot-out by the shipping lane portal. Of course, since he agreed to take Walter’s place and get erased from time (the tie travelers would be a paradox otherwise), September dies in the battle. Poor Michael just sits there next to his dad playing his music box until Walter scoops him up and takes him through the wormhole himself, as he had always planned to do. Next thing we know, we’re back in the iconic scene of Peter, Olivia, and Etta in the field on the day the Observers invaded. This time, there is no invasion, and the happy family goes home after a fun day at the park. This brings up so many questions, but really, as with “Lost,” it’s better to just live in the emotion of it all.

And so we say goodbye to “Fringe” after five seasons. There were definitely ups and downs, but beginning I the second half of the first season, the creative team never played it safe. They always tried to see if they could incorporate new, creative twists. Some of these twists, like the introduction of the parallel universe, and the beautiful semi-musical episode “Brown Betty” paid dividends and provided some truly great television. Others, such as the animated episode in season 3 and the introduction of the alternate timeline in season 4, were pretty much flops. But in order to get the high highs, the creative team had to take chances, and I will always applaud that. We need more television shows willing to take creative risks. Mostly, I’ll remember the Bishop family of Walter, Peter, and Olivia and how they always marched to their own drummers. The relationship between Walter and Peter was what made “Fringe” especially stand out, even in the more procedural first season, and I’m glad that relationship had a chance to be restored from the mess of the alternate timeline before the show ended. Oh and did I mention that Gene the cow even made a big return appearance in this episode? Yep, that happened.

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