For about 90% of tonight’s finale of “Fringe,” I wasn’t really buying what the show was selling. Ideas? Crackling. Character work? Top-notch. But the story wasn’t up to par. Obstacles were overcome too easily, with enough plot holes to threaten an additional crack between the two universes. But then the true endgame was revealed, and everything before that moment clicked into place. And that cliffhanger? Well played, show. Well played indeed.
[Full recap of Thursday's (May 20) "Fringe" finale after the break...]
Now, does that mean the Doomsday Device was a pure MacGuffin, put into place as a plot driver as opposed to an actual threat? Not at all. I’m pretty sure that was The Walternate’s Plan A all along. But all the while, he also had a Plan B, slowly deploying it through drips of information, a shocking lack of security, and a plan to use Peter Bishop down the line for far more destructive purposes. No wonder William Bell was so surprised at how well Peter had held up over the years. (More on that cryptic statement in a little while.)
Tonight’s finale opened with a little helicopter tour of NYC in the alternate universe, where Peter and the audience learned all about the completion of The Grand Hotel, the Earth Protection Act of 1989, and the true nature of the “quarantine” hinted at last week. Turns out the device almost employed by Agent Lee wouldn’t have blown up the city block around the opera house: rather, it would have enclosed the area in a thick, impermeable amber. Think “Jurassic Park” but with humans instead of insects, spread out wide enough to encompass entire city blocks. (Or, an entire sports arena…which means the sideways New York Knicks REALLY have no shot at getting Lebron James this offseason. Though that might be the least of their worries at this point, I suppose.)
While Peter takes a scenic tour of his home world, Olivia and Walter Bell seek to spring Walter out of prison. With AlternaFringe Division on their trail, Walter distracts the Other Olivia and Other Charlie while Olivia springs a healed (and extremely high) Walter from the hospital. However, since the other side is super tight on security (no doubt thanks to the aforementioned Earth Protection Act), Olivia’s mug lands on the hospital’s security footage, much to her double’s amazement and confusion.
At the Department of Defense, where The Walternate explains the problem with the schematics provided to him last week. Noting that the “regular” universe in “Fringe” has made advances beyond those in their own (really?), he asks Peter to look into their little “power problem.” After Peter agrees, he’s stunned to meet Olivia’s double. He’s even more stunned to find that he’s pretty turned on by this red-headed version. After their little awkward meet-up, he leaves the room. At this point, Other Olivia unloads on The Secretary, angry that he never alerted her about the existence of doubles. He apologizes, but Walternate insists that they are monsters that cannot be trusted.
She then takes Peter to a secure apartment so that he might further work on the Doomsday Device. But before leaving him in isolation, she takes an interest in her other self. "She's always trying to make up for something, right some imaginary wrong,” he tells her. “Haunted, I guess.” When the Sideways Olivia greets this information with a poker face, he concludes, “Maybe she's nothing like you at all."
That conclusion gets shattered once the two Olivias meet face-to-face in her/their apartment. Each has lost something dear to her: our Olivia has no mother, and sideways Olivia has no sister/niece. Since they both share a sense of loss (and share a place to hide a spare key), Olivia thinks she can trust her doppelganger. Not so much: the double has a different place to hide her spare gun, and what follows is The Catfight That Will Launch a Thousand Fanfics. Sideways Olivia nearly chokes Original Recipe Olivia to death on the floor, but the latter manages to knock the former out, tie her up, and then dye her own hair to resemble her counterpart.
For their part, Walter and William return to Harvard, where the landscape is either covered in ash or amber. Walter stares mournfully at the landscape created by his actions before entering the alternate version of his laboratory. Without the other three deceased Cortexiphan patients, a return back to the original side is currently impossible. Their goal: to find a device to act as a “doorstop” to the other side. William seems willing to help, but Walter distrusts 1) William’s Massive Dynamic profits, made off of stolen technology from the other side, 2) the fact that the technology that made the shapeshifters even possible derived from Bell’s technology, and 3) a misunderstanding of why William removed parts of Walter’s brain, as outlined in “Grey Matters” earlier this season.
Charlie arrives at Olivia’s apartment, and while our Olivia acts nothing like the one on their side, Charlie buys the act as well as her insistence that the Walternate wants them to bring Peter to him. On the way over, Charlie’s terrified attitude towards those on the other side sound a lot like the once voiced on this side about the shapeshifters, illustrating the type of mutual fear that has escalated an already bad situation between the two worlds into something ultimately catastrophic and perhaps mutually destructive. I can’t say I’ve spent Season 2 overtly missing Charlie’s presence, but these final two hours make me hope there was some way to infuse him into Season 3. (Given the ending of the episode, I think signs point to “Yes” on that front.)
As Olivia and Charlie go to Peter’s apartment, Mr. Bishop realizes that the power supply for the device works off specific DNA sequences: namely, his DNA. He is the Other World’s Energizer Bunny, essentially. Just then, Olivia and Charlie show up, with Olivia brandishing The Observer’s version of the schematics, talking in code-that-really-isn’t-subtle-
Now alone, the two pour over the schematics side-by-side, with Peter realizing the true reason that his true father brought him back. Olivia begs Peter to return with her, saying he doesn’t belong in a world of zeppelins and amber-filled quarantine zones. "No, I don't belong here. But I don't belong there, either." At this point, the “Grey’s Anatomy” writing staff apparently broke in, because Olivia confesses that she selfishly wants him to return to be with her. And luckily, now she has the hair for him to want to seal the deal, which he does with a kiss. Look, I know they’ve been hinting this for a while, but c’mon, “Fringe”: you don’t need to add a physical aspect to this relationship to make it “romantic.” Mileage may vary on this kiss, but to me, all it did was make me write down the note “HERE COMES THE PAIN.” After all, you don’t achieve that type of happiness in a show like this without intense, rapid, horrid retribution.
The newly minted couple meets Walter and William at the opera house. However, since Other Olivia alerted the Walternate to the switcheroo, AlternaFringe is in hot pursuit. William delivers the aforementioned odd line about Peter holding up better than expected, and then offers to hold off Fringe with Olivia while the Bishop Boys fire up the doorstop device. The idea of William Bell holding off a series of trained military personnel seemed laughable, until he busted out the hand cannon of a gun that took out half a city block. It was like Spock: First Blood. Totally awesome. He Vulcan neck-pinched 3rd Avenue, and lo, it rocked.
Olivia and William manage to hold off their adversaries for a while, until The Walternate gives mysterious orders to his team. Before we know it, Other Olivia is on the move, William passes out, and when he wakes up, the city block is empty except for himself and Olivia. It’s completely obliterated by a “phosphorous grenade,” a prototype created by Bell himself. With little time to assess the situation, the two move into the opera house. With all four inside, Bell tells Walter that he will use his degraded body (a fact hinted at in last week’s episode) as the power source for maintaining the door for the other three to return. When he raised his hand to the door of light, I more than half expected him to tell Walter that he was, and always will be, his friend. Alas, the show missed that golden opportunity.
Back home, there’s a tense truce between Walter and Peter. "I'm trying to see this your way, Walter. I can't,” Peter says. “But, you did cross universes twice to save my life. So that's got to count for something." Undoubtedly, the repairing of their relationship will be a cornerstone of the first half of next season. Also a cornerstone of next season? The fact that the Olivia that came back wasn’t our Olivia, but the other universe’s version. Our version is sitting in a holding cell on the other side, captured as part of The Walternate’s last-minute plan during the standoff outside the Opera House. (See what I mean about intense, rapid, horrid retribution?) The Bishop Boys now have a mole in their midst and apparently no way to ever return of their own accord to the other side.
I’m hoping this reveal explains the severe sloppiness in many of the plot points in these final two episodes. (Why didn’t the Walternate just shove Peter into the machine while unconscious immediately after crossing over? Why not stick 100 guards around him at all times to ensure he couldn’t leave? Why keep withholding key components of his opponents from Olivia, only to deploy them at emotional moments for her?) But mostly, I’m just happy we’ll be keeping Other Olivia around for a while, since Anna Torv has done some of her best work playing this alternate version of her character in these final two episodes of the season. And I’m insanely interested to see how Bell’s cryptic comments about Peter’s overall health fits into this long con on The Walternate’s part.
Did the season finale live up to your expectations? Did you cheer for the Olivia/Peter kiss or groan at its gratuitousness? Did The Walternate’s Plan B seem like a great con or simply bad writing? Leave your thoughts and comments below!