“I love you Dad.”
Words not even heard, but rather mouthed during the chaos of the final moments of FRINGE, that for me, said it all.
In the end, FRINGE was always about family, the relationship between an estranged father and his son as they struggled to understand each other and rebuild their family. Through 5 seasons, 3 timelines, 2 universes, and 1 almost big bang universe creation (orchestrated of course, by William Bell last season), Walter, Peter and Olivia have always managed to save the day and keep their family together, finding love through all the hard times. And I enjoyed the idea that their bond, their family, is what ultimately saved the day, as it inspired September to not only have a son, but to love him and protect him as Walter did for Peter.
So I know it’s been about a season and a half since I’ve recapped, but in honor of FRINGE, let’s just pretend we’re in an alternate universe in which I never stopped writing recaps, and this is the just the last one in a long line.
For me, the highlights of the finale were the Walter moments, when he was essentially saying good-bye to his family and friends, without actually letting them know that they’d never see him again. Especially heartbreaking to me was the scene with Astrid in the amber, when she showed Walter that Gene the cow had been saved in the amber. (I love the idea that the cow was still alive and in the lab) When she speaks to Walter optimistically about how once the plan is finished they’ll be back in the lab again drinking milkshakes together, I couldn’t help but feel profoundly sad for Walter, who didn’t want to ruin her hope, yet knew that would never come to be. And then when he finished the scene by (finally) saying Astrid’s real name, and complimenting the name, I’m not ashamed to say I got somewhat choked up. And when Walter and Peter watch the tape with Walter’s farewell, I was amazed at Joshua Jackson’s performance, the sadness and yet acceptance at the inevitable, and the burgeoning respect and love for his father, who had grown so much over the course of the series. And it tied in perfectly to the end, when Peter sees Walter leading Michael into the wormhole, and Peter alone knows what Walter is doing. And he mouths “I love you Dad,” not only encouraging his father for his ultimate sacrifice to save them all, but all calling him “dad,” which meant so much to Walter, and told him that Peter fully accepted him and forgave him for everything that had happened.
Walter’s sacrifice was, to me, the perfect bookend for the series, as everything that happened occurred because of his original sin of crossing universes and abducting Peter. In the end, he crossed yet another barrier, but this time to save the world, fully knowing that he would have to give up life with his beloved son to do so. Plus, it gave consequences to the final solution to the Observer problem, making it a happy ending but making it so the characters earned that ending by losing one of their own. And the final image of Walter, holding Michael’s hand, an old man and a little boy walking through a portal, was a phenomenal final shot for the man, harking back to him leading young Peter through the original universe hopping portal, another subtle call-back to the lore of FRINGE.
And there were many call-backs in this finale, and I loved them. From going back “over there” to see Lincoln Lee and Bolivia, to Gene the cow, September’s friend December, the butterflies attacking the Observer, the bloody 6 fingered hand imprint on the wall, all the way to the strange black pod being used to subvert the wormhole to send Walter and Michael to the future. It was subtle and clever, and I loved that they did it this way, instead of just having a bunch of cheesy flashbacks to previous episodes like so many other shows do during their finales. And my favorite callback, Olivia and cortexiphan. It was such an integral part of the show for 4 seasons, and then it disappeared this season, and I was so glad for one final appearance in the finale. I loved that they showed off the full range of Olivia’s abilities, from jumping between universes, to blowing out lights, and my favorite, her telekinesis to kill Windmark. I am incredibly happy that they let Olivia kill the man. She was always THE badass of the show, and I love that she used what she once thought of as her weakness (her childhood trauma and testing) to destroy a man who had always lorded over them how much more powerful he was than everyone. She was the one who remained in control after Windmark killed Etta, she was the one who had to be strong for her family, and I love that in the end, she was the one who got their revenge by viciously crushing the bastard between 2 cars. That was one of my favorite moments.
I do still have a couple of questions. There’re kind of nitpicky, but I think they’re valid issues I have with the end. Why did September just give up on the plan when Walter disappeared? The episode showed that he could clearly build the machine himself, he had the boy, why did he need Walter? Also, why couldn’t September just go with Michael into the future? Why would he want to be separated from his son? I know they said that Walter demanded that he be the one to go, but it still doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
My other question is regarding the White Tulip. How did it get to Peter at the end? It clearly had to have been Walter that sent it to Peter, as September had no idea what had happened to it, but how did Walter send it back in time to be delivered to Peter? Or, on another note, maybe I’m reading the situation wrong. The white tulip was a symbol of God’s forgiveness and love for Walter, perhaps it was a higher power that delivered the tulip to Peter at the end, knowing he would have a tough time of it once he discovered that Walter had disappeared from the timeline.
Yet, I still think the series ended incredibly strong. They came through on their premise for both the show and the final season, while also finding clever ways to call back to much of FRINGE lore and history. The series felt cohesive and well made, and I will proudly recommend it to anyone looking for a smart sci-fi show with a lot of heart. I’m going to miss FRINGE, but I’m glad that TV can still produce such excellent shows. I look forward to the next addicting show…