For four seasons, Fringe taught us many things. Chief among those lessons was the idea that love will eventually conquer all. If the people waging war against the latest monster to threaten the world can remain in the light, then all will work out in the end. When other shows are laying out the problems with being ruled by your emotions (I’m looking at you, Homeland), Fringe revels in the emotions of its characters. It’s not an unpopular television trope to use, particularly in a science fiction show. Despite the truly epic amounts of calamity that erupted around them, as long as Peter and Olivia had each other (in some form or the other), then all would be well. Their affection for one another could move mountains, light the world, and make things burst into flame. At times, the content could be quite grisly, but the central characters were always able to rise above the fray and enjoy relatively normal relationships outside of the chaos.
That’s why it came as a surprise when the series took a turn for the dark in its fifth, and final, season. We kept descending further and further down the rabbit hole, hit the crescendo with Etta’s death, and leveled off into a mediation on what it means to be human. As we watched Peter descend further into darkness, it was easy to see the set up for redemption coming. You knew that when Peter reached his lowest point, Olivia would be there to drag him out of it. I had to make my peace with all of those things. What I didn’t realize is how quickly it would be done.
In a series with more time and less to do, this slow burn could have played out for another month as each character dealt with the issues of Peter’s decision to willingly give up his humanity all in the name of revenge. He effectively abandons his wife, his father, and his mission to save the world in the name of vengeance. That’s a really complex decision that should be given time to breathe. Instead of playing this storyline out over a month, they’re forced to bang it out in about 45 minutes. It’s tough to blame the writers for not having enough time to tease out an idea they had. Still, if you know you are working on time constrictions, why run with some of these plots that you can’t methodically handle?
Even the trip to Fitchburg couldn’t get the proper time that it deserved. Olivia went there, told
Simone us how she was feeling, and drove off with a magnet (Magnets!). These little cultures that the show explores have the opportunity to be fascinating studies of the human condition in a post-apocalyptic world where the feeling of hope clashes with the feeling of cold hard cash that the Reward Line provides. There’s just not the time to fully flesh out these worlds so why bother? Couldn’t they use these scavenger hunt trips for action instead of exposition? Wouldn’t that be more rewarding for the viewer? Shouldn’t I stop asking rhetorical questions?
The plotting of a 13 episode season with this many things to accomplish can get a little sideways on occasion, but Fringe action never fails to disappoint. The Observer fight between Windmark and Peter was visually triumphant. Not to be outdone, Olivia’s concoction to free herself from the local robbers was an impressive feat. We’ll leave alone the idea that the captors put the most wanted fugitive in the world in basically a MacGuyver starter lab. When you do that, you’re going to lose every time. That being said, I was glad that they didn’t get rid of her leather jacket because that thing remains awesome.
We’ve only got five hours left before the show sets sail for good. With our old Peter returning to us, the show is now set for its final act. In those last five hours, we have to complete an elaborate scavenger hunt and overthrow a government of people who can teleport and read our minds. You know, kids stuff.