Making the world a better place, one show at a time.

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I guess you would like to know a little bit about the person making all these proclamations upon good taste and horrid characters. I'm Andrea and when I was 15 I fell in love. An hour after meeting "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" I was forever altered in the way only love can, and I never questioned for one minute afterwards that television offered me an amazing chance to experience lives and moments that I could never imagine. So now, when I'm not getting distracted by my real life, I write about TV. I also read, am finishing a Master's degree in English Literature, travel, am attempting to learn vegan cooking, am the 5th of 6 children, and drive my roommate nuts by constantly cleaning our already clean apartment. Now that we're old friends, time for you to take my opinions as the be all and end all.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fringe: Cheating Time and Breaking Hearts

(3.22 "The Day We Died")

I'm going to say it, so if you haven't seen this episode, please stop reading.


At least according to the Observers gathered on Liberty Island witnessing the parley between Over-Here and Over-There.

15 years in the future Fringe agent Peter Bishop is injured and rushed to the hospital, where he is met by Astrid (with a fabulous hair cut), newly minted agent Ella Dunham, and eventually his wife Olivia (with some seriously unflattering news anchor hair).  Peter will be fine, but theo-terrorist Moreau (Brad Dourif, in a fantastic piece of casting) won't let up, setting off a technologically advanced light bomb in an opera house.  Peter needs help understanding the mechanics of the bomb, so he visits Walter in prison (convicted of causing the end of the world by kidnapping Peter), but Walter cannot help him from his cell. Peter must call in a favor from his old friend Senator Broyles (sporting a fancy artificial eye).  Released, Walter reunites with Olivia, who can now control her super-human abilities, and sets to work figuring out the bomb, though he knows that it won't matter all that much even if he does,  because Over-Here is still breaking down.  Turns out the two universes were inextricably linked; one could not survive without the other, therefore when Peter went into the machine and destroyed Over-There, our doom became inevitable.  This hasn't sat so well with Walternate, who as it turns out became trapped Over-Here when he crossed over to petition for peace and his universe ended, so he's decided to build weapons for Moreau.  Walter traces a radiation signature from the bomb, but it leads Peter back to the cabin by the lake, and while he and Walternate talk about Walternate's plans to destroy Peter's life before he destroys his universe, Moreau blows a hole in the amber covering a wormhole in Central Park that leads to prehistoric times.  Walternate in the cabin is just a hologram, he's really at Central Park, and he get out of a truck and shoots Olivia in the head.  After Olivia's heartbreaking Viking funeral, Walter has a revelation and goes to convince a distraught (and maybe drunk) Peter that they can change things.  Walter believes they can cheat time in that Walter is the one who sends the machine back through time via the wormhole and if they can somehow get a message about the consequences of using the machine to past-Peter (aka our present-Peter) that Peter can make a different choice and avoid doom.  Present-day-Peter gets the gist and uses the machine to bring Walternate and Fauxlivia across to the Statue of Liberty Over-Here with Walter and Olivia.  Everyone glares at each other, starts some yelling/blaming, Peter starts to say that they have to figure out how to get along because they are the First People, Walter specifically, and then Peter becomes blurry and disappears.  The two sets of scientist and agent don't seem to notice, deciding that it is time they talked.  And outside, one Observer remarks to another that those inside don't remember Peter.  Why should they, the second Observer replies, Peter served his purpose and anyway, he never really existed.  

I've been obsessing about this episode since last friday and I just don't know what to think.

I'm of like 4 minds about it all.

One the first hand, up until the last 30-second scene, this was a spectacular episode of Fringe.

There were so many beautiful moments that referred to and fulfilled the promises of the previous episodes.  Once again, we meet Walter bearded and imprisoned, but we meet Peter a changed man.  Peter seeks out Walter's advice instead of having to be dragged kicking and screaming into conversation with him.  Before Peter was loath to admit that Walter had been anything but a plague upon his life, but now Peter assures Walter of his love and devotion as his son in an act of comfort.  Later on in the lab, Peter quietly puts down a package of Red Vines next to Walter, to help him work; it is so simple but so touching.  Walter and Ella discussed the story he told her, and though her childhood belief in happy endings has been lost in the face of personal tragedy (which as far as I could tell went unnamed but must have been the death of her mother Rachel), Ella and Walter are able to connect through the shared memory of better times, and Gene.  Olivia is still the relentless agent she has always been, but she is finally happy, comfortable with herself and her past.  She might not be ready to have kids, but she is no longer a frightened child herself, evidenced by her control of her abilities.

On it's own merits, the future was exciting.  A silver-haired Walternate feeding technology to terrorists with a religious agenda was brilliantly devious and terrifying.  In the face of ultimate destruction, Walternate has become even more fervent and generous in his hatred, now determined to punish the son he believes betrayed him, his megalomania even more pronounced in comparison to Walter's humility.  Was it the loss of his eye that convinced Broyles to take his stern demeanor and clear head to the floor of the senate?  Or did the incident in Detroit sever his belief in his efficacy in the FBI?  Was Nina involved in some way, wanting another friend with high influence?   The unknown mutually-assured-destruction link between the universes was a lovely nod to the Cold War genesis of so many science fiction tropes.  And the tension and hostility of the face-off between Walters and Olivias looked to be enough to rip the universes back apart.  

On the second hand, I feel like I got punched in the face and then spat on.

Is it really possible that there has been a lie at the heart of the show in which I have invested years of my time, empathy and intellect?  Of course, because this is Fringe, "never existed" could mean something different than it sounds.  How exactly has all this happened if Peter hasn't been real?  Why would Walter go Over-There in the first place, and why would Walternate want to destroy Over-Here?  How would Fauxlivia have Henry?  How would Olivia grow from very damaged introverted workaholic to slightly less damaged vaguely awkward workaholic?  And what exactly has been the point?  So, the Observers, or most likely someone/something else concocted "Peter" in order to bring the two universes together?  Why?

On the third hand, there really won't be a season finale as controversial as this one.

 If the measure of success is getting people to talk about your show until it starts up again in the fall, Fringe is clearly THE show that will be discussed this summer.  People will be asking all of my above questions and more.  I'm sure as time passes I will have more questions, change my mind a dozen times about the whole thing, and by September I will just want to know so badly what they are going to do with this situation that I will watch even if I think it will make me angry.  Tying everything up in a neat little package might leave the viewer satisfied but without anything to speculate about between seasons that satisfaction can easily turn to apathy, so from that perspective it's understandable to shock us in the final scene, but I'm not sure it was entirely necessary, considering that giving us a glimpse of the future and then bringing together the two universes posed questions and opened possibilities I would gladly tune into Season 4 for.

On the fourth hand, it could be too soon to tell if this is the (inevitable?) Abrams disappointment that will make Fringe unwatchable or if this is a brilliant new avenue for the show that will be as interesting and engaging as the previous 3 seasons.

Whatever happens from here, I think it's fair to say that Fringe will never be the same.

The TV Girl

RIP Peter, maybe...?

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