TV Review: FRINGE 4.14 “The End of All Things”

 It sure is a strange and exciting time to be a FRINGE fan.

After weeks of puzzling developments, shocking reveals and cliffhanger endings, Fringe finally offered some answers. This week's excellent episode, "The End of All Things," delivered a gripping and succinct info dump, but there was a lot more going on in terms of character, emotion, and the ever-recurring themes of identity, connection, and displacement.

September returned to enlighten Peter about a great many mysteries, and the revelations the dying Observer offered about his own people were quite fascinating. (They even seemed to make perfect sense, in a Fringey sort of a way, of course.) The reveal that The Observers are evolved human scientists from the future, with the ability to travel within and outside of time, jived perfectly with how the show has presented the race of bald watchers since Season 1.

We learned that September was classified a "rebel" because he was forced to meddle with past events in an effort to correct his own mistake. Instead of merely studying humanity's beginnings and important moments in time, which is what The Observers are supposed to do, September inadvertently tampered with the outcome of an important event – Walternate's discovery of Peter's cure. He further corrupted the timeline while attempting to rectify this mistake. His actions paved the way for the war between the two universes and brought about "a child that was not meant to be" in Peter and Fauxlivia's son, Henry.

The info dump scene – with Peter mind-melding with September inside what looked like a glass spacecraft – felt weighty, emotional and well-paced. As most sci-fi fans know, this isn't always the case with these kinds of scenes; they usually feel cold, confusing and emotionally hollow (I'm looking at you, MATRIX: RELOADED). But Fringe, as usual, managed to balance the emotional character drama and the ambitious serial plotting quite well here. Even the Observer's belief that Peter is "important" and that "everything will be as it was intended" if he and Olivia reconnect and share a future together felt firmly rooted in continuity and character.

The Observer answered several questions that have been hanging in the air since the show's first season, but he failed to shed any real light on a number of mysteries that have cropped up over the past several weeks. We still don't know how Peter was able return after being erased from existence. And we still don't know why or how the New Olivia can access the Old Olivia's memories. Could Peter somehow be unconsciously willing New Olivia to remember him and, in a sense, willing her to become the Old Olivia?

Early in this episode, Lincoln was making of big deal out of Walter’s theory that Peter was somehow responsible for Olivia’s condition. Later in the episode, Walter’s definition of the word “Palimpsest” set off a few bells. According to Walter, a Palimpsest is a page from a scroll or book from which the text has been scraped off so it can be reused, but sometimes what was underneath bleeds through. The definition applies perfectly to what’s happening with New Olivia’s memories. Her mind is the page, and her memories are the text that is being scraped off and replaced by Old Olivia’s memories. Perhaps Peter only needs to figure out a way to spread this Palimpsest effect all over the world to restore his timeline. If Walter’s theory is correct, then Peter is somehow responsible for the Palimpsest effect on Olivia. Peter could be unconsciously willing the world to suit his need and desire to return home, which could put him in direct conflict with Walter and everyone else around him as we head closer to the end of the season.

This week’s episode was loaded with memorable scenes, and not all of them concerned Peter’s fate or his meeting with the Observer. Robert David Jones' plan to manipulate Olivia into using her Coretxiphan powers provided some of the most unsettling scenes of the night. Jared Harris is perfect as Jones. He exudes equal amounts cowardice and arrogance with his creepy-casual line readings and sinister smile. His torturing of Nina Sharp was difficult to watch, especially following the emotional scene in which Nina tried in vain to jog Olivia's memory. The reveal that Olivia's cellmate was not the Nina she grew up with was surprising (but I always tend to fall for those kinds of things.) So is Faux Nina a Shapeshifter? Her robo-hand had me thinking otherwise, and so did Broyles’ insistence that if a Shapeshifter were responsible, Nina would be dead.

Also memorable was seeing Olivia unleash her mutant powers on Jones and his goons. Earlier, Jones said that Olivia was capable of much more than she could imagine, and something tells me that involves more than making light bulbs explode and channeling killer electric currents through bad guys’ bodies. I’m excited to learn more about Olivia’s potential and to see how Peter will inspire her to use her powers.

This brings us back to The Observer’s claim than Peter is important. We’ve seen that only Peter can inspire Olivia to use her powers, so it’s easy to think that Olivia is the one who is truly important, but it’s her relationship with Peter that completes her. To further speculate … if these two are supposed to be together, as the Observer said, and Peter was not supposed to have Henry with Fauxlivia, then perhaps Peter and Olivia are supposed to have a child that will help usher in the best of all possible futures. These people always seem to be at the center of world-changing events, so it wouldn't surprise me if their offspring was destined to change the world for the better.

It sure is a strange and exciting time to be a Fringe fan.

Other Thoughts:

  • If September wasn’t responsible for Peter’s return, then who was? Maybe Peter’s reemergence in Reiden Lake was just an example of the universe trying to course correct?
  • Who shot September? I don’t think The Observers carry around Tommy Guns in those briefcases.
  • Lincoln has been mostly relegated to the role of Exposition Guy. Here’s hoping he gets more to do when the series returns after the break.
  • We still don’t know exactly what Jones' plan is in this timeline, but I’m looking forward to finding out his true aim.
  • I really wouldn’t want to be on the other side of Broyles’ interrogation table.
  • Walter’s comfort food: A butter and cupcake sprinkles sandwich.
  • See ya in four weeks!