A Look At FRINGE’s Final Season

Mike recaps the fifth and final season of FRINGE and speculates on what's to come with the show's final two episodes. 

The final season of Fringe has been loaded with good episodes and great moments. I’ve said this before, and at the risk of sounding like one of Walter Bishop’s broken records, I’m gonna say it again: as a long-time fan, it’s great to see the show going out an a high note.

Tonight marks the first of Fringe’s final three episodes, with the final two airing as a two-part series finale on January 18. This season has been quite the enjoyable and suspenseful mindfrak, and while I’m happy to see the show end its run with such a bold and emotional season, it’s that boldness that has me wishing the show could continue for a few more years.

Risky doesn’t begin to describe what the showrunners have done this season, upping the ante of Season 4, which tested fan loyalty by basically tweaking the series’ entire history so much that some viewers felt the show they’d been following for years had been replaced by a new show with different versions of the characters they’d come to know and love. This final season has more or less continued Season 4’s controversial "alternate timeline" story, but it jumped that story into the bleak future, replacing Fringe’s cool, glossy look and smart slow-burn sci-fi mysteries with a shaggier, greyer look and style and a more urgent tone and pace.

Fringe has changed a lot this year, but the heart of the show remains. It’s why we watch. The characters have grown and changed and, in many ways, they are completely different people than the ones we met in the series premiere. But their cores have remained intact for the past five seasons. Olivia, Astrid and the Bishop Boys may have gotten their minds wiped, their personalities altered or their souls darkened, but somehow they’re still the same people we’ve been rooting for all along. They’re TV’s great sci-fi family.

As the show nears its final hours, perhaps what we're all wondering is: Will Fringe deliver a finale that not only wows and surprises us, but also moves us and helps solidify the show’s reputation as one of the best sci-fi TV series of our time? It’s a loaded question, I know. There’s no way the finale will be able to please everyone, and we may be left with more questions than answers, but I have faith that the end will make sense and rock me on an emotional level, which is what counts.

If you’ve been following my reviews over the past few seasons, you know my passion for this show runs deep. When Fringe is at its best, it can hit you deeply and stir up a well of emotion while also delivering sublime comic moments, wildly original and inventive sci-fi ideas and concepts, and some damn fine storytelling. I may live to eat these words, because you never know what’s gonna happen, but I’m confident Fringe will go down as one for the books.

Take the last episode, ‘Anomaly XB-6783746.’ The episode wasn’t great, but it offered some truly great and unforgettable sci-fi TV moments, with the best being the death of fan favorite recurring character Nina Sharp, who was played by Blair Brown since the show’s first season. Losing Nina was tough to watch, but she had a noble death. Before losing her life in front of the Observers, the season’s big bads,, Nina lived up to her last name with a confident speech about how The Observers are destined to fail in their attempt to enslave mankind because of their lack of imagination and emotion. They can’t know love, so they just can’t win. Not in the world of Fringe, where love has the ability to bend space and time and to merge memories from two universes into one mind. Nina’s piercing speech rattled the Observers, especially Fringe Division nemesis Windmark. They were going to execute her on the spot, but she beat them to it.

Nina not only went out like a true badass, eloquently telling her oppressors to go fuck themselves while also reminding them exactly why they weren’t better than her, she also gave her life to protect an important piece of Walter’s plan to defeat The Observers, Michael, the “child Observer.” Nina sacrificed herself for the greater good, a gesture we may see repeated by one or more of the show’s central characters before the series comes to a close next week.

But we’re not there yet. Tonight’s episode, ‘The Boy Must Live,’ finds Walter stepping into “the tank” to find the mysterious Donald, whom we found out recently is the alias of September, the good guy Observer. You can check out a promo for the episode below, which mentions resetting time, something a lot of you Fringe fans have been talking about in the comments of my reviews.

I’m not one to speculate about how, or if, Walter and crew can “reset time,” or what such an event could mean for everything we’ve experienced over the last ten episodes. Will Peter and Olivia retain their memories of the adult Etta? Will Nina return from the dead? Will Walter switch back to red licorice? I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out.

Remember to join us for reviews of the final episodes. Here are a few more previews and sneak peeks of tonight’s episode to help tide you over:

The poster at the top of this post is part of the Fringe Benefits Project, an art show presented by Gallery1988 selling fan made Fringe artwork to benefit Mission Control, show co-creator J.J. Abram’s charity.