In the immediate aftermath of the third-season finale of FRINGE, I couldn’t help thinking how distraught we fans would have been if the series had been canceled, and we were left with the cliff-hanger of “The Day We Died” as the last word on the series. But after some reflection, I realized that the story really could have worked as a series-capper, because it ends on a note of hope: The survivors have all the tools they need to save our world and the Other Side, thanks to Peter learning what the future holds. Sure, Peter blinked out of existence, but there is always a price for knowledge, and besides, as the Observer…uh, observed, Peter had served his purpose.
As a consequence of activating the Machine the previous week, Peter (Joshua Jackson) was propelled into the year 2026, where he occupied the body of his 47-year-old self – complete with a graying, very Walter-esque hairline! This world is beset by terrorists trying to bring about the End of Days by punching holes in the thin spots between dimensions, hoping to destroy everything. Olivia (Anna Torv) is in charge of Fringe Division and married to Peter, and her niece, Ella (Emily Meade), has grown up to be a hottie Fringe agent on her first day on the job. Peter doesn’t remember claiming to be from the past when he was first injured in a blast set by End of Days terrorist Moreau (Brad Dourif), who is doing the bidding of Walternate (John Noble). He gives Moreau a superbomb to use on an especially vulnerable point in Central Park. Peter needs the help Walter (also Noble), but he has been imprisoned for unspecified horrible crimes, so Peter appeals to a scarred Sen. Broyles (Lance Reddick) to win his father’s release.
Walter is able to analyze the cryptic bombs and traces a radiation trail to Central Park, where Peter discovers a key that leads him to his boyhood home. There he finds Walternate, who explains he’s behind the doomsday cult, as revenge for Peter destroying the parallel universe when he climbed into the Machine 15 years ago. But first, he will torture Peter by taking away his family. In fact, the “Walternate” Peter was speaking with was a hologram; the real Walternate was in Central Park – where he shoots Olivia in the head. Walter later studies the Central Park wormhole and discovers it leads 200 million years into the past. Walter realizes that, “Our destiny was set the day we triggered the machine. I didn’t understand until it was too late that our two worlds were inextricably linked. Without one, the other simply cannot exist.” Peter and Walter discuss how the pieces of the Machine were sent back in time, and Peter has an epiphany. Walter realizes that he can influence Peter when he climbs into the Machine in 2011 by arranging for Peter to experience doomsday in 2026. Back in 2011, Peter recalls his experiences in 2026, and uses the Machine to merge to the labs from both worlds into one – along with Walternate, Brandon (Ryan McDonald) and Bolivia (also Torv). Peter climbs out of the Machine and says that he understands what the Machine does and where it came from. He explains that one world cannot exist without the other, so he punched holes in both universes leading to the single room, “so that we can begin to work together,” he said. Then Peter vanished. Meanwhile, Over There, the Observers have gathered on Liberty Island, where December (Eugene Lipski) says no one remembers Peter. “How could they?” September (Michael Cerveris) replies. “He never existed. He served his purpose.”
So what was Peter’s purpose? I’m guessing it was to merge the two universes, since he, himself, is very much of two worlds: born in one, but nurtured in the other. Was it his fate to settle the nature vs. nurture question by combining them? What becomes of him now?
I am really happy that FRINGE was renewed, as its one of the best-written, most intelligent shows on TV right now. (Another contender for that title, SyFy’s STARGATE UNIVERSE, was cruelly executed earlier this year, and trudges mournfully to its end in the next few days…) It’s certainly the best-written show on Fox – HOUSE, be damned. That show is a prisoner to its format, whereas FRINGE is always mutating and unpredictable. That’s a good thing in the eyes of fans, but to viewers at large, that can be intimidating, so to casual viewers with Nielsen boxes, a heartfelt “Thank You!”
The story climaxes with this exchange of dialogue:
Walternate: You shattered my universe. Do you have any idea how many deaths you’ve caused?
Walter: That was an accident. What you have tried to do, you have done on purpose!
Olivia: Whatever you’ve both done, we’re here now. So maybe it’s time to start to fix it.
So you can see how that would work as a series send-off: Both sides resolve to work together to fix what the versions of Walter have done. But that was not a series wrap-up, it was just a tease. A tease to set up the status quo for Season Four, which should be quite different from any other. Did Peter merge any other aspects of the two universes? Are there still weak spots, or does Peter’s “bridge” also function as a sort of safety valve to release some of the pressure? Since the Other Side still exists, will Walternate mellow? Is travel between the realms still possible?
How long will it be before Peter reappears? If he does, that is…