Fringe Season 3 Review: Holy Frak, What Was That?

M: Howdy folks.  I have to start with an apology/explanation.  I had fully intended to provide Fringe reviews for every episode this season and, as some of you may know, I did until around the mid season break.  Unfortunately, with great thanks to the federal government, my non-blogging life has been filled with a great deal of work, thus my blogging has suffered.  That said, E and I were recently talking about the Fringe season finale, and felt we owed it to you, our readers, to bring the discussion online.  After the jump we tackle the season finale, and the season in general, and there will be spoilers, so if you haven’t watched it, go watch it and then come back and read this!  E, start it off…

E:  Seriously?  What the frak?!

M: As we discussed right afterward, “WTF” is the best, and really only, response to the end of season three.

E: I’m going to have much less to say about the season in general than the finale in particular, but really, this season has been pretty spectacular, so I’ll make the effort.  I’ll start by saying that I’ve loved the dual universes plot line.

M: I wasn’t totally enamored of it at first, but found many of the alt-universe plots very compelling, so it didn’t take me long to get on board.

E: Splitting the episodes between each side?  Loved it!  I loved it down to the little differences – the “show me,” the blimps, the fact that they can accelerate pregnancies but they haven’t figured out how to perform c-sections. Just awesome.

M: I thought the technology was such a weird mix.  They can create killer shape shifting cyborgs that can travel between universes, but they still use zeppelins as a major form of travel?  Seemed odd, but it gave the alt-verse a very fun flavor to it.

E:  Yes, exactly.  I love seeing Charlie Francis, and I loved Lincoln.  What a terrific character he turned out to be!  And Alt-Broyles!  Damn.  I kind want to cry just thinking about him and his family.

M: Well, anyone who’s read any of my past Fringe posts knows how much I miss Charlie in “our” universe, so having him back was wonderful.  Like you said, Lincoln turned out to be quite the winning addition.  But that episode with Broyles family?  That had some of the more emotional moments of the season!

E: But man, I can’t stand it any longer.  I don’t even know what to say about this.  If that wasn’t a gasp inducing ending, I’ve never seen one.  Thank God the show was renewed!

M: There are just so many questions about how it ended.  How the hell can Peter not have existed?  It makes no logical sense on so many levels.

E: Oh, I’m so with you.  BOY has it got my attention, but it makes no sense. It almost surprises me I’m not mad about it, because it just makes no sense.

M: I know, it’s as if it’s so baffling that you can’t be mad, or sad, or anything but baffled.  I can’t even think it through clearly… I mean, starting at the beginning, if he didn’t exist then Walter never would have created the rift in the universes, so there’d be no need to fix them, right?  Even if you allow that, there’s no next of kin to release Walter to in the pilot episode, so he stays in the mental institution.  There’s no one to keep Walter grounded, to keep him focused on work or motivated to actually continue to live.  Plus, if there’s no Peter then there’s no machine, no baby Henry to allow Walternate to turn their machine on, no one to walk Olivia through turning it off, or even to pull her out of her William Bell-suppressed subconscious.  There’s no one to get in the machine and go into the possible future.  There’s no making a different decision, and no creating a rift in the two worlds to create the room where both Walters and both Olivias are tasked with fixing both universes.

E: Yeah.  It’s a riveting development, but – I am deeply curious to know how that makes sense to the writers, because I cannot think my way into it making any sense to me.  Is there any sort of organic way that they can make this coherent, or is it going to just seem like a stunt?

M:  I honestly don’t know.  I could see them saying he served his purpose and that as a consequence of what he did he’s now caught outside both universes, or something like that, but saying he never existed has me utterly baffled.

E:  That he exists outside of both possible universes and they have to figure out a way to get him integrated so everything works together again?  Maybe.  Maybe.

M: Most importantly, where do they go with this?  The head honchos have said that Joshua Jackson is not off the show, so he has to come back in some manner, as we fully expect he will.  The question is, how do we get there, and how does it impact his relationships with Walter and Olivia?

E: Yeah, that’s almost impossible to speculate on.  Speaking of that, how do you feel generally about the way Peter and Olivia’s romance played out?

M: I thought it was really interesting the way that it went.  At the point that I stopped regularly writing (6955 kHz) I was already aggravated with Fauxlivia’s complete divergence from her character into “Evil Olivia” who would do anything for the job, and that Peter would not pick up on that.  Well, they sort of addressed that, they brought her back from the brink and once she made it back to her side they gave her a soul again, which complicated things in a good way.

E: Well, I suppose that whole plot was supposed to illustrate that she had feelings for Peter, and that she wanted to think that the beings on the other side weren’t really people, but had to reluctantly admit – eventually – that she was wrong.  I mean, hard to imagine you have a child with a non-person, right?

M: But he was from her side, so it’s still complicated.  Then, when they brought “our” Olivia back I thought the relationship dynamic reminded me a lot of a plot on the far too short lived Farscape.  In that, at one point the main character, John Crichton, was cloned.  The clones, and the rest of the cast, got split between their two ships, and separated for months without any contact.  The Crichton that was on the ship with Aeryn Sun started a relationship with her, but a few episodes into the arc he was killed.  When the other Crichton reunited with her, she was a mess and couldn’t bear the thought of him not sharing the memories of their time together, or even more so the thought of losing him again like she just had.  It was an amazingly powerful plot, a little more so than the Olivia-Fauxlivia one, actually, but this was very reminiscent.

E: Well, I didn’t watch Farscape, but I can certainly see the similarity.

M: Ok, you need to remedy that, Farscape was really outstanding.  I think C has it, or maybe she was renting it or something.  Either way, get it and watch it, great stuff.  Anyway, when Olivia couldn’t stand that Peter hadn’t known the difference, and couldn’t forgive him for it, that really was well done.

E: I was extremely frustrated by her reaction, but I understood it, too.

M: Exactly, that’s what I thought was well done.  You were upset by it emotionally because you wanted her not to feel that way, but you could completely understand why she did.  I thought it was very real, which considering the context is pretty impressive.

E:  Good point.  I was actually less impressed with the way they got together; his speeches to her were gorgeous, but somehow her eventual decision to try and be with him didn’t pack the emotional and romantic heft it should have.

M: I agree, it seemed very sudden.  Similarly for me, the part where they played up that Peter might still have feelings for the “other Olivia” I thought was ridiculous.  The whole time he didn’t know it was an other Olivia, and just wanted it to be the real Olivia.  That part just didn’t ring true to me.

E: Yeah, that.  Perhaps that was supposed to just be in our Olivia’s head?  Well, that would have made more sense, anyway.

M: Overall, though, I thought they did a good job with it, and ended it well with them finally forgiving and trusting each other, and getting together.  I think a bunch of shows recently, Fringe, Big Bang Theory and Chuck among them, have shown that Moonlighting may have been the fluke, and that main characters can get together without it ruining the show.

E: Oh, I’m not sure I’d put Chuck on that list, but sure.  Generally I’m with you.

M: The problems Chuck has had have nothing to do with Chuck and Sarah getting together, as they weren’t together for the whole “Shaw” plot arc, and that’s when things really started to fall apart.  Putting them together actually helped the show at times over the past season and a half, but that’s a different recap, let’s move on.

E: Yes, let’s.  What about Fauxlivia’s superfast baby Henry?

M: That was another really good “over there” episode, with a taut story line and a throw back to the kinds of X Files-y episodes that hooked me on this show to begin with.

E: Yes!  I love it when they do the X-Filey thing well, and this was a great example of it.  I spent the whole episode wondering whether or not Walternate was behind the kidnapping, first thinking yes, then no, then yes again, wondering if it were for good purposes or ill and just never being sure. And for Lincoln and Charlie to find out about our Olivia being with them… Awesome.

M: Agreed, and the reveal of Evil Brandon handing Walternate the blood card at the end was so well done.  As for what happens with the kiddo, either he doesn’t exist any more, or he will continue to have super-accelerated growth (like human-alien hybrid Elizabeth from the original V and V: The Final Battle, or Sil from Species) and will be the villain of season five or six.

E: Yeah.  Or not.

M: Come on, work with me here!

E: Um, no.

M: Fine.  Another highlight of that episode, and really something that kept getting better as the season went on, was the involvement of Charlie and Lincoln.  We mentioned them above, but let’s give them some more props, because, well, they rock.  They built a good chemistry between them, and especially in that episode where they started to question Walternate, they really came into their own.  Word on the street is that Seth Gabel (Lincoln) will be a full/permanent cast member next season, so I’ll be interested to see if it’s the recently introduced Linc from “our” universe, or the more familiar one from the land of the zeppelins.

E: Oh, yes, exactly.  I love them.  Kirk Acevedo is my boy, and it makes me super happy that he’s getting even better storylines as his doppleganger than he was as the original Charlie!

M: I don’t know, that first season episode with the nano-spider-thingies was pretty good.

E: These were better, though.  And Linc is just a huge plus.  And not merely because he’s returned the name Linc to broadcast TV, where it has been so sorely missing since Linc Hogthrob stopped flying missions with Pigs in Space.

M: Anything that helps bring old Muppet Show sketches back into peoples consciousness is a great thing!  Like the Muppet Show, there were some stellar guest appearances, in a bunch of pretty solid cases, over the second half of the season.  Among them the future mother of Katniss Everdeen, Caprica‘s Paula Malcomson…

E: And he says it like that because the two of us are obsessed with The Hunger Games books and the casting of the movies – but that’s the story for another day as well.

M: … Alan Ruck (aka Cameron from Ferris Beuller) and a great performance by Christopher Lloyd, used far better here than in his guest stint on Chuck last year.  The Lloyd episode also played on a theme that was at the center of the season…  the unintended and unforeseeable consequences of Walter’s messing with the laws of physics.  And of course, back to the finale, I loved seeing the always creepy Brad Dourif (Dune, Lord of the Rings) as Walternate’s evil henchman Moreau.

E:  Wormtongue for the win!  Great great great guest star casting this season.  I actually thought Ruck had a super creepy X-Filey plot.

M: That was one of the better episodes on “our side”, which definitely picked up in the second half of the season after being totally owned by the alt-verse in the first half.  As for the overarching plot, I thought that the jump to the possible future was very JJ Abrams.  The end of that penultimate episode could easily have been a season finale cliffhanger by itself, and was very reminiscent of the Alias season 2 finale.

E: You keep saying that, but it was only a jump – of not even an entire episode – into an alternate, dystopian future. Alias jumped into its actual future and didn’t go back.

M: Yes, obviously that’s not what was similar.  The similarity, to me, was in the way it was carried out at the time of the jump…  the end of a huge episode, with everything pointing in one direction, the quickly shifting to an entirely different, disorienting scene in the future with the main character dazed and unsure of what happened in the time in between.  Obviously, what happened after for each was very different.

E: Fine.  I get your point, it just doesn’t hit me the same way.

M: Clearly because you are not as awesome as I am.  😉

E: Clearly.

M: As long as you’re willing to admit that, let’s get back to the “possible future”.  I was a little sketchy on Walter’s “I can’t change it because I already did it, but you can change it because… um… you’re not me” logic in explaining how Peter’s consciousness could be brought forward and sent back, and then make a different decision.

E: That would be a no.  As in, that makes no sense to me either.

M: I loved the switcheroo that Walternate pulled on Peter, allowing him to get the drop on and kill future Olivia, and I loved that that let me tell Mrs M, who was a few episodes behind, that Olivia died in the finale to mess with her mind.  She didn’t love that I did that, but it was fun for me.  🙂

E: Oh, her death was awful, even though you know it doesn’t really count because she was the Olivia in the future we’d want to prevent anyway.  Also, I’m kind of mad at you for doing that to Mrs. M!  Not nice, bro.

M: The good thing was that she didn’t know if she should believe me, and mostly didn’t, but that shred of doubt was there.  Anyway, enough about me being a good-natured jerk to my wife.  I also loved the stuff with Sam Weiss, and that there were generations of Sam Weiss’ passing down the knowledge of the “First People” (who I successfully predicted earlier in the season were a sham).

E: You know, he wasn’t my favorite part of the season.  They used him so sparingly I kept forgetting who he was when he showed up again.  It’s a minor quibble, though.   I was, let’s see, indifferent to the cartoon bits and Anna Torv doing her Spock impression for multiple episodes.

M: I thought the animated portion of the LSD dream was, well, oddly inconsistent.  It felt like the only reason for it was so that Leonard Nimoy would only have to provide his voice, and not physically act.  Or at least that’s all I could come up with.

E: Heh, that’s exactly what I think, too.

M: As for the Spock impersonation, I thought that was terrific fun, especially her interaction with Walter.

E: No, the best part was her interaction with Astrid.  Totally hilarious.

M: Oh, yes, I was forgetting about the flirting, that was fantastic.

E: My biggest beef of the season might be with the whole “when Peter met Olivia” which had her going to preschool when she was ten.  What the heck, seriously?  I kind of hated that episode, from Peter remembering the other universe to them forgetting each other.

M: It’s funny, I thought that dramatically it was a good episode, but from a consistency standpoint it sucked eggs.

E: Okay, I agree with that.  What they did was nicely written, well acted and totally involving.  It just mucked up the chronology of the show and made no sense.  I can see why they didn’t want to – perhaps couldn’t – act that with 3 year old Olivia, and how that wouldn’t even sync up because Peter was what, 8 when he died/was stolen.  But MAN.  They shouldn’t have gone there.

M: I HATED that Peter remembered being from the other universe, because that was completely inconsistent with everything that they’d set up before that time.  I didn’t like that Peter and Olivia met as kids, or that Walter referred to her as “Olivia Dunham”.  She was supposed to be just “Olive” back then, and the connection to their shared past was supposed to have been lost and forgotten, and it didn’t feel like that would be the case with what they showed in that episode.

E: Oh yes.  There’s no way any of them would have forgotten that – not Olivia, not Peter, not Walter.  Far and away the worst episode of the season from a mythology standpoint.  On the other hand, however, I did like Olive showing up in Walternate’s office.  That was pretty cool.

M: I agree, that was a very cool way for them to introduce Walternate to the dual universe concept, a concept that we don’t know the future of on the show.  I have to say, I’m sooooo looking forward to seeing where they go with it.  How do they rediscover Peter?  How do they reintegrate him?  How do they fix both universes?  And the question from the beginning of the show still remains.  Who the hell are the observers, and what is their deal?

E: Or, as we said at the start, what the frak was that, and where the frak do we go from here?

M: Clearly we don’t have a frakking clue, so we put it to you readers…  what do you think?

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One comment on “Fringe Season 3 Review: Holy Frak, What Was That?

  1. C says:

    Just for the sake of entering the argument – I was thinking at the end of the penultimate episode, “This feels like it should be the season ender!” and when they jumped to the future: “Oh great, J.J. Abrams strikes again…” So M, you’re right, clearly E is crazy.

    So glad those ridiculous “first people” were fake! As soon as Walter said he planted the machine in prehistory, I didn’t care if his plan made sense, I was so happy.

    How can Peter have not existed?!?!?!?!

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