Fringe 5.12/5.13 “Liberty”/”An Enemy Of Fate” REVIEW

Fringe 5.12/5.13 “Liberty”/”An Enemy Of Fate” TV REVIEW

“Only two episodes to go and we’re on holiday.”

 

 

Episode 5.12
Writer: Alison Schapker
Director: PJ Pesce

Episode 5.13
Writer: JH Wyman
Director: JH Wyman

THE ONES WHERE Olivia uses Cortexiphan to travel “Over There” to allow her to sneak into the laboratory where the Observers are holding Michael. Once the boy is rescued, the Fringe team and September put their long-gestating “Plan” in motion to stop the Observers ever being created.

VERDICT So that’s your lot. After five seasons of X-Files-type shenanigans, hopping across universes, meddling with timelines, defying the laws of physics and fighting invaders from the future, Fringe comes to an end. Unlike most US network shows it gets to go out on its own terms, delivering an ending that – while not particularly surprising – is at least emotionally satisfying. The two episodes of the finale (reviewed as one entity here because that’s how you’ll have watched it) won’t feature in many lists of Fringe‘s best ever stories, they do the important job of tying up loose ends without damaging the legacy of what came before. That Fringe didn’t “do a Lost” should be enough to keep the faithful happy – and there’s plenty here to like.

In fact, the finale makes sure that any Fringe fan’s wishlist will be more or less ticked off. There’s a final trip to the other universe, the return of Gene the cow and plenty of Fringe tech from previous seasons. The two episodes also make time to provide closure and say goodbye to all of the major characters: there are beautiful scenes between Walter and Peter, Walter and Astrid, and Olivia and Peter, while we learn what happened to Lincoln (Seth Gabel returns for a guest appearance), Fauxlivia and (off camera) Walternate. On an emotional and character level, Fringe‘s finale delivers completely.

But it’s almost as if the writing team were so preoccupied with giving the characters the send-off they deserve that they took their eye off the storytelling ball – as a piece of drama the two-parter is disappointing. It’s oddly paced, for starters, quite pedestrian for much of the running time, before rushing through the “Plan” (the moment that the entire season’s been building up to) in a matter of minutes. It’s also surprisingly predictable. Okay, it had been obvious for a long time that the season was going to finish with the timeline reset, with those often-used shots of three-year-old Etta playing in Central Park, but the journey there throws up few shocks aside from Olivia using her telekinetics to flatten Windmark with a car. Too often the writing falls back on TV writing 101. Indeed, as soon as September announces that he’ll be the one taking Michael to the future, it’s practically written in stone that he’s going to die and leave Walter to sacrifice himself as originally planned. If you’ve watched any TV over the last 50 years it’s all too inevitable – and diminishes the emotional impact of September’s death. (Though, of course, you could argue that’s a moot point seeing as the “Plan” succeeding means he never existed anyway.)

And even if you’re prepared to accept that the whole fifth season is built around a great, big flashing reset button – luckily, as reset buttons go, this is way more satisfying than the ones pressed in Superman: The Movie and “Last Of The Time Lords” – there are some really lazy storytelling fudges here. Time travel plotlines rarely stand up to forensic scrutiny, but the logic is usually a bit more solid than what’s wheeled out here.

But hey, as an ending to five years of TV it does the job. Fringe will go down as one of the all-time classics; a show that – after a patchy first season – became one of the most consistently brilliant and inventive shows on TV, with one of the finest ensemble casts on TV. The Walter/Peter/Olivia axis made for one of the strongest leading trios since Kirk, Spock and Bones first boldly went. We came to love them as they grew, which makes it all the more satisfying that – after all they’ve been through – Peter and Olivia get a happy ending. Indeed, even Walter gets a happy ending of sorts; sure, he’ll never see his family again, but after living with unsurmountable guilt and grief for decades, he has at least found absolution for his meddling with the laws of physics. We’ll miss them, but SFX‘s world is all the better for having met them.

A very successful rescue.

OBSERVING THE OBSERVER It’s cool to see that December, another one of the original 12 Observers sent back to study our present, is still living in New York. Windmark clearly didn’t think he had the right stuff to be part of his dictatorship.

DID YOU SPOT 1? Right at the end of “Liberty” we learn the number of December’s flat – it’s 513, a neat and cunning nod to the finale to come, aka episode 5.13.

That number has meaning. (Is it us, or does the font look rather like the one from the Lost credits?)

DID YOU SPOT 2 A bloody handprint on the wall during Olivia and Peter’s assault on Observer HQ has six fingers – rather like the Fringe hand glyph

Gimme six!

ETTA LIVES ON A “Resist” poster makes its final appearance on the side of a storage crate at the show’s endgame. (Though thanks to the timeline reset, Etta returns in person – albeit as a three-year-old.)

Grown-up Etta’s final appearance.

WHAT’S IN A NAME? In “Liberty”, Walter calls Astrid what sounds like Ashkant. Luckily, by the time the finale rolls around and the pair share a genuinely touching farewell he’s remembered to call her Astrid. He even tells her it’s “a beautiful name”. It’s one of the most moving scenes of the episode, not least because it’s shared with another old friend…

FOR ALL THE COWS We’d been wondering what happened to Gene the cow – turns out she’d been buried in the amber in Walter’s lab all this time, left there because Astrid was worried about her mooing attracting the Observers’ attention. It’s good to know she’s okay – in a timeline that no longer exists.

Moo-tiful. (Sorry.)

TRIVIA “An Enemy Of Fate” is Fringe‘s 100th episode – a nice round number for the show to go out on.

Click over to the next page for more of our epic Fringe finale review.