Fringe – Am I Staring a Gift Horse in the Mouth?

Disclaimer:  I love anything with the brand name Fringe.  Period.  Walter is my constant.  Still, as someone who has stuck with the series from day one, I’m feeling a little queasy about this final season and I have to ask:  am I alone?

I was and still am thankful that FOX saw fit to give Fringe the opportunity to land rather than crash.  The carpet has been pulled out from under us genre fans so many times when it comes to television series that it makes you feel a little like a whipping post after a while.  Genre fans, I think, have a craving for larger stories with complete endings, and we are denied so often.  So I remain content that Fringe is getting the treatment it deserves.

My issue with the season is that it not only feels like a different story with a different template, it IS a different story with a different template.  Fringe‘s final season is one big fantastic ‘what if’ story.   What if the Fringe team were transported to a dystopian future?  What if their mission was to free mankind?  What if Peter got super powers?

It’s not that I don’t like the final season at all, it’s that in all of its glory the final season is a sandbox for everyone involved.  The various overarching plots have mostly taken place in a world we can relate to and feel a part of, with the differences being more pronounced and therefore more compelling. Fringe‘s ability to slowly build a threat from complete obscurity to shocking clarity has really been a defining feature of its story telling.

It seems like they have inverted the formula with this final season, beginning with a pervasive and recognizable threat, and uncovering the solution in increasingly illuminating layers.  Does it work?  Sure.  Does it feel like a logical extension of Fringe?  I’m not so sure.

Whether you are truly satisfied with the end you get isn’t really an issue.  As a fan I’m going to be satisfied just that I got to see what the Fringe brain-trust felt was the best way to bring it to an end.  From a critical standpoint, though, I can’t help but think that I’m in some strange third alternate Universe, watching the end to faux-Fringe, and mourning the loss of Coffee. As thrilled as I am to keep tuning in week after week, I can’t stop wishing the team was doing what they do best:  working one last case that is gradually, strangely, and shockingly becoming more and more clear in its danger.  Am I alone?

  • domcruise

    You’re not alone. Something is definitely off with this final season. It just feel like the same show, and the fact that it’s seemingly abandoned all the main plot points from the previous seasons. Fringe has been about alternate universes for 4 years, and for some reason they have decided to ditch that for something completely different.

    Whilst the final season isn’t terrible by any means, it just doesn’t seem like Fringe, and that’s a shame.

    • domcruise

      Should probably have proof read that before posting, but you get my point.

      • Sandy

        But they haven’t abandoned all main plots? There are plenty references to what happen in early seasons.
        The one thing I do miss this season is Olivia front and center. To me she is Fringe and she’s been lacking this season.
        I hope that changes in these last few eps.

  • Ricardo

    you are not alone

  • Judith

    You’e not alone. Nothing so far makes me glad there is a season 5–and I’m hardcore since the beginning.
    I keep wondering if in the future this season will be looked on as an alt-version, no more canon than a fanfic; and really wondering what Pinkner would have done with 13 eps, or Orci. Right now I wish the show had ended with last season’s finale.

    I fell for JJ’s characters as embodied by the actors, they are now just getting a weekly beating instead of a story, and it breaks my heart.
    They’re cariacatures of themselves now, Patient Perfect Olivia, Angry Remote Peter, Druggie Walter, Mechanical Observers. That tiny home-vid clip of Peter and Olivia happy together broke my heart, because THAT was what we fans wanted, and we’re having our faced rubbed in the fact we can’t have it. There’s two more episodes to write? Quick somebody, get them away from Wyman.

  • Shane

    No you are not alone. This is not the Fringe we have all come to love. Its like the writers were not expecting this final season and when it was announced had to dream up ideas quickly.

    This last season has very little to do with the previous 4 seasons. Had I started to watch Fringe form this season only I wouldn’t bother to continue.

    To be honest I feel very let down by the writers and producers. This last season is simply not Fringe!

  • Aang

    not alone at all… also, we are missing on whole bunch of other characters we love from previous seasons. and which played a big part in the story we were expecting to conclude in some way…

  • A.M

    I agree with you and all of the comments above. I miss the old Fringe.

    Perhaps the biggest turn off for me this season is how they’ve reduced Olivia who once used to be the protagonist of the show to Peter’s love interest.

  • Luke

    You’re definately not alone. I also feel like some cogs in the Fringe machine are missing for this last season. Olivia’s reduced role, the Obersevers not really being that interesting, the lack of emotional ambition and depth that we’ve seen from the show before etc. I think one of the showrunners leaving may have had a part in this.
    I do feel like this last episode was more like the old Fringe though. Although I miss what the show was, I still enjoy watching it and I’m glad it got to go out on it’s own terms.

  • Skell

    There are many. Everyone with whom I discuss the season, unhappy with the way it is done.

  • Joanne

    I don’t know, for me the show ended at the end of season 3. They wiped everything that they had done in the seasons 1 – 3, by going where they went in season 4. Again, they could of done it differently, by having Peter disappear and then recovering him and then continuing on from there.

    For me as others have stated Olivia’s story finished at the end of season 4, with her cortexiphan powers and her being killed etc. I happen to like where they have taken her this season, because to me Olivia has to become whole within herself and that is a natural progression for her character.

    It’s not like she hasn’t been front and centre at all this season. The first episode was about finding her and then the next two episodes dealt with her and Etta’s relationship. I can see Olivia being the one to bring Peter back from the brink and now they’ve introduced the Observer child from season 1 and he was all about Olivia in that one. So, she’s had and will have her storylines.

    I think if they had appoached the whole observer war in a different way to the one they have taken, it could of been a much better story. We haven’t really got to see why these observers are like they are and things from there point of view. Alot of stuff with the characters this season has happened off camera, which I think is another mistake. All these things are making the show not fleshed out. I think if anything, they are trying to cramm too much into a short season.

    I guess it’s a case of “Becareful what you wish for”. I like this season, because we got to see Etta and it looks like we may get more about why the observers have had such a great influence on the ‘story of fringe’. That’s something we would not have gotten, if we didn’t get season 5. However, it’s all going to come down to how they finish the show off in the last three to four episodes. I hated season 4 with a passion, so for me this season is far more interesting than that season was. However, there still not the same characters we once had, except for Peter and now he’s changing as well.

  • joel1067

    I feel the same way. I continue to watch out of loyalty, not out of a feeling of fervour that once captivated me. I could have lived with the end of season four as the end of the series. This is too much like an unnecessary reboot.

    I think my real problem with this story-line is the same problem I had with Terra Nova’s story-line: using time-travel technology to build a new society in the past that does not exist forensically anywhere in your current time-line means that the project will fail.

    So, the Observers in this season’s story may not be Observers from September’s time-frame. After all, Walter didn’t even consider that the destruction of the worm-hole had been successful, that it took the Observers 3 years to rebuild and then to successful send supplies to the exact time and location that they had intended to contact in the first place. But, from before or after September’s time-frame? More likely after, because the particular group with which we were acquainted with were surprised that one of their own could be killed, if you recall “August”. Here in season 5, they’re killing Observers left, right and center.

    With all the convolutions that have and will occur, am I the only one thinking that this Observer child could be September? Is that possible?

  • Elliot

    It feels like just another exercise in “what if?”, not any logical finishing of our characters’ journeys, which were admirably finished in S3– like the poster above, S4 made little sense to me and the characters except for Peter and September were all re-sets. Fun academically maybe, and probably for the writers, but it erased the first three years of the story–and our relationship to the characters. The main theme since the end of S3 seems to be keeping Peter and Olivia apart, torturing them as a couple, seeing how many bodily function or food jokes they can wring out of Walter, and re-using ideas from the past. Last year I fell asleep watching several episodes; the first two seasons I could barely breathe I was so glued to the screen. This year, watching feels like a duty, not a joy.

    4:19 and the promo for the season that won Fringe this half season were promising as far as energy, but misleading as to our core three–it looked like they would be a solid team, the relationship angst done with, fighting a common enemy. What we have been given though is re-tread angst, implausible behavior, and a stellar woodenness from all three, as they are shoehorned into callbacks to other shows and movies. The accumulating plot holes and inconsistencies are aggravating, but it’s almost over, so… I shrug and watch.

    If they get a movie, I hope Joel is busy doing something else at the time.

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