Fellow Fringe fans,
Well, this was it: the final part of the two-part Fringe finale which felt, in many ways, rather more like a movie than an extended episode of a television show. In many ways this episode was the culmination of the last two seasons: we see the payoff in the way a number of threads which were started as far back as the pilot are woven together to bring a measure of closure to certain plotlines. And of course, in true Fringe fashion, for every answer we receive ever more questions arise.
There were any number of things which I loved about this episode, many of which I will enumerate after the recap, but there were a couple things which particularly impressed me. One of which, visually speaking, was the panoramas of the Other Side: they offer a particularly intriguing juxtaposition to our side, from the bronze Statue of Liberty to the misplaced Transamerica Pyramid.
The Other Side
Stylistically speaking, I quite enjoyed the way the story unfolded, although in this episode there was less jumping between the two Fringe teams given that our team has crossed over and there was a fair bit of establishment of the Other Side in part 1. As much as I enjoy seeing the team together, I often find that some of the most poignant scenes we have seen so far occur when the characters are split off into subgroups: most notably in this episode, certain scenes between Walter and Bell, and between Olivia and Peter.
Over There: Part 2 picked up pretty much right where Over There: Part 1 left off: Peter is going to meet with Walternate, Olivia has met up with Bell and they are trying to find Walter who has been shot, all the while the alternate Fringe division is trying to find our team.
Seeing a ghost
Olivia and Bell’s search for Walter leads them to the hospital in which he is being treated; this is also when Olivia learns that the alternate Fringe Division answers to Walternate as he is the Secretary of Defense. Her level of incredulity is quite amusing. After ascertaining that Walter is indeed in that hospital, Olivia and Bell split up: Olivia goes to find Walter, and Bell attempts to waylay Alt-Liv and Charlie – watching Bell (played by Leonard Nimoy) try to distract the agents by rambling about the technology which he has built for them is a favourite scene of mine. Olivia tracks down Walter and they meet back up with Bell. Alt-Liv gets quite the shock when, after realizing that Walter has escaped, she views the security camera footage only to see herself and a different version of Walter Bishop.
“It was much worse here: the laws of physics were turned into mere suggestions” – Walternate
In their first protracted conversation, at least to which we have been privy, Walternate explains to Peter that the reason that things are so bad on their side is due to the events Walter set in motion when he stole Peter all those years ago. Walternate explains that Peter can help them heal their world by using the machine and that he needs Peter’s help because of his understanding of our side’s technology: apparently we have made advances which they have not which would be helpful in understanding the Machine. (Keep in mind that we know that the Machine will harm Peter, and destroy our world.) Alt-Liv interrupts their conversation when she comes to question the Secretary about their doubles and Walternate tells her that she must never trust the “monsters”. Walternate also seems rather interested in the fact that Peter knows “Agent Dunham”.
Alt-Liv takes Peter to the apartment which Walternate has had set up for him and they have a rather interesting discussion about the differences between the two sides and between Alt-Liv and Olivia. Meanwhile, Bell, Walter, and Olivia discuss their options and come to an agreement about the course of action they must take: Olivia will go to find Peter, Walter and Bell will go to Walternate’s old lab to get the technology which they need to cross back over to our side.
On the way to the lab Walter sees some of the effects of his actions first-hand when he witnesses “the Blight” which the shape-shifters have talked about and Bell tells him that it is his fault. While in the lab the two old friends begin to touch on some of the issues between them: Walter confronts Bell about being responsible for some of the deficits he now experiences resulting from having parts of his brain removed, but before they can resolve anything the discussion is tabled in order to get to work. They find the device to reopen the crack from when they crossed over, but Bell says to leave the power source to him.
Olivia lets herself into Alt-Liv’s apartment to ask for her help. A few differences between the two Olivias become apparent: unlike Olivia, Alt-Liv’s mother is still alive but her sister died during childbirth. When Olivia explains that she needs to find Peter because he is in danger, Alt-Liv assumes that they are a couple. Alt-Liv manages to get the drop on Olivia and the two of them fight; Olivia narrowly wins and dyes her hair to impersonate Alt-Liv. Alt-Charlie shows up and the two of them go to Peter’s apartment.
“Bringing me back was never about fixing this universe – it was about destroying yours” – Peter
Peter figures out that the Machine requires an organic interface and that he is the only one who can operate it. Olivia and Alt-Charlie meet up with Peter who clues into the fact that it is our Olivia when she tells him about the Parchment which was given to his father by an Observer and then takes out Alt-Charlie. After listening to Olivia, Peter realizes that Walternate lied to him: it was never about healing their world, but rather about destroying Olivia’s. Olivia and Peter finally discuss the fact that she knew he wasn’t from her world yet said nothing. Olivia tells Peter that he doesn’t belong on this side, he belongs on her side and that he has to come back because he belongs with her.
The alternate Fringe Division tracks our team by tracking Olivia since she is using Alt-Olivia’s identification. After a rather tense reunion, Peter and Walter go into the Opera House (where our team crossed over to the Other Side) to set up the doorway and Bell and Olivia try to hold off the alternate division. Bell tells Walter that he himself will provide the power for the others to cross over since he is so molecularly unstable from crossing over so many times. When our team crosses over it is revealed that during the brief time Bell was knocked out during the fighting, the alternate agents managed to capture Olivia: it was Alt-Liv who crossed back over with Peter and Walter, not our Olivia. The episode ends with our Olivia locked up, a captive of Walternate.
Thoughts and Impressions
I really do think that this was one of the best finales I watched this season – and I’m not just saying that because I love the show. There was enough payoff that it felt as though the story arcs leading up to the episode panned out, yet at the same time there were more than enough questions introduced to carry us into season 3. And that’s not even counting the fact that our Olivia is still stranded on the Other Side and our team has been infiltrated.
As always the Observers present quite the conundrum. For instance, why was “our” Observer September on the Other Side? (You can clearly see him in the picture above). Something about which I am quite curious is if there are indeed more than one of each Observer given that it seems as though they instead travel between universes, which begs the question of how they do so seemingly unharmed. Or perhaps it is constant travel between universes that is to blame for their physiological differences. One of the reasons I think there might only be one of each is that they talk as though they experience events in both universes: the conversation we observed in Peter, wherein they discussed the fact that September had made a mistake by distracting Walternate before he found a cure for Peter, seems to be the basis for some of the conversations we have seen between September and Walter on our side. Or is it that the Observers, each iteration of them, somehow communicate with one another; that is, perhaps the Observers in our universe can easily exchange information with their alternate counterparts.
Another curiousity which the Observers introduce is the Manuscript depicting the Machine. For some reason the parchment not only contains sketches of the Machine, but it also has genetic coding; also, the copy which September gives to Olivia in Over There part 1, seems to have almost been translated from a copy which Walternate possesses. But what I find the most curious is that Walternate tells Peter that the machine is “very old tech”, so who built it in the first place? Usually the only time we see the Observers acting directly to affect events is when they are correcting a mistake, so I wonder if they were somehow involved in the building of the device. We know that the Observers have technology that is rather unlike anything we have – we have seen numerous examples of it in use – and I have always wondered from where they got it; perhaps there is another universe from which the Observers originate.
One thing which struck me in particular in this episode, in both episodes actually, was how our Olivia continues to display a rather uncharacteristic level of desperation (I discussed this in my review for Over There part 1, but everything reached a pinnacle in part 2). Olivia seemed younger, almost, than usual, especially when juxtaposed with Alt-Olivia. It is as if the façade she usually keeps up of hard-ass agent, which we normally only see dropped around Rachel and Ella, has been decimated by the recent events, not the least of which is Peter’s return to the Other Side. I think the reason she seems younger is that she seems much more vulnerable.
Alt-Liv seems much less haunted by her past than does our Olivia; although, given that Olivia’s traumas started when she was 3 years old, you can’t really blame her. I also wonder if Alt-Liv’s mother ever married Olivia’s stepfather: if not, it would have spared Rachel and Alt-Liv an abusive father and Alt-Liv would not have shot him at the age of 9.
“But in the end, you have to come back because you belong with me” – Olivia to Peter
Ever since Jacksonville when we first saw that The Powers that Be (abbreviated to TPTB, fan-speak for those producers and writers who determine everything show-related) might be leaning towards actually starting some sort of romantic relationship between Peter and Olivia I have been rather undecided: I was never entirely sure where I stood with them as a couple. If you want to read what I had to say on that issue, you can check out these two reviews: here and here. But after watching this episode I think my worries were unfounded. It was never that I didn’t think it was plausible, but rather that with the dynamics of the team, particularly between Walter, Peter, and Olivia, I wasn’t sure that their relationship needed to change.
If I may digress a little bit, one thing in particular which I noticed this past season, not just with Fringe but with most of the shows I watch, is that the “will-they/won’t-they” issue between characters has gotten rather old. I mean, it almost always happens to a certain extent, and I understand why it is often drawn out. But at the same time it feels as though in trying to beat the cliché (if you’d even call it that) of having two lead characters get together, most shows fall into a rut of sorts, and that has become the cliché. I think that TPTB on Fringe rather neatly sidestepped that whole issue without it feeling contrived: for one thing, it is rather obvious that even once Olivia returns to our side, there is no way that things could pick up right where they left off given that Olivia will be having to deal with her captivity and who knows what else will be introduced.
I myself actually liked that that particular scene between Peter and Olivia was rather understated: it wasn’t really a centerpiece of the episode, even though it contains some rather huge character development. It actually quite surprised me in that I wasn’t expecting it to happen so soon, if at all. I think it is tempting to draw things out for as long as possible at times, but I have noticed that with Fringe TPTB are very good at moving things along at a pretty good pace without making it feel rushed.
“But, you did cross universes twice to save my life. So that’s gotta count for something, right?” – Peter
I was also a bit surprised to see Peter and Walter beginning the roads to reconciliation: I had hoped that they would start to mend bridges soon, but I feared it would be drawn out even more. Their final scene together (with Peter telling Walter that he’s trying to see things from Walter’s point of view, but he can’t yet) makes me wonder how much of the story Peter knows. I would hope that Walter has told him what happened 20 years ago, but it also doesn’t quite sound like Peter has the whole story. I really do look forward to seeing how this dynamic progresses. Before Peter found out the truth their relationship was the best it had ever been, yet we always knew it was tainted by the fact that Walter had the secret about Peter; however, now that everything is out in the open, I can’t wait to see how they go about rebuilding their relationship.
I also find it interesting to consider the dichotomy between the two Walters: one a broken man who has lost memories and 17 years of his life, the other, for all intents and purposes, a general helping lead his country. And yet it is our Walter who seems to actually appreciate his son – even though Peter is not his biological son. You would expect Walternate to be more thankful for having his son back, but it seems all he wants him for is to work the Machine. I find it so neat that even though John Noble plays both Walter and Walternate, they are so very, very different – so much so that it is almost easy to forget that they actually are played by the same actor (physical similarities notwithstanding).
Something I sometimes worry about with Fringe is that I read too much into a scene or moment. In this case, though, I don’t think I am: I found Walternate’s reaction to the fact that Peter knows Alt-Olivia, or rather, that he is familiar with “Agent Dunham”, to be incredibly telling. I think that this is when he began to devise the plan to send Alt-Liv to infiltrate their side given that she could slip into a trusted role. One reason I think this is the case is that I doubt Alt-Liv would be ready to pull off such a mission at last minute, and the alternate team’s reaction to the orders which they received in their communications devices did not seem to surprise them at all. This makes me wonder if Alt-Liv’s questions to Peter when she dropped him off were less simple curiousity about her doppelganger and more reconnaissance for a potential mission.
I suspect that Walternate, or someone very similar, was who Walter feared he was on the path to becoming, thus prompting the bouts of neurosurgery. When Bell told Walter near the end of the episode that the surgery was at Walter’s request, Walter seemed quite taken aback, justifiably. But what begs the question is whether Walter indeed would have actually become what he feared. I argue that the fact that he had the foresight to actually comprehend that he was becoming something he could not tolerate would in fact distinguish him from Walternate. But at the same time, when Newton reconnected Walter’s brain bits in Grey Matters, we caught a glimpse at a very different Walter Bishop – Walter as he was before. And that Walter was not at all dissimilar to Walternate, at least superficially.
“We’ve accomplished a lot together, Walter; but she may be our greatest achievement” – William Bell
One of the most intriguing aspects of the Other Side is that it affords us license to ask the question “what if?” and to really examine the consequences of the smallest action. For example, whoever’s choice it was that led to the car accident that killed the alternate William Bell, it seems to have had quite the ripple effect. Obviously Massive Dynamic does not exist on the other side, even though Bell has ended up working with Walternate in order to gather intelligence, it is hardly the same. I suspect that Massive Dynamic is likely the reason for the fact that “we” have made some scientific advances which the Other Side has not – as Walternate discusses when he is talking to Peter.
Not to mention the fact that we have yet to meet the alternate Nina Sharp who, if she met the Bishops through Bell, would never have had any reason to meet Walternate. I also think that Bell’s absence was the reason that Walternate couldn’t perfect the technology to cross over: when Bell and Walter go to the Harvard Lab, Bell describes how Walternate never managed to get the technology working, whereas Walter did – I can’t help but think that this was due to Bell’s influence. Another big difference: without William Bell, there would have been no Cortexiphan trials on the Other Side given that, as Walter states, they were Bell’s idea in the first place.
I have always wondered about Bell and Walter’s attachment, if that’s the right word, to Olivia: it seems as though she was always their favourite in the Cortexiphan trials, and Bell was quite familiar with her when he pulled her over to the Other Side the first time. Walter’s relationship with Olivia is a bit easier to understand given that they have now been working together for a couple years and since returning to Jacksonville, the two of them have shared the burden of Walter’s secret. And then there are the moments such as in this episode when Bell claims that Olivia is, of everything they have accomplished – including crossing universes – Olivia is their achievement.
“Connections that I used to be able to make so easily, and they just..they just dangle. Just outside of my reach” – Walter to Bell
In some ways this episode was bittersweet given that we found out several months ago that Leonard Nimoy was retiring, and thus many guessed that William Bell would be making his last appearance. Part of the reason this was so bittersweet is that it was the first time we got to see Bell and Walter together, and it is likely the last. Though in a show with (presumably) multiple alternate universes, never say never. But I digress.
I found that the more I saw of the two together, the more I wanted to see more of them. It really was fascinating to see the dynamics between the two old friends, particularly since Walter knows that Bell is, somehow, responsible for his current state. The culmination of this tension in the scene between the two at Harvard Lab was rather heart wrenching as Walter finally confronts Bell for his involvement. It is not only Walter’s side, but also Bell’s which makes this scene so compelling.
Bell’s reaction is even more obvious when you watch the episode knowing that Bell acted in accordance with Walter’s wishes, but even the first time around it is apparent. I can only imagine the history between those two and so it must have already been a difficult decision for Bell to make, even though Walter wanted the surgery, let alone the fact that Walter now blames Bell for everything.
“Walter, I will be the power… That should be enough to get you home” – William Bell
The last moments between Bell and Walter are made even more poignant by the fact that these two friends have finally reconciled, only for one to sacrifice themselves. I find myself hoping that this scene will serve a dual purpose of showing Alt-Liv that perhaps Walternate was wrong: the people from their side are not “monsters” after all. I can’t imagine that she could see the kind of sacrifice Bell is willing to give, and the goodbye between the two friends, as something monstrous. Olivia has been more than willing to disobey orders if it means doing the right thing, and I am curious to see if Alt-Liv will waver in her convictions at all when she is faced with the very human people on our side. That being said, it strikes me that the alternate Fringe Division is much more militaristic than on our side, so it is likely that Alt-Liv is used to obeying orders without question.
There were one or two things which bothered me a bit, though I’m sure it’s mostly just me nit-picking. First off, when Alt-Liv impersonates Olivia at the end she was initially wearing different clothes than our Olivia was. I suppose it’s possible that there was enough time between the explosion and when Alt-Liv woke Bell for her to change her clothes to what Olivia was wearing, but that struck me as a little bit unlikely. The thing that really got me was that no one thought to check that everyone was who they thought they were. That is, when Olivia first reunites with Walter at the hospital he had the forethought to make sure it was really her before he agreed to go with her. I suppose we can’t really blame Peter and Walter for not checking since they had no way of knowing that Bell had been knocked out. Bell, on the other hand, should have checked that Olivia was really her – especially since they were surrounded by the alternate Fringe Division, Alt-Liv included, and he had lost consciousness.
“You taught me: there are as many atoms in the human body as there are stars in the sky” – William Bell to Walter
My only real disappointments about this episode were that we didn’t see more of the alternate world’s Elizabeth Bishop (played by Orla Brady) who I really hope we see more of next season; and that we haven’t seen more of Alt-Astrid (played by Jasika Nicole). It is clear that there is something off about her, but the question is what? Given the regimented and almost mechanical way Alt-Astrid addressed Alt-Broyles I wonder if she has some sort of cybernetic implant facilitating better interfacing with technology. We know our Astrid is good with computers and linguistics, so perhaps those natural aptitudes have been augmented in Alt-Astrid.
To be honest I will be rather disappointed if someone on “our” team doesn’t notice right quick that Alt-Liv isn’t their Olivia. As good an agent as I’m sure Alt-Liv is, I really don’t think there is any way she can pull off a full impersonation of Olivia given the small amount of information she actually has on her. Then there’s the fact that Alt-Liv literally walks and talks quite differently from Olivia. On the one hand, Ella and Rachel were around before Olivia crossed over and so perhaps they will be the ones to notice that something is off.
However, Peter certainly has reason enough to be paying fairly close attention to Olivia, even more so than usual, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he figured it out. Especially after Peter’s speech to Alt-Liv when he told her about Olivia, I imagine that he knows her better than one might think. Given the fact that Fringe is often wonderfully unpredictable, our team will probably discover Alt-Liv’s true identity under some entirely different circumstances.
One last thing I wanted to briefly mention is that I think I pegged the relationship between Alt-Charlie and Alt-Liv incorrectly in my review for part 1. We didn’t really have any reason to suspect that they were closer than just colleagues, but I wanted to mention it anyway. I thought that the conversation between our Olivia and Alt-Charlie in the SUV on the way to Peter showed us another facet of their relationship given that it mirrored almost word-for-word a conversation our Charlie and Olivia had in the pilot episode, and the fact that he calls her “Livvy”.
After talking it over with my friend and fellow Fringie Sahar (check out her Fringe reviews here), I definitely think that they weren’t as close as Charlie and Olivia given that he was her confident and partner, but I still think they are closer than simply colleagues. I think it will be interesting to see how the more militaristic feel of the alternate Fringe Division changes the dynamics between the almost-familiar characters.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how blown away I am by the fact that all the cast members can so believably pull off portraying their alternate universe counterparts. It never ceases to amaze me to watch them, particularly John Noble and Anna Torv, switch between their different personas.
As always, thanks for reading!