Friday, January 18th, 2013

How Does "Fringe" End? (Or, *When* Does "Fringe" End?)

"Fringe," the only prime time SF show to make it through a fairly natural lifespan without becoming a disaster, concludes tonight. I did not want to love "Fringe," but it happened anyway. From its beginnings as cheerful but fresh Mulder and Scully redux to its rampaging full-on SF freakout middle period to its dark dystopian final season, "Fringe" avoided the varied and terrible pitfalls of often-great shows like "Lost," "X-Files," "Dollhouse," "V," "Firefly," "Heroes" and "Battlestar Galactica," all of which were either tortured by networks or tortured by showrunners. Or both.

(Sure, on the "natural lifespan" thing: I mean, yes, it is slightly awkward that the show concluded at exactly 100 episodes, the happy syndication mark, but let's ignore that. Five great full seasons! Let's hear it for that.)

And now, the show has to end: wrapping up a whole lot of business with a double episode. We've had a rough time recently with dramatic TV show endings. The final episodes of "Lost" and "Battlestar" caused a good chunk of their loyal viewers to run screaming through the streets with clubs and torches. After that, the whole idea of the ambitious series finale has gotten a bad rap. It's almost better to safely sidle out. Keep your dignity, your good scorecard, your happy fans. Resolve some emotional character issues, take care of the season's big obstacle, everyone gets a hug, ROLL CREDITS. It's not satisfying, maybe. But at least it's not enraging. That is, I think, something like what we will get tonight.

Or also Walter dies right off. Kidding! Maybe.

Because we're definitely not getting a "they were all deaaaad!" or an alternate universe, we've been promised. And YET, J. J. Abrams coughed up that it would be "highly unexpected." Hmm.

And in even better news, the finale returns to its roots. Boom, alternate dimension, Olivia skips over to a different timeline, and it's back to the Statue of Liberty: it's thematically beautiful, it's smart, it thanks the viewers, so thank you back and goodbye.

It also gives them a chance to end the series at literally any point in its own time, or any other time.


A few good points from here and there today:

• "Part procedural, part X-Files-like Mystery of the Week (especially in the early seasons), Fringe benefited from the engrossing cadence of the former and the addictive catharsis of the latter. Plus, Fringe’s overarching mythology was rich enough to get lost in, yet controlled, limited, and familiar enough (unlike Lost) that it didn’t veer into the frustratingly arbitrary or absurd."

• "Let us pause to praise John Noble's textured performance as Walter Bishop—and his talented potrayals of Walter Bishop, Walter Bishop and Walter Bishop. And Anna Torv? Her work as Olivia Dunham, Olivia Dunham and Olivia Dunham has built a one-dimensional character into a genuine, multifaceted sci-fi heroine."

• "I'll reiterate as I often have that I don’t consider endings to be of vital importance to a series as a whole. Whether the Fringe finale is weak or strong is, to me, only a reflection of that episode itself. I'll count myself as a fan of the show regardless. My hope is that the finale will be more “Worlds Apart” then “Brave New World.” But I also recognize that when all is said and done, in this show about alternate realms and infinite possibilities, some hard choices will have to be made—and not just by the heroes."

I'm not sure I agree that much with that last, though I wish I did. For me, the last taste of a TV show colors my entire relationship with it, like the last pages in a book or the last bites of pie. Although no matter what happens, I'll still find it impressive that this show lived for five long seasons and didn't ever collapse in on itself.

8 Comments / Post A Comment

joshc (#442)

Oh, I'm sad that this show is ending, probably with its least-best season (but who knows — maybe tonight's finale will rescue it from the doldrums of this dystopic videotape chase!).

LolaG (#240,921)

@joshc – have to agree: Though I'm thankful for season five, it's been a dark, grey-green ride the whole way through.

LolaG (#240,921)

Hard to say goodbye to the show that was my consolation when LOST ended — and there's nothing I see on the horizon that'll help me stop missing them both. And… it made me smile, the standard "sort by" options right above comments. Maybe for an article on "Fringe" add a link for "by timeline".

KenWheaton (#401)

I was getting a little worried about this last season until it turned out the bald kid was September's son and they reintroduced/reinforced the whole "father will ruin the entire universe for his kid" business — which, now that I think about it, is the exact opposite of Christianity (father will kill his kid for the universe. Oh my.) … Oh, and the sensory deprivation tank, which remember, from the first season when Olivia was trying to get in touch with that dude she was like engaged to or something? Remember him? I barely do.

joeclark (#651)

I think the pitfall that Lost, X-Files, Dollhouse, V, Firefly, Heroes and Battlestar Galactica need to avoid is being rendered in neutral double quotes like somebody with a manual typewriter they deem too complex to learn.

@joeclark We don't italicize the titles of TV shows. We italicize the titles of movies and books and publications. This is contradiction to the AP stylebook, which suggests one use quotation marks for "books, computer games, movies, operas, plays, poems, songs,television programs, lectures, speeches and works of art," but insists that one does not use quotes for publications.

They are also wrong.

joeclark (#651)

Your mildly divergent house style sickens me.

Lockheed Ventura (#5,536)

"Because we're definitely not getting a "they were all deaaaad!" or an alternate universe, we've been promised. And YET, J. J. Abrams coughed up that it would be "highly unexpected." Hmm."

The whole show is based on an alternate universe premise, no? Also, a few of the main characters are technically "dead" depending on which Universe we are talking about.

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