I’ve had an odd relationship with Fringe. Over the past couple of years, it has gone from one of my favourite shows on television to something that I watched out of an obligation to see it through to its conclusion. If I hadn’t known that this was Fringe’s final season, I probably would have given up after the season premiere. I’m glad I didn’t, though, because there was a lot of good material in what followed. Did it make this season any less of a gigantic misstep? No, but it was worth watching for the stellar performances alone, even as the story completely spiralled out of control.
Look, if I’m being harsh, this show lost me some time in the back half of season 3. If I’m being generous, it lost me at the season 5 premiere. Fringe never managed to restore my faith in the general direction of its plot, even in the series finale. In fact, “Liberty” and “An Enemy of Fate” were filled with shaky plotting. I gave up trying to unravel the show’s time travel paradoxes ages ago, so I merely rolled my eyes at the explanation for why September or Walter would have to sacrifice himself. Moreover, I never really figured out why Michael stepped off the monorail other than for the opportunity to give Windmark nosebleeds. I mean, it could be that he did it knowing that Olivia would have to use Cortexiphan to rescue him, and then she would have the super-drug in her system to defeat Windmark. But if he was that smart, then surely he could have come up with a simpler, less risky solution, right?
Nonetheless, even as the plot continued to crumble, I can’t deny that the show did right by its characters. The finale was filled with fantastic goodbye moments, from Peter realizing that Walter would have to sacrifice himself to Walter telling Astrid that she had a beautiful name. Even Peter and Olivia’s scenes together, which usually feel perfunctory at best, resonated with me in these episodes. “Liberty” and “An Enemy of Fate” hit all the right emotional beats. At a certain point, once I’ve built up enough affection for the characters, I think it’s possible to ignore the plotting issues and just let a show wash over me. So I let the Fringe finale wash over me, and it felt good. That doesn’t excuse the shoddy plotting that characterized much of the past couple of seasons of the show, even the finale itself. But the contradictions of time travel and Observers who use their teleportation abilities only when it suits the plot won’t be Fringe’s legacy. In the end, Fringe was a show about a makeshift family trying to make sense of a weird sci-fi world. I’m glad it never lost sight of that.
Thanks for the memories, Fringe.