Fringe: Review: Season 5 Eps 11-13

FRINGES05E13Fox, 11-18 January 2013

Olivia, Peter and Walter battle to alter the course of time and secure the future of Earth, free from the Observers.

And so it ends, not with a band but with a series of whimpers. As suspected, almost the entire run of season five of Fringe has been a waste of time, simply a huge postponement of the events in the final trio of episodes. All that searching for tapes to reveal the plan and the hunt for bits of a machine was all for nothing. A five or six episode mini-series could have done the job with much more dramatic impact. As it is, Fringe will be remembered as a once innovative and brilliant show that died a slow, drawn-out death.

The star of these final three episodes has been Michael Cerveris, who has added huge depth to his previous enigmatic portrayal of the Observer known as September. Now under the human guise of ‘Donald’, he has been the one helping the forgetful Walter to plot against the Observers, and so create a better future for mankind. Cerveris has brought a soulful aspect to his character that just about made these episodes enjoyable, and it is a shame he was so perfunctorily killed off (although it was dramatically necessary to allow Walter to replace him in taking the boy to the future). He and his character deserved better.

All the expected emotional beats were hit, from Walter’s fate through to the resetting of the timeline (from the moment that idyllic picnic scene was disrupted by the invasion of the Observers, it was obvious the series would end at that point without their incursion, thus allowing Olivia and Peter to have a life with their daughter).

During its best years—seasons three and four, when the alternate universe arc was at its height—Fringe could never have been accused of being predictable. Unfortunately, in the final two seasons it has become a shadow of itself, content to simply replay and echo past glories. While it was amusing this season to see aspects of the past reheated and revisited (such as the last episode’s final trip to ‘over there’), it became little more than a series of empty gestures, delivering little but diminishing returns.

The truth behind the Observers inevitably fails to live up to their original mystery, and the whole setting and storyline has been somewhat mundane this season, becoming a simple ‘rebel faction battles evil overlords’ series, rather than a show where a bunch of quirky people investigate weird happenings. What happened to all the ‘fringe’ events that previously occurred: did the Observers’ incursion put a stop to them, or did the series simply lose interest in them?

Fringe transcended its origins as something of an X-Files knock off in the first series to become its own show in the second and third years. Unfortunately, it now appears those were the height of Fringe’s ambitions, as the final two years have seen the show abandon the imaginative storytelling it used to feature and adopt the storytelling strategies of so many other series.  In that, it echoes J.J. Abrams’ Lost as another show that promised so much, reached some interesting heights, but in the end collapsed under its own mythological weight and failed to deliver a suitable climax…

Verdict: A disappointingly predictable end to a disappointing final series from a show that deserved better…

Episode 11 ‘The Boy Must Live’: 6/10

Episode 12 ‘Liberty’: 6/10

Episode 13 ‘An Enemy of Fate’: 7/10

Brian J. Robb

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