SciFi Weekend: The Day We Died–The Fringe Season Finale

A while back I suggested that that the major problems on Fringe could be solved if only Walter and Walternate could get together and work together as opposed to seeing this as a conflict between their worlds. It looks like the producers of Fringe had the same idea all along. The season finale answered many of the major questions raised this season while ending with a tremendous cliffhanger.

Last week Peter got into the machine and he appeared to travel fifteen years into the future. This week’s episode showed that, following a period of “disorientation,” Peter had the memories of the Peter living in 2026. In this future, Peter and Olivia were married but were reluctant to have children in a world which might soon be destroyed. Olivia’s niece had just joined the Fringe Unit which, like its counterpart in the other earth, had become a more important organization when the treats from the vortexes became more severe. An end of days cult was working to hasten our destruction, and I had correctly predicted that it was Walternate who was supplying the technology. Walternate came to our universe, supposedly on a mercy mission to obtain help, as his universe was being destroyed.

We later learned that Peter destroyed the other universe when getting into the machine, but the two universes are linked so that the destruction of one was leading to the destruction of the other. Walternate wanted to make Peter suffer for this, and shot Olivia in the head. We then had a lesson in time travel confirmed, because if  something is seen on both Fringe and Doctor Who it must be true:If a future version of someone dies, they must be placed on a burning funeral pyre.

Walter, who had been imprisoned for his role in the destruction of both universes, ultimately came up with the solution. He figured out that he and his associates were really the “First People” who invented the machine and sent the parts back in time through a wormhole which had appeared in Central Park. For reasons which were unexplained, with the implausibility even acknowledged by Walter, it was not possible to change the fact that Walter would send the parts back it time, but it was possible to change the past in another way. Walter said he would  have Peter’s consciousness jump forward in time when he entered the machine. Presumably after seeing the consequences of destroying the alternate earth, Peter would take different action. Of course, at that moment, we knew Walter had already done this.

I would expect better techno-babble to explain why Walter could not change the past and must still send the parts of the machine back in time, but Peter was capable of changing the past. It is possible that the writers wanted to leave this unexplained to avoid spoiling what we will learn next season. I can accept that Walter would ultimately decide to still send the parts back in time as this would lead to a better outcome once Peter changed his actions. This would this still would not explain why Walter absolutely thought he could not change the past while Peter could. They might have explained it as being due to some properties he could build into the machine. Another explanation could be what we learned about Peter in the final moments of the show, but Walter would not be aware of this.

Walter’s idea worked and Peter came up with a better solution–bringing the people of the Fringe Unit from both universes together and convincing them they must work together. With that accomplished, Peter faded away. We found from the discussion by the Observers that  “Peter never existed.” He could now fade away because, “Peter served his purpose.”

This ending was foreshadowed in a previous episode, Firefly, where the Observers had to make sure that Walter was capable of sacrificing Peter. It appeared that Walter did realize the risk he was taking when he told Peter that his plan of bringing his consciousness forward in time did have consequences.

While the finale answered questions such as the identity of the First People, where the machine came from, whether Peter and Olivia would remain together, who would die in the finale, and how the war between the universes would be resolved, Peter’s fate is a cliff hanger. The producers of Fringe have revealed that Peter will be back. Joel Wyman tweeted, “Where is Peter Bishop?” IS the question.” Season 4 WILL have answers. In an interview he stated:

“We can’t yet reveal what exactly we have in store for him, but he’s definitely not going out for other shows.”

As for those final two scenes, Pinkner said that even the most time paradox-savvy viewers “should be wondering” how it is that Peter vanished from existence, yet said he would be remiss to shed much light on that or what’s in store for Season 4. “The less spoilerage, the better,” he deferred. “The reason to come back and watch is exactly for the questions you’re asking.”

Wyman instead points viewers to this scene: “When Walter in the future says he has figured out a plan to send a message back to the past, he says that bringing Peter’s consciousness forward of course would have consequences.” Or as Future Peter himself remarked when presented with Walter’s plan: “Imagine the repercussions.” Indeed.

But could even the brilliant Walter have surmised that preventing a future doomsday would rob him of being with his son in the past? “One of the things we were playing with this season,” says Pinkner, “is a journey of acceptance for Walter, accepting what the Observers were trying to teach him in ‘Firefly’ – that in order to undo the damage he has done, he may have to be willing to sacrifice Peter.”

There would be major changes in the lives of Olivia and Fauxlivia, as well as Walter, if Peter never existed. A bigger question is whether the entire conflict between the two worlds would have never occurred if Peter had not existed (leading to Walter bringing him over to our side):

In a word, no. “Walter and Bell were always trying to find a way to cross over, even before the Peter  incident,” Pinkner reminds. “So things may have happened differently.”

Perhaps Peter was somehow created by the Observers so they could better control the inevitable crisis and ultimate solution. Still, he clearly existed on one level, and there is little doubt he will eventually return to our level of existence, possibly as part of whatever solution Walter and Walternate come up with. The show just would not be the same with the permanent removal of such a key character. Questions remain including whether we will see him in a different time or reality at the start of next season, how he will return to our time, and whether there will be key differences.

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