Throughout its five year run, Fringe was often unrealistic, but fans were willing to forgive this and enjoy the ride. The series finale was made to feel more plausible by multiple references to prior events on the show. It also helped the flow of the episode to have the major revelations and the plan to destroy the Observers revealed the previous week.
The finale began with the need to rescue Michael, the child observer, from a detention cell on Liberty Island. On Fringe the way to get around security was obvious–go to Liberty Island in the alternate universe, which is the location of the Department of Defense, come back to our universe and rescue Michael, return to the alternative universe, and then return to our universe at a safer spot. This meant that Olivia had to receive a new series of injections of Cortexiphan to allow her to cross over and back a total of four times. Sure this was risky, but “Etta died so we could finish the plan,”as Olivia pointed out to a skeptical Peter.
This plan served a couple of purposes. For the fans, it allowed one more glimpse of the alternative universe. While some disagree, I found the alternative universe arc to be the highlight of the entire series. We got to see Fauxlivia and Lincoln again, and find that Walternate is now lecturing at Harvard at age 90. I do wish we had another opportunity to see John Noble play this role. For the purpose of the story plot, it provides a reason for Michael to have allowed himself to be captured in the prior episode, which became important later on. His capture led to Olivia injecting herself with Cortexiphan, providing her with the power to kill Windmark in their final battle and enable Michael to be taken into the future.
Sure, this was somewhat convoluted. Maybe Michael could have come up with another way to defeat the Observers and go into the future. The plan might not have worked at all if he had been taken somewhere else. Perhaps Michael could have told them that it was essential for Olivia to receive the Cortexiphan, but they might not have be willing to take this risk without high stakes such as Michael being captured.
From Michael’s perspective, being captured didn’t seem to be a problem. Windmark’s scientist found that Michael had greater intellectual powers than the Observers and a capacity for emotional responsiveness than normal humans (whatever this means). Michael clearly had more powerful mind powers than Windmark. It is also probable that he could see the future, knowing that Olivia would take the Cortexiphan and rescue him before the Observer surgeons got started on him.
Besides seeing Fauxlivia and Lincoln again, it was good to see Broyles have a major role in this episode. His attempts to mislead the Observers ultimately failed and he was captured. This provided an opportunity to see a wide variety of items saved from the Fringe Unit used in an attack which included his rescue and obtaining another gadget needed for the time machine. Having seen this tactic used earlier this season both made this attack appear more realistic within the framework of the show and eliminated the need for an explanation in this episode.
This was a good episode for Astrid. Highlights of her actions in this episode included her showing Walter another “character” from the past–Gene the cow, frozen in Amber. When they needed an ignition device (because Windmark got this from December before September/Donald could) Astrid came up with the idea to use one of the Observers shipping lanes. Again this was shown in an earlier episode of the season, making it plausible without distracting explanations or pulling something totally out of left field.
The previous episode had foreshadowed two aspects of the finale–resetting time to be with Etta again and sacrifice. I (and probably most viewers) had been expecting all season for the series to end by resetting time and returning to the scene in the park when the invasion began and Etta was taken. The idea of sacrificing Peter has come up so often that this was almost expected, but would contradict the predictions of Olivia, Peter, and Etta being safe in the park.
Once things were hinted at in the previous episode it became obvious that the ending would provide some degree of a surprise and the ending would not be exactly as predicted. A tape was found of Walter explaining that the sacrifice was that, to prevent a paradox, he would have to live in the future and could not be present in the world of 2015 when the Observer invasion (which would be wiped from history) originally occurred. With time being reset in 2015 I am not certain why the reset wouldn’t include Walter being there, but how do we argue with the results of time travel? Then, after we believed that Walter would be sacrificed, Donald decided to go instead of him, feeling greater attachment to his son and having greater understanding of what it meant for Walter and Peter to remain together. It also made more sense for Donald to go on to a life in 2167 considering that otherwise he would cease to exist along with the other Observers. We were misled about this again as Donald was killed and Walter had to take Michael into the future.
The universe was reset to 2015 with Peter and Olivia in the park with Etta. There is one potential problem with this scenario. If there were no Observers, then Peter would not have survived being brought over in the initial timeline of Fringe as he was saved from drowning by September. It is questionable as to whether this was necessary as we already saw the timeline changed so that Peter did not exist, and yet he returned (without a really plausible explanation). On the one hand, his existence in this timeline no longer depended upon him being brought over by Walter as this event did not occur in this timeline. On the other hand, Peter returned to existence in this timeline because of his existence in the initial timeline. His continuing existence in one way is even harder to justify because of the lack of Observers to have led to a timeline where he was here. On the other hand, his existence after the reset would have been more implausible if not for the way he returned in the fourth season, no longer having the history of being brought from the alternate universe with help from September. Peter’s existence, even though he should not exist, has been something we must accept from Fringe in the final two seasons.
The question of Walter’s continued existence after resetting the timeline allowed for a reference back to an episode from 2010, White Tulip, in which a picture of a white tulip had been sent to Walter after an analogous situation involving time travel. Now Peter was the recipient of the letter with a white tulip. It is sad to see this series end, but also tempting to go back and watch earlier episodes which will not have so much more meaning after seeing their role in the big picture painted over five years by this fantastic series.