Fringe series finale recap: The Paradox That Saved The World

Walter Bishop and company say goodbye in a moving, frustrating, ultimately rewarding series finale   
Ep. 12 | Aired Jan 18, 2013

I can't write this caption. It's just going to make me cry.

To be clear, I’m not arguing that Fringe is steeped in these ideas, or wanted us to go find this research and apply them to the show and do the work of answering stuff it rudely declined explain. My point is really this: What the BLEEP do we know!? All of our assumptions that a timeline reset MUST go all the way back to Reiden Lake, all of our assumptions that knowledge and identity are irretrievably is lost when time travel reboots history – who says it HAS to be that way? I’m not saying these things aren't problems. I’m just challenging the assumption – which I myself expressed just last week – that they are and will always and forever be unsolvable problems. It’s what Walter told us last week: “All at once, I understood that everything I’ve ever known, or thought I knew, as a great man, could fit into a thimble.”

And so I share the view of many Fringe fans who’ve been pelting me with Tweets and emails arguing that the Eggheads of The Future could have solved the problems of paradox in order to preserve a past that has brought them the key to saving the future of humanity. Perhaps this took the form of creating a different kind of Observer, one that played the role of September at Reiden Lake in the old timeline...

But I also wonder if “Enemy of Fate” was trying to suggest that The Observer Child represents the key to smoothing out the problems of paradox, that he is some kind of human embodiment of "postselection" or the Novikov self-consistency principal. One of the most conspicuously odd beats in the finale was the moment in which the gang was in the lab wrestling with confusion and trying to keep the faith (“There must be a reason. There always is!”) – and we cut to that shot of Michael sitting in front of a TV monitor, watching static, wearing that inscrutable Mona Lisa face. Now, think of how he initiated Astrid’s “shipping lane” epiphany by putting his finger to his lips, as if to hush the room so the idea could bubble forth in the quiet. Think of when Michael cryptically shushed Olivia with the same gesture right after she killed Windmark, the culmination of a chain reaction of events he initiated by getting captured, which led to Olivia's Cortexiphan activation, etc. All of this in an episode in which the McGuffin of the plot was finding a solution to the problem of a broken piece of Walter’s master plan to reset time, a piece called… The Initiating Reactor. The Observer Child = An Initiating Reactor. He is the secret fixer of master plan problems, paradoxes, and other perplexities. He played Solution Broker in this timeline -- Maxwell's Demon in a bald cap. I wonder if perhaps he’ll grow up to play the same role in the new timeline. Michael = September 2.0. Like father, like son.

Or maybe Walter is going to become a cloud of sentient electricity that transcends space and time, just like early Rebootlandia Peter, and chaperone the new timeline through its growth pains by whack-a-moling problems as they arise. Finally! The man who played God becomes the activist God we all want!

See, Jeff? Look at what happens when take some time and think about some s---t. You love that, don’t you? The Fringe finale is now TOTALLY AWESOME!

My bad attitude about the end of Fringe continued to lift when we got to the Gene scene. While the team was hustling to evacuate the lab, Astrid took a second to bring Walter into the catacombs of amber and show him that she had found their beloved bovine preserved in the crunch. “I was going to let her out, but I was afraid they’d hear her moo,” said Astrid, referring to occupational hazard of hiding out in a building crawling with Observers and Loyalists.

“Yes, she does moo quite loudly, especially after a meal,” said Walter. He held Astrid, and expressed gratitude for assuaging the tumult in his heart as he prepared to make like Christ and submit to his self-sacrificing fate: “You always knew how to soothe me.” Astrid tried not to lose it. “Walter, this is not the end. We’re going to win this. And when we do, we’re going to be drinking strawberry milkshakes in the lab and not even remember this happened.”

“That sounds lovely,” said Walter, sadly.

As Astrid walked away, Walter suddenly said, “It’s a beautiful name.” He was referring to her name, the name he routinely forgot or mangled. Astro, Afro. Ashcan.

“What is?” asked Astrid, wanting to clarification, or, perhaps, knowing exactly what Walter was referring to, and just wanting to hear it,

“Astrid,” said Walter. And coming from John Noble, it did sound truly beautiful.

Damn if that didn’t kill me even more than the “Favorite Thing” thing! Here was Walter affirming Astrid’s intrinsic identity by proving he knew (or suddenly remembered) her proper name after subjecting her to so many degrading (if very amusing) derivations of it – which is to say, constantly rebooting it. Here were Walter and Astrid putting a brave face on the very negation terror we were sweating at home. It was great to see my feelings modeled on screen. (Also see: The subplot involving September seeking assistance from his old friend December, who initially declined out of fear of the prospect of annihilation.)

NEXT: White Tulip, Forever and Ever, Amen.

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