We have finally reached the end. The final Fringe Round Table.
This one will encompass both "Liberty" and "An Enemy of Fate," with those gathering around - Sean McKenna, Carla Day and Carissa Pavlica of TV Fanatic, as well as avid Fringe fan Nick Shere - answering a range of series finale questions.
What was the meaning of the white tulip? Were were satisfied with the conclusion? Pull up a virtual chair and chime in now!
What part of finale most lived up to your expectations?
Nick: The end. The White Tulip is, for me, the most important of the symbolic and thematic threads that holds Fringe together across its whole run. I know it's weird that it's a drawing and not a plot point that I found the most satisfying -- but it really was.
Sean: I think the ending of Walter making his sacrifice, followed by the white tulip for Peter lived up to my expectations. Series finales always have the unfortunate task of living up to expectations because it is that final statement. Yet, those final moments hit the emotional home and ended it all on such a high note that it makes me want to rematch the series after knowing everything that happened. It was a very well done finale.
Carla: All of it. At times throughout the season, I was adamant about not wanting it to end on that sunny day at the park, but when that moment came I was thrilled. The addition of the white tulip to close it out added just that extra detail that made it all work so much more. The path to Walter's sacrifice was also so well done. His decision, telling Peter, Donald deciding to go with Michael, to Walter having to decide make the sacrifice again. Brilliant.
Carissa: I can honestly say I didn't have expectations. I was extremely happy and satisfied that the writing team saw fit for Olivia to revisit the alterverse one last time. It was so lovely to see Alt-livia and Lincoln again, to see their family and know their world had survived. Walternate was a happy 90 year old still teaching at Harvard and together they were able to help Olivia bring Michale back to our world to finish the plan to save our world from it's unpleasant fate. I could have predicted loving exchanges between our main characters and family members, but not the appearance of "over there." A lovely surprise.
What part of the finale did you find disappointing?
Nick: They did not deliver on my hope that Astrid would get to do something kickass. It's a disappointment that cuts across the whole season, really; I feel that there was an ununfililled promise to her character since around season three that they just never got around to exploring further.
Sean: You know, I really wasn't disappointed to be honest. I went into expecting to be disappointed, and I'm sure there were things that could have been added or more explained, but it was such a gripping finale that really tried to give the characters and story a way to close fittingly. I was left more with elation than disappointment.
Carla: I wasn't disappointed by anything. If there was more time, more time in the alternate universe would have been nice to see. Also, the last 20 minutes of the battle could have been a little longer. Neither took away from the episode, but could have been expanded on.
Carissa: Unpopular though this will be, resetting the world back to happiness was a bit of a disappointment. Nothing in Fringe lead me to believe that happy endings were a guarantee, but we ended with that. That the ability to bend time could erase the bad and replace with good. I'm not sure how I feel about it. Perhaps after watching the entire series again, I will have a better appreciation for it, but right now I am less than happy with the perfection the ending brought our way.
Walter's sacrifice was giving up his son. What was your favorite Walter/Peter moment?
Nick: Walter's "What did I say? That. Is. Cool."
Sean: The conversation where Walter told Peter that he had to leave with the boy was heartfelt and emotional. It was the perfect recognition of their love for each other and the relationship of a father and son. Yet, that final goodbye really solidified it all when Peter told his father he loved him before Walter nodded and headed off into the light.
Carla: When they watched the tape and Walter explained his sacrifice, my heart broke for both of them. My favorite moment was when Walter actually made the sacrifice and they gave each other a knowing look and Peter mouthed, "I love you, Dad." He said Dad! Tears just thinking about that moment.
Carissa: When Walter told Peter "You are my very favorite thing." With the many favorite things Walter managed to have, including Red Vines, to admit through all the tough times Peter won out was a really touching moment.
How do you think the timing of the white tulip worked out?
Nick: It creates a discontinuity, of sorts, which is an echo of the original White Tulip episode. The drawing is a sign of forgiveness and hope that cuts across timelines.
Sean: It's a fantastic echo of the White Tulip episode. Where Walter decided against giving Peter the letter in that episode, in this final episode, Walter was able to express the love he cared for his son in a simple drawing. That sign of forgiveness was a fantastic reminder to viewers, but also Peter that really added real emotional closure to the saga.
Carla: I try not to think too much about that. It was a beautiful moment and I accept it for what it was.
Carissa: My head hurts even trying to understand it, so I'm going to ride on Nick's coat tails. It creates a discontinuity. I like that answer very much and as Nick has always been the master of the white tulip, I can't think of a better person to point me in the right direction.
Theorize on what Peter and Olivia might have thought once they received the tulip and discovered Walter was gone.
Nick: I don't know. White tulips are part of their story as well, but I don't know how conscious they are of that. But part of what the show has been focusing on since the start of Fringe Season 4 is how much we can understand even when we don't explicitly know. So my feeling is that even if they have no idea what's going on, they'll understand.
Sean: I think instinctively, Peter just would have known. It's true, he may not understand why he knows or gets whatever emotional feeling from the drawing, but deep down it's there. The same probably goes for Olivia, but I feel as if it might resonate more with Peter because he's Walter's son.
Carla: They still lived through the various fringe events, alternate universes, new timelines, etc. If Walter is gone, they will wonder what happened to him and set out on a quest to find him. The tulip will reassure them that Walter is fine, but they will still look for him. Fringe movie? Comics?
Carissa: Since the tulip was so important to Walter, I can only hope that his sending it reassures Peter and Olivia that he is alright once they realize he is gone. No doubt they would spend some time trying to determine what happened, but in the end they would have to accept Walter wouldn't have sent if if her had come to harm.
If season five was wiped clean with the time reset, how do you think Walter and Michael remembered the past from the future?
Nick: Well, it seems like Michael has a perspective that trenscends timelines and alterations to history. We've seen that he can give people memory of things that no longer "happened," and I think through Michael, Walter would remember the show much as we do.
Sean: Michael sort of transcended time and he probably was able to help Walter remember. The whole aspect of past, present, and future and the rules that go along with it can really fry your brain, but I think really flowing with all of that was the emotion of the characters and the fact that they would know and understand because of that.
Carla: Michael is the key to that. He transcends time, so he would remember both timelines. But, the old future no longer exists. The question is ... where is Walter? Did he stay in the future? Or, combust? In the end, it doesn't really matter, he made the sacrifice to go into the unknown.
Carissa: Thank goodness for my table mates, because I was so lost in the space time continuum that I had forgotten Michael's ability to transcend it all. One swipe from his finger and Walter would remember it all. I wonder if Michael would keep it from him to spare him the pain of losing his son or if he would give him those memories so he could live out his life knowing the great sacrifice he made out of love.
Give your final thoughts on the series, the season and finale.
Nick: Most other series that have played with alternate timelines and changing history and transplanting memory and so forth has ultimately returned each character to the "real" or original version of themselves. The implication is always: people must be themselves, and all meaningful actions and choices proceed from that insistence on unique self-identity.
Fringe as a series rejects that. Character identity is mixed-up, messy, often to the point of being non-sensical. What is primary is relationships, the choices we make about the people we care for, and the new choices that become possible because those people are present in our lives. Everything else proceeds from that. And solving the problem of the Observers -- who are defined by having lost the ability to form these connections -- was really a perfect way for Fringe to conclude.
Sean: This was an outstanding finale and one that I was a bit skeptical of at first. There were so many great one on one conversations, both Peter and especially Olivia getting their kick ass moments, Walter making a sacrifice, the happy ending with the white tulip reminder, plenty of action and truly emotional drama. Even with some of the gripes I've had over this season and some for past seasons, seemed to disappear as I got wrapped up in the riveting conclusion. It truly nailed all the things I could have wanted to expertly end a series. Well done, Fringe. Well done.
Carla: Fringe has been quite a journey through the actually fringe events that initially were the center of the story, to the story of Peter being snatched from other there and sparking a cataclysmic event between universes, to the Observers taking over the planet. It's been a ride unlike any other on television. The science fiction aspect was only superseded by the love for the characters. A week out from the finale, I'm still sad to say goodbye to them all.
The final season got a little too caught up in the tapes, the search for the plan, while sidelining some characters more than I would have liked, but overall it was satisfying conclusion to the series as a whole. For the finale, it hit all the important points and was one of the best finales I've seen.
Carissa: I can specifically remember the first few months of Fringe. I was so excited to see it, and completely underwhelmed with Anna Torv and her whispering, unemotional Olivia Dunham. She was driving me crazy. Little did I know they had several incarnations of Olivia Dunham, and Walter Bishop and Astrid and Nina and Broyles, et. al., in store for me. I came for the premise and stayed for the incredible storytelling and interwoven characters developed with the brilliant acting by each member of the cast. I've never been so happy to be so wrong in my immediate assessment of a series. Fringe was a once in a lifetime experience. It was an X-Files, a Lost; so engaging and gripping full of twists and turns that I couldn't look away.
Fringe Season 5 was a bit of a letdown. It could have been done in a miniseries format. The search for the tapes, the forest people; many episodes seemed pointless and without direction. But I wouldn't give them up. I missed full-throttle Astrid, the alterverse, Gene the cow, Nina and Broyles. I hated learning the fates of Sam Weiss, but loved what became of September. I'll be the first one in line if there's a movie, and know that with the swipe of his finger, Michael can make everyone remember all they forgot. I can live with that, as the end of Fringe will leave a hole in my heart.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.