And so "The Boy Must Live" brings not only the show nearer to a close, but the fun we've had with our Fringe Round Table discussions.
This was our last chance to make any predictions about what might happen in the finale, so check out the extended Fringe finale trailer and then join staff writers Carla Day, Sean McKenna, Carissa Pavlica - along with our Fringey friend Nick Shere - for an analysis of "The Boy Must Live," as well as a look ahead to Friday. Sniff, sniff...
We're you surprised about the true meaning of the phrase "the boy must live?"
Nick: Not after the previous week; they telegraphed it pretty aggressively. I anticipate it will be weird to go back and rewatch previous seasons with this on my mind, however.
Carla: More confused than surprised. As Nick mentioned, this will be something I'll pay close attention to when I rewatch the series. I do appreciate these callbacks that are happening. Regardless of what was meant, it was interpreted initially differently and actions were taken based on that. So, if anything it really has two meanings now whether intended or not.
Sean: At this point not really surprised, although it does make me wonder about other things that happened in the past that had different meanings as well. It also makes me think about rewatching the series under the context of knowing the final season and how that might change my viewing experience. Oh Fringe, how you get my mind thinking…
Carissa: It really does rewire the connectivity of the seasons, and our interpretation thereof. It makes for a great reason to rewatch. I'd like to think that both boys had to live, because without Peter getting into the big machine and choosing to mend the two universes, they would have never gotten this far. Maybe he needed to live as a man, but to Walter he will always be his boy.
Why do you think Windmark and his cohort were experiencing emotions?
Nick: It felt rather like a reference to The Matrix, when you see that Agent Smith is basically starting to go native. And if so, that would be consistent with some of the first glimpses we had of the Observers at the start of the season -- they seemed less like emotionless cyborgs and more like time Nazis. It also matches up with the experiences of September and August in previous seasons, who seemingly acquired human feelings through extended contact with us.
Carla: Definitely due to their interactions with humans and in particular the Fringe group. For Windmark, it probably goes back to when he went into Walter's head at the beginning of the season. That tripped some defect in his head that has been compounded by Etta, Peter and others
Sean: Being around people, whatever form of contact, seems to impart in some ways the chance to experience emotions. Is it recognition that winning is possible? Maybe, but it does make me feel as if emotions will trump all in the end.
Carissa: While I agree Nick's assessment, I think Michael has a lot to do with it. Something about him lingering about makes them change. September changed in previous seasons, but we didn't know then he already had Michael in various timelines. If Observers are as intelligent as they claim, they would have to wonder at lengths we go to just to capture emotions and love. Maybe they're simply evolving on their own out of sheer determination to understand.
Did the explanation of the Observers' evolution satisfy you and what questions linger?
Nick: I'm mostly satisfied, but I think there was an implication previously (with September and Peter?) that the observers were an evolutionary adaptation -- i.e., a response to changing conditions. This new explanation of the Observers makes them sound much more like a voluntary or Gattaca-esque "improvement" over existing humanity.
Carla: The Observers' evolution hasn't really been of much interest to me. The explanation was fine, though doesn't necessarily follow with what we have known of them before. I'm guessing we will get a bit more information in the finale, but if we don't I'm satisfied with the answers we have received so far.
Sean: I'm satisfied with the explanation, but I do agree with Nick about remembering the Observers being created more out of evolutionary conditions rather than more scientific changes. But either way, I'm okay with how they've come about, but truthfully, I'm more curious as to how the Fringe team is going to "beat" them.
Carissa: We knew it wasn't completely evolutionary, or else there wouldn't be a gizmo in some of their necks. The question of female Observers also arose, and if they were eradicating love and compassion, etc., it would be just like men to take away women in the process. Don't dangle any fruit! There could be a whole miniseries on how they came to be, and I'd want to find out how women were erased first.
Do you believe the series will end with the sacrifice of Walter?
Nick: I'm sure it will, although, this being Fringe, they might be misleading us as to the nature of the sacrifice. After the last episode, I can't help thinking that they're going to build more onto the connection with White Tulip -- and the theme there was ultimately about surrendering to fate, but on terms of ones own choosing.
Carla: I think the idea of "sacrifice" has been misinterpreted. I don't think he has to sacrifice his life, but the life he has had. If the plan works, the outcome would be related to the Observers, but the ramifications would hit the Bishop family hard. September wouldn't be in the cabin to distract Walternate from finding the cure, so Walter would never have to cross over. And, Walter would never get to know Peter. That's the sacrifice that Walter will have to make -- his life as he has known it. That's what I think is the plan, but I don't think they will end up going through it, so that won't actually happen. Of course, this is all speculation and wishful thinking.
Sean: They've certainly been hinting at it all season, but Fringe has a way of turning things on its head so I'm not sure if it will happen the way we might think. In a lot of ways this final season has been an emotional journey for the characters and I feel as if those emotions will positively play out in winning the war. I just hope that Walter doesn't have to die for everything to work out.
Carissa: Carla is on the right track, I think. It's been a running theme as to whether or not Walter would be willing to give Peter up. It could be the plan will erase him from the worlds again, but I really don't think it will come to that.
Do you still think a reset will be necessary given Michael's extraordinary abilities?
Nick: I don't know. It does seem like it should be possible to just retrofit all the existing Observers with a gene-altering virus or something to make them empathic. It would hardly be the craziest thing Fringe has done. But it seems like they want more finally wrap things up and probably reunite Peter and Olivia with Etta.
Carla: I don't think the planned reset is necessary or will happen. I'm not sure if there will be a reset of some sort or not.
Sean: I've had reservations about a reset, especially with what the reset might entail and what it might erase or change. I don't want the past seasons to feel null and void for the end outcome. That said, I feel as if something greater than a reset will take place and instead fix the negative result of the Observers dominance. Michael's important for sure, but he won't be the only catalyst for the change the team is seeking.
Carissa: I don't want a reset. People die and things happen that are painful, but you still have to fight to change things so they don't continue to be as they are. It's my hope the team realizes that and that they make a difference going forward with what they have been given and accept what they have lost.
It's the last time I can ask, so what hopes remain for the finale? Any predictions?
Nick: If there's one main character who's really not gotten enough love this season, it's Astrid. I hope that in the finale, she gets to do something really badass.
Carla: I'd like the ending to be a happy one of some sort. I'd like for Peter and Olivia to end up together. And, I'd love to see a kick-ass Astrid. That's a great suggestion, Nick. And, I've seen the preview and am thrilled about a few characters that will be showing up.
Sean: Series finales always have the hardest times because they are that final closure after the culmination of multiple seasons. That said, I really feel that Fringe can pull it off and give us that resounding end that allows everything to feel complete. I want Peter and Olivia together, I want the Observers to not be the oppressive force, I want Walter to find a sense of peace, and I want to feel like everything the Fringe team has done has been worth it to reach the final mark. I'm nervous and excited to see how it all goes down.
Carissa: All I know is that Fauxlivia is in the trailer and I couldn't be happier. I needed to know the other universe survived after ours stopped helping them clean their air. I know a true Fringe lover wouldn't need that closure, but I didn't write the characters to fall in love with, so I won't take responsibility for my love for them. And, everything Nick, Carla and Sean said. Peace, love and understanding with some kick-ass Astrid in for good measure.
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.