Fringe Review: The Last Sam Weiss ~ Fringe Television - Fan Site for the FOX TV Series Fringe

Fringe Review: The Last Sam Weiss

      Email Post       5/01/2011 03:29:00 AM      

“Let’s not assume the worst.”

The only thing harder than reviewing the penultimate episode of a Fringe season is attempting to snorkel through molten lava with nothing but a jury-rigged catgut air-tube. In other words, I feel a bit like Wile E. Coyote after he has run off the cliff but hasn’t realized he’s falling yet: we’re in mid-air and only beginning to sense the depth of our plunge.

That isn’t to say we’re in a holding pattern, though. So much happened in this episode that at the 30 minute mark I got up from the couch, assuming it was over. Then a whole season’s worth of event happened in minutes 30-60, too. And then fifteen years worth of events happened in the last 2 minutes…

I could talk about the machine’s variable destruction: Walternate wants to cause trouble, but the machine is causing more trouble than he anticipated, since our heroes have stashed our machine in Massachusetts and the Over-There machine is in New York. I could talk about Olivia and Sam Weiss Indiana Jonesing their way through the museum, and the mini-quest for the metaphorical crowbar and key. I could talk about Sam Weiss’s storied past, and his allegedly not-so-immortal genealogy. I could discuss the intersection of the mystical and the scientific, and how Fringe is rapidly tilting in the direction of full-on wacky metaphysics. Or the intersection of the Christological imagery with the message Peter had Olivia write: “Be a better man than you father.”

But I would rather dwell on where this episode leaves each character, as I have the terrible feeling we may lose someone soon:

Astrid is the unsung hero of the Fringe Division—and I think that’s almost for the best. Her marginalized status makes every revelation that much more compelling, and her solid faith in God’s benevolent interest was a delightful character moment. She plays well off of Walter, whether she’s discussing tapioca or the doctrinal nuances of faith vs. works.

Walter is fairly well-adjusted right now. As I suspected he would, he took Bell’s words to heart and has begun to realize that what he perceived as a mental lack in fact made him better man and stronger scientist. He has managed to maintain love and affection for Peter without letting it overcome his interest in saving the human race. This character arc has been extremely satisfying, which leave me worried: a content Walter might make for boring TV. Does that mean something tragic has to happen, to keep the story interesting?

Olivia has undergone quite a few traumas in the past few episodes. While she seems to have emerged stronger for it, she now has a new difficulty to contend with: her importance to the machine, outlined Rambaldi-style by her picture in the ancient manuscript she and Sam Weiss discovered. Olivia now has the presence of mind to control her telekinetic potential, but I am a bit concerned about her reliance on Peter to do so. Is he helping her become her own woman, or is she so attached to him that without him she’ll go haywire? She still struggles with seeing herself as the extraordinary woman that Walter and Peter know she is—can she remain aware of that extraordinariness even if she’s left without Peter?

Peter seems to be more stable than ever. His partial amnesia was fascinating: at first, I wondered if he would spend an entire season with a case of TVnesia (that particular kind of amnesia that really only removes the events of a TV show from a person’s brain, but leaves everything else intact). As he gradually realized…well, no. As he gradually returned to being our Peter, rather than a non-existent Peter from the other side, he seemed simultaneously struck by the lose of one life and the gain (primarily Olivia) of another. (Joshua Jackson did a wonderful job here.)

The TVnesia also introduced the idea of a consciousness shift, which I assume is what happened in the last few minutes of the show: a Desmond-like jump from one point in Peter’s timeline to another. The glimpse of fiery martial destruction on our side was tantalizing, and raises the question of whether that is the future, or just a possible future. Can the future be changed, or is it set in stone? Will our heroes’ actions cause the apocalypse, or prevent it? Should we assume a merging of the two worlds, in which September 11th happened but the Fringe Division logos are the Over-There versions? Are those even the right questions?

Fate, predestination, foreknowledge, and the will to change one’s circumstances are questions of faith just as much as they are the preoccupation of 18th-century philosophers. When Walter told Astrid that God did not answer him, she reminded him that God is not a handyman we can call up when something is broken: we must make the best attempt possible to do what we can, and only by trying can we earn salvation.

Olivia, Peter, Walter, and Astrid all have faith in each other to try, but they are still doubtful about their success. Will their faith in each other be shaken by whatever happens now that Peter is in the machine? When they—if they—encounter their Over There counterparts, including baby Henry? When they know that at least one possible future is pain and misery? The great thing about Fringe is that we likely won’t get solid answers to those questions in the next episode: we’ll get development of the issues those questions, and others yet unasked, have raised.

The Confusion is Temporary:

• Sam Weiss: “It’s not a Doomsday device, but it’s acting like one.” Gotta admit: I don’t really understand the logic of this statement.

• Sam Weiss: “Sam Weiss. Patron member since 1982.”

• Walter: “I know what it’s like to feel unequal to the task required of you, to feel incapable. I’ll never be the man I was. But I’ve come to embrace the parts of my mind those parts of my mind that are peculiar and broken.”

• “Riders on the Storm” was a perfect choice for the lightening storm. And the Lost technique of introducing non-score music through a character’s use of headphones is just as effective here.

• St. Arthelais is a sixth-century saint who fled from Constantinople to Italy to escape Emperor Justinian. (Thanks,!) Relevant? Red herring? Anagram?

• Peter’s note.

• The montages were beautiful, and incredible. They also seem to suggest an answer to a question that has plagued us for a few episodes: Peter remembers Olivia from the field of white tulips.

Four out of four classic fruit cocktails. Because pre-finale episodes are impossible to rate, but it certainly was wonderful.

(Want more? I also review the Vampire Diaries and Game of Thrones at And we've got Doctor Who reviews, too.)


E said...

Great review! Agree with everything you said .

Dra Fringe said...

Fringe is the best series of all time.
The fox has to change its day of release.
The series is fantastic.

Anonymous said...

Great job, Josie!!
I especially liked the way that Sam Weiss was revealed as some sort of Observer himself -- right after Broyles told him he was "not going" on the ride to LIberty Island, the camera cut to a shot of Sam standing on the shore, looking at the Statue of Liberty, with the Newton's cradle in the foreground, with lightning bolts zipping through the sky.....VERY interesting. And before that, in Walter's lab, he was upset, Olivia asked him about what, & he replied: "I was not supposed to get involved". The ban against intervention, as spelled out by September in "There's more than one of everything".

Scott said...

Really solid recap Josie, thanks!

I agree with the comments above about Sam Weiss, and was relieved that for now he has proved himself trustworthy...but having that anagram in the back of the mind does make all that happened more compelling. And I thought the line to the curator about being a Patron member was priceless as you noted. In the preview we saw the observers standing around looking at the Statue of Liberty. I half expect Sam to come walking up and taking his place among the twelve.

I also wonder about the functionality of the BBM in the blue world with that part missing that Altlivia stole for Walternate. How does that missing piece affect how the machine works, or doesn't. Maybe that is why Sam said the machine is acting different than it should.

I agree with your assessment of Olivia's present state. One way to really test her reliance upon Peter will be what she does, or doesn't, with him stuck in the machine and she having no choice except to fight alone. Perhaps even having to face her worst fear and go back to the alternate universe. Or having to work with Altlivia together to save both worlds and Peter. Boy, that would be great.

Ana said...

I really enjoed the episode and i'm certainly looking forward to watch the season finale, but during Peter's flash back or whatever that was he 'remembered' somenthing that he possibly couldn't... he remembered kissing Olivia in the other side when she was confused about who she was... but that kiss only happened in her head... so if anyone has any idea about why that scene was put there please share...

Anonymous said...

During the flashback when Olivia and Peter kissed on the other side, it wasn't in Olivia's head, that happened when she convinced him to return to the other universe because he belonged with her. I understand where Ana got confused, just rewatch the season 2 finale.

Anonymous said...

Next season could revisit another son against father theme - Peter vs Henry. Henry's mind could have been warped if he was raised by Gramps Walternate, if Faux didn't survive into the future.

Since the show is now tinkering with time travel, any of the main characters can die in this next episode, in present time. Does not mean the death will be permanent.

Anonymous said...

sorry, guys, but i must disagree i thought this was another low point for fringe. two *terrible* episodes in a row, taking us closer and closer to LOST territory. lots of dangling "big story" threads (that will have no satisfying resolution), and characters pumped up just to provide some kind of (illusory! cheap!) narrative closure. i really hate sam weiss now: he's turned into jacob, or something. and now we have time-travel, too?!?

i am not a fringe hater. i was unhappy with season one, but season two kicked ass, and (until that last animated episode) i was really enjoying season three. but i give it one more episode (the finale) to demonstrate that they know what they're doing before i pull the plug on the series.

i don't want another LOST. nothing could be less interesting.

Ana said...

ian, in the second flash back they showed at least two kisses... one when she rescued Peter and told him that he belonged with her and another when she was sitting in Bolivia's bed, Peter appeared and told her that she knew why she didn't die that day cuz she didn't know the protocol... anyway she said that he wasn't real and he said that real was a matter of perception and that he was there and was a part of her that she had to hold on to... then he said other things and kissed her...then Frank came back.. this all happen in the third episode of this season that took place only in the red universe and peter couldn't have remembered that cuz he wasn't there!

Anonymous said...

I don't think Olivia needing Peter for the telekenesis is because of her lack of being her own woman. She needed him in season 2 for similar--bending. What is more likely is their linkage in another way such as metaphysically/transhumanism--terms used during shows intro every Friday.

I thought Olivia's manipulating the machine was almost superhero like. To turn off a menacing machine in another world with your mind is serious capability. Jacob had to touch the people physically.

I thought it was maybe the best ep of all 3 seasons.

The manuscripts that Weiss 1 found are likely prepared by the time traveling observers, otherwhise how do ancient manuscripts identify Peter and Olivia so completely. Of course it could be another group of time travelers.


Anonymous said...

It would be great to see the screen shots of everything running through Peter's mind before he stepped into the machine. I would imagine that they were pretty intentional about what they decided to use there.

Anonymous said...

I'm still wondering if Peter's amnesia really WAS temporary. It was so abrupt, and although it was the vehicle to get him to NYC, it seemed a lot of trouble in plot twist for just ten minutes worth of screen time. Also, he didn't say, "I love you" back to Olivia - instead gave her a "oh, that's sweet of you" smile. Although, his life in "our" universe did flash before his eyes in that montage... can't wait for next week!!!

Anonymous said...

I gotta agree with anonymous here, Fringe has literally embraced LOST storytelling with this latest development, hell, it seems like deja vu to me when I see a season 3 finale being about a flashforward....remember lost season 3 finale?? We gotta go back kate, we gotta go back!! They just kept adding new additions to the story without answering the previous threads, kept introducing new characters without doing justice to the current ones.....people have still not understood present time walternate, fauxlivia etc. and now we have a season finale with a future version(3rd version technically) of the characters??? and not to mention some new characters as well(grown up ella and Mr. X, who kills Olivia).....honestly speaking, this season was seriously neither here, nor there, i.e. it did not have good standalones, neither did it answer anything significant mythology wise as well......and season 3 was the same season where LOST lost its way and just went haywire......The "Others" were reduced to a joke, Ben Linus (who I think is Sam Weiss equivalent,lol), Jack, John Locke, all were made to look like fools....and oh! A BUNCH of big big mytho questions left Fringe....please come up with a magic in the finale and prove me wrong or atleast get ur act right in season 4, otherwise an embarrassment rating of less than 1.0 is anyway not too far away (they are currently doing 1.2)

Scott said...

Richard, I think it is an astute observation (pun intended)that the observers are the ones that created the manuscript that shows the pictures of Peter and Olivia. That also makes it a record and not a prophesy.

I completely get all the concern folks have about not having plot questions or themes answered before opening up large new ones. But I don't have any concern about it becoming Lost or Alias. Franky, Alias, Lost and Fringe have been my favorite three shows of the past decade. Especially Lost and Fringe have given us these great communities like this site that fans can engage each other in the prediction game.

I think Fringe has done the best job of providing answers to questions, while still leaving large questions unanwered, which in my opinion, makes the mystery compelling and drives the passionate engagement from fans that we see. The level of investment in the plot and in the characters continues to be refreshing. I too have confidence in the writers and producers to give us a few answers this Friday and open up new paradigms to drive our curiousity all Summer.

Anonymous said...

Scott is right, if we don't have long arc mysteries/questions then it becomes just another episodic show where each week or so is solved by the next ep or so.

I don't think Fringe is going to use time like Lost. The finale in Lost showed that there were worlds where time is of no consequence-eternity. Sure there will be similarities at times. Whereas Fringe will likely use time as in a space/time continium--like Fringe Science.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I think the series has gone off the boil. I did not like the "scanner darkly" type episode. It was kind of pointless as you knew that Olivia was going to be saved once Bell could not find a body. Ive enjoyed fringe but the last 2 episodes has sent me to sleep. The special effects have been poor ( Mean not showing the rift effects but only the sheep) The last episode was just lighting which no way relates to style of the last 2 seasons. They need to get back to the fringe of season 1 and 2 and really work on the script. Too much going on and it feels rushed. Aka A concerned fan
ps. Fringe has been my favourite show since BSG: Caprica was cancelled

jb said...

Ana, I noticed that too regard that image in Peter's memoris / flashbacks. I saw a twitter comment from JH Wyman that said those images were Peter's and important moments for him... That one as you said isn't his.

Perhaps just a small error of inclusion, perhaps an intentional inclusion for more themed 'merging' between P and O. Perhaps just a red herring.

My questions tend towards - why did he get the coin? Did the machine draw out more memories that he has shut away since we know that he didn't remember the coin in season 1. (although his hand did immediately by flipping it down the fingers - muscle memory, I always thought that was a brilliantly implied). And if the machine did draw out those memories, did it also give him others that 'might have been' from the other side had he not been taken? Because the machine has a connection to Olivia, does that mean he has been given some of hers? I have no answers, only questions.

I loved Alias, and LOST and there are many times when events and dialogue echos those. I don't find it draws away from what is happening in this FringeWorld though. The space time continuum theme has been evident from Fringe's beginning so it fits. And stories of relationships and all human behaviour are in everything and are not exclusive to shows gone before.

The writers can keep doing what they are doing because the ride is fantastic in my mind :)

Ana said...

jb, after rewatching the final minutes i think you might be right about Peter getting some of Olivia's memories... this might not have any meaning but one of the images showed Peter glowing ... and the second flash which contained these images happened after he was already in contact with the machine.

I just love that everything is always connected and have a deeper meaning. No matter how many possiblities I come up with I'm always wrong and i love it! Ok.. somethings i'm right but it's not that often =)

Anonymous said...

Ana, My thought about that flash back was the same. It can't be Peter's cause that was suppose to be a figment of Olivia's mind as it was fighting the drugs that Walternate had given her on the other side.
Like Jb said above, it could be just an error as it happens quite a bit on the show with continuity within a scene shot NOT STORY (I know I'm overly picky with this- but it's there)
SO, I was thinking if it was on purpose they did show Olivia and Peter looking at eachother so maybe it was 'Shared' visions- after all they would be the same if it involves the other.

Kate said...

Loved the review! Quick question though, when was St. Arthelais mentioned? I seem to have missed that reference...

Anonymous said...

Kate said...

Loved the review! Quick question though, when was St. Arthelais mentioned? I seem to have missed that reference...

It was the name of the cemetery where the Weiss Vault was and they went to get the lockbox with the crowbar manuscript. When they showed the vault, there was the normal location 3D lettering.

playyourpart said...

Interesting that peter woke up from sedation thinking he was on the other side, and then went on to look for a lucky coin. All these references to the other side are meant to show that Peter's loyalties are split between the two universes. We don't know exactly what will happen when he gets in the machine because we don't know to which side he is loyal. In the end, I think the machine doesn't do what he commands, but instead will create a universe compatible with his deep desires. Possibly, this merges the two universes. Maybe it just recreates the blue one into a universe suited for him. Dying to find out what happens.

Count Screwloose said...

Let's do some math:

Sam's rock bowling was an intentional shout-out to The Flintstones.

The vibrating water in the plastic cup came from Jurassic Park.

The "crowbar" was in the Native American Wing.

The banner outside the museum advertised The Human Story.

Flintstones/Jurassic/Native/Humans = First People.

Where do you suppose we're all headed?

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