Fringe Season 3 Finale - Part 1 of 2 - Slip Up Or Set Up? ~ Fringe Television - Fan Site for the FOX TV Series Fringe

Fringe Season 3 Finale - Part 1 of 2 - Slip Up Or Set Up?

      Email Post       7/31/2011 10:22:00 AM      

Hey everyone!  Hope you are having a pleasant summer.  FringeTV is doing an episode rewatch of the entire series in the run up to the Season 4 Premiere but unfortunately that is more than I can take on at the moment.  I really wanted to do an article or two about the state of series after such a unique finale.

So here it is.  At least Part 1.  Enjoy!


Ever had one of those experiences where you walk out of a movie or concert feeling so transcendent because you have just experienced something amazing?  You cannot wait to share the experience with your friends.  But when you do, you get a big shock.  

Most of your friends hated it.  Or had problems with it.  

Something you felt was brilliant, others detest.  Is there anything more deflating?

Deflated is how I felt about the general reception for the Fringe Season 3 Finale.  However, my opinion of the S3 Finale has not wavered.  I found it, and still find it, a bold and exciting direction for the show to take into Season 4.  

The removal of Peter not just from the events of the timeline of the past 3 seasons but Existence itself is unprecedented in serialized television.  The implications and possibilities of the removal of Peter for the next season are mind boggling.  Yet a lot of the feedback from fans and TV critics has been negative.  

As I read the feedback and the reviews certain issues began to repeat.  The main one, naturally, is the fate of Peter. Is he gone for good?  Is Josh Jackson done with Fringe?   Such reactions are understandable given the unique storyline Fringe has sprung upon its viewers. 

The removal of a main character from a TV series is absolutely unsettling.  It is meant to be.

The obvious answer is Peter will be back.  

For me, the more pertinent questions are:

1) How will Peter be reintegrated into the timeline?  
2) Will the new timeline Peter created allow both universes to survive?  
3) Did Time, like water finding the easiest path to flow, reconfigure itself as expediently as possible by removing the source of irritation?  ie Peter?  Is that correction a long term viable one?

Let us call the timeline we are familiar with in, 'The Day We Died,' the Prime Timeline.  It is not a timeline with a viable future.  The red universe is gone and our blue universe is dying too.  So the Prime Timeline is a dead end.  Peter came back to the present and built a bridge between the two universes. The result was a new timeline was created.  A new timeline with a chance to correct things. A new timeline where Peter Bishop does not exist.  

That is the sacrifice Peter made; most likely unknowingly. 

After the confusion about the removal of Peter, the next big complaint was that the future we were shown and the characters that inhabited it was a world many did not care about.  Here the complaints do carry weight because of the rushed nature of the finale.  More time was needed to build up the emotional ties for the audience.  The previous two episodes could have been compressed into one or one and a half installments and the extra time freed up would have been beneficial to the finale.

This is speculation on my part but it is possible that part of the lack of investment of the Prime Timeline is that is far too reminiscent of those Star Trek - The Next Generation or Voyager episodes involving time travel.  What worked beautifully in, ‘Yesterday’s Enterprise,’ later became a repetitive story device.  A future would be shown where cataclysmic major changes such as the destruction of the vessel and crew would take place.  Only to have it all undone by the end of the episode.  So any buy in by the audience was quickly dissipated and by the third or fourth of fifth time this trick was used the reaction became boredom.  

But that is not the case here with Fringe.

The end of the two universes is still in play.  Peter may have built a bridge between the two universes but the characters left behind have to be willing to cross not only the spatial gap but the philosophical differences it represents.  And yes it is sure to play out that the future world and destruction of the two universes will be prevented.  But that is a logical extension of any story where we expect the protagonists to triumph.  The two universes are still headed to their respective dooms at the start of Season 4.

Where the finale faltered was by not having the actions of the future characters tied to the events that caused Peter to leap into the future using previously setup antagonists.  In, ‘Yesterday’s Enterprise,’ the Picard Enterprise is fighting a war with enemies well established in that franchise.  A war the Enterprise C should have prevented.  In the Fringe future, the team is fighting a new entity that we have no pre-existing investment with. Ah, where was Mr. Jones, or even a, ‘Don’t Trust,’ Sam Weiss when one needed them?  A storyline tied to the Machine is what would have brought that needed emotional heft to the world of Fringe in 2026.

The drama for the next season should be how difficult will it be to prevent this mutual destruction. Especially with one of the major players no longer in the picture; Peter.  The journey next season should not only be a technological challenge but an opportunity for major character journeys and re-evaluations.  Without Peter, who will take his place in the Machine?  We know the Machine is going to be built and sent back in time based on the rules of Time in the discussion Walter had with Peter after Olivia’s funeral.  So someone has to take Peter’s place.  Is it Olivia?  Or will a paradox arise when the realization that the person needed is nowhere to be found?  To see the fallout with the remaining regular cast and how they have changed, and not changed, in a reality without Peter will be fascinating to see.


This concludes Part 1.

Look for Part 2 next Friday.  In it a further exploration of Peter's removal from the Prime Timeline will offer some, hopefully, new concepts for everyone to mull over.


Xindilini said...

Well. Seeing it unfold is all worth it.

Time travel shows are not contrived. It's the ultimate what if set up. If it is done well, it has served its purpose. It's the only reason it is done so often in Star Trek. Yesterday's Enterprise is did not set the bar on the subject. I find later ones even better. Even the latest movie incarnation is a major reset because someone from the future initiated a move to travel back in time which no one seem to be correcting. Spock was sent back to save one race that resulted in the destruction of his homeworld. Go figure.

Bill i said...

My instant reaction was confusion for days. Then overtime, the ending became more and more interesting. All those X-files comparasions will come back if they drag this on all season. ("Where is Mulder?")

Anonymous said...

I didn't have a problem with the Fringe world of 2026. It was interesting. It's the "new, blended Fringe world" of the end of the finale that I felt I didn't care about. The episode basically ended with the characters all staring at each other in a closed off room. That's just dramatically dead, because we don't even know who these characters ARE now. (At least in 2026 we knew who they were, even if we didn't know the details of the last 15 years in full...)

So, what awaits us in Season 4? I'm drawing a total blank. I honestly have nothing to fill in the blanks with. Last year we understood what the premise was going to be and could extrapolate stuff from the finale. This year, everything is up in the air and the only people who have any clue are the writers... and that's not a situation I feel comfortable with as a fan.

Also, how can I possibly really care about what I'm going to see in Season 4 if I know that the writers could wipe it all out just as easily as they wiped out the past 3 seasons?

This all just seems like an interlude of "interestingness" rather than the propulsive storyline we got in seasons 2 and 3. It's all very interesting, maybe, but they've lost the compelling narrative and I wonder if they will ever manage to get it back.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to add this thought: If Fringe just becomes a show about "concepts" and "themes" and runs roughshod over the characters and relationships we've come to know and love, then I don't think fans are going to be very happy with Season 4.

Anonymous said...

I'm still not convinced about this analysis. I know what the writers want us to think, but I really don't believe that Peter came back to the same universe he grew up in (over here). It's just not feasible. I truly believe that after Peter saw the future of his universe (blue), he went back to the present time of a different universe unintentionally. TWO different universes where he never existed. As to why or how I'm not certain yet.

I've been thinking a lot about that #4. The pound sign might also represent 4 points with a line connecting one point to the other. Hence, the 4 universes, 2 of which have already intersected (by Peter building a bridge). I really think that he is stuck in the same dimension as the Observers and the main plot of Season 4 will be about Peter observing and learning from the 2 universes and using that to not only help his universes, but also finding a way back to HIS universe.

I think that he will definitely be a part of these episodes but as someone invisible to those universes. I also think that they will also feature OUR universe and Bolivia's universe too and will be jumping back and forth between all 4 universes as the timeline proceeds. Or maybe not. Maybe the finale of Season 4 will be that Peter returns to HIS universe 60 seconds after he left and will explain everything he has learned to Olivia and Walter. And of course, presenting a way to save both worlds.

Either way, how can anyone not think the concept of time travel alone is not intriguing enough??

Anonymous said...

Why I didn't find the season finale as amazing as most people do? I resented that they told me I wasted my time watching 3 seasons for nothing. Remember, that could have been the series finale. S4 is going to be a reset. They are very welcome to change the characters and to do as many resets as they want, but if I wanted to watch a different show, I would do it.

Because it reeks of an excuse to continue the story without one of the main characters, one they obviously dislike, without facing the consequences of killing him off for good.

It's not original, apparently Dr. Who has done it before and it even has its own article on the TV tropes website.

Because "Where is Peter Bishop?" is not about him, it's about the others on a quest for a treasure.

Because the producers said, they would explore the lives of the other characters without him and that Joshua Jackson would be reintroduced eventually. It means that those of us, who like Peter, can only look forward to one thing: the moment he is reintroduced in the show, which I suppose they will do eventually, only to put him neatly in the background right afterwards, as always.

And finally, the reset means nothing is valid anymore in this show. They could do it again and again to justify anything they want to do and nothing would have any meaning. Like that amazing Walter/Peter relationship, that never happened.

Anonymous said...

I think joshua jackson really summed up everything in one interview at comic con he said "peter is kind of like the macguffin of the show alot of things are ABOUT him but he dosent DO a lot of things, that is what the character is and its not gonna change anytime soon".
So i think if your expecting to see more peter centric storylines you are gonna get them, but there not gonna be with him doing stuff, there gonna be about olivia/walter finding him/saving him. But on the positive side, wyman and pinkner seem to be very confident they have a good explanation about his disappearance. My major nitpick about this is though even tho i did really like the season finale, i dont really see why we need to see what their lives are like without him, i know he dosent exist cause he saved olivia and everything but i still dont really see the need, but ill probably see on september 23rd :L

Anonymous said...

I'd also like to say that even though i have nothing against the actor whatsoever, and he seems to be a good one. I do not like the character lincoln lee at all. IMO he is probably gonna get more character development in the first few episodes (i assume without peter in them) than astrid, nina or broyles got in 3 seasons and saying that peter himself. Seth gabels great and everything but id rather it was kirk acevedos charlie coming back than a guy who looks like a teenager who may be destroyed by a relationship with fauxlivia like the character of peter was

Anonymous said...


Seth Gabel is a nice guy and although I find Lincoln too bland and generic, I don't mind him as a regular. It's a shame they couldn't add Kirk Acevedo to the main cast, too. I wouldn't be worried about Lincoln being destroyed by a relationship with Fauxlivia, although he'll probably be Peter's substitute in Faulivia's and/or Olivia's bed. The reason I'm not worried is that unlike with Josh Jackson and Peter, the writers actually love Seth Gabel and Lincoln. I'm prepared for this season to be about Lincoln, Olivia and Walter.

Old Darth said...

Hey gang!

First up. Thanks for the great comments. They represent a wonderful cross section of opinion about the implications of the S3 finale.

Some folks love time travel stories in and of themselves. They love the concept and the construction of such stories. For myself, the time travel stories that stick out, like any type of story, are the ones that explore characters. Time travel when used properly is a great way to explore characters in a manner not possible in conventional story telling. Which is why I mentioned, 'Yesterday's Enterprise.' An even better example is Harlan Ellison's brilliant original Star Trek episode, 'The City on the Edge of Forever.' In it Kirk is faced with a personal choice that will affect the future of earth. Sounds very Fringian, no? Even if you are not an original Star Trek fan I highly recommend you check it out.

Without giving away much of Part 2 of my article, I have faith in the showrunners that all the character growth from the past three seasons will NOT be lost. Instead, Season 4 will re-examine those past seasons in ways that will shed new light on the characters.

Season 4 dramatically dead? Sure hope not and believe the opposite is true. It will be re-examining the characters and there will be enough of the original traits left in the 'new' characters for us to remain invested. Also, the impending destruction of the two universes is still ongoing.

Strongly disagree that nothing on the show will be valid anymore. Fringe has always kept a tight rein on its mythology. Which is why they have restricted the story to two universes. On a lessor show that would be a viable concern but on Fringe it is almost a given that they will enhance the previous seasons rather than ignore them.

The showrunners do not like Peter? Josh Jackson is on record from the post Fringe press room interviews that he worked with the showrunners to forge this storyline and Josh came up with, and pushed, the Peter non-existence angle.

Once again thanks for your comments. They prove how many possibilities there are for the showrunners to explore next season.

Do not forget - Part 2 of this article will be out next Friday!


KC said...

My reaction to the finale was a continous of: ....... >>> wait what??????? >>>> nooooooo!!!! >>>> woah!!!>>>> I feel so proud of being fan of this show!! >>>> bring my Peter back now!!!!! >>>> this show is so awsome!

Yeah, I know it sounds totally bipolar. What I mean is that, while the fangirl in me was absolutely devastated that they were telling me one of my favs never existed, and by that time I couldn't even know if Josh was coming back, the other side of me was able to recognize the brilliance of the episode and the writers, who were able to surprise us all (for good or for bad), because I think no one ever imagined that was how the season would end.

I was worried for a long time about how would be s4, because of Peter not being there, and all the rest of the characters becoming almost complete strangers. Something all of us that are attached to the characters wouldn't like.

But when the producers said the premise of the s4, at list the first part, it was to see how was the lives of the others in an universe where Peter never existed, I relaxed. Because is not wiping all we know, is showing us the same from other perspective. How? Basically, that despite Peter's great sacrifice, being gone is not the best alternative. Because he is needed. I think we'll see that Walter and Olivia's lives will be affected negatively by Peter not being there, reinforcing the importance of the character in their lives.

If I have to deal with Josh not being in a couple of episodes, to see (more than I already know) how strong is the bond between the three main characters, and how special their relationships are, then so be it.

Old Darth said...

Thanks for the reply KC. Your mindset for the show is exactly where I am.

Ed Wilson, said...

In re the producers and writers of the show... I admire your courage, but question your judgement..

Anonymous said...

I also kind of resent the implication that I'm not "a real fan of Fringe" if I question this development. Like I'm not adventurous enough or something. I just don't want to see the showrunners turn this show from something truly special into something merely "interesting." It's the characters and the actors and their rapport that is special.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 8:05 am, but see, a "real" Fringe fan is somebody who likes walter and olivia. Why I say that? Because the writers only want people to care about them and not Peter. I recall a long time ago, people went nuts when there was a "demise" in the season finale and people were crying that it was Olivia and some people even threatened to stop watching. Not a single person questioned THOSE people but season finale and Peter never existed and people were like, "oh that's interesting", "I wonder how walter and olivia would be like without Peter" but when a person complains about seeing their favorite actor gone, they say, "oh watch the show for the show, peter is not the only one on the show, this isn't the Peter show, "you are not a real fringe fan". Oh but its OK for people to say how "walter makes the show". "Olivia makes the show" but PETER FANS get questioned.

My point is, if it was walter and olivia who didn't exist, people would have gone nuts but because it was Peter, everybody breathed a sigh of relief.

You know, not sure why people act like peter not existing is so surprising, the fans acted like he didn't for the last 3 years.

Nicola said...

I can't even be bothered to read the comments following that drivel. It is written by somebody using the language of a scientist in some places but without the brains.

If Peter "never existed" as stated by the Observer, then Walter did not have a reason to go into the other Universe and cause the fractures in the first place. There's a paradox to play with your heads.

Just sayin'

Anonymous said...

Actually Nicola, Walter and William Bell were preparing to visit the other universe long before Peter was even sick or even born for that matter. So that's not exactly a paradox that can't be overcome.

The cortexiphan experiments were taking place independently of Peter or his illness/death. What happened was that Walter crossed over before he and William had intended. Without Peter, someone might have crossed over anyway.

Anonymous said...

"The showrunners do not like Peter? Josh Jackson is on record from the post Fringe press room interviews that he worked with the showrunners to forge this storyline and Josh came up with, and pushed, the Peter non-existence angle."

The question is... WHY?

I'm not convinced there isn't some non-story reason why Josh has to be absent. I feel a little like we are being bullshitted.

Also, possibly the showrunners overestimate how well received Josh's decreased screen time was last year. It was TOLERATED by most fans... not exactly LOVED. For him to be completely absent (and his character maybe not even coming back at all) seems almost intolerable.

When does showrunner imagination become showrunner wankery? What was broken about this show that needed such drastic "fixing"? Pinkner and Wyman remind me of two mad scientists who took a cool thing and twisted it too far and broke the universe. I really hope they haven't.

Old Darth said...

The intent of this article is not to ridicule fans who question the latest developments but to present them with alternative ideas. Sorry if it came across that way. Being concerned is a sure sign of our investment. There are many opinions being expressed about the negative impacts of Peter's removal has had. This is strictly an exercise in highlighting the potentiall positive ones. No judgements are being made.

Nicola you are welcome to state your opinion but let us do so without the personal attacks. Thanks in advance.

In the finale Walter told Peter that certain events like the sending of the Machine back in Time are unchangeable. It is a given that the Walter will still cause the breach between the two universes. It is another unchangeable event. The only things that can change are his motivations for doing so - though it could be for the same reasons and this time Peter did not survive - and for his actions after the breach has happened.

Just sayin' :D

Old Darth said...

'The question is... WHY?'

In a nutshell to explore the characters in ways not possible with conventional storytelling like last season's dual universe story lines.

For more WHY - straight from the horses's mouth -

Anonymous said...

Look: in the end, it's their show and the fans have absolutely no say in how the actors and their characters are used (or abused, if you feel that way). I accept that.

But last season they took the show in a new direction which felt exciting and fun because the audience was let more in on it. At season's end, we knew the direction that lay ahead and could see the outline. The showrunners threw us for a loop, but in a fair and considerate way. And it wasn't anything that negated what we'd seen in Season 2.

What the showrunners are doing this season is adventurous, but also very unfair to their audience (and actors?). We're completely in the dark. They've "remade" the show and we have no idea what awaits us in September. Not only is that unfair to the audience, it's borderline cruel, considering how hard this audience fought for the show during its renewal crisis.

It smacks of wankery, of bored showrunners who want to toy with their creation rather than honoring it in a truly creative way. And I don't want to think that about these guys, but I've seen so many great sci-fi shows get ruined like this. Putting your show in a blender and breaking ALL the rules is not "creativity." That's a sign that someone has run out of ideas. Which blows my mind because this show's established back story is (was?) so rich that they could have told stories from it for years. They didn't have to NEGATE it in order to tell a good story.

We'll find out in a few weeks I guess.

Anonymous said...

And one last comment: It would really help if TV journalists and bloggers would stop throwing softballs at Pinkner and Wyman during interviews. To even give the appearance of eliminating a major character/actor (not to mention the show's core relationships) is a pretty big deal, and they have been incredibly vague and coy about where this is going, which is starting to change my opinion of their sincerity on anything they say. Which is sad, because I thought they were the good guys.

Old Darth said...

Great opinions and passion!

One request - please leave your name/handle in the post if you are posting Anonymously. Without it is very difficult to follow the conversational flow.

Thanks in advance.

Donna said...

I actually thought the episode itself was pretty great. All the 2026 stuff, etc. That's not really what people are upset about, though. They're upset about the ending and about the direction next season is supposed to be taking.

Like the above commenter said, "They could do it again and again to justify anything they want to do and nothing would have any meaning." Sadly this is how I feel as well. My faith in the writers has been severely shaken by their willingness to completely toss everything we've seen. How can I ever trust them again?

I'm seriously wondering if I should tune in in September, only because I don't want my pleasant memories of the last 3 years of Fringe to be spoiled. I don't want to be some bitter old fan hanging around being critical. It makes me very sad indeed to write that. This just bothers me so much, what they have done. :-(

Old Darth said...

Hi Donna.

Your feelings are quite understandable. I share them. No one wants the past 3 seasons of character building, especially since Jacksonville on, tossed out the window.

And that includes the show runners.

I am very heartened by their comments from the San Diego Comic Con. Those remarks form the basis of the second part of my article.

Hopefully you will reconsider and watch the show when it returns in September.

Keep the faith!



Inter-dimensional Dave said...

As I was pondering the answer to your question, I thought back to the season 3 finale. As all the main players faced off against each other I wondered if anyone of them thought to say, "Hey, what is that big machine for???" (No Peter, no machine?)

Aside from that, I want to see a literal interpretation to "The Day We Died". Peter left alone in the world but with all the machines at his disposal. Including Walters view screen so he can observe the goings on of the bridged worlds. He'll make every attempt to get back but remain stifled by the Observers as they have their own agenda. Peter will eventually make it but the only one to remember him will be Sam Weiss. As you may recall Sam Weiss cannot be trusted. To re-align himself with the universe he must step back into the machine! (Let's hope both side have worked out their differences by then.)

Old Darth said...

Wow Dave! You are living up to your handle. Most Interdimensional!

Anonymous said...

"In a nutshell to explore the characters in ways not possible with conventional storytelling like last season's dual universe story lines."

That's precisely the problem. It's just more of the same, they are interested in exploring everyone except Peter. They're just happy with saying he's unique, but god forbid they write for him or give him a storyline. That would mean having to show some interest and actually do some effort to develop the character and they would neer dream of doing that.

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