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.