Join us for our Fringe Summer re-watch, where we review every episode of Fringe during the summer hiatus. Comments are welcome as we dig into the connections made over three seasons.
Editor's Note:This is the last installment of our 'Fringe Summer Rewatch' program that began 65 episodes ago in July.
I would like to thank Dennis, the owner of the Fringe Television site, for thoroughly supporting this endeavor.
I want to thank Ari Margolis, the man in LA behind all the excellent Fringe promos since last year, who kept us enthusiastic with his daily Fringe posts on Twitter, especially his creation-the 'Fringe Song Of the Day.'
Most importantly, I thank my writing staff who donated their time and talents:
Aimee Long, birdandbear, Dani, David Wu, Dixie, oranfly, sam spade, and Xindilini.
So here we are, wrapping up our Summer Rewatch with the mind blowing Season Three finale. Fringe has been building to this since an Observer left a drawing on a bar stool, and now at last we'll have our answers to the season's burning questions: What does the machine do? What's going to happen to Peter if he gets in it? And of course, we'll be left with a whole new set of questions. Naturally.
Do you know what it's like... to wake up and just for a moment... think that everything is as it was? And then to realize it's not... that the nightmare you had was real. - Secretary Bishop
The Day We Died picks up right where the previous episode left us. In the final heart-pounding moments of The Last Sam Weiss, Peter stepped into the machine, taking the last step on the long path toward his destiny, and carrying the hope of a world on his shoulders. His body convulsing with the energy coursing through it, he made his choice: when it came down to us or them, Peter chose his adopted world over his natural one.
Really, between two the Walters and Peter, you'd think somebody would have figured out before now that it could never be that horribly simple.
And of course it isn't. When Peter comes to, he's in a shattered world. Fifteen years into a dark, dystopian future, this world is dying just like it's twin. Destroying the other universe changed nothing for this one. Quite the opposite in fact, the death of the other universe seems to have accelerated the degradation on this side, and the world is full of horrors. Lunatic terrorists are blowing holes in reality in an attempt to expedite the end of the world. Vortexes and wormholes and Amber protocol are commonplace. Walter is in prison for the crimes that brought about the decay, hated by everyone. Fringe Division is vainly bandaging their world's mortal wounds as best they can, staving off the inevitable for a few more months.
Throughout the episode we're given painful little portraits of how very wrong things have gone.Peter's visit to Walter in his maximum security prison is a heartrending scene, echoing back to our first glimpse of Walter at Saint Claire's. Walter is again institutionalized, heavily bearded and too thin, evidence of a stroke in the lifeless side of his face. This time the meeting between father and son is fraught with love and pain as the two try to touch hands through the thick glass between them. For a moment we get a glimpse of the old Walter as he ponders the idea of a wormhole going back to the age of the Sauropods. Once he would have been excited by the idea, but that Walter is gone. He's a broken man now, drowning under the weight of the crimes that have killed his world.
There's a plot line in this future involving terrorists and the effort to figure out their technology in time to stop their next attack, but it's really just a vehicle for the emotional punches. And boy do they keep coming. It's a tour through a nightmare realm of leering images, made more painful by the sadly valiant attempts of the characters to hold on to hope and to each other, to not give up while the light still lives. But the truth is there in Olivia's refusal to have children, it's caught in Amber in Central Park. Things are falling apart. The center cannot hold, the world is dying, and no one can stop it. Yin to Yang, the two universes were intrinsically connected, one can't survive without the other, and now that the other is gone, this one will follow - sooner rather than later. As Walter puts it, “You may stop this group, but you cannot stop the inevitable. Our destiny was set the day we triggered the machine. I didn't understand until it was too late that our... two worlds were inextricably linked. Without one, the other simply cannot exist.When their world was destroyed, that was the day we sealed our fate. For all intents and purposes, that was the day we died."
Not everything is dark yet. Peter and Olivia have been married for a number of years, and can still pretend sometimes that the world might get better, and someday they might have children. The sun still shines. Little girls still draw rainbows and flowers, still have dreams. Even at the end of all things, people still haven't lost their marvelous capacity for love and remembrance, poignantly demonstrated by multiple burning pyres on the water. But one by one the lights are going out, and the final dark is coming. Even the sweet things are sad: Walter's reunion with Olivia, welcoming her to the family and telling her he always wanted a daughter; Amanda's drawing of a family that will never be; Peter's simple “you're my dad,” to Walter; Peter and Olivia's mature and loving relationship. Things that should be joyful, in a world without a future. A bereft universe marking time, waiting for the end, filled with unquiet ghosts of things that don't know they're dead. Carefully crafted pains, all building to the final unbearable blow that will change it all.
Secretary Bishop survived the destruction of his world and everything he held dear. He crossed over right before it happened, seeking help for his world, and when it was destroyed behind him he was consumed as well. He's become a creature of darkness, filled with nothing but rage and lust for revenge. He's the driving force behind the End of Dayers, actively seeking to hasten the destruction of this universe. But his real vengeance is reserved for his son, the one who pulled the trigger, betraying his world and his father. Peter will die like everyone else when it all falls down, but Walternate wants him to suffer more exquisitely, the way he has. He wants him to watch those he loves die first, and live with his grief until the end of the world. And so he sets a trap, and gives Olivia just enough time to understand her death before he kills her.
It's the worst thing in the world for Peter, and paradoxically, the only thing that will give him hope. He's undone by Olivia's death. In his eulogy for her he says "Olivia Dunham, my wife, was everything to me. She taught me to believe in something bigger than myself. She taught me to fight to keep our world safe, and more recently, to keep it from dying. The truth is, we’re all dying. From the moment we’re born, we are all dying, and the universe is unspeakably cruel. Our one hope is that we can find some purpose, some meaning before that last day comes. Some happiness... and love. Olivia was all of that to me. There was no one like her. While I will not cease to fight, now that she’s gone, I’m afraid I’m already lost. That we are all lost. The world is a darker place without her."
Peter's lost in the dark, wrapped in despair, just waiting for it to consume him wholly. And when Walter comes to him with half coherent ramblings about the machine and making a different choice, and cheating time, Peter is willing to pay any price to do it over again - to save his world, to save the other world. To save his wife. Because as Walter says, whatever the cost, “it can't be worse than this.”
And so Peter finds himself back in the machine, and having seen the consequences of one choice, he makes another. In the most shockingly awe-inspiring moment of the series thus far, he uses the machine to create a bridge between worlds, forcing the universes into alignment with one another, pulling everyone into the same space. Suddenly doppelgangers face each other across the room, two Walters, two Olivias. Peter's joyous “Olivia! You're alive!” declares that whatever the consequences, he'll pay them gladly. He seems already peripheral as he tries to explain what he's done, and how the two sides must work together to heal both worlds - the alternates hardly glance at him, although it's clear they can hear him. And then he's gone.
Outside, a congress of Observers watches the oxidized Statue of Liberty. September affirms December's conclusion that no one remembers Peter, because although “he served his purpose,” he never existed.
If Peter Bishop didn't exist:
Time travel paradoxes give me a headache. How did Peter get back to that spot in the timeline? Did the world end and begin again, and repeat the exact same cycle? Did Walter really somehow pull his consciousness forward in time?
He never existed? Wha?
What happened in Detroit? Comic? Please?
Where did Walternate get his copy of the Olivia drawing? Did Sam give it to him? Is this why we shouldn't trust him?
WHERE IS PETER BISHOP?
This has been the burning question all summer, since we all shook our dazed heads last May, and began trying to process this incredible twist. It's been asked by fans all over the world, and in just three more days, we'll begin to get our answer. In the mean time, check out this amazing video compiled by Zoey from Australia, with over six hundred submissions from more than thirty countries, asking that very question. It's a love letter from fans to Fringe, and it's a thing of rare beauty.
I love this show, and I love this fandom. I've met a bevy of incredible people capable of extraordinary things because of Fringe. There's a genuine love in and around this show unlike anything I've ever seen. It's been a real privilege to be a part of the Summer Rewatch. Thanks so much you guys.