Fringe Finale Review for 5.12 & 5.13 – ‘Deus Ex Michaelna’

Jan 26, 2013 | 5 comments

 Deus Ex Michaelna


Fauxlivia – ‘Stop checking out my young ass.’
Walter, ‘ It’s a beautiful name – Astrid.’
Walter, ‘You have always been my favorite thing, son.’
Donald to December, ‘You can change destiny.  If you have the will to change it.  It may require sacrifice.’

The Fringe Series Finale:

1) Emotionally Satisfying.
2) Mythologically Satisfying.
3) Narrative Ninja.

‘That is cool!’

A tip of the Fringe Fedora to everyone connected with the Fringe show.  They invoked one of those pat phrases that make fans cringe whenever such platitudes are uttered – this season will be a love letter to the fans – pulled it off and made it a first class delivery.

I have let my feelings and reactions about the finale marinate over the week after it aired so that when I put down my final thoughts they would be a more accurate encapsulation in print than if I had dashed them down immediately.

It has been a good week.  As I reflect on the finale and the series as a whole; taking in other people’s reactions to help refine my thoughts, my appreciation for the finale has grown immeasurably.

And I loved it upon first watch.

Tables Turned

The emotional satisfaction the finale provided figuratively oozed off the screen as the final two episodes played out.  It was there on first watch and has grown deeper upon rewatches. The last two episodes gave the fans those bucket list items they had for the final season such as seeing the return of a kickass Olivia, the RedVerse, Fauxlivia, Gene, Astrid getting out of the lab, Broyles – always far more Raven than Dove, and the payoff moments between the main three cast members.

All that and, my number one bucket item, redemption for Walter.

The finale gave us all that and more.  It also tied up the few loose ends of the show’s mythos in terms of the Observers.  The original team of enigmatic future humans were on an expedition they believed to be of scientific research only to discover they were a prelude to invasion.  In the end, they all met tragic ends because their exposure to us stirred within them long dormant feelings.

Donald/September had been touched the most by the relationship between Walter and Peter to the point where he was ready to take Walter’s place by Michael’s side as any true father would.  It was a wonderful parallel of Donald and Michael to Walter and Peter that the show weaved into not just the final season, but the entire run of the show.

Where my opinion of the close of the series really improved is how the narrative was handled. The timeline reset back to the park and the Invasion at first make no logical sense. The beauty of how the finale handled the timey wimey aspects lies in its, ‘less is more,’ approach.  In taking such a tack, the show left the details of how the reset point is arrived at for the fans to speculate on.  And speculate the fans have.  Theories are flying fast and furious on the internet.

Such speculation are fun, ‘What If,’ activities but what matters in the end is the reset point was the most emotionally satisfying one.  Any explanation on the show’s part would end up sounding like one of those TrekBabble scenes that sound impressive but are little more than hand wavings away of plot obstacles.

The true beauty of how Fringe handled the narrative in the last two episodes is that it leaves the series at a point where each of us can have our own vision of what happened.  In my version, all the transgressions that Walter caused have been corrected since the start of the series,  Peter and Olivia remember those first four seasons, and with the final shot of the White Tulip, Peter, and by further inference, Olivia, will remember the fifth season as well.

How my version hangs together is not important.  That the show has allowed me to construct such a satisfying ending, is.  That is brilliance and given the show’s writing pedigree over the run of the series, something that I am convinced was calculated rather than accidental happenstance.

Episode ‘Patterns’: Add your own in the comments:


  • Windmark & Michael scene – now who has the bloody nose!
  • Olivia jumping to the RedVerse
  • Cougar Fauxlivia!
  • Olivia kicking ass and rescuing Michael
  • Fauxlivia and Lee have built a life in a RedVerse that looks like the healing has continued

An Enemy Of Fate

  • Donald visits December
  • Peter finding Walter’s tape which leads to their poignant goodbye scene
  • Walter, Astrid, and Gene – Astrid is a beautiful name
  • Astrid coming up with the shipping lane solution
  • Donald becoming emotionally developed to the point he was going to take Walter’s place
  • Olivia using the bullet as the emotional lynchpin to putting the final smackdown on Windmark
  • kudos to  actor Michael Kopsa who brought seething undertones to the emotionally stunted Windmark
  • Broyles survives and he indeed a Raven
  • Walter walking into the light, a la Grey Havens, towards redemption
  • Olivia, Peter, and little Etta back in the park
  • Peter opening the letter with the White Tulip and the quick cut from Peter’s double take

Any issues I have with the finale are quibbles, subjective desires that do not affect the overall impact of the show’s final chapter, but would have enhanced the experience for me.  Most of which could have been nonverbal.  There was a rushed feeling to the final few moments as Walter stepped into the light of redemption.  Given the strained and ambiguous relationship Peter and Olivia had in the Fifth Season it would have been great to have had Olivia step up beside Peter when Walter stepped into the wormhole. Maybe even taken his hand.  Another wished for moment is at the end when Peter opened up the letter from Walter to see the White Tulip.  Olivia should have been a participant in that scene too.


Love Letter Written Correctly – All Part Of  Emotional Satisfaction

What I am most thankful for is that Fringe employed far less usage of Deus Ex Machina devices such as unexplained helping forces that tainted the Lost and BSG finales.  Michael was the embodiment of such a device.  He ended up being a cypher as the little boy who seemed to be able to do a lot but in the end did very little.  His passiveness made for better character moments for the main cast but it was also frustrating at times.  Maybe he was privy to Donald’s conversation to December about changing fate.  Or maybe he had has own Time Protocol he did not want to override.

I am going to miss these characters.  Terribly. At one time or another over the course of the series, the three leads had their chance to shine and indisputably, John Noble shone in every season and made Walter Bishop an iconic TV character.  Same for Anna Torv for her portrayal of Olivia Dunham and Josh Jackson for Peter Bishop.

Fringe may have started with the intent of being a stand alone type of show but when it embraced the serialization of story and character it became something better.  Also in that process it morphed from being separate installments or novellas and became linked chapters in one 5 season novel.  Rewards come over the long haul like Walter telling Astrid her name is beautiful.  Such a great payoff to a series long running gag.  Kudos for the showrunners for tying all the seasons together.

The Fringe Finale ranks up there at the top for me.  On par with FarScape.  Both above Lost and BSG.

The biggest sign of success for a finale?  Upon its conclusion it made me want to rewatch the entire series over again to gleam new meanings and interpretations.  And to spend more time with these characters.

What more can one ask for?


Full Circle – Walter Rescues Donald’s Son & Himself

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  1. Hellrasinbrasin

    …Right the Finale unloaded a wave of answers at fans and all of them made a lot of things click into place. The Observer Tech from 2609 used in the 2nd Time Reset in the finale was the same Tech used in the Time Reset at the end of season 3 when Peter Bishop was Deleted from 2026-2012 the moment after the Bridge was created. The Observers then grabbed September in 1985 the moment he appeared at Reiden Lake thus explaining why he didn’t pull Walter and Peter out of the lake and how that MIT guy in 4×09 “Making Angels” got his time travel equipment. Which leaves an infinite sea of possibilities as everything in the reset timeline before the 2015 invasion happened but everything from the point of the 2015 invasion to 2609 did not “Or did it?”

    …The Observer Paradox goes like this I think* in the original Timeline Season(s) 1 – 3 they exist, for the “reset Timeline” Season(s) 1 – 4 they exist; 2015 – 2609 they exist but from 2015 -2609 in the re-“reset” timeline they do not exist as the scientists research would be changed by Walter + Michael’s arrival in 2167. So the Timeline extending forward from 2167 would introduce Empath Observers instead and would not have invaded in 2015 but does not answer how The Observer “September” could exist yet not exist but still manage to create his own little “Paradox” like his friend Dr. Bishop did in 2026 with the Wave-Synch System Peter used in 2012 to lock both Universes in an endless loop of Death and Rebirth until he chose balance maybe September was also caught in an endless loop as Peter was unable to make a different choice until he had witnessed all possible outcomes.

  2. dirac_6955

    For a long time we’ve been taught Fear the Paradox.. for it is why Time Travel should be impossible. This show dared assume that was not true.

    If the Universe is ever expanding yet finite.. then walk in a straight line and sooner or later you’ll retrace the same path. Time and Space are inexplicably intertwined and therefore we may not understand it.. but it stands to reason the same would be true of Time.

    Donald may have hinted at the true nature of Time and Time Travel when he joked about bending space and time into a Mobius strip. It is not so much that you can’t change things if you Time Travel. It may actually be happening all the time, just in larger loops.

    By leaping forward in time Walter gained an advantage in the order of events that lead to the Observers. They were vulnerable. He rewrote their history. But by the same action the tech that got him there no longer existed. Thus he was marooned.

    The Observers and all of their history no longer existed. Walter said, one day he would be there.. and the next mysteriously he would be gone.. no explanation. And that is what happened, only a letter with a white tulip left. Which had meaning to Walter but was only a passing childhood memory to Peter and Olivia.

    To the Oslonians, Walter and the boy would be visitors from another time, and history which never happened. But Michael would be the proof their experiments were of no consequence and that intelligence could evolve in a different way, without sacrificing emotion.

    Precisely how Michael continued to exist with no past remains something of a mystery, however it could be resolved by a visitor from the new future without the Observers. It’s not a stretch that he could be a clone and therefore his own progenitor. As far as we know he was a clone of Donald/September with enhanced emotional capabilities.

    So moving forward in time from 2167 (or thereabout) in order to resolve all potential paradoxes all that would have to happen is for Walter to make sure he got to 2167 with Michael. And the great machine were built and returned to the distant past with the first people.

    It would make an interesting season or set of movies to see Walter convince the Norwegian Oslonians. Build a portal for the Walter of 2067 to come through to 2167. Build the great machine and send it into the past. And it would be interesting to see Michael grow up or pursue his own agenda with the future human race in mind.

    A few notable side effects:

    1. Nina never perished
    2. Bell was never sealed in Amber
    3. Sam Weiss never met his end

    Without the Observer situation bringing Bell back into the good graces of the Fringe team, he would still be at large. Massive Dynamic would still be intact and Nina could be vulnerable.

    The divided team on two sides of a temporal wall 100 years high would make for an exciting season just reuniting them.

  3. Omar

    I think one of the things we have to accept in the fringe universe is that time is linear but not completely and that timelines can overlap so that previous timelines can affect subsequent ones. Walter said it in The Day We Died when he said ‘We can not change the things we’ve already done because we’ve already done them’ about sending the machine back in time. Basically they’ve changed time before and sent the machine back before therefore it couldn’t not get sent back in that timeline. The same thing with the Finale, what has happened has happened but they have to change time within what happened, so there are probably still observers but they are just different kinds observers who’ve made a different choice similar to Peter making a different choice. So in their universe the reset does make sense, and the universe will correct the paradox by finding a way for Walter to disappear in 2015 like he said.

    Also the “boy must live” quote from the episode Peter sounds like more of a double entendre than it just being about the ‘child’ observer, similar to how the symbols in their language had multiple meanings. So ultimately that Peter and that Walter needed to be together to save the Future, and their relationship had to have the desired affect on September. Also it turns out Olivia was the chosen one and both in seasons 3 and 5 (season 4 also but more passively) they couldn’t save the world without her.

    I think the child observer Michael set all of this up with his super observer abilities, by establishing the emotional connection with September and then knowing September would set these events in motion.

  4. yogabon

    Excellent discussion above. I’d like to add that in the Inner Child episode it was noted that ‘They’ve found another one’. This let us to believe there to possibly be more beings like him in our world. This could also lead to some interesting possiblities as each of these could have slightly different abilities and therefore impact on the years beyond 2015.

  5. Ed Wenn

    Hi Guys. I’m a big fan of the podcasts and have been catching up with highlights from your show over the last few weeks. I only heard about Fringe in February of this year (I know!), but 100 episodes in a row later I am all caught up (in fcat I’m already re-watching S01) and I have become a 100% obsessed Fringe geek 🙂

    Regarding the original post: from what I have learned of Joel Wyman’s approach to the finale, I think you’re right to judge the episodes on an emotional “it just feels right” kind of level. It definitely helps the writers out of a few tight corners plot-wise if we take that view and it leaves the audience reassured with regard to the stuff that’s important to us. On this level I’m with you 100%, but I have to part company with you at this point:

    “and with the final shot of the White Tulip, Peter, and by further inference, Olivia, will remember the fifth season as well.”

    Really? I can’t see how that works at all. In fact it was my major gripe with the ending because I really wanted Peter, Olivia, Broyles, Nina etc. to remember what had been so narrowly averted and what it had cost to expel the Observers, but I can’t see how they could ever remember any of it because if they did, then so must everyone else on earth and that wouldn’t work at all 🙂

    I’m with you on wanting Peter & Olivia to magically remember what had happened with the Observers, but I can’t see that it’s even remotely possible.


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