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A Satisfying Ending to a Fantastic Show...
on March 5, 2013
"Fringe" enthralled me from the first. Its alternate universe structure, its forays into the future, its "pattern" of impossible-yet-real cases - all these could have easily become unwieldy, opaque, or - even more dangerous for a TV show - complete gibberish to the viewer. And yet, these negative outcomes never happened. We always knew where we were. A large part of the credit goes to the close attention paid in the very structure of the show to the inner reality of the characters: thus, the very color of the background to the show's logo lets us know immediately if we are in the original prime universe or the original alternate universe. (And yes, please note the use of the word "original" here; I will not divulge the number of universes, nor the colors associated with them, lest any new viewers who are reading this review lose some of the thrill of discovering the complexity of "Fringe" for themselves.) Also, credit for helping us locate ourselves within the "Fringe" universe must go to the superb cast. All of the main characters - yes, even the one who at first seems to be the only 'singular' person in the several universes - play subtly different versions of themselves so well, we know immediately who they are and which universe they belong to..
Unfortunately, the best of these universe-twisting role-playings occur prior to this final season. But for those of you who are only now dipping int the wonders of "Fringe", as an added fillip, in an earlier season (no cheating, I'm not gonna tell you when), please keep your eyes open for the time when a very major character suddenly starts to channel Leonard Nimoy's guest star persona so well that at one point you can actually see Nimoy-as-Spock reacting to an incident. Why this show has never received Emmy recognition is beyond my ken. Acting, writing, direction. All deserve comment and recognition. I do not want to put any of the award winners down - excellence is excellence, after all - but how many of those who won writing awards have had the difficult chore of delineating a number of universes so well that it's a joy to recognize not only their differences, but also their similarities? And have kept the flow very near to flawless in all that time? How many of the award-winning directors have had to deal with more than one persona in one - or all - of their actors, and have had to showcase them in more than one universe - and maybe all of that within one episode? All award winning actors are capable of creating believable characters from one show to another; how many are capable of doing that change subtly and completely from one moment to the next, from one show to another, from one season to another? "Fringe" fans - and future fans - we wuz robbed. *sigh*
Unfortunately, the fifth and final season of "Fringe" was severely curtailed. We were given only thirteen episodes - essentiallly one half of a full season - with which to conclude one of the most intricate worlds that has ever been created on television. I have read some reviews of the first season which stated that the viewers found it weaker than later seasons because the episodes were 'stand-alones' and did nothing to establish or ground the overarching mythos. I disagree. Several times in viewing fifth season episodes I was startled when something that had occurred in the first season was reintroduced and suddenly had a new meaning. Things from the first season on - even things that had appeared to be momentous when they first happened - now had even more significance.
The major wonder, however, was that such a complicated tale was, indeed, successfully completed in these thirteen episodes. I will not deny that, satisfying though the ending might have been, it would, indeed, have been even better had we had those nine extra episodes. The remembrances that were placed throughout the season convince me that those few strands that were not completelly tied off by the time the thirteenth episode aired would have received competent - and loving - treatment had there been more time.
Time. Time has always been one of the threads woven through the mythos. Time, and regret, and reconciliation, and expiation, and love. Love most of all. Love forbidden, love familial, love lost, love regained, love twisted, love so singular it can warp the universes to itself. Love that can turn a dysfunctional family into the most loving in all the universes. Love that saves those very universes. Love grounded in reality, in everyday things, yet transcendent for all that. Fringe the series begins with a forbidden love that ends tragically; it carries through four episodes developing a love that heals a very broken family; it ends with a love fated by the stars, a love that is no tale of Romeo and Juliet - although we can certainly be forgiven for thinking those tragic lovers might have been our lovers forbears, a love that is triumphant. Love. Family. Time.
Circling back to time....Season five takes us from 2015 to 2036 and back but also includes off-screen trips to several other eras.
It's a tour de force of complete and total closure - almost. Enough closure that we're satisfied. Everyone's story comes to a close that's absolutely right and proper for each person. It's not always happy - there are some deaths - but it's always an appropriate closing to their story.
Now. You want specific plot details? Not from me. If you haven't seen this season yet I'm not gonna spoil your pleasure in discovering its many twists and turns and intricacies. Just know that if you were a fan of seasons 1-4 you WILL find this a *real* ending, a satisfying ending, an ending that lets your mind spin a myriad of "what ifs" and "do you supposes" and "d'ya think they meants...?"
And yes, I will admit it's not yet perfect. There was enough story for twenty-two episodes and they just couldn't give it all to us. Despite what some have said, the continuity has always been exceptional with "Fringe". Things left in the air in season one might not be resolved until a season or two down the road. Something tossed casually aside in one episode might have a more prominent role further on. Which is why I know that the few things that bother me - mostly scientific problems with the hows and the wherefores of certain chronotechnical concepts that might seem as though they've just created a bigger problem than the one that was being 'corrected' - I'm confident would have been explained with a bit of exposition that there just wasn't room to include in a mere thirteen episodes. Not when you had to have the room in those thirteen episodes to recover that which was lost, make plans to defeat the bad guys, be discovered by said bad guys, track down some of the items you need to make your plan work, rediscover the love you once shared with the person who brought you back from non-existence, lose the very thing that led you to engage in this seemingly doomed plot against authority, discover the true identity of one of your only contacts in this world you didn't make, have beautiful sacrifices, make new friends, lose some loved ones, revisit dear friends, get the bad guys, and save the world yet again. Oh. DId I just give away the plot?
(Forget twenty-two episodes; I think they had enough in their 'Bible' that they could have given us *seven* very full and complete years! *sigh* I really want those two-and-a-half extra years!)