Reader Beware: This post contains SPOILERS for all aired episodes of Fringe, and includes speculation on tonight's series finale.
I’m a geek. I’ve always loved sci-fi and fantasy stories, and will watch basically any show or movie that has the promise of a hint of either genre. So I naturally gravitated towards Fringe—but waited until the end of season one before I began watching. Why? Because like a lot of people, I felt betrayed by Lost. Did I really want to immerse myself, and emotionally invest, in yet another mythology-laden show, which wasn’t really about what it said it was about, and would leave me with frustratingly unanswered questions in the end? But being the geek that I am, I gave in, and about four episodes into the first season, I was completely hooked.
You see, Fringe isn’t just a sci-fi show. It’s really a love story, staged in a sci-fi setting. In fact, it begins with two FBI agents involved in a clandestine love affair, and it is only when one gets badly injured that the other springs into action: Olivia Dunham, the no-nonsense, rigid, introverted agent desperately seeks to find a cure for the man she loves, and in the process, gets involved with the Fringe division.
Throughout season one, this emphasis on love continues and we ultimately learn that the genesis of all the “fringe” events lies with yet another character desperately trying to save a loved one—Walter Bishop tears a rift in the universe just to save a replica of his dead son from another world.
Moving through the seasons, Fringe took us on a journey through different universes and timelines, but it always brought it back to its core theme of love conquering all. Peter Bishop, the son Walter saved, crossed universes to be with his “real” parents, only to come back to be with Olivia, who had risked everything to get him back.
But of course, there was a huge curveball; the “alternate” Olivia (Fauxlivia) switched places with his Olivia, and took her place by his side. Back in the alternate universe, Olivia’s memories were suppressed, and she was living life as her doppleganger, but visions of Peter kept nudging her to remember who she really was. Confused yet? Don’t be. The bottom line is that in both instances, Peter and Olivia changed the course of their life for each other, for their love.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking and poignant love scene between Peter and Olivia takes place in season three’s “Marionette.” Olivia, after having risked her life to escape the other universe comes back, only to find that Peter was (unknowingly) romantically involved with Fauxlivia. In fact, Peter finds out about the imposter only after receiving a mysterious phone call with a message from Olivia while she was trapped in the other universe. Heartbroken, Olivia confronts Peter:
“I understand the facts. I know that she had reams of information about me and about my life and about the people that were close to me. And I understand that if she slipped up that she would have a completely reasonable explanation for it. And I guess to expect you to have seen past that is perhaps asking a little bit too much. But when I was over there, I thought about you. And you were just a figment of my imagination. But I held onto you, and it wasn’t reasonable, and it wasn’t logical, but I did it, so … why didn’t you? She wasn’t me. How could you not see that?”
Beautifully acted by Anna Torv and Joshua Jackson, it’s a scene that, in my opinion, is pivotal to the level of commitment these two characters have for each other. It is only when Olivia questions the depth of Peter’s love for her that he fully commits to her. And this becomes the core of the rest of the story. The only way to survive the destruction of the universe ultimately centers around Peter and Olivia’s love for each other.
The show’s pure sci-fi roots emerged again when at the end of season three, the Observers erased Peter from the timeline completely. Once again, the characters were faced with, at its core, was an emotional crisis: what happens to Walter if Peter never lived? What happens to Olivia? While establishing other close relationships in this new timeline, the strength of both Walter and Olivia’s love for Peter (even on a subconscious level—a memory from another timeline) is enough to bring him back. How brilliant!
As we navigated season four in this new timeline, we watched this group of people struggle, and ultimately make it through an almost inconceivable emotional journey. Yes, the season was perhaps the weakest in the series with its many plot holes and dangling plot lines (whatever happened to Bell’s beasts designed for the new world?) but by this point, at least for me, the show was less about “fringe” science and more about the emotional journey of this closely knit family. I was more intrigued by the fact that Peter’s relationship with Fauxlivia in the original timeline was an anomaly, and that he was always meant for Olivia—in any timeline.
The power of love is the strong, central core of the final season of Fringe. The show no longer even attempts to hide this message in layers of bizarre science. It is front and center, and in fact, the only way to save the universe from disintegrating. Even the Observers are getting caught up in it, and we know that the only way to save the world is to show them how love is the one saving grace for everyone, regardless of time, space, or species.
Every single episode this season has had me in tears. There hasn’t been a moment when I felt I was being cheated out of what the show promised to deliver. Will there be a happy ending for Peter and Olivia? For Peter and Walter? I don’t know and I honestly don’t think it matters so much anymore, because if their love for each other succeeds in saving humanity, then it IS a happy ending. The romantic side of me wants Peter and Olivia to be together with their little baby girl, and live a normal, happy life, but the sci-fan geek inside of me will be satisfied with having a plausible and fulfilling end to their story, regardless of what that may be. As I wait with bated breath for the finale, I’m hopeful that this time, I won’t be bitterly disappointed by the ending, and will be rewarded with the knowledge that love does indeed conquer all.
Naz Keynejad is an avid reader, wanna-be writer, editor and self-professed geek. She loves all things sci-fi and fantasy, and has been known to go on epic rants when shows don’t pan out the way she wants them to. You can read her other writings at www.themoonsphere.com.