While possessing two fairly big revelations, I have to dub the season finale of “Fringe” a slight disappointment. Had they dropped this episode in the middle of the season, I would have declared it a masterstroke. But the show has elevated so much in quality since the first appearance of Mr. Jones that I confess I found tonight’s episode lacking the requisite punch needed to live up the hype.
Let’s get to the bulk of the episode: Mr. Jones and his cohorts search for soft spots. No, not in the heart of Olivia Dunham, but in the world itself. Exposition was provided on two fronts mid-episode by both Walter Bishop and Nina Sharp as follows: in the 1970s, Bishop alongside William Bell became convinced that the images seen during their LSD-laced visions were in fact glimpses into other, similar worlds. Senses of déjà vu to them were nothing more than fleeting glimpses into experiences of other, similar selves kicking about in these other worlds.
Bell theorized about “soft spots” on the planet by which one could travel between worlds. (The experiments with children and Cortexiphan also tied into the ability to travel across realities.) While once scarce, the soft spots grew in number after Incident Zero: Walter creating a rift in a soft spot at Raiden Lake. Why did he create it? As many of you theorized, he went through to grab an alternate version of something he lost: his son, Peter. Yup, the Peter we know and love is in fact not Walter Bishop’s son. At least not in this universe. If we’re in Universe A, this is Peter B. Or C. Or XXX. It’s completely unclear how many parallel worlds exist, but Peter’s lack of memory of seminal childhood events can now be explained: they happened to Peter A.
With all that said, Mr. Jones’ attack on Nina Sharp last week now makes sense: inside her artificial arm was the most energetic of Energizer batteries, able to power a device to open up windows in the aforementioned soft spots. Why is he doing so? With his experiences in teleporting ravaging his body, he’s looking to break on through to the other side where William Bell currently resides. Turns out Jones was one of the first employees of Massive Dynamic, spurned by Bell and driven to proven just how “special” he is.
But the once exciting Mr. Jones turned into a semi-lame version of Darkman in his final appearance on “Fringe.” We never really saw him in action, instead simply told what he was up to by others in his wake. And with The Observer predicting gloom and doom at the episode’s outset, I expected more than Jones walking through what looked like an outdoor projector. What was once the central nemesis of the show went not with a bang, but an interdimensional cleaving, achieved by Peter using Walter’s “plug.”
By eliminating Jones, Olivia held up her end of the bargain. In return, Nina agreed to arrange a meeting between Olivia and the elusive William Bell in a Manhattan hotel. After waiting for hours, Olivia gave up upon learning Nina was “out of the country.” During her elevator ride down, an electrical surge that looked an awful like that inside the teleportation device went off along the periphery of the elevator, leading Olivia to William Bell’s office. And this office? Just so happens to be inside the Twin Towers, still intact in this alternative universe, even if the White House isn’t. (So, if I get this right, in this universe, United 93 was the terrorists’ successful attempt on 9/11.)
Sounds like a pretty good finale, right? However 40 minutes, this played out more ploddingly. As I mentioned, the Jones plot was all tell, hardly any show. I understand The Observer is a bit like The Watcher from Marvel Comics, but couldn’t he carry a spare dimensional portal plug with him at all times? As for the big Leonard Nimoy scene: it didn’t really live long or prosper. More of a, “Hey, that’s Spock…oh, it’s the end of the season” moment than a juicy end-of-season cliffhanger that really set up Season 2.
Other bits from the season finale:
- Loved that Charlie’s Doubting Thomas soon gave way to understanding when faced with facts. Too many shows like this have that one blowhard who’s job is simply to say, “You people are crazy!” over and over again in the face of common sense. So props to Charlie for coming around on cue.
- For the last time I’ll ask: why did we spend so much time with Olivia’s sister and niece? Many of you figured they played into the end-game of the season in some capacity. And yet, they were utterly forgotten as the ZFT stuff rose to the front.
- Loved Peter’s memory of whale-shaped pancakes as a child in their Grafton beach-house, even as Walter’s reaction, unseen by Peter, bespoke decades of heartache.
- I’ll have to go back and re-read the ZFT passages again, but my guess is Season 2 will be about the attempts to plug the soft spots created by fringe scientific activities versus those that seek to accelerate those spots. Also, I look forward to seeing people from the other side start popping up more frequently on ours next year.
I don’t mean to come off as a curmudgeon about what is easily one of the five best shows currently on television. But did anything shock as much as Walter’s videotape of young Olive? Thrill as much as her and Peter switching on the light box with their collective minds? Tantalize as much as seeing “He is here” on a brick wall? I’m sure the Twin Towers imagery will provoke, but probably not in a good way. Maybe that unease is intentional, but it will send audiences into the long summer months not with excitement in their hearts, but a pit in their stomachs.
What did you think of the finale? Live up to the hype, or fall flat? Did that final shot make you uneasy or excited for Season 2? And does knowing Peter comes from a different reality make his relationship with Walter stronger or stranger? Leave your comments below!