Fringe Season 3

Did Fringe season three live up to expectations?

Fringe, the most wonderful sci-fi currently on TV (in this reviewer’s opinion), has a wonderful ability to build in quality throughout a season – starting from an admittedly high position its profile shows an upwards curve over the course of the year. This is true for each of its three seasons. What’s perhaps more remarkable is that the next season picks up from where the previous ended. It’s a cumulative effect making each season to date successively better than the previous.

How do the team manage this? Confidence. Ever since Fringe was given a full season (midway through the first as with so many US network shows), and again similarly since it was rewarded with a third year towards the end of the second (thanks in no small part to Josh Jackson’s campaigning), it has shown a startling confidence and belief in itself and what it does.

This confidence and belief seems to free the writers and actors to create the best series they can create, upping the stakes versus the last hour-long they made. They know they will be proven right in what they do when the viewers get to see it. This is backed up by some of the directions they have taken Fringe over the years, and specifically here in season 3, which have often been challenging (and quite possibly seen as jump the shark moments by many) but handled superbly well and executed absolutely in the best possible way.

At the end of season two I wondered what might happen in season three knowing what I knew then. Let’s take some time to review said musings and see if this latest series was a disappointment, or not:

How will Red Dunham keep her cover considering the difference in her and our Olivia?
She did pretty darn well it seems but her time was limited. This was a great move by the Fringe team – everyone learnt of the Dunham swap early on in the season rather than making it a plot point all year long and over-milking it.

Will Peter cotton on given he’s now expecting some kind of relationship to truly form between the pair?
He did, he pretty much knew stuff was going on but love is blind and that is what he put it down to. He spent the rest of the year making up to Olivia for loving Dunham (albeit Fauxlivia) unquestionably!

We will have to see more of Walternate and co. given the swaps between the two worlds apparent.
Thankfully we did. Evil bugger. I still find the performance(s) of John Noble truly remarkable given Walter and Walternate are the same but oh so different.

We will see the coming of Olivia, the growth of her true powers and likely more next season.
Yes, we did come the season finale. And we know how that could possibly grow in the new timeline having seen the version of the future we did.

Ah, yes. The finale. We’d better talk about that. First thing to say – that was absolutely stunning television. A really good piece of drama showcasing the resolution of the year’s main arc – my world or yours? – using Peter and Olivia so as to confirm they really are special. Then Peter disappeared.

We need to focus on the final few moments. Peter used the machine and chose to destroy the alterniverse. We then saw Peter 15 years in the future – his world falling apart, with a globally vilified Walter in prison not allowed visitations by his son or daughter-in-law and a very evil, very focussed Walternate trying to destroy this world the same way his was destroyed. Olivia dies, the world is set to die. Ooops. We learn that Walter and the team (or some variant of) are the first people. There’s a wormhole to a prehistoric age through which they can pass the machine, information, people and so on.

It makes perfect sense – the wormholes are part of Fringe’s fabric and all the clues we’ve seen over the years are very clearly related to Peter and Olivia. It’s quite obvious now that this is it’s origin. There are questions about how the loop is started which will get answered if deemed important, I’m sure. Anyway, Walter realises he is one of the first people and then also realises he can transport Peter’s consciousness back to the moment he used the machine, allowing him to make a different choice.

The fact it’s Peter’s consciousness which can time travel is important. That negates the need for the invention of time travel, or the luck of finding a wormhole which just happens to take Peter to 15 years ago (and eliminates any paradox issues for the writers). Let’s assume for now that Walter understands how to wind back the mind’s consciousness and allow it to have capacity to effect change, rather than just observe (does he know now how the observers do it, maybe? Indeed, does he use an observer? Peter is not an observer…). He does this – we see it happen – and Peter makes another choice. And then he vanishes (driven by an unknown force?). He never existed. Or, more likely, died when he was a child rather than being saved.

But let’s just dwell on that for a moment – Peter, the singular focus of the warring worlds, is erased in part from history. The war still happened, clearly. Did Walter still kill his wife? How is he allowed out of prison/mental asylum then? Olivia will remember him. She must do. But how/why? Love will out, maybe? Is Peter’s erasure the culmination of a course correction by the Observers? Quite probably given we had seen them set in motion such a thing over the final few weeks. But is this one of those corrections which doesn’t work, isn’t permanent, for whatever reason? Yes, it’s likely, as there needs to be a way to return Peter without breaking the rules.

We shouldn’t concern ourselves with any such thoughts, though. As said at the top, the Fringe team have the utmost confidence because of the results they have produced to date. Based on past experience, the right thing will be done and done well. Peter coming back is the right thing; doing so within the rules is the right way. Olivia being the catalyst (with an observer likely key) is necessary.

I like to think of season four as being The Prestige, the completion of season three’s magic trick. The machine was the pledge, Peter and Olivia supplied the turn by making the machine dance, and now, we wait for the Prestige. You need a magician to perform it. Olivia Dunham will be that magician. She’ll complete the trick by bringing Peter back. Then what for Fringe?

Luciano Howard

Updated: Aug 29, 2011

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