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Fringe: 'The Day We Died'; And like that, he's gone

I consider 'Fringe' to be the even nerdier little brother to 'Lost'. Both come from the same father of sorts (JJ Abrams), both are sci-fi dramas (which I think we can all agree 'Lost' ended up being), both have a very loyal fan base and both consistently find new ways to impress me. This third season, the first one to be on the air without its elder sibling, has been largely fantastic. Seeing the two universes switching back and forth has been a brilliant idea. It's given most of the cast great opportunities to play another version of their characters, a treat they all seem to have relished in. Most importantly, the emotional component to the show was strengthened this year, with some spectacular performances for all involved.

'The Day We Died', an episode that featured a bunch of characters we don't really know any more, in a world that's completely foreign to us, single-handedly undoes all of that. I was only partially invested in the first place because I assumed this was the definite future, that the events being portrayed were what actually happen 15 years down the line. But knowing that it was just a 'possible' future, that the finale we've all been looking forward to for so long turned out to be a 'What if?' episode? Not only that, but an episode that might already have been retconned out of the show the same way Peter seems to have been?(*) That makes me feel mighty uneasy, and at the same time very glad that 'Lost' never tried to pull this in the end.

*Do we know if Joshua Jackson is coming back next year? I'll say it now - I'll be giving up on 'Fringe' if he is gone - that would be a big birdie flip to all of those who embraced the emotional side of Season 3, all of which was somehow connected to Peter, be it the kidnapping, the Olivia-Peter-Fauxlivia threeway, or the Father-Son bond rebuilding. Kill off a character, sure, but don't wipe him from existence.

I suppose the biggest problem is that I actually liked most of what happened in 2026. The scene with Walternate and Peter was brilliantly tense, and the hologram trick was a really clever twist. Olivia dying was quite sad at the time, particularly because I thought it was really cool that the show had kept them together. They could have easily broken them up and had them be uncomfortable working partners, and I reckon that would have worked fine, but keeping them together (and married!) was a nice touch. I liked Astrid finally being a proper agent. Jasika Nicole often has the least exciting material to play on this show, and she seems to love playing anything different to Walter's helper in the lab. I also liked that there was a lot of material leftover to play with - 15 years of unfilled backstory, a dream for fanfiction writers (and also external media for the show, books and comics and the like).

But of course, it was all rendered moot. If Peter coming back and uniting the two universes did in fact erase the timeline as shown in the majority of this episode as intended, then... what's the point? To show how bad things can get? We didn't need to see that, we understood perfectly. If so, then why save the resolution right until the end? If the aim is to show us why the two universes have to be linked, then why spend all but four minutes of the episode in this future that doesn't matter, when we would be spending more time on the 'how to sort it' problem? The solution itself - that 'The First People' are actually just everybody 15 years from now, and that Walter is the one who sends everything back in time, and 'has' to do it because he is locked in a paradox, just seems a little wishy-washy. We also have no idea how Walter brought Peter's consciousness forward, how they managed to send the pieces back and scatter them across. We only know that they did it, and now it didn't really even happen. I don't need 'Fringe' to spell everything out for me, but this show has always prided itself in explaining the science behind the trick, even if it's pseudo-science.

And then, of course, Peter disappears completely. Now, I'm going to give the writers enough credit to assume they know exactly what Peter's purpose is now, but I hate shoehorned twists(**) and to me there's nothing less fun than a twist that comes with no hint of where we might possibly be going with it. Usually, it's fine, because a promo for the next week's episode will usually give you a hint. Here, we're left completely in the dark, with not really much to go on for next season.

**I'm annoyed about the 'twist' at the end of 'LSD', a matter than not only hasn't been resolved but hasn't even been touched upon. At no point in the three episodes that followed did Peter ask Olivia, 'Oh, that thing you said about a man killing you, what was that all about?' Again, I don't need to know everything about it. But just some hint about who that guy was would have been appreciated.

In the end I think it was ultimately a matter of pacing. No longer than half the episode should have been spent in 2026, and more time should have been given to setting up season 4 as well as properly resolving the events in 2011. Last year's finale was a proper conclusion to the Peter abduction arc, and it nicely set up the third season by showing Olivia being captured, but here, I just don't know.

I'll hopefully look back on this episode in a year's time and be more praising of it. It was still a solid hour of television. With a few tweaks here and there this could have been an amazing episode, but I was disappointed. But at least we have Fringe Season 4 to look forward to, and this finale has certainly not stopped me from being excited (and thankful) about that.

As a side note, I've not been posting on SpoilerTV during 2011 yet, and frankly, I've missed it. I have a full time course and a job as well as lots of work to do at home and so it's kind of taken a back seat. But I've got a bit more free time right now and as the shows are all coming to an end my aim is to try and do season finale reviews for the ones I watch. I'll certainly be covering 'Breaking Bad' in July, as I'll have plenty more time for it, but for now, it's nice to be back. I missed you all!

What did everybody else think?

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