Inside FRINGE’s Puzzle Box: Has FRINGE Lost Its Heart and Its Hero? (2011)

As the final seconds of FRINGE’s third season wrapped, it gave fans a lot to think about and wrap their brains around until the show returns next Fall.  For a show notorious for its game-changing season finales, the third season finale was no different.  While the first season introduced the alternate universe and the second season gave us the doppelganger body-swap, the third season gave us a glimpse at a bleak future and the possible loss of one of their own as Peter Bishop’s entire timeline was wiped-out.  FRINGE does not mess around.  It will do anything, go anywhere that its fantastical story takes it — which means it has taken us on a journey that has been extraordinary and mind-blowing all at once.

So in those final moments of this season’s finale, in an episode appropriately titled, “The Day We Died,” the most crucial clue about what is going on for that final hour was revealed as two of the Observers sat talking.  The first Observer noted, “You were right.  They don’t remember Peter.”  And the other insightfully responded, “How could they?  He never existed.  He served his purpose.”  WTF?!  Did we really just hear that correctly?

Has Peter Bishop not really been there all along for three whole seasons?  What was he then?  An apparition, a holograph, a figment of their collective consciousness?  All of those possibilities seem highly unlikely.  For one, Fauxlivia had a child with him.  A child is tangible proof that Peter existed in some form or another.  He was not just a residual or implanted memory.  Peter existed.  He was the man Olivia fell in love with, the son who brought Walter back from the brink of insanity, and the man which had the impossible choice of which universe would ultimately survive.  By design or destiny a machine was created to aid in his decision and to implement the means necessary to save one of the universes.  The doomsday device was horrifying, yet a tool for salvation — but only for one universe and Peter had to decide which it was going to be.

As a future version of Walter found a way to bring Peter’s consciousness into the future to show him the ramifications of his decision to eliminate the Alt-verse to save our universe, something seemed to go wrong.  Bringing Peter into the future worked, but sending him back hit a hiccup — or a wormhole.  Peter returned for just a few seconds and then vanished.  It was as if the machine unilaterally decided that Peter should not have the choice to try to save both universes.  The machine took Peter and eradicated him from existence.  Or so it appeared.

Was there some devious A.I. at work, or did someone else or some other being intervene?  What part did the Observers play?  Did they merely watch it all happen, or did they perpetuate a minor correction in history to prevent Peter from ever being born?  And just because Peter was never born, does that prevent the collision of the two universes?  Without a reason for Walter to create a tear between the two universes, are both now structurally intact or are they miraculously merged into one now?

So many questions — and most likely, so many incredible answers. But we will have to wait months before we find out.

It is both fascinating and cruel.  Even despite the assurances of executive producers J.H. Wyman and Jeff Pinkner that Peter Bishop still has an integral part to play when FRINGE returns for its 4th season, we wonder if the show is going to be the same.  Did they just pull back the curtain to reveal that the past 3 years have been an illusion?  Has the all Masterful Oz decided to give us a glimpse as to where one possible timeline would go, and then decided it was the wrong way to go?  Is the show about to reboot itself with a new timeline in which Olivia has not yet met Walter and Peter never existed?  Or does Peter exist out there, but not as Walter’s son?

The speculation is endless.  It is as if the show threw out its own playbook and decided to rewrite history.  But where does that leave the fans?  We are confused, worried and yet curious what will happen next.

The third season was strange, mysterious and mesmerizing.  We witnessed the strategic replacement of Agent Olivia Dunham by her alternate self to enter our universe unobserved to get close to Peter and derail Massive Dynamic’s attempts to build a machine of their own.  The switch off between the two universes with the Olivia’s living each other’s lives — one knowingly, and the other unknowingly was gripping and captivating.  It elevated the show from an “us versus them” kind of story as we saw both Olivia’s grow attachments in their doppelganger’s universe.  And as they grew to care for others in the opposite universe, so did we.  Knowing someone is to care for them.

When the alt-verse was first discovered, and we found out that only one could survive, we were only rooting for our own.  We were not invested in the Other Side.  But having spent over half this past season living amongst the alternates, it is no longer so easy to “push the button” and eliminate them.  This was the moral quandary that Peter had to learn.  He may not know he has a son in the alt-verse, but he needed to see that even saving just our own universe would have long-term horrific ramifications.  One cannot kill billions of people and not have it affect one, and to eliminate one-half of a whole means that our universe was left crippled.  Holes do not disappear simply because you destroy what lies beyond them.

The alt-verse may not have been encroaching on ours anymore, but the weakness in the fabric of time and reality still existed.  Wormholes began appearing where there had previously existed another universe.

The idea of overlapping or merging the two universes is intriguing.  Is it possible?  What kinds of problems does that pose?  Did Peter’s sacrifice make the dual-combined universes stronger, or are there other rifts that will emerge due to the unnatural mixing of realities?

And just what makes Peter Bishop the man that has the power over time and space itself?  Has FRINGE crossed over into Time Lord territory or is it merely dabbling in immersion theory?  Did they rip a page out of the FLASHFORWARD playbook and incorporated Schrodinger’s Cat Theory?  It certainly feels as if Peter holds the fate of both universes in his hand and, until he opens his hand, we won’t know what he chose.  But the twist is, until that happens according to Schrodinger’s theory, the “observer” gets to decide.  What if that is what happened?  The Observers took the choice away from Peter and they chose for him?

It is still a lot to ponder and mull over for the next four months.  Let’s hope that during that time FRINGE remembers to return its heart and hero back to us intact.  The world of FRINGE would be a lot sadder without Peter Bishop there to provide the love and support for which Olivia and Walter have become dependent.  FRINGE cannot rip out the heart of the show and lose its hero at all once.

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