Sadly, Fringe won’t be airing at all in March and according to Carissa at TV Fanatic, the producers hadn’t intended to leave things as up in the air as last night’s episode, “The End of All Things”, may have. But why would we expect anything else from a season that has unfolded into some sort of an experiment in what a mind can manifest for itself when left in complete narrative darkness. With an abundance of theories floating throughout the fandom, both probable and improbable, last night’s episode provided, if anything, a flash of light to refocus our eyes. But what did we actually see?
It’s hard to say. For example, we saw two Nina’s. One was clearly in cahoots with David Robert Jones, who is ostensibly the bad guy of this arc (with a crescendo indiscernible in the darkness.) The other Nina is keeping quiet at FBI headquarters. She’s relatively more trustworthy than her counterpart, but that doesn’t amount to much with her history of suspicious actions and secrecy. And despite the assertion by Broyles that she’d be dead if there was a Nina-clone running around, meant to determinedly ease our minds, why would we ever be at ease with any version of Nina Sharpe? The very ground is unstable in this universe and there’s certainly no ceiling to where the series is willing to take us. Clones are always a possibility.
Thematically, these recent episodes speak directly to the concept of identity that the series often plays with. The clones in earlier episodes of the season and alternate versions of our characters throughout established a fairly straightforward statement of who we are not. We are not our appearances or our physical image. Moreover, we are often not even what we look like we are. The freaks of the week have appeared as unthreatening as possible this season, young people and children for the most part with grandiose supernatural ability. The boy with the hivemind from “A Better Human Being” revealed identity to be more fluid and less individual-based than we usually accept; and the young girl with the ability to doodle images of victims of future misfortune pointedly offered a challenge to the truthfulness of the aesthetic image. Not only does a disconnect exist between what we can see and what actually is, there’s a sort of humanist possibility of change and redirection of identity.
So in last night’s episode, Olivia (It’s become increasingly strange to differentiate Olivia’s, especially when referring to one as ours; the implication being that others are less significant or less trenchant to our personal involvement in the show – a misguided implication, I think) fundamentally has an identity crisis. We all have one with her. It’s difficult to identify Olivia when she appears irreparably decentralized – aspects of Olivia exist across alternate timelines, in extension, across multiple worlds. She seems to acknowledge it, accepting it with mostly befuddled glee when Peter’s love acts as a sort of trans-reality bedrock. Not so much when he decides to retreat from the complicated situation. Many of us, as well as Peter, grasp onto the possibility of an easily identifiable Olivia elsewhere, but we don’t see that Olivia. We haven’t in a long time.
Once again, it’s tremendously difficult to make out shapes in the dark that Fringe has left us in all season. But if there was even a glimmer in this episode, in it we saw Olivia. We’ve been seeing her for a while but our minds were simply closed to the possibility, choosing rather to be unsettled by the change in the appearance of things. The revelation that the Observer’s are simply well dressed future folk with voyeuristic tendencies lends itself to this strange idea that we are who we are even when we aren’t. Identification through fate, destiny, what so have you. September’s interference, whether intentionally or not, changes several ‘things’ but never seems to be able to change the underlying identity of Olivia and Peter and the gang, even if their actions have in the past provoked certain questions: i.e. Which Walter is Peter’s real father? Which Olivia is hotter? WTF is going on?
We’re left to ponder for the next month new questions, but hopefully they’re a new sort of question unlike will Peter get back home? will we get our people back? This episode hopefully marks the end of all things like that. I for one enjoy this peculiar feeling of looking for someone or something with all your (tv watching) might and finding it right in front of you, sitting there the whole time, just inexplicably unrecognizable before. But to be honest, I might just be seeing things.
Completely unrelated thought: Peter walking away at the end reminded me so much of Angel (AV Club commenter BenjaminSantiago thought so too). Remember way back in the beginning when they tried to give Peter internal strife? Oh my, how they’ve grown.