After a season of unwanted Observer battles in a future setting, the Fringe series finale managed to deliver a truly satisfying conclusion to those who followed the series from the beginning. As it turns out, the promise of an "amazing" ending from series star John Noble may not be too far off. That is, if you're willing to overlook a few things.
With Michael, the child Observer, in the hands of Windmark and the Observers, the true powers that the boy possesses are revealed, as Windmark is harmed while simply trying to read the mind of the anomaly. In order to save Michael from the Observers, the Fringe team decides that their only option is for Olivia to teleport to the alternate Earth. After four injections of Cortexiphan, Olivia reunites with her former (now older) self and retrieves Michael. Now with all the pieces in hand, September begins to put together the wormhole device, while Walter inadvertently reveals to Peter what will unfortunately happen if the plan is successful. As the Observers attempt to retrieve the boy, Broyles' allegiance to the Fringe team is revealed, and September must ask a favor of an old friend.
Although the Fringe series finale was largely driven by the season 5 Observer storyline, which was essentially rooted in a standalone episode from last season, the amount of depth and range the two-hour finale presented for its characters, and their story, was refreshing and unexpected – at least to anyone who stood by the entirety of season 5. Not only does the finale bring back many familiar elements from past seasons, but it does so in a way which makes you wonder why, if the capabilities of exceptional quality were always there, they weren't more apparent – or made use of - before the final hours of the series.
Notwithstanding a few select episodes, Fringe season 5 was a mixed bag of Observer-driven stories, many of which were used more as fetch quest time fillers than as any true progression of the overall plot. And even though the series finale of Fringe was essentially dedicated to the current seasonal story-arc, the resulting sentimentality speaks as much to the entirety of the series as it does a proverbial book-end to the Observer storyline that fans were continuously wary of.
After jumps in to and out of the alternate world, Fringe somehow recaptured – if just for its final episodes – the magic that initially drew fans to the series so many years ago. A magic that was, as some would say, somewhat misplaced when the series jumped 13 years into the future for its final chapter. As the finale entered its second hour, the pieces needed to defeat the Observers were quickly acquired, leaving ample time to give fans what they truly wanted to see from Fringe: the goodbyes.
Despite this season of Fringe being driven by the Observer invasion, enough time was committed to allow each of the characters their own moment to shine, whether it be heroically or tragically, before Water finally atoned for all the stolen moments he shared with Peter and reset time, which reset Peter, Olivia and Etta back in the park where the invasion began. This time the Observers never came.
Although Walter never did forgive himself for kidnapping his son from the alternate world, his references to the "stolen moments" he had with Peter revealed that, even though Walter probably shouldn't have crossed over all those years ago, he cherished every one of them, and he was willing to sacrifice himself in order to make things right for the world - and for Peter. The only question is whether or not by this point, the highly-suspenseful, action-packed finale engaged the viewer to such a level where earlier seasonal contrivances simply washed away - to allow Fringe, the little series that could, to give the impassioned conclusion they're able to tell. Even if it may not be the one they wanted to from the beginning.
As with any television series, it's more about the journey than it is the end result. Most shows never get the chance to say goodbye. Thanks to its fans, Fringe had two. So while a jump to the future to battle elite humans may not have been the most ideal adventure, the series still managed to, at times, provide audiences with an exceptional and emotional tale of scientific wonderment. As always, this is where Fringe is at its strongest. Not with Observer battles or high-tech weapons, but with one man's love and curiosity about the strange and unknown. So it's befitting that, once again, he used his abilities to save his son, the boy who should not have lived.
Fringe aired on Fox from September 9, 2008 – January 18, 2013.