For an episode that could have very easily been Fringe‘s series finale, “Brave New World, Part 2,” charges courageously ahead, resolving old storylines while setting up the endgame to come in the show’s thirteen-episode final season. And while it contained several predictable and ultimately frustrating elements, the episode was ultimately a strong one that should leave audiences talking for a few weeks.
Of course, fans are going to be talking about one particular standout scene, which was undoubtedly one of Fringe‘s strongest moments: when Walter shot Olivia in the head. It was a moment just as shocking and as unexpected as it was when it happened back in last season’s finale. Of course, over the following commercial break, it wasn’t too difficult to figure out how the writers would work their way out of that corner: Walter’s description of Cortexiphan’s regenerative abilities should have sent alarm bells ringing in everyone’s minds last week. Despite the fact that it didn’t last, the shooting was a vey powerful moment, thanks mostly to Peter’s heartbreaking grief, one of Joshua Jackson’s greatest performances of the season. Even if the tension didn’t last, the emotions felt real.
But it’s growing increasingly difficult for Fringe to make us worry about the fates of the main characters. The show has retconned the deaths of so many characters so many times that it’s hard to take death seriously as a threat on the show. Sure, we knew Olivia wasn’t going to die on the eve of the show’s final season. But if the writers really want us to feel the high stakes our characters are facing, they’ll kill off some characters — and not just peripheral ones like Charlie Francis or alternate Lincoln Lee. They had a great opportunity to give us an emotional sucker punch when Astrid took a bullet in last week’s episode. When we found out that she survived this week, though, I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed — not because I don’t like Astrid (who doesn’t like Astrid?), but because the show needed the dramatic kick her death would have brought. The Fringe team has saved the world way too many times with way too few losses, and the more it spares its characters from the axe, the less compelled I am.
Speaking of predictability, who was surprised that Rebecca Mader’s character was working for William Bell? I can’t imagine too many people were, because it’s not that surprising of a twist — I predicted it, along with Olivia being saved by Cortexiphan, last week. In any case, though, it was nice to have Mader back, if only for a bit of brief nastiness and then some crazy eye-wiggling (which was more unsettling than some of Fringe‘s goriest monsters). Oh, and she did manage to shoot September, which solves that mystery.
Speaking of September, the episode featured some pretty cool set-up for a fifth season. Most of that came from the rune that somehow managed to trap September in place on Jessica’s floor. This technology was apparently “beyond” Bell, September noted to Peter and Olivia, hinting at some context that will likely be revealed next season. I’m guessing that the Observers were sponsoring Bell’s attempt to make a new universe, hoping to populate it after destroying their own future world. The Observers by now have realized that September is not on their side, which means that they must have partnered with Bell to eliminate him (thus, the superfast gun and the runes). With Bell’s failure, it looks like there’s only one thing left for the Observers to do: invade the past. This theory, while only a theory, links the rest of the show to the events of “Letters of Transit” in 2036 and starts to give Fringe a greater context. Have the Observers been manipulating events all along? Are they behind the Pattern that kicked off the storyline? We’re so close to the answers we can almost taste them.
Finally, it’d be wrong not to note the sly scene toward the end of the episode in which Broyles and the Fringe division receive a promotion and greater funding from Congress, respectively. “You deserve it,” the Congressman tells Broyles, and the scene can’t help but feel like Fringe slapping its own back. Despite its flaws, this episode proved that Fringe does deserve all the recognition, both critical and otherwise, that it receives (and it could certainly use a higher budget). It certainly deserves the final season that it received, and my hopes are high that Fringe will go out on a high note when it returns next season. B