Primetime

FRINGE: The Final Stand

Fringe-Season-5-Finale-2013-LibertyAn-Enemy-of-Fate

I remember when LOST ended. I remember where I was, how I felt and who I was with. I remember what I drank, what I ate and what moments I rehashed after the credits rolled.

I remember how much I cried.

My experience with LOST was one that both passionate and rewarding (I was in the seemingly small boat of people who enjoyed the finale) but I’m not writing this to wax poetic over a show that’s been over for two years, or to point out my feelings on a subject that I personally think is discussed all too frequently. The point of this piece is to explain that every so often, a show comes along that changes you. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s critically acclaimed or hated by the general public. What matters is your loyalty, your ability to love and believe in the program against all odds, even in its worst moments. I can count on the fingers of one hand the shows that I feel that kind of loyalty for, and LOST is one. Fringe is another.

In terms of being an invested fan, my experience with Fringe was different from my experience with LOST. I technically caught up on the show after it started airing and episodes didn’t involve weekly viewing parties with friends (except where warranted.) But that didn’t mean the insane amount of love wasn’t there, because in a lot of ways, my feelings for the two shows were very much the same. I got overly excited when an episode focused on a character’s backstory, or when a certain relationship was born. I cried over characters that died, even if I had already prepared myself for the inevitable scene to come. I spent hours re-watching episodes and listening to DVD commentary. I defended the show to anyone who spoke otherwise of its merits. I went online to read reviews and reactions the days after an episode aired. I panicked every spring when the show’s fate seemed to hang in balance.

Creator Joel Wyman had repeatedly stated that this season would be a “love letter to fans,” and that is exactly what I felt the finale was. Old cases brought back as homage to a show that grounded itself in weird science and great possibilities. Walter’s line about stolen time and not trading it for anything. The small, probably overlooked (unless you were a devoted fan) “thank you for your support” letter sticking out of Peter’s mail in the very last scene. Is this reaching too far, putting too much pressure on the fact that we want to believe the writers went out of their way to give back to its audience? Maybe. But I like to think those were specific winks to people who had supported the show and seen it through to the end.

And I liked the finale. I loved Olivia finally getting a chance to shine. I loved that the alternate universe wasn’t just brought back because it was convenient, and more so, I like that it gave closure to characters that the writers knew the audience cared about. I loved the parallels and full circles that, in many instances, brought me right back to the beginning, with the biggest full circle reminding us that Fringe has always been a show about family and love. In a season that was filled with ups and downs, the finale did a commendable of outweighing the lows of the series with some amazing highs. Because in the end, Peter and Olivia were happy. The world was saved, the timeline reset and we ended where we started – in Central Park, watching little Etta pick dandelions. Walter didn’t necessarily die, but he did sacrifice himself so that his son could have a chance at happiness and so the world could be mended.

In this day and age, television has become so fleeting that it’s hard to hold onto shows that we truly love; we live in fear that they’ll be pulled out from underneath us at the wrong moments. The fact that Fringe was able to hold on for five seasons, fill huge convention halls and garner fan campaigns across the country while registering as nothing more than a blip on the network’s radar where ratings were concerned is both astounding and impressive and there’s a reason why passionate fans refer to it as “the little show that could.”

What the show did for the science fiction world was unparalleled. It helped convince the media that an audience could be more than a Nielsen box or an overnight rating. It gave other small shows with a passionate fan base (like Nikita) hope, and showed them that despite the odds, their voices were not futile efforts. It gave the television world strong female characters and beautiful stories that transcended science and strange cases. It challenged our brains week after week, even in its darkest and not-so-shining moments. And above all, it helped remind us of a popular saying that seems to be forgotten all too often: life is a journey, not a destination.

Because whether we like it or not, television is about the destination. No matter how good a show is in the moment, we as an audience are always looking ahead, even if it’s something we’re not consciously aware of. When we see a pilot, instead of thinking “this is really good,” we think, “how can this last for another 2-3 years?” When a storyline becomes convoluted or blocked, instead of thinking, “I wonder how this can be fixed,” we think, “well, the show runners have effectively ruined this program.” I admit to falling into this pattern myself, with the first half of Revolution and with Fringe earlier this season. I couldn’t help it – as much as I was enjoying the journey, I couldn’t help but think of the destination.

Before the final episode aired, I spent some time online and smiled at everything that was popping up – photos of Olivia and Peter, of the alternate universe, of Broyles and Nina and Walter and Charlie and Lincoln Lee. The thing is, to fully appreciate our love of a program, we need the journey, because without it the destination is meaningless. So we judge our favorite shows (and even our non-favorite shows) a little too harshly and we get mad when a storyline doesn’t work to our liking. We get upset when a favorite character is killed and we express our disappointment when questionable paths are taken. But when it comes time for a show to end, whether it’s one year or two years or five, it’s the journey we remember – the moments that helped this program find a way into our hearts. The moments that made us scream, cry or hurt. The alternate universe in Fringe. The hatch reveal in LOST. Mad Men‘s “The Suitcase.” Carrie and Brody’s interrogation scene in Homeland. The list (different for every individual, and rightfully so) goes on and on and on.

You were my favorite thing. My very favorite thing. 

Fringe was a journey that ultimately let me appreciate the destination, and for that, I am thankful.

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