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'Fringe' React: Building A Better Season Five

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May 12, 2012 | 12:04am EDT

ALTI'm not sure if Fringe's writing staff knew what they were getting themselves into when they purged Peter Bishop from history at the end of season three. Eliminating all memories of Peter from the people who loved him most, Walter and Olivia, drastically changed the reality that Fringe had built throughout three seasons. Olivia was now cold and distant, while Water -- who had no longer raised a son -- was banana-pants crazy. All of the cases and the crazy ups and downs we had witnessed either never happened, or were drastically altered. Characters who had died -- like Alt-Broyles, and most recently William Bell -- were sprung back to life. It wasn't the Fringe we knew and loved, and the show suffered as it tried its best to rectify its mistake.

Towards the very end of the season, the restoration of Olivia's memory and the brand new, out-of-nowhere promise of a looming very big big bad -- The Observers -- put things right back on track, even if Walter couldn't remember every shared licorice he had had with his son. The relationships became remarkably similar to the ones of old, so we cared when we learned that Olivia was missing from the future that we saw in "Letters of Transit." We cared when September said that in every possible future, Olivia had to die. Most of all, we cared that Fringe had finally found a new and exciting direction after its unfortunate lull.

But this new direction was clearly meant for a not-yet-ordered season five, so wrapping things up with last night's very emotional finale would have been a damn shame for a show that still has so much promise. The collapsing universes plotline had its moments, but many of its episodes felt hollow, as if Fringe was treading water as they waited for something bigger. And something bigger this way comes! DO NOT CONTINUE IF YOU HAVE NOT YET SEEN THE FINALE. MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.

Basically, it went like this: William Bell took Walter on his own technologically advanced version of Noah's Ark, where he had gathered two of every species to bring to his scientifically created, utopian brave new world. But Bell wasn't interested in playing Noah -- he was playing God. Since he and Walter were the only humans on board, our race would die out in a matter of years. Quoth Cabin in the Woods: "F**k humanity, man." Bell was using the energy from the activated Cortexiphan in Olivia's brain to create a vortex that would collapse both universes, and Walter would be forced to spend the rest of his days with a super-negative crazy person.

Of course, Bell's world was never meant to be. Olivia and Peter found their way to the ship, where Walter went ahead and SHOT OLIVIA IN THE HEAD to stop the Cortexiphan from destroying human existence. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think I'm the only one who was right there crying with Peter at this point. Like, can't these people ever be happy? Thankfully, Walter was acting on a well-educated hunch -- Olivia's Cortexiphan consciousness would not only heal both worlds, but her wound as well. All of our heroes would live to see another season. Hooray!

What made the ending of this finale so effective was its sheer emotionality. Last season's finale shocked our senses and broke our hearts, but this year we were briefly able to believe that everything could end up okay. The danger that had plagued both universes was finally removed. Leonard Nimoy went back into semi-retirement, Jared Harris returned to Sterling Cooper Draper Price, Astrid was alive, Broyles was promoted, and the Fringe division would finally get the funding it deserved. Peter and Olivia were happy too, finally having each other and a decent house to buy in the suburbs. And to add to their joy, Olivia was pregnant! Now, this would be happy news to most everyone else, but, unbeknownst to the happy couple, the fact that this baby fits neatly into the hellish future timeline presented in "Letters of Transit" is a serious cause for alarm. So was September's last-minute warning to Walter: “We have to warn the others. They are coming." That's right, viewers: According to my non-Cortexiphan addled brain, a vastly improve season five of Fringe is coming.

Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna

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