‘Fringe’ 3.22 Recap: “I’m Sorry for Destroying Our World”

As if giant twist at the end of the second-to-last episode weren’t enough of a mind-blower, ‘Fringe’ wrapped up its third season on Friday with a finale that pulled out all the stops. I wouldn’t say that the episode was entirely successful (or quite made logical sense), but it certainly managed to subvert any expectations I may have had for how the season would end.

‘The Day We Died’ takes place almost entirely in the year 2026. After stepping into the doomsday machine, Peter’s consciousness was propelled forward into the body of his future self… for a moment. That seems to have worn off, and now we’re dealing with 47-year-old future Peter. He has all the memories and experiences of the fifteen years following his activation of the machine.

Here’s what we know: Peter destroyed the alternate universe, although not immediately. Unfortunately, the two universes were inextricably connected. The loss of one has caused our own universe to start collapsing. Major vortex rifts plague the globe, and many believe this to be the end of times. Fringe Division is now militarized, much as it was in the alternate universe. Olivia’s niece Ella is a new recruit (and sadly a terrible, terrible actress). Broyles is a Senator, and has a weird eye. Peter and Olivia are married. Oh, and Astrid has a new haircut.

Once word got out that Walter was the architect of the plan to destroy the alternate universe – which means that he was directly responsible for the genocide of billions of people and caused our own universe to fall apart – the public turned on him. He’s spent years in prison, and mostly used that time to grow a Unabomber beard. This is one of the plot threads that makes little sense to me. Walter clearly had no way of knowing what the outcome of his actions would be, and (along with everyone else) believed them to be a defensive measure during a time of war. In fact, as far as he was aware, Peter was trying to turn off the machine when he got into it, not destroy the other universe.

Sometime before the alternate universe completely vanished, Walternate crossed over to plead with our world to help his. Now he’s stuck here, but is not a fugitive. He even spoke to Walter’s defense at his trial. (Why wasn’t he put on trial for trying to destroy our universe?)

A terrorist group called the End of Dayers led by a man named Moreau (Brad Dourif) has been trying to hasten the apocalypse so as to trigger the Rapture or something. They have a pipe bomb-style weapon that causes vortex rifts, and the technology seems to be much more advanced than anything the world has seen. Walter is released on furlough to help solve this case. In his investigation, Peter figures out that Walternate has been supplying the tech to Moreau. As his revenge for the destruction of his universe, he’s going to destroy ours.

Peter tries to arrest Walternate, only to find that he’s been talking to a hologram projection. (Don’t you hate it when that happens?) From his secret location, Walternate promises to take away everything Peter loves, one piece at a time. He starts by sneaking up on Olivia and shooting her in the head.

After Olivia’s funeral, Walter starts putting the pieces of this puzzle together. He now realizes that the machine was, in part, a time machine. It was built by Walter and Massive Dynamic, and sent back into the prehistoric past to be hidden in pieces that their circa-2010 selves would be able to discover. (Absolutely no part of this plan makes any sense at all to me.)

Walter believes that 2011 Peter’s consciousness was brought forward in time to get a glimpse of the apocalyptic future. Now Walter wants to send Peter back to 2011 with this information. As he explains: “It’s a paradox. I can’t change what happens, because it’s already happened. But you can make a different choice within what happened.” In other words, by making a different choice when he’s in the machine, Peter can create an all new alternate timeline in which the two universes aren’t going to be destroyed. Or, more succinctly: “We could cheat the rules of time.”

OK, I sort of follow this, although I don’t know what happened to 2011 Peter’s consciousness after he caught a glimpse of the future. Is that still hanging around in the back of 2026 Peter’s mind, and that’s what Walter wants to send back? Or does Walter want to send all of 2026 Peter back? This isn’t clear at all.

Anyway, back to 2011, Peter wakes up inside the machine. Instead of destroying the alternate universe, he does something that brings Walternate, Fauxlivia and crew over to our world for a parlay. He says that he understands the purpose of the machine now, and that they all have to work together to solve the problem of the collapsing universe. Then Peter just sort of vanishes in mid-air, which strangely no one so much as acknowledges. The two Walters and the two Olivias face off to determine their next step.

Outside the Statue of Liberty compound, a group of Observers stand and watch. One explains to another that nobody remembers Peter because he never existed. “He served his purpose.”

Errrrr… I’m lost again. How would Peter making this decision to bring the universes together in 2011 mean that he never existed? What happened to the previous 30-some-odd years? If Peter never existed, wouldn’t that mean that Walter never crossed over to save him, and thus never caused the alternate universe to start collapsing, and thus never caused the war, and thus would never lead to the moment where these two groups of people are standing and facing each other next to the machine?

These are questions that will need to be answered in Season 4, I suppose. Unfortunately, I fear that the writers have actually created an unanswerable conundrum just for the sake of ending the year with a “Ha! We got you!” mind-fuck. We’ll see what they come up with next year.

8 comments

  1. I saw part of this. I had never seen Fringe before, but if this is any indication of what the show is, I want in! I’ll have to see if I can find the early episodes and get caught up!

  2. This just shot up to the best show on TV right now for me (it was good before this), I LOVE stuff that messes with your head, I loved LOST for the same reasons even if I never truly got answers (which honestly makes me like these shows and movies even more), so I cant wait for next season now!

    Easily the best show of its kind since the X-Files, although I would personally say that Supernatural does give that idea a run for its money too

  3. EW.com has some good theories on what happened with Peter (as well as some hidden hints in the opening theme text of that episode).

    FRINGE is one of those rare shows that keeps getting better as the audience keeps getting smaller.

  4. Tim

    Josh,

    My understanding was that Peter bridged the two universes/dimensions in the places of their structural weaknesses (i.e. rifts of whatever). I think this was explicitly stated, though I could be wrong. And so by connecting them in this way, there had to be repercussions to force consistency.

    Because Peter died as a little boy in one universe he had to be dead as a little boy in the other universe as well, therefore erasing everyones’ memories of him past that age.

    But then again Broyles died in one universe but was still there at the end…Perhaps this strange phenomenon applied only to Peter given that one of the Observers saved him and Walter when they were drowning in Reiden Lake? Yes, that makes more sense. I like that. (Thinking as I type…)

  5. JoeRo

    For me this episode was all about the hairstyles. I loved how future-Peter had a Walter-esque widows peak going on, Astrid was rocking a sexy new number (about damn time!), and Olivia. Olivia finally did something with her hair that didn’t involve it hanging halfway to her ass. I also liked how Walter came full circle with the unkempt look, looking exactly as he did in St. Claire’s in the pilot episode. Good stuff.

    As for the storyline itself … meh. Sometimes Fringe is great with story, sometimes they reach just a little bit too much, but this episode walked right into go-go-gadget territory.

    I’m with Josh when it comes to being lost. This episode introduced a host of narrative loopholes that are just too problematic to solve in any satisfactory way. I hated Walter’s causal loop explanation as to why he couldn’t change the past, but Peter could. Causal loop time travel stories are damn lazy writing. And the solution to the problem involves sending Peter’s consciousness back to the past, but not Peter himself? How exactly does that work? Oh and I loved how they handled moving “the machine” to New York, letting Astrid handle the details off screen. Even though nobody can get within a foot of the machine once activated they somehow managed to move it … somehow. I guess. Then there’s all the unresolved stuff that doesn’t make sense even in the alternate future. Wasn’t Olivia supposed to be murdered by the cartoon guy she saw in the LSD episode? Guess she was just wrong, but it happens to the best of us. And since we’re now just letting plotlines fall by the wayside I think we can all agree to simply forget about Olivia’s discovery of Peter’s brutal slaying of half a dozen shape shifters. She’s totally cool with that shit now, or maybe William Bell just knocked that particular memory out of her brain. And what’s up with Same Weiss? Why would his family pursue such esoteric knowledge, and how would they ever know that it was more than just utter balderdash? Does Fauxlivia no longer have a kid? I mean if there’s no more Peter then it stands to reason that the kid is gone too. A real shame considering how much effort was put into that storyline. Not to mention that the pregnancy directly enabled Walternate to set in motion the current of events that begat the destruction of “our” universe (causal loop strikes again). Gah! And while we’re on the subject of frustrating nonsense, whatever happened to Peter Petrelli’s Irish girlfriend in season two of Heroes? Did she just cease to exist when that alternate future was invalidated? Oh man … I’m done for.

    So yeah, I nerd out pretty hard when it comes to Fringe (or scifi stuff in general), and the above is definitely the type of nonsense that the worst sort of fanboys obsess over, but in the end I actually still love the show and really like this episode. Fringe is best at the character development stuff, emotional resonance and the like, but when it comes to narrative coherence – whoo boy! I imagine the writing staff has been going through script supervisors, or whatever they’re calling their continuity people these days, like candy. In the end I’m happy that Fringe is coming back for another season, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for dear old Walter and the rest of the crew, but I do have my reservations. I sincerely hope the follicle developments of season four are half as entertaining as those we saw in the, now alternate, future. Fingers crossed!

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      Great comment, JoeRo. What did happen to the mystery man who was supposed to kill Olivia? That was just a couple episodes ago, yet it’s been forgotten already? Unless he was meant to be a stand-in for Walternate, which isn’t at all explained here.

      The episode flirts with causality by saying that Walter can’t change the past but Peter can (which, as you say, doesn’t make much sense). But then it fails to think through the causal effects that the big plot twist (erasing Peter’s existence) would have on the rest of the universe(s). Without him, there would be no war between universes in the first place.

  6. JeremyR

    I understood that Walter was locked up not because of how they handled putting Peter in the machine but for starting the whole thing when he originally crossed over and stole Peter.

  7. cOrg

    Another thing that bothered me is the piece of paper with a drawing of Olivia/Fauxlivia and her connection to the machine.

    I mean, a great part of previous episode was finding this “crowbar” with Sam. It was on this side. How did Walternate get that drawing on that side? If he had from the beginning, why he didn’t show it to Fauxlivia before?

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