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Fringe: The Day We Died Review

Fringe (TV series)

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One of my biggest grievances with the Fringe plot structure is the pacing of individual episodes. I touched upon this in last week’s review, but television is an hour-long endeavor. Twists should not only occur at the end of said hour, but risks and stakes should be sprinkled generously throughout the episode. The “last five-minute” syndrome has plagued Fringe for some time now, yet it’s only during the season finale has it become excruciatingly bothersome. Just like last week’s episode, “The Day We Died”‘s ending was jaw-dropping. It’s unfortunate that everything leading up to it wasn’t necessarily as interesting as it could have been.

Though that’s not to say that “The Day We Died” is a bad episode, just not nearly as compelling as the past two season finales. Many reviewers have pointed out that there was a lack of “stakes” – the future vision that we saw obviously isn’t going to last. I both agree and disagree – we don’t necessarily know the producer’s vision for the Grey future, but many of the consequences in the future lacked an impact because they would be reversed at the conclusion of the episode. Olivia’s death, in particular, lacked the emotional consequences that it otherwise deserved because of the nature of the episode. Even Peter’s haunting silent eulogy wasn’t nearly as poignant as it should have been. And the “should have been” problem runs deep within much of the criticism concerning “The Day We Died” – the actual episode failed to live up to fan expectations because of the myriad of narrative decisions the episode “should have taken” instead of, sorry to say, the easy way out. Future glimpse episodes are often used as MOTW episodes in sci-fi, showing dystopian futures to alert the protagonists to the dangers of the current path. Glimpsing into the future shouldn’t be a season finale, though. Either embrace the future as one we’re undoubtedly moving towards without an actual character time-jumping (ala Dollhouse) or stay in the future. It’s quite possible we might glimpse into this future again, but right now there’s a certain hollowness to the episode’s narrative.

The novelty of seeing our favorite characters 15 years into the future worked to some extent, as most of the emotional impact came from seeing our characters struggling to hold on while their world inevitably crumbles around them. Two extremely moving scenes stuck out: Peter and Olivia discussing children, and Peter and Walternate discussing the destruction of Over There. Olivia thinks it’s selfish to bring a child into this world that’s headed towards the end of days, while Peter is more optimistic. The desperation here is striking: Olivia obviously desires to be a mother, but her practicality advises her against it. And when Peter and Walternate discuss the slow and grueling destruction of Over There, he recounts how some mornings, he wakes up believing that everything is just as it was. Those fleeting seconds are then swept with the realization that everything has changed for the worse. It’s crushing, knowing that seven billion people were drowned in darkness thanks to our protagonists. And even more crushing that Walternate could do nothing to save them.

And of course, there’s the last five minutes. There was no doubting those minutes would be brilliant (read: they were probably the biggest WTF moments of the entire series). The real test for the finale would be the 37 minutes preceding the climax. And unfortunately, “The Day We Died” doesn’t necessarily reach the heights it should.

Grade: B-


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