So I've been mostly silent, waiting for a lot of things to pan out before commenting on Fringe. But with the latest episode, I feel like I have a grasp on how I feel about this season now. I have a lot of feelings about Olivia as the narrative lead and how I feel like the show lost me when they took her out of play, but that's another post entirely. For now, this post is on my thoughts on the Amberverse the writers created with the Bridge reset and their use of the Alternates to develop the journey of the Peter and Olivia we've known since S1.

I've always felt that Fringe is a show that works best when it explores the major theme of love and loss by taking the individual characters' experiences and blowing up the fallout on a bigger stage. Walter's grief over the loss of his Peter tore the fabric of the universe (S1-S2). Walternate's anger and pain at Peter's kidnapping caused a war between two worlds (S2-S3). And now we get to this episode, where we close the book on the Alt!verse, seemingly for good, and get out our bucket of creys because the loss of them makes the Fringe universe seem smaller -- and yet I can't help but feel that the writers sort of wasted their time getting here and that they didn't develop the relationships nearly as much as they should.

Here are the problems I've had with S4:

1) The cliffhanger of S3 was where is Peter, but the promise of S4 was that they would be working through all that angsty conflict to heal the two worlds and we'd get to see more characters meet their alternates. Why didn't we see more crossovers?

This episode was so much fun because it was the two sides working together in the same episode. And yeah, I get it. It's expensive and complicated and they have a limited budget and time frame to film. But if this was going to be our only season where people other than Olivia could cross over easily, I feel like there should have been more people visiting from the Altverse on our side and vice versa because that is new and exciting. They could have had more eps where an Alternate crosses over to consult like the Astrid episode, Lincoln coming over to the Alt!side, and Olivia in second episode of the season. Then we would have SEEN more how the Altworld was healing because of the Bridge rather than being told. We would had SEEN more of the two teams build relationships (with varying success) and the loss of the Alt World would have resonated even more than it already did.

2) I still don't know why I really should care about the Amber team either.

What's interesting about the Amber reset is that they actually had two sets of Universe mergers: the internal merging of BlueOlivia and Peter with the Amber Fringe team and the external merging of the Alternate side with our side. They completely ignored the latter (which I'll get into below) but they also dropped the ball on the former. One of the things this show excels at is allowing us to see the characters ~react to revelations of loss, and I haven't felt ANY of that from either the Amberverse Fringe team or Peter and BlueOlivia in ways that I should.

If we were always going to lose Amber Olivia anyway, I almost wish that we had gotten Blue Olivia earlier so that we could focus more on how the Amber teams feels about losing their Olivia and gaining ours/Peter's. If the transition happened earlier, it would have kept Olivia at the center of the emotional track (instead of ~just Peter) and been a great way to get to know the Ambers better. We could have gotten to know them through stories told to Olivia to remind her how awesome their relationships used to be, in hopes of triggering her memories and getting their Olivia back. Since they are the ones that Peter and Blue Olivia (and we the audience) are living with from now on, we should have gotten more development, and certainly more of reaction aside from that one scene with Olivia and Nina in 4x17 and Peter's scene with Lincoln about being a good guy. Broyles and Astrid lost a friend and colleague too.

Likewise it would have drawn Peter and Blue Olivia closer together because they would be struggling with the loss of their Blue Fringe team. Just because, yay Peter and Olivia were able to find each other again, doesn't mean that the dilemma of Peter's plight in the beginning has changed. All it means is that there are two survivors of a lost timeline, afloat and alone in a familiar but ultimately different universe, instead of just one. And yet we haven't heard them mention the others in the Blueverse at all. I've missed them leaning on each other, and they could have given that to us a lot earlier.

3) So much of this season was focused on Peter and his quest for Olivia that they didn't have time to develop anything else.

Fringe has its leads, but it's always been about family and the TEAM, not solely Olivia's special destiny with Peter. I don't mind that storyline, in fact I like the two of them together very much, but the show I fell in love with has more layers than that. What makes it great is that it's not just an epic love story but that it's also about the creation of a family with wacky sci-fi hijinks and moral and ethical quandaries on the side, and I feel like the season got away from that.

Instead we got a lot of Lincoln falling for an Olivia that was never going to stick around, Peter reenacting his version of Planet of the Apes, and absolutely no sense of Olivia's storyline, purpose or objective separate from who she's in love with. If not for David Robert Jones bringing it back into focus, the story about two opposing teams forced to work together to save their Universes would fell to the wayside almost completely and Olivia would have nothing to do.

All of which are annoying because it has an easy fix:

If I were the writers, I would had switched things around to establish the characters we're going to keep from now on (Blue Olivia, Peter, and the Amberverse Fringe teams) early in the season and watch how they struggle to find their dynamic as they geared up against David Robert Jones.

Wouldn't it have been interesting to see BlueOlivia build a real relationship with an Alt!Liv who hadn't slept with Peter and gotten pregnant with Henry? To watch her struggle not to blame this Alt!Liv for things she didn't do and to somehow come to peace with the pain of S3 by understanding and forgiving this Alt!Liv?

Wouldn't it have been interesting to see Peter build independent relationships with the Walters and actually struggle to make a real choice between the them? Since neither shared memories with him and both felt that sense of loss/wonder/appreciation at the sudden appearance of Peter in their lives, for the first time, the Walters would be on equal emotional playing fields.

Wouldn't it have been interesting to see how Amber Walter, Astrid, Broyles and Nina reacted to Peter and Blue Olivia developing relationships with the Alt!verse characters? After all, these Alternate never hurt Peter and Olivia but they did hurt the Amber team, and there'd already be hurt because BlueOlivia erased Amber Olivia in their minds. Would they feel a further sense of betrayal/resentment, complicating Peter and BlueOlivia's re-integration into the team?

And as the ultimate insider/outsider, wouldn’t Lincoln have been a LOT more interesting if he was the wild card who sometimes sided with the Amber team because of empathy over the loss of Amber Olivia but sometimes sided with Peter and Olivia because a need to work with them and the Alternates to find the shapeshifters?

Watching our Peter and Olivia deal with the internal problem of fitting in as part of the Amber team while they collectively try to build external relationships with the Alternates would have been a better interconnected story because it would have tied in thematically with the physical Bridge healing the worlds.

Lincoln would be the bridge between Peter/Olivia and the rest of the Amber team. Peter and Olivia would be like a bridge between the Amber and Alternate teams because they don't have the baggage of that timeline. At the same time, there's a bit of healing and closure of our Olivia as she puts the pain of Red!verse AltLiv behind her for good AND we'd get a whole season of our Peter and Olivia rebuilding their relationship as each other's touchstones as the sole survivors of the Blueverse.

IDK. I just feel like if they had brought Peter back at least one episode earlier and introduced Mean Nina's endgame sooner to fastrack the transition from Amber Olivia to Blue Olivia, all the good-byes would have meant so much more because the relationships would have been much more fleshed out and deep.

Which is not to say the show failed as a whole. Fringe is still one of the best shows out there, IMO, and the latest episode shows that. My level of excitement has just been lowered this season from an OMGWTFBBQ MUST SEE THE NEXT EPISODE NOW level to "Eh, I still like the show but it tracks better in chunks, so I'll DVR and mainline it later." Which is a shame because it started out so promisingly.

TLDR: This past episode that focused on the dyamics of teams is this kind of FRINGE I wish S4 had more of, not the Peter Tries to Find His Love and Get Home Show. That story has been done a thousand times. The story of two people trying to build a home in a place with a family who should feel like home (but don't) while simultaneously building relationships with people their family hates (and they themselves are ambivalent towards) to save their world? Not so common.
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