Episode Title: "Brave New World, Part 2"
Writers: J. H. Wyman, Jeff Pinkner & Akiva Goldsman
Director: Joe Chappelle
Previously on "Fringe":
William Bell (Leonard Nimoy) shows his former partner, Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) a glimpse of the new universe that he wants to create through a holographic projection as they occupy a freighter on the ocean. Bell states his belief that Walter's presence is divine providence and he refuses Walter's pleas to spare both worlds from destruction. Back at Walter's Harvard lab, Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) and Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) note the unexplained absence of his father and Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole). Olivia soon gets a frantic phone call from Jessica Holt (Rebecca Mader), the woman whom she saved from David Robert Jones' (Jared Harris) nanites.
After Jessica hangs up the phone, we see the Observer known as September (Michael Ceveris) in her house behind her. But when September attempts to move, he is restrained by an invisible force with a strange glowing symbol on the floor beneath him. By the time that Peter and Olivia arrive, Jessica is gone and the floor where September had been trapped is also missing. Before they can search for Jessica, Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick) calls them and tells them that Astrid was admitted to Boston General Hospital with a gunshot wound. Olivia and Peter arrive and find Astrid awake and stable.
Peter reassures Astrid when she apologizes for losing Walter to William Bell, whose survival she confirms. Following up on their only lead, Olivia and Peter head to the warehouse and find September still trapped on the section of the floor from Jessica's house. Jessica emerges with a gun trained on Peter and Olivia, whom she forces to drop her gun. Jessica reveals that she works for Bell and that the nanite incident was staged to help Olivia activate her full cortexiphan induced powers. Jessica also shoots September with a gun specifically designed to harm the Observers, but when she fires it again, Olivia telekinetically catches the bullets and sends them back at Jessica, killing her.
As Peter and Olivia tend to September, he is briefly surprised when she mentions his warning that she would have to die in every possible future. Realizing that this event has not yet occurred for him, September resolves to investigate it before vanishing. In the meantime, Peter contacts Nina Sharp (Blair Brown) and gets specialized equipment so that they can question Jessica despite her death. As Peter prepares the device, Nina tells Olivia that Bell must be activating her powers because there is something that he needs from her. Back on the freighter, Walter is stunned when Bell explains that this plan was initially Walter's idea before he had Bell literally remove the idea (and part of his brain) from his head before Bell eventually embraced the idea himself.
At the Harvard lab, Peter successfully reanimates Jessica's body, but her mental capacity is severely diminished. However, they are able to get Jessica to hint that Bell is on a boat and that he needs a power source to pull off his plan. When Olivia accidentally shorts out the connections by touching Jessica's body, they realize that Bell is somehow using her to power the collapse of the two universes. The only upside to this is that Nina can track Olivia's unique energy signature and trace it straight to Bell. After Fringe division locates Bell's freighter on the ocean, several teams are dispatched by helicopter to take him out.
Unfortunately, Bell's freighter has slipped over to the alternate universe, which only Peter can perceive. Nina explains that the barriers between the two universes have been weakened in that spot, allowing Peter and Olivia to drop down on the ship and use Olivia's ability to crossover to the other world. Once on the freighter, Peter and Olivia realize that it is largely abandoned but it also contains the humans transformed by Bell as an ark for his new world. As Bell gloats and recites poetry, Walter notices an antique gun and he begins to load it. Moments later, Peter and Olivia arrive and Bell is surprised to see them.
Bell reveals that he intended for himself and Walter to be the end of humanity, but he seems happy to have Peter and Olivia along as the new Adam and Eve. Bell is also unimpressed by Peter's threats and he openly admits that the collapse is powered by Olivia herself. Suddenly, Walter shoots Olivia in the head (!), killing her instantly. The universal collapse comes to a complete halt and Bell escapes by activating a device and fading away. Peter is inconsolable over Olivia's demise, but Walter slaps him and insists that they can still save her if the bullet is removed and her cortexiphan dosed body is able to regenerate her brain tissue.
Walter gruesomely forces the bullet out through another hole in Olivia's head, but it works and she soon awakens. Sometime later in Washington D.C., Broyles is congratulated by Senator James Van Horn (Gerard Plunkett), who promotes Broyles to General and dramatically increases funding for the Fringe division. Soon after, Broyles invites Nina to head up the new science team at Fringe division. Back in the hospital, Walter tells Peter that Olivia's ordeal should have burned out most of her cortexiphan induced powers, leaving her largely normal. A recovering Astrid offers Walter some licorice and she is stunned when he finally gets her name right for the first time in years.
After a doctor tells Peter that Olivia is ready to be discharged, he is reunited with her. Smiling, Olivia reveals that she is pregnant with their child and they kiss as Walter and Aatrid look on. Sometime later at the Harvard lab, September appears before Walter and tells him that they have to warn the others that his people are coming…
Hours after "Brave New World, Part 2" aired, the initial feedback from several "Fringe" fans was that that this episode lacked the intensity and cliffhanger ending of previous season finales. To a certain extent, that's true. But it appears to have been done so that "Fringe" could end with several notes of closure in case there wasn't going to be a fifth season. And there very nearly wasn't. With only a few edits, this could have served as the final episode of "Fringe." Only the fate of William Bell and the pending Observer invasion hang over the series as unresolved plot points.
Looking back at the fourth season as a whole, it's amazing that the writers were able to seed this storyline without being obvious about it. On the surface, the transformed humans and the repeated attempts to activate Olivia's powers felt like completely unrelated elements. However, it came together really effectively in the end. Last week's episode even reminded viewers that cortexiphan could regenerate organic tissue, which made Olivia's survival feel like less of a cheat.
It's also extremely fortuitous that Leonard Nimoy broke his retirement to come back for two more appearances as William Bell. I can't recall Nimoy in any other villainous roles off the top of my head, but Bell wasn't strictly evil. Crazy and desperate may be better descriptions, but there's an underlying charm to Bell's madness that comes through in Nimoy's performance. He's not a mustache twirling villain and he seemed genuinely happy to have Walter around. Similarly, there was an echo of heartache when the departing Bell told the Bishops that they could have been happy together.
I half expected this episode to deal with Bell definitively, but his escape leaves the door open for his return in the fifth season. The moment where Walter shot Olivia was one of the more shocking scenes in a long time. If that had been Olivia's permanent demise then it would have ranked up there as one of the most memorable scenes in TV history. But I completely understand why Olivia had to come back in order to give the audience some semblance of a happy ending and to set up her daughter; whom we've already met in "Letters of Transit."
It seems that the war with the Observers is inevitable and "Brave New World, Part 2" put the final pieces into play for that struggle. There may be more to this future war than we've previously seen; with perhaps another faction that we're not aware of. Someone had to have given William Bell the technology that restrained September, although that symbol reminded me of all of the devil's traps from "Supernatural." But my point is that there is at least one gun that can harm the Observers and a means to trap them. Both of which are sure to be very useful in the days ahead on "Fringe."
One of the more memorable sequences of the episode was Jessica Holt's interrogation after her death. I'm not sure how much of Jessica's bizarrely contorted face was from Rebecca Mader's performance or if there was any CGI trickery involved. Either way, it was very disconcerting. It's also a bit unfortunate that Olivia's superpowers are going away so quickly. Her telekinetic bullet catch and release was another highlight and it would have been interesting to see her develop those abilities in the short time remaining. Walter hinted that Olivia may still have some abilities but losing what she had already gained felt like a backwards step in her evolution.
There was one other small touch that I figured that the writers and producers would save for the final episode: Walter getting Astrid's name right. That was a fun beat and it was nice to see Jasika Nicole get more to do in this season than in the three previous seasons combined.
"Fringe" is a pretty remarkable achievement for network television. There aren't a lot of creative teams willing to take so many dramatic chances in the service of a compelling storyline. And it's no secret that "Fringe" has been on the cancellation bubble for most of its four seasons. The producers of "Fringe" once hinted that they had a plan for as many as seven seasons for the show, ratings permitting.
But if it's a choice between "Fringe" ending now or giving the series 13 more chances to amaze us; I will gladly take the 13.