There are copious spoilers in this post.
Let me first state that the two-part finale of Fringe was generally enjoyable. There was a nice Fringe event featuring one of my phobias–nanobots (you can’t see them!)–and it was awesome to see Leonard Nimoy return as William Bell, especially in the second half. His performance was excellent. I was intrigued by the notion that David Robert Jones got what he wanted in this timeline: recognition by Bell, even if it meant self-sacrifice. And the new explanation for why Walter had parts of his brain removed was shocking and perfect. I also loved Bell’s escape at the end, which hearkens back to Olivia’s first meeting with him in the original timeline. Makes you wonder if he rode out of there inside someone’s head. The various character wrap-ups were nice too. I appreciated seeing Nina doing some science and being recognized for it. You could tell that the writers had been planning things so that they could end the series here if they hadn’t gotten a season five. (Which perhaps would be better, since season five seems destined to follow the horrid totalitarian Observer plotline.)
The heroes of the day, ultimately, were Walter and Peter. Olivia’s main contribution was to get her and Peter onto Bell’s ship, which seemed more “oh, Olivia should do something heroic too” rather than “Olivia is a vital member of the team”. In fact, it was Olivia, or rather Olivia’s victimization at the hands of William Bell, that threatened to destroy the world. And she had no way of fighting this. All she could do was stand there freaking out. She didn’t even think to kill herself–Walter had to do that for her. (Self-sacrifice would not have been an empowered choice, but at least it would have been her choice.)
Nina makes a big deal about how compassionate Olivia is, and how Bell is using that against her. It is Olivia’s compassion that allows her to become powerful. But based on the events of this finale, we may well conclude that compassion is weakness. Olivia is so compassionate, she can only react emotionally, and is stymied when faced with a dilemma more complex than protecting one person in front of her. She’s powerful, but ultimately she’s weak. She’s just a woman.
That’s the message I was getting.
I would have liked to have seen Olivia control her powers. We saw her doing it in the future of the original timeline, the future that Peter ultimately ended up erasing. The difference with the season four scenario is that she had been dosed with cortexiphan more recently by Evil Nina, to get her up to par with her original timeline self. This probably led to the instability and rapid release of power, provoked by the events Bell put into place around her. But think back to seasons one and two. Olivia–original timeline Olivia–had already dealt with her victimization, with taking care of other victims. She’d found her strength. She’d turned weakness into power and her past into a mission. Would this Olivia really have been flummoxed by William Bell, once she knew what was really going on?
I say no. I say that our original timeline Olivia would have stared Bell down, folded her arms, and calmly turned it off like a light.
Heck, if they’d played their cards right, the writers could have left in the headshot scene, which was actually pretty cool. Just as Olivia figures it out, Walter shoots her in despair. Peter freaks. But the bullet goes all the way through and Olivia’s cortexiphan-infused brain self-repairs instantly. Bell, about to flee, stops to gloat as the universe-destruction starts up again. And then Olivia drops the hammer on him. Later, in the denouement, Olivia undergoes a series of tests and discovers that excessive use of her powers causes an enormous drain on her body and might threaten her life, so they should be treated as a last resort.
(I’d like to keep the part where Walter removes the bullet, because that scene is just crazy, but I’d also like for Olivia to be able to stare William Bell down as she’s turning off her powers, and I’m not sure he’d stick around after he thought she was dead.)
My rewrite would allow Olivia to keep her powers without becoming some sort of overpowered superhero. It would give her an advantage in a universe populated with (male) scientific geniuses, other than her photographic memory and detective skills, which haven’t really seen much use lately. It would also bring back the feeling from seasons one and two, when the main character of Fringe was a strong woman who fought her own battles rather than feeling like a victim and waiting for her white knights (or rather, Bishops) to save her.