Fringe’s The End Of All Things Explained

Fringe answers huge questions and raises more.

By Saralyn Smith | Updated

Fringe’s Season four had been a slow, careful build – giving viewers time to dive in and get comfortable with the new versions of the characters before reintroducing Peter into the mix. It let viewers see how Peter changed the stakes and the relationships before finally bringing a Villain in the always delightful David Robert Jones.

And the show made viewers constantly question who is trustworthy and who is plotting behind the scenes. It all comes to a head and “The End of All Things” giving answers and further questions in just the right balance.

Fringe’s The End Of All Things Cold Open – Emotional Triggers

Lincoln and Peter bust into Olivia’s apartment, looking for her or any sign of where she might be. Peter, in particular, searches for surveillance cameras Nina could’ve used to determine when to dose Olivia with Cortexiphan.  

As they search, Lincoln launches into Walter’s argument about how Peter is unfairly imposing his Olivia’s memories and personality on this Olivia, declaring, “You are robbing her of her identity – of her life!”  

This and a few withering glances are still as close as Fringe gets to addressing the fact that Olivia has forgotten all about the romantic trajectory she was on with Lincoln earlier in the season.  Peter does find a closed-circuit camera and memory disk in a fake smoke detector.

We return to the captured Olivia and Nina, who reveals that she has been gone for weeks.  David Robert Jones (DRJ, for brevity’s sake) and his goons join the ladies, and Olivia takes pleasure in announcing that she, too, watched his death by interdimensional travel gone awry.  

He takes it a bit more in stride than he did with Peter and proceeds to explain to Olivia that he’s been moving forward with Walter’s cortex rather than work.  Walter’s notes, he says, showed that intense emotional situations usually triggered a subject’s abilities – and promptly begins torturing Nina through her mechanical arm.

Act One – Palimpsests, or Present Absences

Near an ice skating rink in Boston, a crowd of Observers gathers to discuss the September situation. He still hasn’t been found, but since he has flouted every opportunity to rectify things and follow orders, when he surfaces, he faces great consequences.  They scatter just as abruptly (and eerily) as they gathered.

Lincoln and Broyles interrogate the Nina who took Lincoln and Walter to the cortexiphan vault, and she insists that that was her first trip into the vault in ages.  She seems genuinely shocked that the records show her biosignature accessed the vault twice recently, declaring that it had to be a shapeshifter before lawyering up.

Back at the lab, Walter makes awful-looking butter and sprinkle sandwiches while Peter works with the surveillance camera’s computer disk.  The camera only holds a 60-minute loop, but buried beneath the current footage are faint imprints – where “what was once underneath bleeds through” – of earlier recordings that might be able to be recovered.  

Walter is hostile with Peter, whom he blames for letting Olivia out of the lab and into the current dangerous situation.

DRJ has his goons pull Nina into a separate room from Olivia that is visible through a window and hook her up to an electrified rack.  He pulls out the light box from season one, and thanks to her weird new memories, Olivia knows that she is supposed to turn on the lights with her mind.  

This time, however, whenever she fails to do so, Nina gets voltage pumped through her body.  After a few tries (and tortured convulsions/cries from Nina), Olivia convinces DRJ that she is just tired and needs rest – so he gives her an hour.

By tampering with the saturation and coloring of the camera’s images, Peter is able to get a faint picture of a man’s face in Olivia’s apartment. Peter also tells Walter and the team about how DRJ must be trying to activate Olivia for some unknown reason just like in his timeline, which provides the opportune moment for poor, bloodied September to pop up and tell them what they already know: that Olivia is in danger and that she needs Peter.

Act Two – Twist on a Twist

Walter decides that there is no time to get September to the hospital – they must remove the bullet in his chest and reinflate his lung right there in the lab.

Nina and Olivia are back in the same room again, arguing about whether Olivia should give in to DRJ or let them keep torturing Nina.  Olivia doesn’t want any further harm to come to Nina but knows that the new memories the cortexiphan has given her are interfering with her ability to feel and remember her relationship with Nina.  

No emotional attachment to Nina = no fear response to trigger her abilities.  Nina seems a bit flustered at Olivia’s request for a story that will help her remember and feel their relationship more deeply, but eventually, she tells the story of when Olivia and Rachel first came to live with her.  

It is beautiful, and Blair Brown is so absurdly brilliant in the scene that it is heartbreaking when Olivia still just cannot connect to her.  She needs Peter.

Suddenly, Nina doubles over in pain, and Olivia convinces the goons to pull her out for some medical attention.  They place her on a gurney but, almost as soon as they are in the hallway, she perks back up again and tells DRJ to bring Peter.  The protests of the Nina at Massive Dynamic and the reticence to tell the story to Olivia suddenly make sense – THIS is the shapeshifter!

Meanwhile, September is quickly circling the drain.  They need his knowledge to find Olivia, though, so Peter proposes he jump into September’s consciousness.  Walter is not initially thrilled with the idea but his affection and concern for Olivia wins out.

Act Three – September’s Story

Walter melds together September and Peter’s consciousnesses, which, unfortunately, doesn’t require Peter to strip down like Olivia had to in early season one.  

Peter finds himself in a chamber that is strangely reminiscent of TNG‘s holodeck, watching “the beginning of all things” – the Big Bang.  

And it’s here that Fringe really starts to deliver on one of its central mysteries: the Observers.  Here are the basics:

  • They are a science team of humans from the future or, at least, “one of countless possible futures for humanity”
  • Their names (September) are just “code designations”
  • They have the technology to travel within and outside of time
  • September was so excited to be at Walter’s discovery of a cure for Peter’s condition that he accidentally distracted him at a key moment, botching the experiment
  • The resulting war between the universes caused countless alterations of the timeline
  • Henry (Peter and Altlivia’s baby) was “a child that was not meant to be” and would have irrevocably altered everything that is to come
  • September didn’t bring Peter back. Peter’s ability to find a way back into physical existence proves that September’s attempt to put everything right by erasing Peter and Henry from the timeline failed.
  • Peter must find a way back to his Olivia, as he must reconnect with (and maybe impregnate, although this was a little unclear) her in order for the proper future to play out.

Upon learning about Henry’s existence, Peter goes predictably misty-eyed.  It is a heartbreaking moment, though, as Peter learns at the same time that he had a son and that he unknowingly erased him from existence.  

The environment in which Peter and September are talking begins to disintegrate and Peter is forced out of September’s consciousness, left with only the instruction from September to “go home”.  September convulses and starts to flatline, then suddenly disappears.

Act Three – September’s Story

Peter is at first supremely disappointed with the lack of practical information he gets from September, until he considers that “going home” might be literal (his house) and not more figurative (his timeline).  He rushes back to his house, hoping to find Olivia or at least a clue to her whereabouts.  Instead, he finds DRJ’s goons waiting to snatch him away as an “incentive” for Olivia’s testing.  

When they place him in the room with Nina and threaten his life, Olivia does in fact light up the test box.  But she also begins flickering the lights in both rooms and overloading the bulbs and outlets, sending sparks flying everywhere.  

She knows this isn’t the real Nina, thanks to a key mistake in a detail of the story the impostor Nina told earlier.  The show of power is too much for DRJ and faux-Nina, who .  DRJ’s main minion isn’t so lucky, though.  Like a vengeful Zeus, Olivia fries him with bolts of electricity thrown out from a couple of broken bulbs.

Act Four – Departures

Olivia frees Peter from his bonds, and they go after DRJ and faux-Nina, but Olivia has a seizure along the way.  She recovers, though, and the two get their hands on a gun during a fight with DRJ’s remaining goon.  

By the time they catch up with DRJ and faux-Nina, the latter has already passed through a portal into the other universe.  

Olivia tries to stop DRJ from doing the same by shooting him through the neck but, as the creepily charming Brit explains, there are a few “fringe benefits” to having your body rebuilt at the subatomic level.  He passes through the portal seemingly unconcerned with the bullet hole through his throat.

Olivia and Lincoln make their way outside and wait for Lincoln to send police and paramedics.  Olivia muses that all the energy she expended must have overwhelmed her nervous system and cause the seizure and other difficulties she was having, but Peter disagrees.  As the lights in the building behind them continue to flicker, Peter finally agrees with Walter’s assessment that his just being near her is problematic.  

That the kiss and buckling at the gas station was wrong, because he saw his Olivia when he was in September’s consciousness and she is not her.  

This is confusing and painful for this Olivia, who has all the feelings and memories of his Olivia and loves Peter.  It starts to rain just as the first responders show up, and Peters walks off into it, leaving Olivia, once again, alone.