The fifth and final season of the American Fox science fiction television series Fringe premiered on September 28, 2012, and concluded on January 18, 2013. The series is produced by Bad Robot Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television. The show was officially renewed for a 13-episode fifth season on April 26, 2012. The fifth season was released on DVD and Blu-ray in region 1 on May 7, 2013.
J. H. Wyman served as a sole showrunner during the last season, with four other writers: Alison Schapker, Graham Roland, David Fury and Kristin Cantrell. Lead actors Anna Torv, John Noble, Joshua Jackson, Jasika Nicole reprised their roles as Olivia Dunham, Walter Bishop, Peter Bishop, and Astrid Farnsworth, respectively. Previous series regulars Lance Reddick, Blair Brown and Seth Gabel returned as special guest stars.
This season takes place in 2036, the Observer-ruled dystopian future previously seen in Season 4's "Letters of Transit". The opening sequence for the season retains the one featured in "Letters of Transit", with terms including community, freedom, joy, imagination, individuality and free will.
The ninth episode of the season, "Black Blotter", serves as a "19th episode", showing hallucinations from Walter's drug trip. The hunt for the tapes which contain the plan to defeat the Observers, serve as the way to contain one story into one episode, thus creating a procedural side of storytelling.
The fifth season was received positively by television critics, earning 78 out of 100 on the aggregate review website Metacritic, indicating a "generally favorable" critical reception. Reviewers praised the conclusion of the story, with most critics lauding the final scene. They said that the finale satisfied hardcore fans, created a great integration of elements from previous seasons and made a natural conclusion for the characters.
The fifth season takes place in 2036, 24 years after the conclusion of the fourth season; in 2012, with the information about Olivia's pregnancy. Numerous Observers from the 27th century, having made the Earth uninhabitable in their own time, traveled through time to take over the Earth from humanity, instituting a Purge to kill off a large fraction.
The remaining humans are tamed in an Orwellian manner by the Observers and their human Loyalist collaborating soldiers, though an underground resistance still eludes capture by the Observers. A common scene used through this season is one where Peter, Olivia, and their young daughter Etta are enjoying a picnic on the day of the Observers' arrival and conquering of the Earth in 2015; Etta goes missing in this scene during all the confusion and destruction.
Walter is soon captured by the lead Observer, Captain Windmark, who puts him under a vigorous memory scan that destroys Walter's memories of the plan, before he can be rescued. Despite this loss, the Fringe team consider clues left in the lab, and come across the tapes. They painstakingly recover each tape and follow its instructions, gathering the elements, including the (apparently) young Observer child first encountered in season 1 ("Inner Child"), later named Michael by his protectors. They find that an unseen man named Donald had helped to hide these elements with Walter.
In June 2012, it was announced that co-showrunner/executive producer Jeff Pinkner, who had been with the show since the second episode, would be departing. Pinkner's former co-showrunner, executive producer J. H. Wyman, serves as the sole showrunner during the final season. Series co-creators and former executive producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, who have been credited as consulting producers since they left the series in the middle of the first season, are now no longer credited. Also, director/executive producer Joe Chappelle departed the series. Wyman announced that season five only was employing four writers, himself, Alison Schapker, Graham Roland, and David Fury. Later that number was revised to five, with script coordinator Kristin Cantrell scripting installment nine, "Black Blotter".
After Fringe was renewed for the fifth season, Jasika Nicole stated that she "was just really thankful we had four seasons. So when we found out that we did get a fifth season, it felt like it was such a gift to everybody who watched the show. This is what you get for being such genuine, sincere, consistent fans of this show. This is your payment. This is what you get for following us through different universes, different timelines, different characters, different timeslots. We were all over the place, and then I felt like the fifth season was a big thank-you to everybody who stuck with us for this long."
Joshua Jackson said that he was pleased with the way the story was concluded: "I feel like the entire fifth season has been the closing chapter of the Fringe story and that we were able to settle so much of the story along the way. With the finale, to put the finishing touches on Fringe and leave the characters in what feels like the right place, it all feels good right now. I think that Wyman wrote the perfect ending for Peter's story over all these years. His journey from prodigal son to dedicated father and husband is complete". John Noble stated that he "wasn't surprised by the general ending at all, actually. It seemed like there was only one way to end this story properly and beautifully."
Filming of the season commenced on July 18, 2012. On July 24, 2012, production was temporarily halted as John Noble sought treatment for a sleep disorder, Blair Brown recuperated from a minor illness, and Jasika Nicole recovered from a minor car accident. Production resumed on August 7, 2012.
Wyman said that the season's ninth episode acted as the season's episode 19, which is known for departing from the status quo. The two-hour series finale aired on January 18, 2013, which Wyman wrote and directed.
Seth Gabel, whose character, Lincoln Lee, had recurred in seasons two and three and then joined as a series regular in season four, does not return as a main cast member in season five, but he did reprise his role in the series finale. For the final season, Lance Reddick and Blair Brown are no longer credited among the main cast, and instead are credited under a "special appearance by" billing. Reddick and Brown each appeared in three episodes in the final season.
Major recurring characters in the fifth season include Michael Kopsa as Captain Windmark, the main antagonist of the season. Georgina Haig portrayed Henrietta "Etta" Bishop. She appeared in the first four episodes, and numerous times during the rest of the season in flashback or memories. Michael Cerveris reprised his role as a human version of September, Donald, in "Anomaly XB-6783746", "The Boy Must Live", "Liberty" and "An Enemy of Fate". Shaun Smith recurred as Anil, a member of Resistance.
Guest stars in the season include Eric Lange as Manfretti in the second episode, "In Absentia". Among the other guest actors were Paul McGillion as Edwin Massey ("The Recordist"), Zak Santiago as Cecil ("Through the Looking Glass and What Walter Found There"), Gabe Khouth as Dr. Darryl Hastings ("Five-Twenty-Ten" and "Anomaly XB-6783746"), Tom Butler as Richard, and James Kidnie as The Commander (last three episodes). Jenni Blong reprised her role as Dr. Carla Warren in "Black Blotter", after previously appearing in the second-season episode "Peter". Eugene Lipinski reprised his role as December the Observer in the final two episodes; he previously recurred in seasons two to four. Jill Scott played Simone, an intuitive and oracle-like woman, in "The Human Kind".
"If you're the type of viewer that wants all of these things neatly tied up, or if you want your stories to be tightly plotted, or if you like story build-up to be resolved concretely, then this season was probably not very satisfying for you. But if those things don't matter to you, or if you were just more invested in the rich characters and their journey and finding out if they found the peace they deserved, or if you're okay with having ambiguous conclusions, then Season 5 was probably pretty damn good in your opinion. And really, at the end of the day, that's all that matters. Fringe may not have been a hit in the traditional sense, and certain story decisions may have alienated the masses. But this remarkable series did still find a devoted audience for the type of stories it wanted to tell, and that audience is quite happy. That's really all that any creators of fiction can hope for."
On Rotten Tomatoes, the season has an approval rating of 88% with an average score of 9 out of 10 based on 16 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "Fringe overcomes a compressed episode count and humbled production values to deliver a moving and rousing conclusion to its fans." Aggregate review site Metacritic gave the fifth season 78 out of 100 based on five critical reviews, indicating the "generally favorable" critical reception.
Chris Cabin of Slant Magazine criticized the final season saying that "as Fringe's ambitions have grown, the sense of real risk, danger, and punishment have diminished to close to nothing as the series nears what will likely be an inadequate conclusion". Writing for IGN, Ramsey Isler rated the fifth season with a score of 8 out of 10, stating that Fringe's final season was a hit with hardcore fans, and praising the great integration of elements from previous seasons and emotional moments that gave the characters even more depth.
Fringe remained in its Friday night slot during its fifth season. "Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11" aired in the United States on September 28, 2012. An estimated 3.2 million viewers watched the episode. It earned a ratings share of 1.1 among adults aged 18 to 49. The episode was up slightly from the previous season finale, but less than Fringe's fourth-season premiere rating of 1.5. 2b1af7f3a8