It's not very often that a favourite show finishes for the year and you can look back and say "wow, that might be its best season so far" - a pleasant surprise, then, that last night brought us two: the fourth season finales of both Fringe and Breaking Bad* cap off what could probably be called the best seasons of those shows so far.
(Warning: This post contains spoilers from the S4 finales of both Fringe and Breaking Bad.)
The thing is, though, that capping off their respective shows "best season so far" is probably the only thing the finales of Fringe and Breaking Bad have in common.
The finale of Fringe was something of a disappointment compared with many of the episodes that came before. The fourth season of the sci-fi thriller was simply brilliant overall, with a number of episodes that rank among the best to date - episodes like One Night In October, in which guest star John Pyper Ferguson unwittingly helps the Fringe team investigate the parallel universe version of himself; And Those We've Left Behind, in which guest star Stephen Root uses time travel to try and cure his wife's Alzheimers disease; and Welcome to Westfield, in which the team are stranded in a town feeling the effects of the now-merged universes.
But the finale went in a strange direction, concluding several episodes in which the team solved and concluded the season-long "who is trying to destroy the universes" story arc, and effectively ending everything that needs to happen in the present. The word is that Season 5, confirmed as the shows last, will take place in a future dominated by creepy outfit The Observers, expanding on the story world in flash-forward episode Letters of Transit, which aired a few weeks ago.
I mean, I know the writers were trying to hand over the reins to that final season, but the Fringe finale felt deeply unsatisfying after the majority of the season was so well written and so enjoyable to watch.
Luckily, "unsatisfying" is not a word you could possibly use to describe the finale of Breaking Bad, cleverly titled Face Off ... because, you know, Gus' face came off, bringing the phenomenal fourth season of the show (and Giancarlo Esposito's turn as an uber-villain) to a stunning end, and setting up a brilliant fifth season (also confirmed as the shows last).
I might even go as far as to say that Season 4 of Breaking Bad might be one of the greatest single seasons of television ever, not just of this show. It's not even up for debate that the show gets better every year. But BrBa's fourth season jumped up to all-time-greatest level, compared with its third. I'd call Breaking Bad the best show being made right now.
It helps when you have a pair of actors who are as incredible as Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul to build your show around; I just loved the way Walt says "I won" on the phone to Skyler (Anna Gunn), after the intensity of the show built over the last 13 weeks and exploded in a fireball of creative genius, with Cranston delivering the line perfectly.
These are two brilliant shows at their absolute best. I can't wait to see what happens next.
What did you think of the finale of Fringe S4? And of Breaking Bad S4? Do you agree that these were the best seasons of each of those shows so far?
(*) Yes, I realise that Fringe S5 has started and Breaking Bad S5 is half-finished in the USA. Yes, this footnote is just me getting in before the plethora of "why are you writing about this, don't you know it's just started in the USA?!" comments.
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