Fringe Farewell


(edit: I fixed my hanging asterisks!)

When Fringe debuted in 2008, it wasn’t love at first sight. I liked it okay, but honestly it all felt a little predictable. Yes there was this weird sci-fi component, and it was from J.J. Abrams, and Pacey* looked cute, but despite it being right up my alley, I wasn’t super enthusiastic.I was watching from London, where it was not actually airing (we won’t go into how I watched it) and I remember not staying on top of it too much at first. It wasn’t Battlestar Galactica or Lost, and I am honestly surprised sometimes that I ever kept watching.  I think I was bored, and I could watch it in my room on the computer, and it was enjoyable enough.  Well after five seasons, I am so glad I stayed.  Fringe signs off Friday night (here in America), and here is my farewell love letter to the show.

For those of you that aren’t too familiar with Fringe (and there aren’t many of us these days**), it centers around three main characters: FBI agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) and the father and son duo of Walter and Peter Bishop, played by John Noble and Joshua Jackson, respectively. The series opens with a plane landing itself while all the people on board are dead, and by the end of the episode Olivia is working in the secret Fringe Division, which is responsible for solving crimes of a rather freaky nature.  Walter is a brilliant scientist and former Harvard professor, whom at the start of the series has been institutionalized for 17 years. His son Peter, is a wayward genius who never finished college and is involved in a number of “business deals” that may or may not be legal. Walter and Peter are not close, and Peter blames his father for his mother’s suicide. Olivia essentially blackmails Peter into checking Walter out of the institution in order to save her dying partner, who was injured trying to solve he aforementioned plane deaths. The other main players are Phillip Boyles (Lance Reddik), who runs Fringe Division, Nina Sharp (Blair Brown) the head of the mysterious “Massive Dynamic”, and Astrid (Jasika Nicole), an FBI agent who assists Walter in his lab. Oh, and Leonard Nimoy shows up now and then-sometimes in animated form.

From that starting point, Fringe takes us down a path of science fiction mystery with elements of time travel, alternative timelines, and other elements, I don’t want to ruin them for you; I hope you go out and watch Fringe after reading this. But while Fringe certainly pushes the limit on what science can accomplish (often using, I am told, wonky science), what Fringe has really done best is make the focus of the show not on the weird stuff that goes on, but in the characters.

Fringe very quietly told stories of pretty epic proportions, but they were told on the strength of the people in the story. Olivia is simply one of the best female characters on television. She is clearly the best person to do this job, and from early on is treated as such. She has flaws, an not of the quirky Manic Pixie Dream Girl type, she kicks butt, and she is deeply empathic of others. Walter is a complicated hero, the kind that can do great things but doesn’t always know where the line needs to be. Peter is a cocky genius who becomes so important to the lives of everyone else that he literally can’t be erased. Most of the ‘bad guys’ on Fringe are nuanced enough to make you see things from their point. Fringe really has characters that are all good or all bad.  The character growth has almost always felt real and organic. John Noble is brilliant as Walter, and Anna Torv and Joshua Jackson have given fine performances.

Perhaps the best way for me to illustrate this character development is like this: when Lost ended, while I absolutely wanted to see what happened to certain characters, such as Sawyer and Juliet, I also really wanted to know why they were on the island. How did they end up there, and why gosh darn it, was Walt so important. For me, Lost was as much about the answers as it was about character resolution. When the end came, and it wasn’t all answered, there was some disappointment. When Fringe ends Friday, what I am really invested in are these characters. What comes of them at the end of the ‘battle’ that is coming, and do some of them at least end up happy? I simply don’t have any burning mysteries I need solved outside of “how does this all end”.

Obviously Fringe isn’t perfect-it takes about 10 episodes to really get going, and opinions on the fourth season are mixed. Much of how this final season is viewed will be dependent on the finale, and some say that it relies too much on “love is the answer” to solve problems (I don’t necessarily agree with that). There are times during the middle of seasons that Fringe seems to be treading water,  and you wish they would just get on with it. There are times when individual stories are predictable, and you really have to suspend your disbelief (I mean these people drive from Boston to NYC in like five minutes). But, Fringe has never been a victim of its own hype, as perhaps show similar to this have been, and I think that has made it a better show.   The last two episodes look to be a true farewell with the return of some old characters, and I am confident this will appear natural and not shoehorned in. When Fringe ends Friday, at 100 episodes, it will end on its own terms. As fans of the show, that’s all we can ask.

There is so much of Fringe that I wish to share with you, like Lincoln Lee, the White Tulip, cortexiphan, episode 19 and September. I don’t have the space and taken out of context, I am afraid it will just put you off.  So instead, I will just leave my recommendation that this summer you add Fringe to your Netflix queue or catch up with on the Science (formerly Sci-Fi) channel,  and enjoy the heck out of theshow.  Then let me know, and we can talk about it!

Fringe, I will miss you.

*I honestly didn’t watch Dawson’s Creek all that much, but I know Pacey.

**I literally know one other person (outside of the strangers I know on the internet) who watches it.


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