Nowadays, it’s hard to invest time and energy into a new television show. Right when you start to get into the story line and character arcs, the network takes it off the air. You feel robbed, like you wasted your time, wishing it could go on because you loved it so much.
Life on Mars. Journeyman. Last Resort.
Those are just some of the shows in recent years that I’ve been disappointed to see end early. When Fringe debuted in the fall of 2008, I watched it with high expectations. Lost was my favorite show back then, and it had been created by JJ Abrams. Now Abrams was starting up another show about fringe science. I hoped it would become my new favorite show.
For five seasons, I’ve watched Olivia Dunham and Peter and Walter Bishop solve gruesome and strange mysteries of the week. But instead of making each episode its own story a la Law and Order, Abrams did something unique, something television shows usually don’t do. He took it to another world. Literally. And the trip there blew everyone’s mind.
He literally created another world. An alternate universe? Where doubles of us live? Fringe told the story of how when Walter’s son died, this mad genius created a door to a parallel universe and kidnapped the Peter over there to claim as his own. It didn’t make sense but it made total sense, in a strange science fiction sort of way. The bad guys re-opened the door to the other universe and now you had the actors playing dual roles. You had Olivia from our world and the Olivia from the alternate universe. You had Walter from our world and the Walter from the alternate universe. Since Walter’s trip to the alternate universe had caused it to degrade, the Walter in the alternate universe wanted to destroy our universe to save theirs. And every week, the fate of the world hinged on a mentally ill genius who had part of his brain removed surgically so his ambition wouldn’t destroy the world, which it had already begun to do! Then they found the machine, parts of which were buried throughout the world. They brought the parts together, put Peter in it and then – poof. We started all over again in a third universe. In this world, Peter died as a child and Olivia and Walter didn’t know Peter when he showed up again. He had to explain to Olivia that they were in love in the other universe, though in this universe she had no idea who he was. And then all of a sudden, she began to remember, the memories from her past existence bleeding into this one. And THEN – they jumped ahead to the future, to a world ruled by Observers, and we discover Olivia, Peter and Walter had been trapped in amber until Peter and Olivia’s daughter freed them and they rose up against the Observers, a race of beings from the future who put new technology in their spine to make them super smart at the cost of all emotion.
If you watch Fringe, you get it. Maybe. My head still hurts from trying to understand it all.
If you don’t watch Fringe, well, sorry. It’s hard to explain.
The reason I think Fringe works is the actors. John Noble is amazing and plays Walter perfectly. He’s been robbed of multiple Emmys over the years. Joshua Jackson and Anna Torv have great chemistry and keep the show together. The three have great camaraderie, and I looked forward to watching them every week. I also love how Abrams and the writers have been able to meld science with faith. The whole show is based on “weird” science – other worlds, DNA manipulation, strange experimentations. And while Walter Bishop uses science to discover cures to these weird maladies, they acknowledge that science cannot explain everything. Walter seeks forgiveness for all he’s done to change the balance of the universe. It’s not one or the other. It’s both.
I will be sad to see Fringe go off the air. I love the ingenuity, the originality, and the imagination behind it all. I applaud FOX for letting the writers wrap up the story line. There were many times it appeared FOX would cancel the show due to less than impressive ratings, but the network believed in the show and let it go on, to our benefit. It’s always tough when your favorite show goes away, but the memories these actors and writers made will stay with all of us who’ve enjoyed the show, and hopefully, someday, there will be another show similar in style and structure that we can fall in love with. Enjoy the finale!
You can reach Matt Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org.