One of my all-time favorite shows happens to be a show I never watched when it aired on television. Fringe, which ran from 2008 to 2013, was a show I never knew that I needed in my life when I initially saw commercials for it. When I randomly started watching it one evening while friends were over (with the sole intention of having background noise), I immediately became enthralled with the show’s premise.
Introduction to Thrilling Sci-Fi
The first few minutes of Fringe created an unmistakable impression that left me speculating about what might happen next. It immediately made me understand that this show was not set by any normal parameters. The opening sequence has grotesque scenes without any reason for such biological terrors – skin turning colors, seemingly blistering with jaws falling off – and I loved it. The thrilling introduction was then followed by the best score (and animation) to introduce the show. Among my many rewatches of this show, I’ve never once skipped the intro. Not once.
If you do not want to know anything about Fringe (because I highly encourage everyone to watch this show), then stop now to avoid any SPOILERS.
Strength of Characters
Fringe establishes itself with wildly interesting characters. Within the first season, and throughout five seasons and 100 episodes, this sci-fi show explored how conviction in one’s duties, following one’s heart or logic, and intertwining with incredible storylines involving fringe science, make for some of the best television I have ever seen.
Side note: As a hardcore Star Trek: The Next Generation fan, Fringe makes me question how I rank my favorite all-time show.
This show features many of my favorite characters, because many of them have massive potential in their abilities to solve mysteries, while also being inflicted with self-doubt, remorse, or the simple notion of being incapable of being loved or able to find a place to call home. The cast of Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble, Lance Reddick, Jasika Nicole, and Blair Brown participate in the majority of five seasons as Olivia Dunham, Peter Bishop, Dr. Walter Bishop, Colonel Phillip Broyles, Astrid Farnsworth, and Nina Sharp.
The initial strife between Dunham and Broyles made it seem like a longstanding feud was about to take place, but that feeling quickly dissipated in a way that’s easy to describe the strength of character among so many of this cast. The ability to say, “I don’t know” or “I was wrong,” aren’t always commonplace in fictional TV shows or reality itself, but Fringe leans into the unknown and the earth-shattering consequences of flawed characters who attempt to learn from those misgivings.
Agent Olivia Dunham is without a doubt one of the strongest and dedicated characters one will ever hope to find. Her sense of determination is almost like a compass for the show. Dunham’s persistence on matters usually leads to truths, and when there are questions, she relies on those around her to help find answers.
Peter Bishop is somewhat of an outcast with a reputation that causes him to look over his shoulder. His lack of a father figure for the better part of his life led him to trust no one and fear the ramifications associated with his past life. The arc of this character is strongly tied to his father, where there’s a constant back-and-forth distance as trust either separates or draws them closer together.
Dr. Walter Bishop lost his mind and is rescued (by proxy) from a mental institution when his help is needed in a case. The profound brilliance mixed with the chaotic outbursts resemble the puzzling inner workings of a character that take many episodes to truly fathom the reasoning behind Dr. Bishop’s madness.
Colonel (or Agent) Phillip Broyles is the boss we all hope to have. There’s a calm demeanor and intensity that makes his insights into a case or person quite engaging. Again, the first few interactions with Dunham seemed to revolve around a grudge – or at least some ill-fated test – that quickly faded as he understood the true grit of Agent Dunham. His persistence to push her to find the truth is met equally with a soft voice and firm hand when it comes to supporting her at all costs.
Agent Astrid Farnsworth has the unique position of supporting the “Fringe Division,” especially when it comes to the work of Walter Bishop. The back and forth between these two characters is humorous, with the constant mispronunciation of her name, while also providing several moving moments that elaborate on how heartfelt their relationship truly is.
Storytelling Knows No Bounds
The creators of Fringe include Alex Kurtzman, Robert Orci, and J.J. Abrams. Fringe already captured my attention within the first three minutes, and its stories went in so many different directions. Not only did these directions make sense, but they also happened to connect to one another at varying points of the show.
The creators’ ability to trace their steps so precisely, while exploring the lives of these amazing characters, continues to bring me back again and again. Not only can we feel the characters’ burdens, those sensations only intensify after each episode and as each dramatic event takes place, somehow altering their fractured lives even further. The stories are fantastic, but the ability to tell each of the character’s stories – their personal journeys – digs into my soul. Several of these characters have that proverbial “chip on their shoulder” or a “lost soul,” possibly looking for validation or love. It’s those types of characters that I connect with.
I think one of the reasons I watch certain shows over and over again is because I find some kind of connection with one or more of the characters. Yes, the stories have to be entertaining, but the characters walking those lines have to tug on my internal workings for me to really connect. This show often tugs, because all of the main characters have this overwhelming sense of wanting to belong. They are wanting to find purpose and feel useful, all while battling insecurities that never seem to dissipate.
Humor, Time Travel, and Parallel Universes
If I were to name a show that perfectly blends humor, time travel, parallel universes, many readers might think of Lost. Well, that’s also one of my all-time favorite shows, but if you compare the two, Fringe answered a lot more questions (to my recollection).
Comedic timing is something that the cast nails on this show. Fringe creates horrific and gory scenes, but then counterbalances them with hilarious lines or reactions that further illustrate a down-to-earth vibe present within its framework. I find it astounding to be able to laugh in the face of such horrible crimes, yet, that’s exactly what you find. Along with a cow mooing at the sight of a hamburger being eaten, these actors also have to traverse the roles of identical characters in alternate universes. These sequences don’t play out in the first season, but each time an actor changes roles from one universe to the next, you firmly believe you’re watching someone else. Mannerisms, speech patterns, and clothing change from one Olivia Dunham to the next. It’s simply fascinating to watch and understand the differences.
Oh, did I mention time travel? Yeah, let’s just say that characters called “Observers” arrive at various points throughout the show. Ultimately, these rare occurrences spike in frequency the further the show goes along, which leads to significant changes in the show’s storyline. In what might be a one-episode chance in a season of another show, Fringe tackles the idea of moving in, out, or through time in a way that leads to a timeline that’s unlike any other. Technically, each season represents its own contained story that ultimately connects down the road.
Thankful for Fringe
I’m absolutely thankful for Fringe as it provides me an outlet; it’s an outlet to let me write. It lets me reconnect with characters I love when I need a break from the busy workings of insecurities one might find on the show. Perhaps I’m hoping to find answers to my own insecurities by seeing them play out and be solved within the framework of a television show. And, quite plainly, Fringe is just absolutely entertaining in the best possible way. There are mysteries around every corner, clever dialogue, and an unrelenting desire to find the truth. In the face of seeing horrible things, it’s comforting to see others setting out to find answers. It makes me feel like the world gets a little easier, despite it coming from a fictional place.