FRINGE-y Things To Know — A FRINGE Primer

26 Sep

Stewart here…

First off, a big announcement: I’ll be recapping the final season of FRINGE exclusively here on NerdLush!  I’ll be keeping these recaps a little more informal than my usual reviews on A&V Stimuli, so expect them to start on September 29th, after the season premiere airs a day before.  Also, I’ll be covering HOMELAND and THE WALKING DEAD on my site this fall, so please check that out as well.  SO, with that out of way…

FRINGE is one of those shows that seems to have been lucky it survived as long as it did.  It felt like every season it had been teetering on the verge of cancellation, but had somehow kept going.  With the 13 episode final season starting this month, I thought I’d help some of you interested in catching up on the show but unsure where to start by listing 10 (technically 12 with 2 two parters accounted for) episodes that give you the broad strokes of where the series has been and where it may end up in its final run.

The base plot of FRINGE has always owed a bit to THE X-FILES: government agents who investigate unusual events.  But in the four seasons it has run, its grown from its NIGHT STALKER-esque premise into an alternate reality-spanning story about a cold war between universes to a fight to save humanity from enslavement.  As such, it can be a lot to take in all the turns and twists, so I’ll try to explain that as best as I can in this primer, but be wary of mild spoilers:

Alternate reality wars, experiments gone awry, alien-esque watchers, and a lovable yet unhinged scientist: what’s not to like about FRINGE?


The first episode lays out the base of what you need to know: FBI agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) needs to save a fellow agent/loved one’s life from an unknown virus, so she enlists mad scientist Walter Bishop (John Noble) and by proxy his son Peter (Joshua Jackson) to help her.  The pilot lays out a lot of the big conflicts on the show concisely, and in true J.J. Abrams fashion (he directed the pilot), also gives some truly surprising moments (a gory airplane outbreak, transparent skin, and a last minute reveal that cements how unpredictable the show could get).


This episode introduces one of the larger elements of the show overall: the mysterious Observers (and like Marvel Comics’ Uatu the Watcher, they are bald, but at least they wear full on business suits) as they are involved in the discovery of a mysterious cylinder.  While someone with a bizarre sonic weapon is hunting for the cylinder, it turns out Walter knows something about these Observers that, despite Peter’s efforts, he’d rather keep to himself.  Besides setting up some of the more elusive characters in the Fringe-verse, this also reveals more about Walter and Peter’s past, while setting up the seeds for the pivotal conflict of the entire show.


This finale to season one has some big reveals: like Walter’s former partner turned corporate honcho William Bell (played by a well-known figure in sci-fi culture), the notion of branching realities (something the Abrams camp would go back to for the Star Trek reboot), a parallel universe cold war between us and another reality, a truth about Peter that has long-reaching consequences, and a final shot that should give you a hint as to how far the rabbit hole is about to go.


This second season flashback to 1985 shows Walter dealing with an ailing Peter while making the discovery of a lifetime: a way to reach into an alternate reality.  A lot of the plot points of the series can be traced to and from this episode, which has Walter make a decision to keep his son alive that leads into the conflict that makes up the bulk of the show.  It’s a pretty emotional episode, and one with some fun nods to a 1985 that never was (Back to the Future starring Eric Stoltz, anyone?).


Another great season two episode has Peter Weller playing a scientist who is trying to travel back in time to reach his wife before her untimely death, but has to account for those trips inadvertently killing people.  The fun thing about “White Tulip” is how it keeps repeating the same day’s events, but slightly different (ala Star Trek: TNG’s time twister “Cause And Effect”), causing déjà vu among our heroes.  Its another tear-jerker of an episode which is very 12 Monkeys-esque in its outcome.


This two-part season two ender has Olivia and Walter travel to the alternate universe to save a kidnapped Peter, and there they meet the mirror version of themselves.  There’s some fun stuff here watching our Olivia beat up on alt-Olivia, William Bell reappearing for the not-quite last time, the reveal of a doomsday machine that could destroy someone’s reality, and one big cliffhanger going into season three.


Yep, in an LSD fueled episode, Walter tries to help Olivia get William Bell’s consciousness out of her head (don’t ask how that happens, but yes, its Walter’s fault) before she’s pushed out completely.  How you ask?  By having Walter and Peter ingest LSD and enter her mind.  It’s a visually ambitious and fun episode, and plus, its kind of fun seeing Olivia doing an almost perfect imitation of Bell.  And watching their stern boss Broyles (Lance Reddick) trip on LSD is a nice comic touch.


The season three ender puts Peter in a possible apocalyptic future that may happen if he can’t bring both universes to an accord.  Well, he actually succeeds at doing that, but…well, that leads into the next season, where we end up in another reality.


This season four episode looks to be pretty significant going into the final season, as we take another leap into the future, this time into an Observer-controlled Earth.  To talk about the details of this one might be spoilers for what’s coming in the final episodes, which is probably good we’re getting them after seeing what the future of our heroes is going to be.


The two-part ender of season four has William Bell return to destroy reality, and with our heroes having to stop him.  For a while there, this looked like this would be the show’s last hurrah, and it certainly plays like that, with some wonderfully twisted moments (a dead body interrogation, and a bullet being pulled out of one of our heroes’ heads) in between.  And if it wasn’t for that very last minute of the episode, you wouldn’t suspect there would be another season.


The show has been one of my favorites on TV (not just sci-fi, but just “favorites ON TV”), and its hard to completely explain why.  I could point out the sometimes insane plots that make up the weird mysteries every week, and how Walter uses his old bizarre experiments to solve them.  I could explain how I sympathize with the mentally unstable Walter Bishop (and its still sad John Noble hasn’t gotten some Emmy-type love for his work on the many versions of Walter we’ve seen), and his weird quirks, like getting his assistant Astrid’s name wrong all the time.  Then there’s the weird left turn episodes (like a musical-esque fairy tale episode), and the overarching story that always seems to have Peter at the epicenter of it all.  And there’s the fun of spending time in the alternate universe (zeppelins!) and seeing the different versions of our heroes (and how they’re not so different as we think they are).  That it has managed to make it to five seasons in a network TV landscape where most high-concept sci-fi shows meet a gruesome, premature death (and most of them have been on Fox like FRINGE is, you know) is reassuring.

So hopefully, I can give you some wonderfully tongue-in-cheek minicaps of FRINGE’s final season, and with any luck, I will be given some more wonderful Walter quotes (I could almost populate an entire post with them) and a satisfactory end to the whole shebang.  But hey, what do you think?  Are you a fan?  Any episodes you think I may have left out of this post?  What do you like about the show?  Comment below and let me know…

2 Responses to “FRINGE-y Things To Know — A FRINGE Primer”

  1. Dee2 September 26, 2012 at 3:58 pm #

    NIce, Stewart!! Thank you for that! 🙂


  1. FRINGE Final Season Recap: “Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11” « NerdLush - October 1, 2012

    […] you read my FRINGE primer earlier this week, I said last season’s flashforward “Letters of Transit” would be important […]

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