It’s difficult to write about Fringe without spilling some major spoilers, but this is one show I love to encourage people to watch. My love for this genre originally stemmed from my obsession with The X-Files, so naturally I was drawn to Fringe. If you’ve never seen it before, here’s five reasons to start watching Fringe.
Fringe Science – stories ripped from the headlines of science journals
Fringe science is a field which many television series have based their premise around. Time travel, telekinesis, parallel universes to name just a few. But television series of a supernatural nature is nothing new. You can wind back the clock to the original Twilight Zone series in 1958 where many viewers were introduced to the concept of science-fiction as mainstream entertainment for the first time. It’s popularity exploded and became a cult hit still seen on broadcast television today.
However, these stories were firmly cemented in the fictional side of sci-fi. The difference with Fringe is the plausibility. While the theory behind the science is only thinly linked to scientific fact, there always remains a thread of credibility. At least to my non-scientific but open mind.
Walter Bishop – “Let’s make some LSD!”
It doesn’t take long for followers of Fringe to refer to Walter (played by John Noble) as their favourite character. A man who is introduced to us as a detached, fragile old man who’s heyday was clearly several decades ago. His brilliant mind is long gone, and all that remains are vague memories of strange and questionable experiments while his only son broods about his failings as a father. This all sounds terribly depressing and not at all like a character you wish would attend your family Christmas reunion, but Walter soon begins to emerge from his protective world of psychiatric care. His frighteningly bold and brilliant mind is only outweighed by his fragility, heart and inadvertent humour. This humour doesn’t provide a cheesy comic relief we so often see from token “humorous” characters, Walter’s humour is eccentric and warming and is reflected by the impressions he leaves on the remaining major characters.
Leonard Fucking Nimoy!
It’s no secret to the Trek fans of the world that Leonard Nimoy has taken the semi-retirement slippers off for his role in Fringe as multi millionaire and former lab partner of Walter, William Bell. Not only is his presence a significant boost, but his character is pivotal in the mythology of series. If you hear that majestic voice penetrate your lounge room, you know you’re in for a major turning point in the series. Co-creator Roberto Orci refers to William Bell as “the beginning of the answers to even bigger questions”. While that sounds a little convoluted, Fringe is, after all, the love child of the creative minds behind some of the most successful television series of the last ten years. Placing Nimoy in the centre of a major turning point in the series plot demonstrates Fringe as a show that settles for nothing but the best. Nimoy’s Bell delivers stature and respect to lift Fringe above and beyond the expectations of it’s early critics, and finds a cult following to comfortably accompany its growing mainstream popularity.
JJ Abrams / mythology
JJ Abrams’ name attached to any television project will always gain immediate attention and assumes a mythology of epic proportions. He has a remarkable ability to know how to conjure fictional worlds that capture the imagination and obsessive nature of television viewers globally. While Abrams’ contribution to Fringe can only be credited to series co-creator, his partners in crime Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci clearly think on the same wavelengths. They have lifted the series to lofty heights and brought the concept of series mythology to a whole new level.
While mythology creates dedication and even obsession in its viewers, it also carries the problem of making it near impossible for new viewers to pick up the series as it stands. Far too much water has passed under the bridge already, in only it’s third series, to fully appreciate or even become enthusiastic about the series by simply diving in anywhere other than the pilot episode.
This sounds discouraging, but believe me, when you start on this journey the episodes will disappear as you fall further down the Fringe rabbit hole.
Television has gone through an evolution of realising many of it’s viewer do indeed have brains. While there’s still plenty of room for mindless entertainment, intelligent entertainment is flourishing and Fringe is a fine example of this. Fringe is often compared to The X-Files and it’s fair to see why. The X-Files broke many barriers as to what viewers were looking for with supernatural themes presented in a real world environment. Fringe is a series that takes this to the next level. It’s a series for the thinking and analytical viewers, for those who are fascinated by all areas of science, regardless of their practical knowledge. The writing is inspired by real scientific theories, albeit extreme in many cases, delivered in a manner where much of your subconscious scepticism is dissolved as you begin to believe these things may actually be plausible. While the Fringe Division of the FBI appears to be a re-tagged version of the X-Files, the cases and investigations are not as widely ridiculed and the Fringe division has resources NASA would be proud of. The Fringe Division is treated in much the same way as any other division of the FBI. This respect and integration into the normal working order of the FBI is reflected by how popular this sci-fi series has become with a widespread audience, far beyond the stereotypical profile of a sci-fi fan.
Five reasons to start watching a television series seems a little short, but in truth there’s dozens more reasons to watch Fringe. Olivia Dunham (played by Australian Anna Torv) provides a strong but fallible female lead the likes I have not seen since X-Files Agent Dana Scully. Joshua Jackson as Peter Bishop, Walter’s equally brilliant son, constantly competes with Walter for my affections in his own uniquely complex fashion. The three main characters offer a family dynamic that grows on you, yet never feels out of place even with such a heavy FBI element. The remaining recurring characters all bounce off the main characters and each other, without ever feeling like someone doesn’t belong or click with the series. The production values of Fringe are second to none and demonstrate how the gap has been bridged between film and television. You can also play “spot the cast of The Wire” as several recurring Wire cast members will pop up throughout the series. It also leaves clues for you to delve further into the intelligence of the series with glyphs to decipher (or google). There’s also the seamless CG riddled throughout every episode. From people melting into the structure of a building to the building itself being sucked into a parallel universe, those who appreciate flawless effects will fall in love with Fringe.
There’s something in Fringe for almost everyone with so much more to offer than I could ever cover in a simple blog post. It doesn’t corner itself into the typical science-fiction of old, instead offering something new and very interesting. If this sounds at all to be up your alley, go find yourself a copy of the first season and let yourself be immersed in a world just outside of our own.
Season three of Fringe airs in the US on Fridays at 9pm on the Fox network and in Australia on Wednesdays at 8:30pm on GO!
I really enjoyed Fringe when it first came out. For the life of me I don’t know why I stop. You have inspired me to get back into it. Great article Fi, but you left off the 6th reason.. Joshua Jackson is hot. It’s ok to mention, because it’s true.