Rewatching Fringe

I had not watched Fringe since it was originally on TV in 2009. I am a fan of the show and was on board for all its twists and turns and bonkers world building. This year we have had a number of US network shows that are aiming for that mix of procedural and mythology that made the X-Files a huge success. Almost Human and Intelligence (basically Chuck if the chip had stayed Bryce Larkin's brain) have shot for this territory and have come up short as they have failed to create a reason for the audience to come back each week. Both shows have been too procedural and have not created enough of a bigger story arc or a world filled with people we want to spend time with each week. They are both nice enough, but neither show has left me with a feeling of 'what the heck just happened? I want to know more' or have pulled me into the lives of the characters as Fringe did. Many TV critics and viewers thought that Fringe was not in the same league as the X-Files but I think this show should be seen for itself and not for what it is not.

The best thing Fringe did was finish on a high note, with a complete arc that had enough coherence to it and enough emotional wack for you to go along for the ride. The rewatch value of a show that has not gone off the boil and gives you a clear beginning, middle and end is very high. The usual worries about premature cancellation, bad ratings and what the heck is the next season going to be about are not there when you are rewatching.  You can delve into the world and just enjoy it.  I am in the middle of season 2 and the thing that is really noticeable is that Fox really really wanted higher ratings and a mainstream hit.  They reintroduced the story concepts time and time again and did a stretch of standalone episodes in the beginning of season 2 that was bait for the casual viewer.  As soon as Fox realised they had a cult hit on their hands and that the audience was steady and very vocal and unlikely to get bigger, they left the show to the writers and that is when Fringe leaves all the vestiges of being the pretender to the X-Files throne and stands for itself. Fringe becomes about the triumph of love. Family love, romantic love, friendship. All types of love. Not something you expect from a science fiction show that shows you monsters every other week.  

This series dared to do just about anything and most of the time pulled it off.  This is down to some excellent writing and directing but also due to a fantastic cast led by Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson and John Noble. I am anticipating some great episodes that I know are coming and I am enjoying where I am now in the storyline, being reminded of the small bits and pieces that were not in your face in the first viewing. For example, the traditional gender dynamics of a gun toting female FBI agent and a charming science guy are slowly inverted as the characters become more than a stereotype. Olivia Dunham does not wear high heels as an FBI agent and actually runs after the bad guys in a trouser suit with sensible shoes and her hair tied back in ponytail (most of the time). Peter Bishop is not portrayed as less than masculine just because he is not the protector in the situation. The characters become so much more than that. As a fan you become very invested in Peter and Walter Bishops father/son relationship.  There is humour, pathos, some gross out moments, scary moments, great use of music, and of course the brilliant promos and teasers done by Fox.

I am enjoying my rewatch and I highly recommend starting at the beginning and watching this show. 

P.S.  I have never been so happy as when the writers realised that the John Scott story was not working and they wrapped that thread up leaving the character of Olivia Dunham to become so much more.

Fringe - The Most Audacious Sci-Fi Series

Friday saw the final two episodes of one of the most courageous, creative and emotional science fiction series to grace our TV screens.  Fringe.  The 13 episodes of season five were a gift from Fox to the fans.  There is no way Fringe should have been on the air for this long as its ratings were not that good, to say the least.  When it did not become the next X Files, the show was set free to become its own. It zigged when you expected it to zag, it re-booted, re-invented, and erased characters, storylines and mythology.  But it always did what great science fiction does.  It made you care about the characters, each version of them.  The central trio of the ‘mad’ scientist Dr Walter Bishop (John Noble), his initially estranged son, Peter (Joshua Jackson) and FBI Special Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), who works with them in the Fringe division.  A division set up to deal with all the weird and wonderful things that happen because of the work Walter did in the 1980s as a young scientist with his partner Dr William Bell (Leonard Nimoy) and anything else that was classified as not ‘normal’.  That is just what the synopsis said.  What it didn’t say is that the series would create two beautiful love stories.  One between and father and a son, and another between two emotionally damaged heroes.  The one thing science could not explain or overcome was love.   It literally conquered all.   Apart from the stories, Fringe was innovative from its opening title sequences to its inventive promos and way out 19th episodes of each season.

Instead of writing about it all, I suggest you read this article, as it is a pretty definitive take on the series as it is a bunch of TV critics looking back on what they liked about the series. 

I also recommend clicking on the best episode lists below.   Only click though if you do not mind being spoiled of some big reveals.

EW - Fringe: 19 Best Episodes - Looking Back at Fringe's Five Seasons: The Top 20 Epsiodes

If you haven’t watched the show.  Just watch the first season trailer below.