A young woman loses herself in her job as she tries to escape the ghosts of her past. A father learns to depend on the son he has been estranged from for years, as the son struggles to forgive his father for a life altering act committed years ago. Meanwhile, mysterious events are taking place all over the world, and a team of scientists and investigators use unconventional methods to solve crimes, save lives, and sometimes even save the world!
This is a very basic synopsis of the excellent scifi show Fringe, which returns tonight after its winter break. If you have never watched before, do yourself a favor and start catching up! Fringe is currently in its third season, and it just gets better and better. It’s the only show I consistently watch the night it airs, and it’s also the best scifi show currently on tv. Here are my thoughts on why you should be watching Fringe, too.
- It’s a worthy successor to The X-Files – When The X-Files ended, I doubted that any other scifi show would captivate me as much as it had. Then along came this tale of FBI agent Olivia Dunham, who finds herself working for a division that investigates strange, seemingly inexplicable cases. She works alongside Dr. Walter Bishop, a brilliant scientist who uses unconventional investigative methods and spent several years in a mental institution. Tagging along as a “supervisor” for his father is Peter Bishop, and he and Walter are still working through all sorts of family baggage. This trio is joined by a few other team members, and together they investigate the strange, unimaginable, and sometimes horrific events tied to the Pattern. Instead of Mulder and Scully, we have Olivia, Peter, and Walter. Instead of aliens and government conspiracies, we have shape shifters and other world conspiracies. But both shows have a satisfying blend of character development and mysterious cases/freaks of the week.
- Olivia – Olivia is an interesting and likable heroine. She loves her job and is committed to doing her best. She genuinely cares about the people she works with and the victims she encounters in her investigations. The writers have been slow to reveal details about her past, which makes her a somewhat enigmatic figure when it comes to her emotions, her mindset, and her relationships, or lack thereof.
- Peter and Walter’s father/son relationship – This pair is one of the most entertaining on tv. John Noble and Joshua Jackson have great chemistry as the bickering father and son who obviously care for each other, even though they don’t always see eye to eye. Peter exhibits great patience with his socially dysfunctional and mentally unstable father, and Walter has proven how much he loves his son, even though some of his actions have been questionable. Some of the funniest, as well as the most heartwarming, moments on the show happen when these two are involved. And I should mention here that I totally have a crush on Joshua Jackson in this role. I was never a huge fan of Pacey when he was on Dawson’s Creek, but Peter is so charming, funny, and handsome that it’s hard not to love him. I even named my second child Peter, not completely because of this show – but it was definitely what gave me the initial idea for the name.
- The Observers – Ohhhh, weird bald guys, wearing suits and hats, who show up at important or significant events in history. Count me in. The verdict is still out on who these guys are, what their ultimate goal is, and where they come from. But part of the fun of watching Fringe is noticing their appearances. It’s usually very subtle – they may be standing at a bus stop in the background, may walk past other characters, etc., but when they do show up it’s usually a signal that something important is about to happen.
- The alternate universe – I don’t want to say much about this development, since it didn’t surface until late in the second season. Let me just say that it opened up a whole new world of possibilities for the show, and has resulted in a highly entertaining and exciting season three.
- Rich mythology – The Observers and the alternate universe are only part of the intricate mythology of this show. The X-Files had a rich mythology, but the writers never resolved much of it. Fringe has done a more satisfying job of answering some questions, so that viewers aren’t as frustrated by the new questions those answers create, or the questions that are left unanswered. The first season didn’t supply much information – it was more about the case of the week, as well as getting to know the characters. But as season two progressed, we learned more about the other world, and after several episodes that only hinted at the secret of Peter’s past, the shocking truth was finally revealed, and that secret has led to all sorts of complications. So, yes, there are many complex details to figure out, but the show can also be enjoyed on an episode by episode basis.
- The musical episode – When a show comes up with an unusual episode, I am sold. Buffy the Vampire Slayer succeeded with “Once More, with Feeling,” its musical episode, Angel impressed me with its “puppet” episode, and last season Fringe satisfied me with its version of a musical episode. It was part story time, part old school private eye, part musical – and I loved it! Agent Broyles played piano and sang a smooth jazz number, Olivia sang a beautiful ballad, and Walter even conjured up some singing corpses. It was weird, but it worked. This episode proved that you never know what you are going to see when you turn on Fringe.
- The details – One of my favorite aspects of season three has been the amount of detail provided about the alternate universe. JFK was never assassinated, avocados are an endangered fruit, writing instruments have been replaced by electronic devices, etc. These sometimes subtle, sometimes large details give this other world a distinctive look and feel. If you are interested in reading about more of these details, check out this page on Fringepedia about the parallel universe.
- Genuine chills and thrills – The CSI intros, infamous for being gross and shocking, have nothing on Fringe. A woman giving birth to a baby who ages 80 years and dies within a few minutes? Sure. A mad scientist who collects the donated organs of a deceased ballerina to put her back together again as a marionette dancer? Why not. A victim whose facial orifices close over, leaving him a faceless corpse? Well there you have it. The incidents, the investigations, and the discoveries never cease to shock, perplex, or surprise. Needless to say, the writing team is very creative and imaginative. The one hour episode flies by every week – so much is happening, and it is so entertaining.
I had a hard time writing this post. I really wanted to convey how much I love this show and why, but I didn’t want to give away too many details in the process. Much of the fun of watching Fringe is in the not knowing, not having all the information, not completely understanding what’s happening. I hope I’ve piqued your interest enough that you will give the show a try. Set your DVR for Friday nights at 8 p.m. central time! Let me know what you think after you check it out.