We’d been looking forward to this for most of a year, my daughters and I. I often hear people say that there aren’t any good SF series out there since the end of Lost, but there is Fringe to fill the gap. Awareness of Fringe in the UK seems very low, since (I assume) people just don’t watch things on Sky, even though they subscribe*.
Series 1 of Fringe was only average, I would say, but it became brilliant in Season 2. The moment you knew it was going to be brilliant was the first episode set in an alternate universe (which I think was the final episode in the first season). The producers created a new title sequence, with a different colour palette, just for that show.
In Series 2, an episode set in 1985 also received the “new title sequence” treatment – complete with 80s-style music and a cheesy typeface.
None of which has much to do with the content of the show, except to indicate the attention to detail.
First there was Alias, which I loved. Then there was Lost. Most of us have mixed feelings about Lost. We all felt a little jerked around by Lost, but there were bold, creative strokes. Then came Fringe. Here’s a paragraph about Fringe, if you’ve never seen it:
Olivia Dunham is in a relationship with her FBI partner, John Scott, who is injured in a chemical explosion following a mysterious “flesh dissolving” attack on an aeroplane. In her desperate attempts to save Scott’s life, Dunham recruits a mad scientist (he’s in a mental institution), Walter Bishop, and his estranged son Peter. Dunham gets sucked into a secret division of the FBI, which is investigating a pattern of weird events, which are categorised under the heading of Fringe science. The Fringe team’s investigations eventually reveal the existence of an alternate universe, which appears to be making incursions into our own. At the end of the first season, Olivia finders herself in the alternate universe, where she meets the exiled William Bell, CEO of a powerful technology company (Massive Dynamic) and former partner of Walter Bishop. Bishop turns out to have had parts of his brain removed to make him forget something important and less dangerously intelligent. In season 2, we learn that the incursions by the other universe date back to the time Walter stole his son from the parallel world, because his real son had died. The other Walter Bishop, who hasn’t had parts of his brain removed, is Secretary of Defence, and is trying to get his son back. At the end of Season 2, the other Olivia has swapped placed with our Olivia, in order to infiltrate Fringe Division on our side and complete a mission. Our Olivia is being drugged and brainwashed into thinking she belongs in the alternate universe.
So starts Season 3. The producers tried to make each episode stand on its own, but the ongoing narrative is still driving things. For the first half of the season, we alternate between universes. We learn more about the other Fringe Division and actually warm to the characters who are not comic book “evil” as they might have been in the Star Trek parallel universe. Fauxlivia, as she is dubbed, falls for Peter Bishop, who thinks she’s the “real” Olivia. Or does he? Later on, Olivia escapes back to our universe, where she is possessed by the spirit of the dead William Bell. She talks like Leonard Nimoy for a couple of episodes. It’s fun.
Fringe is a very funny show, as well as having all that suspend-disbelief-before-you-enter extreme science going on. Don’t watch if you hate needles. There are some episodes where people are injected over and over again. There’s an episode in which all the characters get animated (as in: cartoon). There’s a twist and a shock in the final episode which hangs us over a cliff until next September.
I still love Fringe.
*My assumption is that (a) Sky subscribers are also keen on computer games, and therefore spend a lot of their free time doing that instead of watching TV. Also, (b) that watching anything on Sky is intolerable, because of the intrusive and long advert breaks, which you get in spite of the fact that you pay a subscription. Also that (c) there is too much choice if you subscribe to a package, and shows like Fringe are hidden like trees in the forest.