Fringe Nears Its End

Fringe ends its mid-season break when it airs a new episode “Back To Where You’ve Never Been” on Friday the 13th (!) on Fox.

Sadly, this may be the swan song for the show being that its ratings have been terrible. Fox president Kevin Reilly said recently that the show isn’t profitable which most likely means that it’s on the chopping block. A shame really. Fringe (about federal investigations into incidents dealing with fringe science) is the best science fiction show currently airing and credit has to go to the producers (Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and J.J. Abrams) for throwing caution into the wind and running full steam with the show’s complex mythology in this season.

Last time on Fringe, Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) returned from limbo into our universe much to the chagrin of the enigmatic Observers (who seem to be trying to maintain the dimensional and temporal cohesion of the multiverse). Unfortunately, Peter concludes that the universe he returned to is not his own because no one, not even his father Water Bishop (John Noble) or lover FBI agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) have any memory of him since he was erased from our  timeline.

Yes it’s a bit complicated, but here goes: throughout the show’s run there has been an impending war brewing between our universe and another parallel universe due to an incursion made by Walter back in the 1980s to a parallel world (where the World Trade Center is intact and airships dot the skies) to save Peter’s life and winds up bringing him to live in our universe.

All the interdimensional traveling is causing wormholes to appear that threaten to destroy the fabric of reality in both universes. At the end of the third season, the show jumps forward to 2026 where the parallel world is destroyed and ours face the same fate. Then there’s Olivia’s death at the hands of the evil alternate version of Walter. To reverse this, Peter Bishop uses a giant machine placed in the ancient past to change history in 2011. He creates an interdimensional bridge between the two universes so that both sides can work together and resolve their differences. It works, though it leaves an uneasy truce between the two factions and with Peter erased from the proper timeline.

For the most part the changes to the timeline have been very minor apart from Peter’s absence. The characters have changed subtly and only dedicated fans could spot the differences. This could be what disappointed some who expected wilder changes but it probably was an attempt by the show makers not to turn off casual viewers (not that it mattered since ratings plummeted anyway). At the end of the mid-season finale “Wallflower”, Peter was still trying to find his way back to his proper universe with the Observers on his tail.  Meanwhile it’s reveled that Olivia is an unsuspecting test subject of Massive Dynamic (one of those giant technological companies that are behind many fringe events). Click onto their official site: www.massivedynamic.com   

Obviously it helps if one has a good basic knowledge of the characters. Well that’s why DVDs exist. Being that it’s only three and a half seasons, it’s fairly easy to catch up to date. And it’s worth a rental or download. The show may have turned some off with its superficial similarities to The X-Files and the first few episodes of season one reinforce this notion. But this show isn’t about convoluted conspiracies that don’t make any sense and UFOs.  One could tell that the producers (responsible for LOST and the upcoming Alcatraz) have a game plan that rewards patient viewing. More or less all the weird stuff going on in this show (such as an invisible ex-soldier, a desperate scientist who mutilates his body in order to time travel and save his wife, or children who are born and rapidly mature into adulthood) that the standalone episodes are part of a larger tapestry where Walter Bishop is in the center of, thanks to his scientific brilliance. And his same brilliance research and theories in the past have also cost him dearly in terms of his sanity and relationship with Peter.

Fringe faces an uphill battle to get a fifth season greenlit. On Fox there are a three other genre shows vying for airtime. They include Terra Nova, Alcatraz and Touch. Add to that those moronic singing competition shows that eat up entire programming slots and there’s only so many shows the network will keep on the air.

What’s distressing is that the show more or less has a five-year story plan, meaning they only need a couple dozen episodes to bring the show to a proper conclusion. Fox could do the producers a favor and either renew the show for a final year perhaps with only thirteen episodes to conclude it, or give them enough notice that Fringe will be canceled this season so they can try to wrap up the series. If the second option happens then hopefully the show won’t feel truncated like season four of Babylon 5. That show suffered when it was forced to conclude its main storyline in the fourth season only to find out that a fifth season was greenlit. This led to a listless final season that didn’t seem to go anywhere in terms of story.

Of course, the worst fate is an outright cancellation that doesn’t give the producers time to conclude the show. This leaves fans with unanswered questions like who are the Observers and what is their agenda? Then there is the other terrible fate: a show that ends on a cliffhanger. Reassurances from the producers that they are seeking other venues to finish the show don’t help. It’s a rarity that another network picks up a canceled show and seriously, who wants to read a comic book or novel that finishes a live action story? It won’t feel complete and only serves to remind fans over how they were denied a proper ending. In the meantime, fans can enjoy the new slate of episodes that will be airing over the next few weeks.

José Soto

Check out this clip from the latest episode and groove to the psychedelic background music from Tommy James and the Shondells!

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