Top 10 Fringe Episodes

Fringe, one of the most recently acclaimed sci-fi shows, concluded its five-season run earlier this year and its final season is out on Blu-ray/DVD this week. The show boasted many intriguing and memorable episodes that pushed the envelope in regards to storytelling. The show was about the investigations by a government agency into fringe science events like strange mutations and teleportation. The Fringe team led by Special Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) and his son Peter (Joshua Jackson) encountered some really bizarre phenomena. While Fringe had many standout episodes, these ten were among the show’s very best stories.

10. “The Arrival” The enigmatic Observer called September (Michael Cerveris) is fully introduced and right away viewers are fascinated by this strange, formidable being from the distant future who can predict actions.

9. “The Boy Must Live” This fifth-season episode boy must livetakes place (as does the entire season) in the future where the Observers have taken over the world. September and the Observers’ origins are finally revealed as is the forgotten plot devised by Bishop to defeat the Observers.

8. “Black Blotter” The Fringe team recover an empathic and mute child Observer called Michael (Rowan Longworth), who is the key to defeating the Observers. Meanwhile to aid in that task, Bishop takes a hallucinogen, which leads to some pretty trippy animated sequences. How trippy? Imagine Sgt. Pepper meeting Monty Python!

brave new world7. “Brave New World, Parts 1 & 2” The fourth season (and for a moment the series before it was renewed) closes with this exciting two-parter that has the Fringe team finally confronting Bishop’s former partner (Leonard Nimoy), who is out to destroy the universe and remake it to his own designs.

6. “There’s More Than One Of Everything” This first-season finale answers many questions about The Pattern events that the Fringe team was investigating while brining up many more questions and startling revelations. One of the biggest ones being about Peter’s identity. Plus, it introduces a parallel world where the World Trade Center is still standing.

5.TIE: “The Plateau”/ “Amber 31422” These two episodes take place predominantly in the parallel world where Olivia was trapped and brainwashed amberinto believing she was her double. The episodes present viewers with intriguing plots about the affect the Fringe team have on the parallel world. “The Plateau” is about a gifted man who can forecast future possibilities using math, except for the unforseen variable of a different Olivia in his world. It would prove to be his undoing. “Amber 31422” examines the impact that the suspending amber chemical has on people living in the parallel world. Notably on twin brothers, one of whom was released from the substance and we learned what it felt like to be embedded in amber.

4. “Peter” This outstanding flashback episode explains how the entire mess peterwith the parallel world began. Taking place in 1985, Dr. Bishop comes up with a way to peer into a parallel world. Around the same time his son dies and he learns his son’s double in the other world is also dying, thus he decides to save that boy at a terrible cost. The episode had a nifty retro feel to it, even the opening credits reflected the 1980s with its electronic soundtrack and listings of cutting-edge technology during that time.

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3. “Entrada” The thrilling conclusion of the swapped Olivias storyline in season three has them both on the run in the two universes. Fauxlivia, the nickname for the Olivia from the parallel world has her cover blown. Meanwhile, the original Olivia manages to break her from her captors who were out to remove her brain for study. There was an urgent feeling of desperation shown by both Olivias as the original tried to make her way back to her own universe, while her malevolent double assigned to the original universe mercilessly avoided a manhunt led by Peter.

white tulip2. “White Tulip” One of the grisliest and most emotional stories dealing with time travel introduces Alistair Peck, a scientist (played exceptionally well by Peter Weller) who is experimenting with time travel. Peck is able to time travel by painfully and surgically implanting devices on his body. What gets the Fringe team involved is that his work winds up killing people by draining them of their energy. It turns out that Peck was only trying to save his wife from being killed in the past.

olivias over there

1. “Over There, Parts 1 & 2” The two-part second-season finale takes place in the parallel universe as Dr. Bishop and Olivia travel there to retrieve Peter, who had defected to the other side. It was fun seeing all the differences in that other world. Examples include, lost friends and family who are still alive, canceled TV shows are still airing, the comic books are differentover there map (Red Lantern instead of Green Lantern), dirigibles fill an altered New York skyline, and even the map of the U.S. is radically different. But more enjoyable were the actors portraying alternate versions of their characters. Fauxlivia and Walternate were very effective villains and are part of the reason why Fringe was so much fun to watch.

Lewis T. Grove

Some Future & Alternate North American Maps

emberverse 2 2 georges

Studying fictional maps of real locations is an intriguing hobby for many sci-fi/fantasy fans. Some recent maps appearing in books, movies and TV shows have caught the imagination of many. They feature North America in our future and alternate worlds.

With S.M. Stirling’s Emberverse books (starting with Dies The Fire) it can be seen that North America looks balkanized with a myriad of separate nations. One of author Harry Turtledove’s best books The Two Georges (co-written with Richard Dreyfuss) has a map of the so-called North American Union that looks supersized as the country encompasses Canada. His epic Southern Victory series of books had maps of North America where the Confederacy still existed into the 20th century. Starting with How Few Remain through The Great War trilogy and the Settling Accounts tetralogy the maps changed radically over time.

Great War Turtledove map

jericho map

The maps featured in the TV shows Jericho and Fringe have different versions of the  U.S. In Jericho, the nation has split into three nations, the U.S., Texas and the Allied States. In Fringe, the characters often visited a parallel world where the United States’ configuration is slightly different. Among the differences, Texas is split into two states, while North and South Carolina is one state.

fringe map rev map

As anyone can see, the United States no longer exists in these two maps featured from The Hunger Games and the TV show Revolution. In the map from Revolution the U.S. has broken up into several nations with names like the Monroe Republic (where the show takes place in and spans from the Great Lakes region to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast) and the California Commonwealth.

But the map of the fictional nation Panem from The Hunger Games truly catches the eyes with the changed geography. Notice that the Florida Peninsula is underwater along with most of the modern coastline. Apparently The Hunger Games takes place in the far future where the greenhouse effect has radically altered the landscape.

Panem

These are just a tiny sampling of fascinating maps of places that don’t exist, at least here and now.

Waldermann Rivera

Fringe & Its Fantastic Foray

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fringe cast
After five seasons, Fringe, one of the best science fiction shows on TV, comes to an end. Fans can now breathe a sigh of relief that the show runners were able to conclude the wonderfully twisting saga of the Fringe Division’s Science Team and its investigations into the bizarre and who later became freedom fighters for humanity.

When Fringe first premiered in 2008, it came off as a sophisticated, 21st-century version of The X-Files. Both shows were similar in that they were about government agents investigating freakish phenomena. In Fringe’s case, the main characters FBI Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), consultant Dr. Walter Bishop (brilliantly played by John Noble) and his son Peter (Joshua Jackson) didn’t chase UFOs or ghosts but encountered weird monsters-of-the-week and fringe-level science like teleportation, fast-growing humans and so on as part of their investigations for the Science Team.

libertyBut the show soon developed its own mythology. It turned out there was a reason behind all the weirdness going on in the world, which was called The Pattern. Usually they happened in the New York/ New England area as illustrated by bold 3D location titles. Unlike The X-Files, where it became apparent that the producers didn’t know what was going on with its convoluted stories, Fringe methodically explained things and the answers led to more intriguing questions. It made one want to find out what was going on. For instance, in the first season finale “There’s More Than One Of Everything” viewers learned that Peter Bishop was actually dead with an apparent doppelganger of his running around. That led to the revelation of an existing parallel world, which was dramatically shown when Olivia found herself transported inside a very much intact World Trade Center.

Things became stranger and more titillating in latter seasons. That could be one reason why the show wasn’t a ratings hit. While sci-fi fans may have loved the bizarre antics of mad scientist Walter Bishop (like eating licorice during grisly autopsies) or the uncanny plots and macabre premises (such as reanimating a beheaded person when the missing head was reattached to the body) it probably turned off casual viewers. Well what would one expect in this society that loves shallow reality programs? Still, Fringe grew a cult following as people discovered this quirky show that dealt with parallel universes and visiting enigmatic post-humans from the distant future.

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But fans fell in love with the equally peculiar characters. There was Peter who was conflicted about his place in the world as seen in the show’s pilot. He was a brilliant but shiftless person with dubious morality and estranged from his father (who was committed at that time to a mental hospital). Olivia was seen as the more stable person yet contended with being thrown suddenly into bizarre cases while remaining a dedicated and resilient agent. Her core was terribly shaken from the events of the late second season/early third season. She traveled to the parallel world in “Over There, Parts I & II” and was captured and brainwashed. Her redheaded double (nicknamed “Fauxlivia”) came to Olivia’s world and took her place. These early third season episodes that shifted between the two worlds were some of the best. After Olivia finally escaped, and had difficulty with her romantic relationship with Peter, it was clear that she was traumatized.

olivia

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Best of 2012

There were many outstanding films and TV shows, etc. in 2012 and many letdowns. Here are our rankings for the best in sci-fi, fantasy and horror in 2012.

Best Sci-Fi TV Show
fringeFringe, now in its final season, the show left its X-Files trappings of government agents investigating unusual phenomenon and radically changed the show’s concept. The main characters wind up decades into the future and have become freedom fighters against the oppressive Observers, post-humans from the distant future who traveled back in time and conquered the world. It’s still head-spinning fun but the new unexpected plot development refreshed the show as Fringe marches towards its conclusion.

Best Web-Based Show
Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome, shame on Syfy for not greenlighting this as a regular series. The network took the pilot and cut it up into ten minute segments that appeared online, making it a web show. It was exciting with terrific f/x and production values, plus engaging characters. It was a perfect companion piece and prequel to Battlestar Galactica.

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Best Animated Show
Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Darth Maul finally came back from the dead! Until Episode VII comes along this well-produced animated series is the perfect tonic for Star Wars fans waiting for the next big-screen installment.

Best Horror TV Show
The Walking Dead, the tension and developments kept viewers on edge as the characters’ plight in a post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested world went from bad to worse. People unexpectedly died, the gore quotient was high and gross and the stories were some of the most riveting shown on TV. The Walking Dead only loosely followed the comic book it’s based on, which allowed it to take different paths, introduce new characters and kept fans guessing.

walking dead

Best Fantasy Show
Game of Thrones, two things made this fantasy show based on George R. R. Martin’s books noteworthy for viewers: Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), who despite his size manages to hold his kingdom together, and snow zombies a.k.a. the White Walkers and wights.

Best Documentary/Reality Show
Dark Matters: Twisted But True, John Noble (from Fringe) hosts this interesting and sometimes macabre look at some of the weirdest and most disturbing science experiments and discoveries throughout history.

Best Cancelled TV Show
last resortLast Resort, admittedly the show was borderline sci-fi (a nuclear sub with stealth capabilities, hints that it takes place in the very near future with nuclear warfare and $8 dollar a gallon gas prices), but this military drama about a renegade nuclear sub crew who commandeer an island retreat was suspenseful, gripping and entertaining. Too bad it didn’t catch on.

Best TV Character
Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) in The Walking Dead, kudos have to go to Lincoln for his near-perfect characterization of a former deputy sheriff who struggles to keep his band of survivors alive in a world full of flesh-eating ghouls. Despite his best efforts, people die and he’s forced to become more and more ruthless to survive.

Most Missed TV Character
Etta Bishop (Georgina Haig) in Fringe, she only appeared for a few episodes but Peter Bishop and Olivia Dunham’s grown up daughter while sweet and endearing to loved ones was surprisingly brutal against the Observers and their human allies. Her death was a sudden shock that nearly unhinged her parents in their struggle to defeat the Observers.

Most Improved TV Character
darylDaryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) in The Walking Dead, at first he was a non-descript redneck but Daryl has shown an inner toughness and tenderness that was astonishing to watch. Usually quiet, Daryl has emerged as Rick’s most dependable ally and right-hand man, and is quite adept at surviving and killing zombies.

Most Improved TV show
Being Human, this American/Canadian adaptation being humanof the hit U.K. show wisely took the characters and situations of the original and spun itself off into different and unpredictable directions. At the same time, Being Human in its second season quickly developed an engrossing mythology as its non-human characters struggled to regain their humanity.

Best Series Finale
The River, this uneven supernatural series ended with the main characters managing to find the TV show host that they were all searching for in the Amazon since the show began. But the evil spirits that plagued them keep them trapped in the mysterious waterways. Not a bad way to end a horror show.

Worst Series Finale
Alcatraz, the producers of this low-rated show decides to end its first and only season with a cliffhanger that kills off the main character and leaves its core mystery unsolved! Way to go fellas!

john carter

Best Sci-Fi Film
John Carter, Disney should fire any marketing exec involved with this exciting, fun and action-packed thrill ride. Director Andrew Stanton skillfully presented a grand swashbuckling yarn about the very first space hero whose adventures predated all the familiar space operas and originated the sub genre. John Carter featured a rugged hero, a tough and beautiful damsel in distress, weird aliens, and fantastic f/x and production values.

Best Horror Film
The Cabin In The Woods, it wasn’t the cabinscariest horror film but it was the most original and fun. It took the concept of isolated young people terrorized by savage killers and went off in a unique and imaginative tangent. The way the entire premise switches midway in the film made it very memorable. BTW, we would’ve picked the merman premise too.

Best Fantasy Film
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, true, it’s too long and not as good as The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, but thanks to Peter Jackson’s direction it’s still a grand adventure with dazzling effects, a rich environment (made more real thanks to its 48 fps film), characters and a welcome return to Middle Earth. Better yet, more Gollum and Gandalf!

Best Animated Film
rise of guardiansRise of the Guardians, one of the most underrated animated films in recent memory features stupendous animation and at its core a hero (Jack Frost voiced by Chris Pine) with a surprising amount of depth and heart. It’s also a vibrant celebration of childhood and all of its innocent wonder, imagination and faith.

avengers

Best Superhero Film
Marvel’s The Avengers, it’s not like Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance had a chance! Director Joss Whedon hit this one out of the planet in a true epic that saw several of Marvel Comics’ popular superheroes teaming up in an eye-popping spectacular. Fans rejoiced in seeing the momentous occasion that was like seeing a superhero version of an all-star game.

Best Superhero On Film
?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????The Hulk in Marvel’s The Avengers, finally a film captured the essence of the Hulk at his smashing best. The green behemoth stole the show as he pummeled Loki and his alien forces. So how about a proper film for the Hulk now?

Best Film Character
Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) in Chronicle, DeHaan gives a great performance as a picked-upon high school loner who gets superpowers one day and basically doesn’t do anything with them. Instead of becoming a hero, Andrew slowly and disturbingly becoame more and more malevolent as Chronicle came to its terrifying conclusion.

dane deHaan in chronicle

Biggest Disappointment
Prometheus, wow was this a huge letdown. A poorly written mess where characters behave illogically and plot points appear and disappear at a moment’s notice. Ridley Scott and wiz bang f/x couldn’t salvage this disappointing Alien prequel. Note to Scott: forget about those Prometheus and Blade Runner sequel ideas.

Most Overrated Film
Looper, let’s see gangsters in the future only use time travel to get rid of bodies? Immoral types wouldn’t want to get rich or muck with timelines? What’s with the out-of-left-field plot development about the telekinetic mutants and a kid that belongs in an Omen movie? The unlikeable characters didn’t help matters with this unsatisfying time travel film.

hobbit

Best Use Of 3D In A Film
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, thanks in part to it being filmed in an immersive 48 fps, the 3D erases the barrier between the film and the audience.

Best Trailer For An Upcoming Film
Star Trek Into Darkness, while the trailer for J.J. Abrams’ first Star Trek film was more exhilarating this trailer promises excitement and vengeance-fueled destruction as seen in Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, the Star Trek film that all the others in the franchise try to emulate.

Best App
Angry Birds Star Wars, it’s the best mashup since peanut butter met chocolate!

mass effect 3

Best Video Game
Mass Effect 3, despite all the groans about its ending, the game featured stunning graphics, addictive game play and a solid storyline.

Best Hallmark Ornament
TIE: the time-traveling DeLorean car from Back To The Future and the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters. ’80s genre nostalgia lives on with these accurate and detailed ornaments.

Best Marketing Tie-In
SAMSUNGThe black, Avengers-themed monorail at Walt Disney World. It’s visually arresting with the movie heroes and logo boldly displayed on the sleek mode of transit seen around the Magic Kingdom in Florida. It continues to wow tourists.

Biggest News Item
Disney buys Lucasfilm and thus the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. Not since Disney purchased Marvel Comics has there been such a cataclysmic happening in the world of fandom. Many had conflicted thoughts about seeing George Lucas stepping down and handing control of his beloved franchises to the Disney juggernaut. Feelings were also mixed but guardedly excited over the announcement of new Star Wars films on the horizon.

The Final Chapter Of Fringe Is A Bold Departure

The fifth and final season of the TV show Fringe premiered this past weekend and it’s a radical departure from the previous four seasons.

In last season’s episode “Letters Of Transit”, the show deviated from its normal format, which is normally about a federal team that investigated bizarre science phenomena. Instead “Letters Of Transit” jumped ahead to the year 2036 and presented a world taken over by the enigmatic Observers. These unusual, telepathic, bald-headed men in black suits have appeared in every single episode of the show, often in the background unnoticed. It was eventually explained that they were humanity’s descendents from a far future where the Earth had become uninhabitable. This was why they arrived in 2015 and conquered our society as was shown in a dream sequence at the beginning of the fifth-season premiere episode “Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11”.

It seemed as if “Letters Of Transit” might’ve been a special one-off episode but by the end it was clear that many questions were unanswered and there weren’t any resolutions. Clearly Fringe‘s producers intended to continue the story, which was a huge risk because at that time the show was nearly cancelled. Luckily, the gamble paid off and Fringe was renewed to conclude the storyline.

However, from looking at “Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11” it is apparent that the rest of the show will take place in the future. Though the head-spinning cases that the Fringe Team worked on may be gone and their agenda has drastically changed, the beloved characters are still around. Daffy Walter Bishop (John Noble), his son Peter (Joshua Jackson), and FBI Agents Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) and Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole) were kept in suspended animation and thawed out to speak to help save the world from the Observers.

Regarding the Fringe Team, viewers were still treated to its quirky nature and saw new nuances to their characters. Walter Bishop still calls Astrid by various nicknames and continues to be absent minded. Meanwhile, Peter and Olivia wrestle with guilt over not being able to stop the Observer’s invasion back in 2015 and losing their daughter during that time. Now reunited and aided by Peter and Olivia’s grown-up daughter Henrietta (Georgina Haig), the team is forced to work in the dystopic New York underground and come up with a way to defeat the Observers.

The world they come into isn’t brave but new and disturbing. The Observers are everywhere and maintain an iron grip on the world with their advanced technology. Expression and free will are discouraged as humanity is slowly being ground under in a police state. Many aspects of the world (represented by New York City) seem the same but with more advanced technology and a feeling of decay setting into civilization. One startling image was that of New York’s Central Park, which has been paved over and turned into a huge processing plant to pump carbon monoxide into the atmosphere. It turns out our air is too oxygen-rich for the Observers.

It was intriguing to see in these two future episodes how things change in the future. Whereas before, Fringe presented a parallel Earth in some episodes for fans to wonder over that world’s differences from ours, this time we learn about our future. If the Fringe Team manages to defeat the Observers, and they probably will, one can only imagine what will be shown as Fringe concludes. Even though the show now takes place in 2036, hopefully more flashbacks to the modern era will be shown. This bold departure in the show’s format is a bit startling but very welcome and illustrates Fringe‘s dynamic nature.

Lewis T. Grove