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.


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

Fringe & Its Fantastic Foray

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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.


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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

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:   

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!