Finally, after more or less two months of catching up on this awesome awesome series, I have finally finished the entire four seasons of this Fox bubble show, which constantly has to fight season after season to stay on the air. After taking in this show in one go though, I am now left bereft, and missing Walter Bishop and the entire gang as I await the final season’s premiere this September. To while away the time, I am writing this season by season breakdown (mini-review) of this sci-fi series to relive its great run — so far. I promise that I will keep spoilers to a minimum so as to allow you to experience the show in its entirety.
Season 1 outlines the early days of the NBI’s Fringe Division, headed by Col. Philip Broyles. The Fringe is a super secret division of the bureau that is tasked solely to investigate a series of mysterious and unexplained events that have emerged in recent years, in what appears to be a pattern. During one especially sensitive case involving a plane crash as a result of a suspected Fringe event, Agent Olivia Dunham and her lover/partner Agent John Scott become embroiled in the case, espcially when Scott becomes contaimated in a chemical explosion. As Olivia races to save John’s life, she employs the help of a notorious con artist/genius Peter Bishop to release his father Dr. Walter Bishop, an expert in Fringe or pseudo science, from St. Clare’s, a mental institution to where he was confined after an explosion in his laboratory that killed his assistant.
Fringe is premised on pseudo science, which tackles possibilities beyond the realm of actual science and physics. At the beginning, the technical jargons take a little getting used to, espcially when the concept of an alternate universe and enhaced psychic abilities are introduced. However, what makes the sci-fi approach very very cool is that the characters take each case in stride and the rapport just seems so effortless. I like that there is an equal balance of procedurals, drama and mystery with each episode and that all events are linked together and dates back to experiments done by Walter and his best friend/lab partner William Bell (who happens to be a brilliant scientist/tycoon) in Jacksonville. During the first season, we are also introduced to Observers, a group of pale bald men in suits a la Adjustment Bureau, who are always found in key events in history. While all cases are both gory and astounding, the best surprise is in the last episode when it is finally revealed who William Bell is. I’m geeking out just remembering.
After Olivia meets face to face with William Bell, she returns to her own universe, unsure of what the Massive Dynamic tycoon wanted to say. Weird events grow more frequent and it is slowly growing apparent that the other side is growing more aggressive in their bid to wage war between universes. Meanwhile, Walter’s secret involving Peter is slowly revealed. Some very heavy family drama between Peter and his father are featured in this season, and we finally get the glimpse of the alternate universe when Peter decides to cross over. But as always, each decision has a very heavy consequence and the team must recover Walter’s son before worlds are destroyed by a wrong choice.
As the pattern becomes clearer, a new villain is revealed and this one’s a doozy. This season, according to cast member Joshua Jackson is the least ambitious season of the show — more like a transition season to me, as it sets up the stage for a bigger and more elaborate war between the two parallel universes with Peter at the center of it. Nonetheless, the show still had great momentum and while clues have already been revealed regarding the big secret, the actual reveal is still something to watch out for.
As the universe is infiltrated by a spy from the other side, Olivia tries to get home, all while trying to battle the side effects of the drugs injected into her system. Walter and Peter slowly heal their relationship but events in the alternate universe influences Peter to grow more obsessed with the machine and what role he plays in saving the universes. Olivia channels the consciousness of William Bell, all this while Observers grow more aggressive in correcting the accidental mistake of September the day that Walternate supposedly finds a cure for his son, and oh, did I forget to mention that Olivia also has a major part in operating the doomsday device? Well, surprise.
Arguably the best season of the show, every episode is a heart pounding compilation of events that build up to one explosive season finale. Kudos to all of the actors who played their original roles and their alternates as they transitioned flawlessly into their parallel personas. More conspiracies are revealed during this season as emotions run high and sacrifices are made to reconcile the paths of the two universes. I try to keep this short as I fear that I might slip up and spoil the experience for you. This is a season that you just need to see and enjoy.
All bets are off as the timeline is changed and Peter is erased from everyone’s memory — in both universes. But while the Observers believe that all has been set to right, they discover that remnants of Peter still bleeds through portions of the universe. When he finally breaks through and emerges in Reiden Lake, he discovers that nobody remembers him, not even his father and the woman that he loves. Believing that he needs to return to his timeline, he asks for the Fringe team’s help to get back to where he belongs. The Observers origins and true motives are also revealed in this season.
This season was very interesting because it would seem that anything can happen at any point. Old enemies crawl from the woodwork and cases that have already been solved by the original Fringe team resurface and result differently. While there were small inconsistencies in some parts of the story, I believe this brings more room to create new storylines for the fifth season as parts of the future are also given focus in this season as well. The fourth season is very suspenseful as the battle between universes in the previous seasons become a common battle against one enemy that threatens to collapse both worlds to begin a new universe. And while Peter was star in the destruction of the universes in the past episodes, this time, its Olivia front and center.
I couldn’t wait for the season premiere of the last season. I’m pretty bummed that the team will only be given 15 episodes to close out their story but I have faith that questions left hanging will finally be answered and that the world of the Bishops and Olivia will finally end on a happy note. What’s really great about the show is that it has such as diverse concept and that writers are really going all out in thinking out of the box. When it would all seem farfetched, the show would pull viewers back and justify the possibility. It questions how far science would go to discover what lays beyond the imaginable.
Its just amazing and it just leaves me in awe most of the time, all while my heart pounds at a crazy rate and my brain functions are scrambled like one of Walter’s famous breakfasts. But what really grounds me to the show is the fact that despite being hard core sci-fi, it has a heart, and characters that viewers can connect to. I love the interaction between Peter and his father, my favorites are always the ones where Peter would show him signs of affection and he would smile that adorable childlike smile of his, or tear up.
I love Fringe. Its a fun take on science and sci fi as a genre. I know I will sorely miss it when it closes its curtains but still, when I review all the episodes and the brilliance of all the stories building up and closing in a full circle from where it all began, I think its pure genius.