TV Series Review: Fringe

Ok, so my husband and I have a tendency to watch an episode or two of whatever show we’re involved in before bed time. I believe it was on recommendation from my Mom but we started watching Fringe. I liked it pretty much from the beginning. Now that we’ve finished the series, I’m trying to work out how I feel about the show as a whole. Be warned this show has a convoluted plot so the post is going to be pretty long.

**SPOILER ALERT** I would like to talk about this show as a whole so if you don’t want to hear about major plot twists or the ending, stop reading. Go watch it then come back.

The premise for the show is pretty cool: FBI agent (Olivia) starts investigating cases that are on the strange side and needs help from the scientist that invented much of the technology that makes these cases strange (Walter). He’s in a mental institution and can only be signed out by his son (Peter). Olivia tracks Peter down somewhere in the Middle East where he seems to be conning people and running from life in general. Peter has a very strained relationship with his father but agrees to help Olivia and, to his dismay, winds up becoming Walter’s caretaker and mad-scientist-translator.

Eventually, Peter and Walter become permanent consultants for the FBI and with Olivia are made into a “Fringe” team. Think Scully and Mulder except with a crazy uncle hanging around saying weird things and self-medicating. That’s one thing I thought annoying about the show: quite a bit of drug usage. 

The events and technology that the team investigates are interesting, though often seem far-fetched. Whatever, it’s sci-fi; I kind of expect that. Along the way, we find out that Peter is actually from an alternate universe where almost everything is almost the same. Everybody in “our” universe has a duplicate character in the “alternate” universe. Turns out Walter’s son Peter died as a child and so he kidnapped alternate Peter and raised him as his son. His crossing of the universes winds up tearing holes in the veil between the universes causing all kinds of mayhem and almost destroying both universes. Walternate (alternate Walter) is ticked both at the loss of his son and at the damage to his universe where people are dying and being set in amber (like fossils).

He sets out to bring his son home and then destroy the universe that Walter is in. Of course, the Fringe team wants to stop him. Peter winds up in Walternate’s universe but is told that everyone on the side he was raised on will die. He has to make the choice of staying with his real (somewhat evil) father or go back and fight for the universe he was raised in. At this point, Peter’s relationship with Walter has grown enough to where you can see him not wanting Walter dead (though he does feel betrayed about the whole kidnapping thing). In a heartbreaking scene between Olivia and Peter, she finally tells him that there’s a bunch of reasons for him to come home, but the only one she really cares about is that he belongs with her.

About time. Shortly after, Faux-livia (alternate Olivia) infiltrates the team by switching places with Olivia while Olivia is held prisoner by Walternate. Relationship drama ensues when Olivia comes home only to find out that Peter never realized Faux-livia wasn’t her. Oh and when Faux-livia goes back to her universe, she finds out she’s pregnant. Yikes.

Despite the relationship drama, the team learns they have to save the world by putting Peter into this creepy machine that the Walters designed and built. It’s supposed to destroy one of the universes but instead he builds a bridge between the two universes, forcing the team to work with the alternate team to try to save both universes. This erases Peter from the timeline.

Here’s where things get tricky. The show starts doing weird things with time travel. Much of the plot above results from actions of the “Observers,” genetically engineered men from the future that come to observe the humans from our era. One Observer is told to erase what’s left of Peter (sort of a ghostly echo) but he disobeys and Peter manages to squeeze himself back into time and the universe proper. Only to find out that everyone has forgotten him. He thinks he came back into the wrong timeline and tries to get Walter (who believes both Peters died as children) and Olivia (who never met Peter in the first place) to help him get back to his timeline. The group works together for awhile and sort of regrows their friendships. A pretty miserable circumstance for Peter.

Eventually, Olivia remembers the first timeline (reference is made to relationships touching hearts in ways such that the soul cannot forget). And winds back up with Peter, having a daughter Etta (Henrietta). But the Observers get a little handsy and take over the universe. Etta is kidnapped at 3 years old; Peter and Olivia fall apart as a couple. He searches for Etta while Olivia works with the Resistance to fight the Observers. They all get ambered and Etta revives them after 21 years. Walter has a plan to save the universe but they have to scavenge all the parts in the places he’s hid them. Observers kill Etta, nearly destroying Peter and Olivia’s refound relationship.

Peter sticks an Observer’s brain chip into his own head and nearly becomes an Observer himself but removes it when he realizes he will lose Olivia (Observers have no emotion and therefore don’t love). They eventually get everything they need, including a child Observer (sort of) that needs to be taken to the future to stop the scientists from creating the Observers in the first place. Walter plans to take him (and is inoculated for the trip) but the boy’s father inoculates himself to take Walter’s place. Unfortunately, in the final gun battle, the boy’s father is killed and Walter must take the boy to the future. He has to stay there because otherwise there will be a time paradox or something.

In another heartbreaking scene, Peter calls Walter dad and tells him he loves him before Walter leaves for the distant future with the boy. This erases the Observers and the final scene shows Peter and Olivia playing with young Etta on the day when the Observers would have invaded. They seem to have no memory of the events or of Walter.

My interpretation of this is that there was a lot that they tried to wrap up kind of quickly. Maybe they realized they were not going to be funded for more seasons and decided to close up the best they could. Not bad, if that’s the case. The part that bothers me though, is that last part…I felt like the entire purpose of the show, the main message, the whole point, was this broken relationship between father and son (ok so kidnapped son). As the show progresses, Peter goes from darn near hating Walter, to tolerating him, to caring about him, to loving him. If everything happens and he just forgets that Walter ever existed, well then that kind of kills the point. Plus, without Walter the two had no reason really to ever meet and fall in love and have Etta.

That’s not even including the fact that if the Observers never existed, then Walternate wouldn’t have missed the formula for saving Peter from the disease that killed Walter’s Peter and Walter never would have kidnapped him. So Peter wouldn’t even be in the same universe as Olivia…not ideal for falling in love and again having Etta. And then finally there’s the growth of Peter and Olivia. Similar to the growing relationship between Walter and Peter, the relationship between Olivia and Peter similarly grows and hits major speed bumps and grows.

At the end, you really feel like a lot of who they are as a couple, their strength and love for each other, is what it is because of what they’ve been through. So how can they be the same people and not remember what made them who they are? I don’t know. The not remembering is too tragic. So, in my head, they remember.

Anyway, these are just my thoughts. Feel free to chime in if you have opinions.

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Author: breakthisleap (Jamie Elias)

I am a physics graduate student at Washington University in St. Louis. I am married to an army vet computer scientist and have four kitty cat dependents. I hold on to a mixed bag of interests ranging from reading and writing fiction to action sports and sports cars. And, of course, everything in between.

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