Last year, I started my television watching year by wrapping up Matt Smith’s run as the Eleventh Doctor on “Doctor Who” with the second half of the reboot’s seventh season. This time around, I stayed firmly on Earth while beginning to wrap up the first season of my first ever round of “Fringe”.
I have been wanting to watch “Fringe” for some time now, but was hesitant, as I didn’t know much about it then. However, later on last year, the same friend who recommended “Battlestar Galactica” to me recommended that I give “Fringe” a chance, and told me that I would probably end up having Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) as my favorite character.
As I do trust her taste in television shows, I decided to give it a go, and she was right.
For those who do not know what “Fringe” is, it was a show that ran for five seasons on FOX, from 2008 to 2013.
In the most simplest of terms, and without spoiling anything, the show is about a group of individuals who work for a particular department in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), that deal with bizarre cases that are mostly linked to pseudo-science or fringe science (such as artificial intelligence, precognition, genetic manipulation, teleportation, walking through walls and the like), which, have been occurring more frequently in a mysterious yet linked series of events.
Those involved in the Fringe Division are Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble), a genius doctor who used to conduct top secret experiments for the government; his son and his reluctant babysitter, Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson); FBI Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), an FBI agent whose connection to the division goes deeper than you think; FBI Junior Agent Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole), who assists them in cases in the laboratory and Homeland Security Agent Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick), who runs the Fringe Division. Others who usually help them out and are oftentimes a big part of the episodes include FBI Agent Charlie Francis (Kirk Avecedo), a close friend and mentor of Olivia’s; and Nina Sharp (Blair Brown), the Chief Operating Officer of Massive Dynamic, a huge science and technology firm that was founded by Walter’s close friend, William Bell (Leonard Nimoy).
Think of it as “X-Files” meets “Warehouse 13” minus the aliens and artifacts, as things are explained more by science.
In the beginning of the first season, the episodes were more procedural and “case of the week”, as it had to slowly introduce and set up several concepts and the characters for the sake of the viewers. However, things got way more interesting by the time it the seventh episode (“In Which We Meet Mr. Jones”) , and especially in the tenth and eleventh episodes (“Safe” and “Bound”), as it began to delve deeper into the core mythology of the show, and as things started to become a little bit more serialized. So, give it some time to marinate and cook first before things really start to get going.
From this moment on, if you have not seen “Fringe” or the first season of “Fringe” yet, please turn around now, as I will be talking more in depth about what I enjoyed, and what I did not like about the show’s first season.
As a fan of science fiction, I have heard of most of the concepts presented in the show, but it appealed to me because it got me more interested in the science part of things, which made me excited about all of the possibilities that can be done with science. I also loved and appreciated the fact that instead of me having to watch something in outer space or in a near but distant future, this show was grounded solidly on Earth, without any superheroes except for our intrepid Fringe team.
Just as my friend predicted, Walter instantly became my favorite character because of the fact that he is a drug-addled genius who sometimes is very child like. I immediately pegged him as an American, grumpier version of the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker); mixed in, I think, with a little bit of the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee), because he is a scientist, please correct me if I’m wrong as I haven’t seen anything with the Third yet; and the genius brain and the tendency towards stimulants of Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch). Also, Noble’s acting was always on point, and I loved it whenever he was given the chance to shine in Walter-centric episodes.
The second character I instantly liked was Avecedo’s Agent Charlie Francis, mostly because I loved Avecedo’s Jose Ramse in “12 Monkeys”, and it is always great to see the earlier work of actors that I do like. Sure, he wasn’t given as much to do here as his role in “12 Monkeys”, but he was still a strong part of the first season as one of Olivia’s strongest allies and supporters.
I vaguely remember watching the first “Mighty Ducks”, and I wasn’t allowed to watch television on schooldays when I was younger, so I was not totally familiar with Joshua Jackson until now. At first, I wasn’t sure about his acting, but loved the character of Peter Bishop almost as immediately as I started liking Walter and Charlie. As the episodes went by however, I warmed up more to the actor as well, especially in episodes that did delve deep into Peter’s and Walter’s relationship. I am also looking forward to seeing how he evolves moving forward.
The biggest issue I did have was with Olivia. I didn’t really know what to make of her character or Torv’s acting in the beginning. However, by the time it hit mid-season, I discovered, much to my surprise, that I was now becoming more and more invested in her character as a whole, especially as her character got better development starting from the mid-season.
With regards to the season’s storylines, I do understand that it had to be episodic and procedural for the first few episodes in order to ease the viewers into the concepts of fringe science. However, I noticed that personally, I was not fond of the whole John Scott (Mark Valley) arc, and I think that they managed to get things really going with the episodes that really expanded more on the core mythology of the show- the fact that there is an alternate universe and that Bell and Walter did experiments on children in order to prepare them for an upcoming war with the denizens of another reality. (Yes, we are talking about the multiverse theory here.) Once they got to that, the show was able to delve deeper into the characters themselves, and as to how they, in particular Walter and Olivia, are deeply connected to all of this.
Even after the mid-season hit, they did have some “case of the week” stories, but it had more scenes which were connected to the overall story arc for the season as compared to before.
I also loved how they did the scenes in which Olivia was experiencing brief jumps to the other side, and how they pulled off her crossing to the alternate universe.
Above all, I loved how they were able to make the fringe science explanations simple, so that anyone can somehow understand the science behind those particular things.
All in all, the first season of “Fringe”, although procedural at first, managed to find its stride mid-season, and it only gets better from there, as the season finale wraps some things up, but also raises so many more questions that need to be answered. I cannot wait to see how the story and the show’s characters to unfold and develop in the second season, which I have already begun to watch.
Favorite “Fringe” Science Moment/s:
Walter explaining how someone can phase through solid objects by using a beaker full of rice, a toy action figurine, and a vibrating football table in Season 1 Episode 10 “Safe”.
Favorite “Mind-Blowing” Moments:
- The whole tank sequence of Olivia’s in the Pilot.
- The Observer (Michael Cerveris) knowing what Peter was going to say even before he said it in Season 1 Episode 4 “The Arrival”, as it reminded me of the “Doctor Who” episode “Midnight”.
- Peter allowing himself being used as a conduit to connect to a brain damaged dead man in Season 1 Episode 7 “In Which We Meet Mr. Jones”.
- Walter seeing a different version of himself in Season 1 Episode 8 “The Equation”.
- David Robert Jones (Jared Harris) teleporting in Season 1 Episode 10 “Safe”.
- Olivia turning off all the light bulbs before the device detonated & Walter discovering that his old typewriter was used to write ZFT’s manifesto in Season 1 Episode 14 “Ability”.
- Walter watching the tape of their observations of Olivia as a child in Season 1 Episode 17 “Bad Dreams”.
- Olivia experiencing glimpses of the alternate universe in Season 1 Episode 19 “The Road Not Taken”
- Jones opening up the doorway to the other universe, Walter putting Peter’s coin on top of Peter’s tombstone, and Olivia crossing over to the other side and meeting Bell in the season finale.
- “In Which We Meet Mr. Jones”
- “Inner Child”
- “Bad Dreams”
- “The Road Not Taken”
- “There’s More Than One of Everything”