When Fringe first debuted I was really excited. I was super into JJ Abrams' giant hit Lost at the time (before its final horrible, horrible season), and when I heard he was responsible for the new sci-fi show debuting on Fox in the Fall of 2008 that looked like a revamp of The X-Files, it got me feeling all tingly inside, like the first time you discovered pictures of your crush on Facebook at the beach (all tanned and bikini'd). "I loved The X-Files, and I love Lost (up till that point at least)," I thought. "This is like the most perfect 'chocolate and peanut butter' combo in forever! Or even better, it was like a combination of hot whores and whipped cream and hot fudge and peanut butter!"
Well, I watched the Fringe pilot and thought it was alright, but it did not look or feel like anything new to me. The first few episodes felt as if all it was trying to do was to remake Agents Fox and Scully's missions for the next generation of TV watchers, but without the chemistry that Mulder and Anderson had. It was kind of stale on arrival, nothing fresh. I think I gave up after 4 or 5 episodes and forgot about it until the season finale hit the air. That's when everybody online started circle jerking to the last few episodes of that Fringe freshman season, and I started to take notice again. So I picked up the first season on Blu-ray when it came out, and once I got past the first 5 set-up episodes again the world started to click for me. And I liked it. I liked it a lot. Then I became a Fringer. A Fringian? A Fringe-fan? A Fran? Whatever, I became one.
Fringe had some interesting ideas and characters right from the start, but for most of the first season each individual episode was a "mystery/monster/disease of the week," with the giant, season-long arc not really becoming visible until later in that premiere year. But once you are aware of that arc you realize that pretty much everything we've seen up to that point is interconnected in a very clever way.
We start out following young FBI agent Olivia Dunham as she and her partner/lovah, John Scott, are called in to join a multi-agency task force when a plane lands at Logan International with nobody left alive onboard — just melting corpses. This case leads Olivia to search for super scientist Walter Bishop, who has been living the last few decades of his life in a mental institution that only his son, Peter Bishop, can get him out of. Olivia needs Walter free in order to save her boy-toy's life after John is exposed to whatever made the plane of people turn to jelly. It seems that before he went nuttier than a squirrel turd Dr. Bishop dabbled around in quite a few unethical experiments, including a way to melt skin off people's bones.
Anyway, together Olivia, Walter, Peter, and FBI-trainee Astro/Ingrid/Esther/Astrid, the FBI's Fringe Science Investigation Team is complete, and under the grim leadership of the always pissed-looking Phillip Broyles they start tackling the strangest and most disturbing cases that come their way, from men being found stuck in walls, to people turning into hideous, prickly, hulking porcupine mutants, to time loops caused by old fucks trying to save the lives of doomed dear ones. Almost every mysterious problem the Fringe Team encounters is interesting and well written, and the guy who plays Walter Bishop (aka Denethor, The Steward of Gondor, aka John Noble) just absolutely sells the shit out of all his insane fringe-sciency hypotheses so that you never feel like "Oh, they're just making this crap up." Okay, sometimes you still feel that way, but 90% of the time the area of super-science that the episode or the season revolves around sounds legit, mostly thanks to the amazing acting abilities of Mr. Noble. He can sell crazy, genius, and morally ambiguous all at the same time. The man is fantastic at what he does. Rock on, Denethor!
As for the season-long arcs, they are something special. At first I thought that Fringe would just be a little show with no real ambitions. You know, simply talking about alternate universes instead of showing us them. But as the first season wound down it became apparent that the showrunners had some pretty huge plans in their heads, and they weren't shy about giving us large visual hints of what was to come.
Season 1 is all about the Fringe Division having a brain battle with a group of rogue scientists and anarchists (led by the most punchable German douchebag this side of Eduard Wirths, the head of Hitler's director of human experimentation) who were determined to bring about the end of the world for their own purpose.
Season 2 deals with the threat of possible invasion by an alternate universe (where blimps still rule the skies and Eric Stoltz starred in that world's version of Back to the Future) when the boundaries between our two worlds start to crumble thanks to something that Walter did back in 1985. Oh, and not everyone of this universe's Fringe team has a counterpart in Dimension B, for ominous reasons.
Season 3 is spent half in our dimension, and half in Dimension B, as both worlds' Fringe teams fight to find the pieces of a strange machine and rebuild it, thinking that it will give them the upper hand in the battle to survive the natural disasters that keep striking the entire planet thanks to Walter's screw-up in 1985. It starts out big and just keeps getting bigger and more complicated as the season goes on, what with the two universes we're following, and Fauxlivia and Walternate's adventures, but my god does it make for some compelling TV!
Season 4 sees the dimensional rifts that were tearing the two universes apart solidified thanks to Peter's badassness, but due to events that Pete put into motion certain evil German scientists were allowed to return and start to prep for their doomsday event again. Full circle, baby. Full circle.
Then came the 5th and final season... And in true JJ Abrams fashion he and his crew kind of dropped the ball. No, Fringe's 5th season is not the shitstain of horror that the final season of Lost became, but it's just not as worthy of the pretty sweet lead-up that the first 4 seasons provided. Whereas the first 4 seasons had plots that sounded good on paper, and twists and turns and uber-sciences that Walter could explain in his manic way that he normally does, season 5's entire overarching plot makes no sense, timeline-wise.
REALLY BIG SPOILERS
Okay, so season 5 is all about how the Observers (those mysterious bald and emotionless gentlemen in fedoras that we've seen hanging around in the background since the very beginning) are really from our future, and how they have fucked up the Earth for themselves so badly that their only recourse is to send agents back in time to find the perfect era to launch a full-scale invasion. Once they invade (in 2015), they kill off a bunch of the population (those unwilling to become their slaves), and completely subjugate the survivors. But Peter, Olivia, Astroturf, and Walter have found a way to stop them, unfortunately before they could enact their plan they have to freeze themselves in man-made amber to avoid getting captured. They are released in 2036, and then have to pull their shit together to end the Observers' occupation once and for all.
Here's my main problem with this season: its sloppy use of time travel. It can't decide if timelines can never be changed, or if time is constant and has and always will be what it is. Here's how it fucks things up. It turns out that in the year 2167 scientists decide that humanity as a whole is too dumb to go on. They think that our emotions are holding us back and that we need to genetically remove them from our minds in order to unlock the fullest potential of our brains. So they somehow get the world to embrace this ideal and after a few hundred or a thousand years, the whole of humanity is "Observer-ized."
So, the Observers were officially created in 2167, and from that point on their emotionless intellect allowed them to deplete all of the Earth's resources, pollute the air to unsalvagable levels, and pretty much just take a giant old diarrhea-like dump all over everything... I can dig that. I'm with the writers so far. But then we find out that the Observers' supremely competent minds decide that the best course of action is to send themselves back in time, to before they were created, in order to take over a non-fucked up world? I.... I don't know where to start. Wouldn't going back to before the world's scientists thought it was a good idea to remove all emotions to create a super smart species of man and KILLING half the population put a kink in the part of the original timeline where the Observers were first made, thusly unmaking them and causing a giant paradox that would destroy all of time and space? How in the fuck is the future still the future where the invaders came from if they took out the main point in time that actually created them?
After 4 seasons of questionable, but ultimately sellable, super science and weird shit — where they actually tried their best to explain all the weird crap as it appeared — this gigantic plot hole just slapped me in the face like a dead fish. A dead, wet, cold mackerel with some kind of scale-rotting disease. Oh, and Walter and friends' plan to stop the Observers was just.... well, it makes even less sense chronologically than the whole of the "time invasion" does. Walter plans to send an Observer child (a mutant who has feels and emotions), that he somehow got his hands on, from 2036 into the year 2167, in order to show the world's scientists that humanity can have both intelligence and feelings without sacrificing one over the other... But they're sending the kid to 2167 in a world AFTER the Observers already invaded the past, meaning that the 2167 that the boy is going to is not the original timeline 2167 where the Observers were born. It's now the 2167 where the Observers have ruled with an iron first for 150 years. Think Back to the Future Part 2... Just not the one starring Eric Stoltz.
END BIG SPOILERS
My mind just a'sploded again. I think the writers' did too when they were writing it, but they just shrugged their shoulders, wiped the grey matter dripping out of their ears off, and said "Fuck it. We need to end this thing somehow."
I must emphasize though that even though this series finale was not quite scientifically possible (or even Fringe scientifically possible), it was very dramatic and acted so well that I was actually pleased by it when I first watched it. It took me a day to think about it before all the plot holes made me blurt out "Wait... What the fuck?! How did?.... Oh maaaaaan!" at breakfast the next morning, startling my dog and making her then yell out "Ruh roh! Here ree roe arain!". If you don't care too much about time travel beyond "They made time travel the solution?... Cool" then you will probably enjoy the whole of Fringe with no reservations. And I hope that you do.
Where do I begin? I guess I'll start off with just how vexed I am that they stole my life story and turned it into a television program without my approval! They just changed my name from "Dave" to "Walter," and gave me a non-cloned son and made me friends with the FBI and not that organization's mortal enemy. But all my experiments, all my successes and my spectacular failures, everything else was almost like it was stolen from my own security cameras in my own bunker/laboratory.
I should feel honored, I suppose, that they gave so much screentime to my cow, Bessie, but some of my most spectacular experiments were downplayed mightily in this Fringe. For example, you may have read in the news about that shadow army — and I mean that literally: an army made out of shadows — that annihilated most of Athens, GA about 20 years ago. Granted, the papers and the law enforcement covered it up in an attempt to get me to come forward, but you can still read about it if you know where to look online. Anyway, my shadow warriors did splendidly in their attack on everybody who ever shunned me and my wonderful sciences! Granted, their host bodies burned up shriveled into giant prunes from the potassium and chakra needed to charge their walking souls, but we were never brought down by the G-men! Never! Harrumph!
Then there's the matter of my porcupine men, my body-swapping device, my reality bombs, and my amber shields. They stole all of them and made them all out to be evil. Most were not, I assure you. They were only turned evil by circumstance or underpaid interns who then paid the ultimate price: being forced to watch Biodome for 72 hours straight while being forced to smell a mixture of skunk and the scent artificially created for Strawberry Shortcake's Purple Pie-Man's scratch-&-sniff pie. Trust me, it's a fate worse than death.
Arrrrrrr. I can appreciate this show like no other. Yeh see, it was about 20 years ago when it first began fer me. I signed up fer one of Dr. Dave's free TB and The Clap inoculations, which turned out to be nothing but an elephant tranq again, but this time I woke up with part of me brain missin'. Arrrrr, well, it wasn't "missin'" per se, since I could see it in the jar on the nightstand right next to the bed I found meself lyin' in, but it wasn't in me own noggin', and that was my main point of contention, as they say. Arrrrrrr.
But as I was sayin' I can appreciate this show like no other. Yeh see, it was about 20 years ago when it first began fer me. I signed up fer one of Dr. Dave's free TB and The Clap inoculations, which turned out to be nothin' but an elephant tranq again, but this time I woke up with part of me brain missin'. Arrrrr, well, it weren't quite "missin'" as they say, since I could see it in the jar on me nightstand next to me bed. But ever since that day I think that problems tuna eight cardboard access labor candles. Apple snow plutonium? Kettle brag marbles blue tingle eight eight bear, fatty armband. Arrrrrrrrrr.