The Fox network recently announced that Fringe, a show that’s been on the air for four years but has a tiny audience (it got moved to Friday nights this past year), will be renewed for a final, fifth season. This news, that one of the most creative and innovative television series in recent memory will be able to resolve at least some of the lingering mysteries that it has evoked, made me say “yay!”
As many ultimately rewarding TV shows often do, Fringe started off a bit shaky. It wasn’t always clear what the point of the wacky, freaky events was, and I myself was a bit wary, given the fate of Fringe’s predecessor, the X-Files. For most of the X-Files’ run, I worshiped the show, but eventually it became clear that there was no ultimate plot point to the black oil, the Cigarette-Smoking Man, the alien abduction of Mulder’s sister, etc., etc.
Nonetheless, I was intrigued by Fringe’s core trio of characters: Olivia Dunham the dedicated FBI agent, Peter Bishop the drifting con artist, and Walter Bishop, Peter’s father, the genius scientist committed for many years to an insane asylum. I especially liked the possibilities embedded in the tense relationship between Peter and Walter. It’s what ultimately kept me watching through some of the trials of the first season, as I suffered through Olivia’s devotion to her dead, possibly traitorous boyfriend John, and the apartment-crashing by Olivia’s drippy sister.
But then, with the ending of the first season, Fringe finally began to demonstrate some of the method behind the madness of the Pattern, Walter’s past experiments with William Bell, the Observers, and Olivia’s latent abilities – Olivia crossed over to a mirror world in order to confront William Bell. But not everything is the same there. She looks out a window and realizes she’s in one of New York’s Twin Towers. Yowza.
Just like that, I was completely hooked. An Earth 2, where our doubles exist but have possibly taken different paths or met different people than we have. What are they like? What do they want? Since I’m exploring different worlds in my own fiction, I was very eager to see in what direction Fringe would head. I myself am going down the same road as Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials – my worlds are different, but there are throughways between them.
Fringe is taking the other tack – the worlds started out the same, way back when, but all the different choices made have created changes in how the worlds approach things – everything from dirigibles vs. planes, to the type of ID people carry. With a mirror worlds concept, where every character has a double, there are so many paths to choose from, so many ways that people can change, based on both their choices and on their experiences.
And Fringe has proceeded to explore the possibilities in delicious ways. Olivia’s double is confident and brassy, striding into dangerous situations with her long red hair swinging. Broyles’ double is still married. Charlie’s double has a scar disrupting his face. Walter’s double is the freakin’ head of the Defense Department. But Peter – why, he doesn’t have a double…
Now that the creators of Fringe know that they have a fifth and final season, they are free to create a fitting ending to this rich and varied series. I just can’t wait! And you, dear reader, if you haven’t explored the universe of Fringe yet and you are a fan of imaginative TV, I highly encourage you to do so.