Part of me wishes I had discovered this show sooner. The other part of me is glad I’m watching it now, after having seen and enjoyed more science fiction and after all the seasons are out on DVD. But regardless, my co-worker loaned me the first season, and after it sat around our house for a while, my husband and I finally started watching it. And we quickly became hooked. The first season has some flaws, which I will get to, but it was incredibly strong overall and I have thoroughly enjoyed the creative story and the characters.
Fringe has a very fascinating story line, with most episodes based on a certain element of the “fringe” sciences, which include the likes of teleportation, pyrokinesis, hypnosis, etc. The show centers on FBI agent Olivia Dunham (played by Anna Torv), who is assigned to work with the fringe science division as more and more instances involving the fringe sciences occur in Boston, New York, and the surrounding areas. These events are a part of something referred to as “the pattern,” and the goal of the division to figure out what exactly the pattern is and who is behind it, that they might be stopped. To help her, Olivia recruits fringe scientist and genius Dr. Walter Bishop (played by John Noble), but before she can recruit him out of the mental institution where he has lived for the past 17 years, she has to first recruit his son Peter Bishop (played by Joshua Jackson). She finds Peter in Iraq, who reluctantly agrees to sign Walter out of the mental institution only after Olivia tells him she knows what the FBI has on him, and she will do something about it if he won’t help. Over time, the three truly become like a wacky, dysfunctional family that you can’t help but love.
I really like Peter especially. It’s probably because of my love for The Mighty Duck movies, but he always has an intelligent quip or sarcastic remark at hand. He’s got a little bit of a shady past, but he grows throughout the season and clearly comes to care more about his dad and the others in his life. I love especially how he is always watching out for Olivia (and I hope this will turn into something more later in the show), who probably doesn’t think she needs the help; but no matter how strong a person is, they cannot stand on their own. In a way, I think Peter and Olivia need other (at least platonically) because they both have been so independent.
Walter grows leaps and bounds in the first season. He goes from being in a mental institution, to learning how to cope with the real world, to growing more happy, but at the end of the season he comes to grips with what he did in the past and how it is affecting what is happening now, and trying to cope with that. He too cares about Olivia, and of course for Peter, even if Peter doesn’t feel that way from Walter’s long absence in his life. He’s also hilarious and is always craving some food he hasn’t had in 17+ years.Olivia is extremely serious about her job and works very hard at it, not leaving room for much else in her life. Once she did open up her heart, and it ends up burning her, and it affects her throughout the season. Yet she does seem to trust Peter and Walter, as well as fellow FBI agent Charlie. We also get to see some interaction between Olivia and her sister and niece, which shows a more familial side of her. She is exactly the kind of female character I enjoy.
All the minor characters are complex and interesting too, with the exception of one who is just so annoying it’s not even funny, but let’s just say they take care of it on the show. Several of the major and minor characters seem to operating in various shades of gray, and it will take time to see their true colors. One character that I really like but feels a little flatter than some of the others is Astrid, a junior FBI agent who’s always in the lab with Walter. Thankfully, her character is on the show for all five seasons, so I imagine she will continue to grow.
I don’t want to say too much more about the overall story line, because it’s so much more fun to discover it on your own. Let’s just say that just when you think the show is getting a little formulaic (still very interesting, but formulaic nonetheless), they throw you some curve balls and plot twists, and they really shake things up at the end (though sadly I kind of knew some of it was coming, partly due to listening to speculations from a podcast called The Fringe Podcast and partly due to the show being out long enough and having apparently picked up on at least a couple of spoilers accidentally). Season One is clearly just the beginning of a story that continues for four more seasons.
I do have one really big beef with season one in how one particular story arc and character arc was “resolved” and handled. I don’t want to get specific, but it starts in the pilot episode and the “resolve” happens about halfway through the first season, and it feels extremely inconsistent. I am hoping it’s not the actual end and that it will come up again, because it really did not feel right at all. With this in mind, as well as with the hope that the subsequent seasons will just get better and better, I am going to rate season one of Fringe four out of five stars.
This is an extremely strong first season for a show, and I would highly recommend it. I will warn it can be a little gory sometimes, but just look away for a little while and you’ll be fine. It’s worth it to watch this show play out. It’s intelligent, funny, and dramatic all at once.
Have you seen Fringe? What are your thoughts on it? (No spoilers please, as I have only seen season 1 and the first two episodes of season 2 thus far!)