After watching all five seasons Fringe starting last summer and going through December, I can say without a doubt I am a fan. I was evangelizing the show even when I was only in the first season, believing so much in the potential it showed. And it met most of that potential. I will have to say that despite how much I love this show overall, that other than the absolutely perfect emotional closure I got in the series finale, the show never quite gave me everything I wanted from it. But it did give me a lot. Since the show is so unique, I wanted to focus on some on the aspects of the show that really stood out, as well as favorite characters and episodes.
There are spoilers sprinkled throughout, SO what you will see is SPOILER the spoiler written in white that you can highlight if you’ve seen all of the show and then END SPOILER. Everything else is CLEAR to read!
Favorite Episodes by Season
While watching the series, my favorite episode of Season One hands-down was “Bad Dreams.” I just found the story fascinating, I loved meeting another Cortexiphan kid, and it would definitely still have to be my favorite case-of-the-week episode from the first season. But if I look back at the series as a whole, it would probably be one of the more mythological episodes, but I won’t know for sure until I re-watch. But here are some possibilities/runner-up favorites: “The Arrival,” “In Which We Meet Mr. Jones,” “The Equation,” “Ability,” “Inner Child,” and “There’s More than One of Everything.” Overall, even though I did not give season 1 one of my two 4.5 star rankings (I mostly gave it 4 stars because I didn’t think the John Scott storyline was handled well after the pilot), I think I would consider it my second favorite season.
When I looked back at all the episodes from Season Two, it was clear to me it was my favorite season of the series. I think season two was the closest to being exactly what I wanted Fringe to be. My absolute favorite is “White Tulip” for all its wonderful symbolism, but I have several other episodes I love a lot too: “Dream Logic,” “August,” “Jacksonville,” “Peter,” “Northwest Passage.” and “Over There (Part Two).” Also extremely noteworthy: “A New Day in the Old Town” and “Brown Betty.”
Season Three is a strong season for the mythology of the show and for the character development, but it stressed me out and aggravated me SO FREAKING MUCH! Because of this, it was a little harder for me to determine a favorite episode, but I think I’ll go with the finale, “The Day We Died,” because it was so intriguing. Some other episodes I liked: “The Abducted,” “Entrada,” “Subject 13,” and “Bloodline.”
This season was another frustrating one for me that I honestly think I could only bear because of my unbounding love for Lincoln Lee. Every other character was just acting so frustrating with the SPOILER timeline reset affecting them END SPOILER! Overall, it might be my least favorite season, despite Lincoln Lee. My favorite episode is probably either “Everything in its Right Place” or “Letters of Transit,” and a couple others I liked pretty well were “Wallflower” and “Back to Where You’ve Never Been” (the former mostly because of MILD SPOILER cute Olivia-Lincoln moments). END MILD SPOILER
Season Five was feeling pretty grim until the last five episodes, which I love all so much I just have to consider them a collective favorite: “Black Blotter,” “Anomaly XB-6783746,” “The Boy Must Live,” “Liberty,” and “An Enemy of Fate.” They finally delivered on what I had been waiting the entire season for!
Favorite Characters by Season
Season One: Peter
Season Two: Peter
Season Three: Olivia
Season Four: Lincoln
Season Five: SPOILER September/Donald END SPOILER
I loved me some Peter in the first two seasons, but he got really frustrating in season three. In hindsight, I also have to give some love to Charlie in the first season. In season three, with so much crap hitting the fan, I found the one person I was most concerned about and rooting for was Olivia, and she completely won me over as a favorite. In season four, all bets were off when Lincoln Lee arrived in his good guy glory. At that point, I wanted to stop watching regular Fringe and watch a Lincoln Lee spin-off show instead! And then in season five, as mentioned before was not a favorite season of mine, and so when we finally get to what I consider “the good stuff” and finally figure out the mystery with SPOILER where September is and that he is actually this mysterious guy Donald they have been looking for and that he has humanified and is now even more awesome than ever before!!! I was just so excited!!! END SPOILER.
When I look at the series as a whole, I think Walter definitely has to be the most intriguing character with the strongest arc, and John Noble did a crazy amazing job playing like 50 versions of the character (OK, maybe not 50, but I did lose count!) with just little nuances to separate them.
Characters that were definitely underutilized: Astrid sadly never really got to rise to the occasion, which I hated so much because Jasicka did a great job and she deserved more screen time. But the relationship between her and Walter, I loved. Their scene together in the finale made me cry.
I definitely would have liked more Charlie. And Gene the cow… duh. We always need more Gene.
You know those symbols that come up for each commercial break (and are also sprinkled throughout the show as Easter eggs)? They’re there for a reason! If you’re a die-hard fan you already know, but for the uninitiated, these glyphs are part of a code. Each one stands for a letter, depending on both the symbol and the placement of the the yellow orb around it, and when you put the glyphs together for each episode, they spell out a word pertaining to either the current episode or foreshadowing something for the next episode. Sometimes they’re vague, sometimes they’re obvious, but they’re fun! If you’re going through the series, you can download the Fringe glyph add for iPhone or Android to crack the code every episode. I think this was a really unique twist to the show that just adds another layer of intrigue to it.
The Title Sequences
You know how most shows just have one basic title sequence that looks the same week after week, year after year? Not Fringe! They had several! Since everything after the initial blue sequence contains spoilers for plot points in the show, I made all of those white.
Blue Sequence: This is the first title sequence we get, which lists a plethora of fringe sciences, many of which would be included in the show.
Retro Sequence: For the two episodes set in 1985, “Peter” and “Subject 13,” where we learn more about Walter discovering the alternate universe and the immediate consequences, a retro-looking version of the Fringe title sequence rolled out the fringe sciences of yesteryear, many of which are now a reality.
Red Sequence: The red title sequence represents an episode that prominently takes place in the alternate universe, AKA the Redverse. In “Entrada,” we see a mix of the blue and red sequences as the two universes got more equal episode time. This sequence also includes what is considered fringe sciences in the Redverse.
Gray Sequence: The gray sequence was for the season 3 finale episode “The Day We Died,” in which we see a possible future where the Redverse has been destroyed and the Blueverse is on the brink of going down the same path. This sequence includes what is considered fringe sciences in this possible future timeline.
Amber Sequence: This was for season four, to indicate an altered timeline where Peter actually died as a boy. Most of the fringe sciences listed are not too unlike those from the initial sequence, though they are new words.
Future Sequence: This is the sequence for “Letters of Transit” and all of season 5, set in the future where the Observers have taken over. It’s scary to think that things like “private thought” are considered fringe in this future.
The Storylines & The Message
There were so many… where does one begin?! I will now get my biggest gripe about Fringe out there now, and that is that I think it had the tendency to bite off more than it could chew. Sometimes it tried to set something up, only for the “answer” to feel weak and incomplete (First People, Sam Weiss, Mr. X, John Scott, ZFT, etc.) or to not be followed through at all (Olivia’s stepfather, Big Eddie, Rachel and Ella, Etta on invasion day, etc.). And then there were things that they tried to build up as really epic (SPOILER Peter is completely erased from the timeline! END SPOILER) but then it turns out to not be nearly as big as we thought (SPOILER Well not so much erased but more like he died when he was a boy after all so you guys never knew him, but he’ll come back because love conquers all… END SPOILER). As much as I loved so many of the intriguing story arcs throughout the series, most of them honestly did not deliver as fully as I would have liked. In fact, entire seasons were dedicated to many of these plot points, and while they all ended on pretty high and mostly satisfactory notes, I was still left with more questions than answers.
But this series is very much about one thing, and it’s good to know this if you haven’t started watching yet: it’s about LOVE.
The love between a father and son. Between friends. Between lovers. Between a mother and daughter. It’s about how far you would go to save someone you love, or to be with them.
And it’s about humanity. This is something you’ll especially see as you get to the end of season five, that the show is asking questions about what makes us human. And that’s why it’s good sci-fi, a good show, and worth investing your time in it.
The characters are wonderfully flawed and quirky and intelligent and caring. And when the show’s over, you honestly feel like you’ve become disconnected from an amazing group of friends.
But don’t just take my word for it. Take Walter’s word for it. Watch Fringe…
And I still feel like I have only scratched the surface here! What about Massive Dynamic and Nina and Broyles and William Bell and Brandon and the shapeshifters and LSD and the Observers and everything else?! There’s just so much!!!
May I also recommend The Fringe Podcast as a supplement to your watching? It’s wonderfully fun, informative, and insightful. My experience would not have been the same without it.
Also see: Fringe reviews for seasons 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
Are you a future Fringe fan or a current one? (There are no other options, BTW.) Tell me what you love about the show or what about it has piqued your interest!
Great summary! I wouldn’t even know how to go about summarizing this series, but I think you did a great job. I loved this series– and I miss it– but I agree, I also felt as if so many of its story lines did not live up to their potential. I think the thing that frustrated me the most was when, out of nowhere the observers were the bad guys– or at least it felt to me as if that came out of nowhere. I think that could have beI know it’s over a month away, but I’m getting excited about Vamp Academy!en amazing! But instead it felt a little disjointed. But, I still love the show– Walter was probably my favorite, but I really liked Lincoln, too! And– White Tulip was one of my favorite episodes. 🙂
It really did feel like it came out of nowhere. I was really looking for an explanation and finally just accepted what December said (or September, can’t remember for sure which) about how they were not informed of their actual objective while they were observing.
Great overview! My favorite aspect of Fringe has always been the character dynamics, specifically the “family” of Olivia, Peter, Walter, and, to a lesser extent, Astrid (I agree with you that more Astrid would have been great for the show). I love that Olivia, with her own fractured past, was able to find a family in the others, and the father-son relationship between Walter and Peter never ceased to be fascinating. I agree that love is the big theme.
I think I mentioned this when you first started watching the show, but S3 is my absolute favorite. I love the dual focus, but I do see how it can be frustrating. My favorite episodes from the season are “Olivia,” “Marionette,” “Subject 13,” and “Bloodline.” A few other episodes that still stand out for me years later are S1’s “Ability” (though I really do like “Bad Dreams” as well) and S2’s “Jacksonville” and “Peter.”
I agree that Fringe had some problems with the mythology, but since I enjoyed the characters so much, I didn’t seem to mind. However, one mystery I wish had been answered was the identity of the X guy in “Lysergic Acid Diethylamide.”
Family is definitely an important part of Fringe and I loved it as well!
Yeah, from the podcast I listened to they claimed that Bell was Mr. X I think, but that didn’t seem clear to me at all, especially when they labeled September as Mr. X when Peter went into his mind. I just didn’t like that they would make something like that seem really important and then not completely follow through with it. The characters are what definitely helped me keep loving the show, though.
This was a series I wished I had gotten into but by the time I thought that it was halfway through so I thought I was too late.I’ll really need to get the boxsets and start from the beginning.
Yeah, I borrowed DVDs from a friend, all after the show was over. Definitely check it out again!
I was intrigued by Fringe when it first aired. But then about half way through s1 I got bored and it was too much like X-Files without quite being as good as X-Files. But then somehow I caught the finale of s1 and got pulled back in because it was interesting.
For me, Peter and Walter were my favorite aspect of the whole series – the comedy and heart in their dynamic made the show worth watching. I was never an fan of Olivia, not because of the character but I didn’t think Anna Torv was a dynamic enough actress to really anchor the whole show. She definitely got better after the first season though.
So, since Walter and Peter were my favorites, I didn’t like much of the first half of s4 at all. I almost stopped watching again. But then when… well, after that changed I liked the new dynamic it had. Even though the show went through so many showrunners I liked how it wasn’t afraid to reinvent itself.
I think Anna Torv absolutely bloomed in season 3. She did a great job of balancing two versions of the same character, I thought, and some of those scenes when Olivia came back to the blueverse and had to deal with Fauxlivia having intruded in her life I thought were so powerful. Obviously, John Noble was the most talented of the show, but I really think she held her own, especially as the show went on.
I did like how the show was always reinventing itself.
haha – I forgot about the word Fauxlivia. That might be my other favorite part of the show 🙂