Parallel universes, wormholes, reanimation, psychokinesis, precognition, hypnosis, time travel, teleportation, dark matter, a remarkable scientist, his son (who inherited his father’s incredible intelligence) and a badass FBI agent: this is the unique combination responsible for making Fringe a brilliant and unforgettable TV series that will probably be around for generations. Fringe is brainchild of J.J. Abrams and was broadcasted on Fox from 2008 to 2012. Unfortunately its good ratings didn’t last beyond season one and began to decrease dramatically from the third season on. Anyway, we must be grateful to both Fox and fringe’s producers that agreed to give it a fifth season to put an end to the story rather than leaving it undone. (It’s needless to say that given its fascinating background Fringe deserved at least 10 seasons).
Because of all scientific issues covered by the series (mixing real theories to fiction) it turned out to be a good option for readers of popular science that are fond of speculating into scientist’s affairs, even though the principles of physics required to understand these matters are beyond our grasp. Fringe helped us to have a glimpse of what’s been going on in the scientific world and this is much like the work of guys like Carl Sagan, whose books introduce scientific theories in a more intelligible way. The difference is that Carl Sagan gives science a realistic approach (unless he shared Dr. Bishop taste in working under effect of drugs, who knows?).
The story begins with Olivia Dunham, a federal agent who finds herself involved in a highly classified investigation after having her partner shot in a bioterrorist attack. In an attempt to save him from whatever was consuming his tissues, Olivia went after a renowned scientist whose previous works indicates he’s the only one qualified to help her out. But before she could reach Dr. Bishop she had to convince Peter Bishop to release his father from the mental institution where he was been held.
The background is based on the Level 3 Parallel Universe taken from the “Superstring Theory”, which claims the existence of multiple universes. Unlike what narrow-minded people might be thinking this is a serious theory widely studied by physicists. Its implications are hard to explain (and the fact that I’m a dummy must be taken into account D:), basically this Level 3 p.u. is a different dimension that coexists with ours in the same space and time (sadly we can't cross over to the other side like Olivia – not until the day someone creates Corthexiphan :p). Although we can’t interact directly to this parallel dimension, every decision we make causes a bifurcation in the timeline (remember that both our universe and the Level 3 take place in the same time), consequently creating infinite possible futures and alternate dimensions (Walter explains that with more details in episodes like “The Road Not Taken” and “There is More than one of everything”).
I still remember the first time I watched Fringe and got blown away by the quantity of easter eggs and leads for next episodes, the hard-to-spot observers (you gotta freeze the scene to see them), the perfect opening theme and especially by the way all theories were carried out! After each episode I would login to sci-fi forums to discuss over ‘n’ theories on whether the color of a particular object was a lead to something relevant (like when Peter said to Walter: “the red toothbrush is mine” – and in fact it turned out to be a crucial part of the puzzle). There’s a perfect connection between all fringe events and surely every one of the characters (including the bad guys) have made their way into our hearts in a way that only fringe is capable of. What’s to be said about David Robert Jones, the german guy who escaped from prison using a teleportation device created by Dr. Bishop? Or Newton, the shape shifter responsible for opening a bridge to a parallel universe? They’re adorable villains!
And now it's over. It took me a while to recover my senses from the chock I felt after watching the series finale last friday. It is chocking not just because Fringe is no more but mainly because of its sad and totally unfair end. Despite have been born under the sign of pisces (I don’t believe in astrology, really xD) and considering myself a quite emotional person, crying with books or movies are very unlike me. Fringe is an exception. As an old fan(atic) I developed a deep connection with both the story and its characters in a way that I never did before . Each member of the fringe division (Olivia, Peter, Walter and Astrid (or Asteroid, or Aspirin, or Astro or any other name Walter might have called her – the list is endless!) had a contagious persona and somehow completed each other. They’re the sort of people I’d like to have around.
Dr. Walter Bishop♥, my favorite character. It is impossible not to fall in love with him right in the early episodes. At moments he would make us laugh as he went about his lab helping Olivia to figure out what might have caused human decomposition, mutation, fast-growing-clones, brain damage, human combustion etc – all cases in which he had previously worked on with his fellow William Bell - the mysterious owner of Massive Dynamic. The most amusing scenes are with no doubt the ones in which Walter is tripping with Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, Brown Betty and so many others homemade drugs. Some scenes still get a laugh out of me even though I’ve already watched them about 5 times. Here you go some of Walter’s quotes that I’m so found of:
They’re bringing a dying David Robert Jones into the lab in a hurry and Walter is there entertaining himself with his cow Gene. Peter will say “Walter put the cow away”. And in another occasion as Walter picks up Peter’s call: “Hello Peter. This is me, Walter Bishop. Your father”, “Thanks Walter, I know who you are”. In the episode “The road not taken”, when Peter finally shows a device he created in order to digitalize Walter’s old discos: Walter “Thank you, son”, (and looking to Olivia and Astrid) “You know, when he was five, he built me a popsicle napkin holder. Dreadful design. Utterly useless.” Peter: “Thank you”. Walter: “But this is… this is…”, Peter: “You’re welcome”. But this one is by far the funniest: The Fringe team arrives at a warehouse and as they scan the crime scene and find a hidden shape shifter embryo curled into a ball Olivia asks: “Walter, have you seen anything like this before?” Walter: “I think I may have. It's awfully familiar. Ah, yes. It reminds me of a beanbag chair I once owned... 1974”. ♥
But our beloved John Noble is also talented in making us feel heartbroken. Fringe’s last scene is certainly a proof of that, for it showed the sketch of a white tulip and then the screen went black to never again come alive with the colors of a new episode. Only old fans can understand the meaning this symbol has to Walter and why it’s so beautiful. The seventeen years he spent at a mental institution and his reencounter with Peter changed him into a better man. Before his reclusion he had worked in an area called Fringe Science and in all his ambition he knew no limits for science progress, what led him to conduct drug trials on children, among other anti-ethical researches. In other words, he didn’t much allowed anybody to stay in his way.
When Peter fell ill with a rare disease Dr. Bishop did everything within his reach to save his son’s life, but in doing so he broke the balance between universes and caused damage beyond imagination. It’s in this very episode (Peter) that we are introduced to Walter’s old lab assistant, Dr. Carla Warren. As soon as she discovered Walter’s plans to cure Peter she tried to stop him “Walter there must be a line we can’t cross” – referring to what she believed to be god’s domain. Dr. Bishop’s response came sharp: “There’s space for only one god in this lab and it is not yours”. And that was when Walter crossed this line and everything began. After all he went through, the only way he could have his guilty relieved and feel forgiven by god was to receive a white tulip. In the end who received the tulip was not Walter at all, but… Well, I must stop here otherwise I’ll reveal too much.
I thought I could go through all the seasons again and again but now I know things will end in that terrible way. I got such a void inside me at the point of waking up at the middle of night to think about all the possible alternative ends, all the “roads not taken” they could have chosen in order to give fringe a happy end. I felt hope when someone asked “There must be another way”. I said to myself “Yes! They’re gonna figure out a way of doing this just like they always did before.” But this time they couldn’t avoid this fate.
The Fringe Division faced daunting challenges in both universes and after five years the journey is over. As tribute to fringe some movies and other series borrowed the “observers” and displayed them in random scenes, so don’t get alarmed if a bold guy carrying a briefcase appears out of nowhere in a movie: you’re not nuts or obsessed (well maybe a little xD). I’m looking forward checking a 12-issue collection of comics written by Peter (Joshua Jackson) filled with stories about alternate realities experienced by him while he went missing between the third and fourth season. In case the comics aren’t enough to satisfy our thirst for Fringe we might check “October’s Notebook”, a special edition bringing all the data collected by this observer through the series (fortunately for us it is not written in the observer’s codes – probably Asterisk managed to translate it into English!) I swear that from now on, whenever I listen to Bowie’s old classics I’ll picture Walter in my mind and… smile :)