Weird Science

The truth is WAY out there.
On September 9th, 2008, the world was introduced to Fringe. And I almost didn't watch it.

To understand this is to understand my complicated relationship with JJ Abrams around that year. Abrams had already made Alias (meh to me) and Cloverfield (again, meh). That wouldn't be enough to not make me still give his television series a chance but he also help create LOST. I hated and still sort of hate LOST. It felt like someone had a good idea for a mysterious pilot but there was no true plan there. I was not going to let JJ Abrams rob me of my television viewing time, especially in the days before I had DVR. But, I gave Fringe a chance because of two reasons- it felt like The X-Files, a series I adore, and it was starring Joshua Jackson aka my man Pacey from Dawson's Creek.

Giving that pilot a shot was a smart play.

The series centered around Agent Olivia Dunham who is a FBI agent who is recruited to a new part of the Bureau called Fringe Division. She is charged by the FBI and Homeland Security with investigating and solving crimes relating to fringe science, science that is unexplained and almost impossible to comprehend that is following a pattern called...The Pattern. To help her with this, she recruits a team including Peter Bishop (Pacey), a genius con artist, his father Walter, a scientist who secretly worked for the Department of Defense before he was placed into a mental institution for 17 years, and Junior Agent Astrid Farnsworth, who assists the team in particular Walter who has a habit of calling her any word that starts with an A but isn't Astrid. The team is assisted by and sometimes are in conflict with various government agencies and the megacorporation known as Massive Dynamics, started by Walter's old lab partner William Bell aka Leonard Nimoy.

This show had Spock and John Noble aka Denethor. Why didn't you watch it?
The pedigree of the actors on this show was impressive and the visuals were amazing and visceral. These were all solid reasons to watch but the plot was the reason I religiously tuned in, even when they gave it a terrible slot on Fridays. Fringe debuted at a time when 9/11 was still fresh and a young Obama was running for election. The United States was still living in fear of more possible attacks but there was hope around the bend. Terrorism and Homeland Security was a key part of the formula for Fringe. Each episodes had it's own story but it was connected to mysterious groups who weaponized science and also Massive Dynamics. This was perfect because this was also around the time that people realize how companies and private contractors were acting without much of any restraint from government. While Olivia represented the government and law, Peter was the citizen who always looked at everything with a side-eye.

The world was complicated and Fringe didn't shy away from this. Even in the pilot episode, Fringe touched very briefly on the subject of sexual misconduct in the military and how people reacted to it- Olivia's past as a Marine special investigator put her at odds at her superior Broyles who thought she almost cost the job of a man who sexually assaulted three women. This could be a throw away moment but this same man is introduced later in the season as a hindrance to the Fringe Division and Broyles realizes that he was defending a man who was not worthy of defense.

Also, random symbols and codes appear just like in Gravity Falls.
The stories were current and the issues pertinent to the world during its five season run. More importantly, the scientific problems the team had to deal with were captivating. Yes, we all like good story and interpersonal dynamics but we are here for the fringe science and it was all here. Cloning, rapid aging, mutations, genetic manipulation of animals and humans, parallel universes, Fringe touched on most if not all the cool geeky science fiction ideas and went even further. Each week was a new case to be solved and added to the larger mystery of what was actually happening in our world. The plot also affected the backstories of several main characters. Some of the most exciting moments for me was learning why the weirdness seemed to find these individuals and how they related to the bigger story that Fringe was telling. Fringe was, to me at least, the mysterious series with questions that were answered unlike LOST.

I also didn't even mind the lens flare on this show.
Nearly a decade later and I can still enjoy Fringe. I can also appreciate how well it was crafted, with characters and plot points introduced early on and resolved later on in the series. The connective fabric of Fringe was and is still amazing. It stands up to time and I enjoyed almost all 100 episodes of it. Find it and give it a chance. Watch the first three episodes and you'll be hooked. Seek answers and you will find them.

Especially if you see a random bald dude in a suit in the background.

Sean Fields is an aspiring writer and has been in the education field for more than a decade. He works mostly with teenagers nowadays which both keeps him well informed on pop culture and makes his hair turn grayer daily. He has a few blogs but is currently focused on this one and this other one. You can also find him on TumblrTwitter and Instagram, if you want to be entertained or infuriated.
Weird Science Weird Science Reviewed by Sean Fields on Tuesday, August 14, 2018 Rating: 5
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