FeaturedSuspension of Disbelief

Suspension of Disbelief: Fringe

Fringe is a television series that started in 2008 and concluded in January of this year. I’ve just started watching the first season and I’m completely in love with it. An FBI agent, with the help of her three sidekicks (two pretty, one crazy…literally), investigate odd happenings that occur on the edge of what we would call “normal science”.

Title: Fringe
Created by: JJ Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci
Actors: Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson and John Nobel

The first episodes takes us through Olivia’s recruitment into the fringe division of the FBI. After some weird shit happens she goes to find Dr. Walter Bishop, a scientist with an IQ of 196 who has spent the last 17 years in a mental institution, to get his help on a case. However, Dr. Bishop isn’t allowed to see anyone without the express permission of his legal guardian. Olivia travels to Iran (I think) to hunt down Peter Bishop, Walter’s son. After some threats he finally comes back and Olivia gains access to Dr. Bishop. Dr. Bishop ultimately helps her in solving the case and it is decided that he, along with Peter, will stay and work for the FBI as civilian consultants. There is also a lab assistant, that doesn’t get nearly enough credit, named Astrid. She helps Dr. Bishop doing *all* his dirty work, babysits Dr. Bishop from time to time and does all of Olivia’s grunt work…. yet other recaps of the show often leave Astrid out. But anyway… so starts the show!


Convoluted and Cryptic: If you’ve ever watched a J.J Abrams show before (Alcatraz, for example) you know that he likes to make cryptic references to an insanely convoluted and absurd plot that will eventually unravel. Fringe is no different. Within a couple of episodes your mind is spinning with a million questions… who is the bald man? what was Dr. Bishop doing all those years pre-mental institution? what is up with the “ZFT”? is Massive Dynamic a friend or foe?… and these questions keep you interested to watch more and more of the show. The plot only thickens as you watch and it is 100% not predictable. A lot of these kinds of shows end up being episodic but I love that this one has the episodic feel – but also has an overall plot line that progresses with each Fringe case. It makes each episode really interesting while continuing to peak your interest about the overall problem.

Characters: A convoluted plot line can get pretty tired unless you have likable and relatable characters experiencing the plot along with you. Olivia, our most main character, comes off as how I think she is supposed to be. … If that makes sense… some people criticized the character for being “cold” or “distant” but I think this is exactly how she is and thus that is how she should come off. Her home life gives a small peak into what the “real” Olivia is like but largely I find her to be a strong, independent woman who stands her ground. Dr. Bishop saves the mad scientist character type. How horrible is it to watch TV where they make the scientist crazy…but completely lacking humanity. Dr. Bishop gets upset when people’s lives are at risk, cries out of guilt and regret and loves his son dearly… he is emotional, empathetic and insane; it works beautifully. Dr. Bishop has quickly become one of my favorite characters I have ever watched. He adds comic relief and is just a darling. I am of the opinion that Dr. Bishop completely makes this show by adding an intense emotional appeal. His son, Peter, is level-headed and while he tries to come off as rough and tough his love for his father really shines through. Astrid is a gorgeous young woman who puts up with everyone’s crap but never complains about it. She is smart and her contributions are integral to solving a lot of the cases. The cast is just wonderful. (And Joshua Jackson??? Holy flash back to Dawson’s Creek! It makes me want to watch Dawson and Pacey fight over Joey all over again!!! …no?… Am I alone on this one?… Anyone??)

Fun non-science: Time travel, alternate universes, genetically modified animals, telekinesis… in Fringe it is all real and all awesome. It takes some getting used to but if you allow yourself to just believe that all this stuff could really happen (on TV) then it becomes incredibly enjoyable. It has been really interesting to try and see all the major sci-fi science themes brought together under one roof to see how they all related.

Cons – which are exactly the same as the pros…

Convoluted and Cryptic: Yes, this is a solid and interesting way to keep people’s attention but sometimes you can only take so much before getting supremely pissed off. How many times do I need to see the bald man to get that there is something fishy going on with him? Can I just know already?! Being in the dark for this long is really uncomfortable and ongoing cryptic-ness is actually … a little bit lame.

Characters: Peter Bishop is quite mean to his father. I get that he has a history with the man that makes him slightly more impatient but it gets to be a little bit sad. He is unnecessarily mean to his father. His father will say something outlandish and absurd and Peter will automatically make fun of him – when in the history of the show Dr. Bishop’s wild claims usually panned out to be true. I hope that Peter gets a little bit more mature in the episodes to come. Also, Nina – the Chief Operating Officer of Massive Dynamic (a suspicious company that may be behind everything odd going on) is really boring and flat. I don’t think it is the fault of the actress, she is actually pretty good… but the way she has been written is just entirely uninteresting. Finally, I think the worst thing is that when someone is shifty or going to be a bad guy in the end… you can ALWAYS tell … it is very very obvious when someone is shifty. I’d like to be blindsided a little bit better.

Fun non-science: The show really does nothing for showing how science and the scientific method really work. Dr. Bishop did experiments years ago and no one really questions it (I mean… this doesn’t bother me at all but my fiance is really thrown off by it). It fosters a bit of an uncritical/passive attitude when watching. Most crimes shows you can be active in the logical deductions that are being made and you can have fun trying to figure out the crime but in Fringe that is entirely impossible. When something weird happens it is because of some bizzare science experiment done by some person we’ve never heard of. You can’t explain anything with the knowledge you have so you have to just watch the plot unfold and go with it. Everyone in the show also just takes for granted all the odd stuff that goes on. Olivia turns off lights with her mind yet she doesn’t try to do it again… doesn’t try to understand what that means for herself… and doesn’t really question the process. It simply… happened. You really need to turn off your science lessons when watching this show. They will use normal science words/ideas to explain the Fringe science and if you let yourself get too critical I think it would ruin the fun of the show.

Overall… I love the show. I am totally addicted and sad that it is over already. I look forward to watching the plot unfold.

For my own personal rating I give it 5 apple fetuses out of 5 but for everyone else… I’d go with 3.5… because I’m not sure that everyone would bond to the characters the way that I have.


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Katie is a graduate student from Canada studying the environment and systems theory. She also loves dinosaurs and baking cupcakes. Follow her on twitter @katiekish

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