Every day up to the showing of Fringe’s winter premiere episode, I’ll be highlighting one reason why people should watch Fringe. This will ultimately add up to seven reasons. These reasons are in no particular order.
5. By exploring the parallel universe, Fringe very cleverly explores the idea of the “Road Not Taken” and the concept of fate and destiny.
The universe that is primarily shown is the universe that we live in and that our heroes live in (it’s called the “Blueverse”). There is another universe that is discovered that is called the “Redverse” and in this universe, everyone looks the same, but their lives are a bit different because different choices have been made and thus, they’ve lived in different circumstances. For example, the Olivia in our universe is a strong, but broken woman. She’s suffered abuse at the hands of her father, her only saving grace, her mother, died when she was young and she was experimented on as a child. Thus, she’s strong, sensitive, cautious, broken, and feels the need to protect everyone, carrying the weight of the world. The Olivia in the Redverse (the writers call her Bolivia, but some people call her AltOlivia) was never experimented on as a child and was raised by her loving mother. Thus, she is much more carefree, fun and confident and is occasionally even arrogant and cocky. AltOlivia’s life path represents “The Road Not Taken” for Olivia, the path that Olivia’s life didn’t take because the circumstances were different. When Olivia comes face to face with AltOlivia, she sees the person that she could have been and initially feels imperfect when compared to AltOlivia. In reality, Olivia’s hardships have given her a strength and perspective that AltOlivia will never have. Exploring the alternative universe allows our characters to explore themselves more fully and to understand and appreciate themselves in a way that would otherwise not be possible.
Olivia and AltOlivia are both members of the Fringe division and so you can argue that Olivia is fated to be an FBI Agent for the Fringe division since no matter what universe she’s in, that’s her profession. The show uses the alternative universe to explore what parts of our lives are due to fate and destiny and what part of our lives are a consequence of our unique choices. The war between the two universes serves as an elaborate stage on which the plot of season 3 plays out. Fringe stays as far away as possible from cliches in this regard too. It would easy to paint the alternative universe as bad (and that it needs to be destroyed) and our universe as good (and as the universe that needs to be saved), but Fringe never takes the easy road. Much of season 3 is devoted to showing us that the alternative universe is full of people whose lives are just as important and whose strength of character is just as admirable. Their struggles are real and we sympathize with their motives. If only one universe could survive, we are left wondering which universe it should be since both deserve to survive. Fringe does not believe in painting the world as black and white- the world is full of shades of gray and part of the joy of watching Fringe is watching our characters struggle with that idea. The alternative universe is a brilliant creation and it shows that compared to other shows on TV, Fringe is daring and bold, taking the plots and characters to new and exciting places.
6. Fringe explores strong themes
Fringe is a wonderful show that explores very strong themes that allow it to transcend the stereotypes of the Sci-Fri genre to become something else entirely. I love how season 4 is taking some really serious themes that have been developed in past seasons and magnifying them even more for further exploration.
Being special: Olivia was experimented on as a child and this experience shapes who she is in the present. Having suffered an injustice as a child, she longs to correct the injustices done to other people. The experiments were done in an effort to tap into her unique abilities as a child and to make her special. But, Olivia feels anything but special. She feels violated, traumatized, burdened, and most important, different and out of synch with everyone else. She will never be normal and sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes it’s not. She feels like the experiments made her “wrong” in some way and how can you make relationships and function every day feeling like that? In season 4, we discover that Olivia is still being experimented on as an adult, without her knowledge and consent. Whereas the experiments done to her as a child were before a distant (though prevalent) memory, in season 4, the horrors of her past are playing themselves out again in the present. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds for her and how the current experiments strength or destroy her.
The Idea of home: Peter was originally from the alternative universe (“Redverse”), but he was kidnapped as a child by Walter and brought over to the “Blueverse” when Walter’s own Peter died. Prior to the start of the show, Peter has never felt like he truly belonged anywhere. He assumed a nomadic lifestyle, going from place and place and never staying in one place too long. Upon learning that he is a child of two worlds (born in one and raised in the other), his world is turned upside down. Questions of belonging become even more complicated. He doesn’t truly belong to Walter since he is simply a replacement for the son that he lost and he doesn’t truly belong to Walternate (the Walter in the alternative universe who is Peter’s biological father) since Walternate doesn’t even know Peter as a man. He feels an emotional bond with Walter and Olivia in the Blueverse, but feels an obligation to his biological family in the Redverse. Season 4 complicates this even further since now it’s not just a question of where Peter belongs, but also when (which timeline).
Running away from the past: As a younger man, Walter experimented on Olivia as a child and kidnapped Peter from his home. He is reminded of his past actions every day when he sees the two of them. When he was younger and while he was committing these actions, Walter was at the height of his intelligence and that intelligence was lost as a result of both the brain surgery that he asked Bell to perform and the mental trauma he endured at St. Claires for 17 years. He took science to places that others dared not to go and defied the laws of nature. But he was also turning into someone dangerous, someone who crossed lines that they had no right to cross. He is constantly burdened by the guilt from his past actions and is always reminded of how sub-par his present intelligence is compared to what it was before. In season 4, the reemergence of his presumably dead son Peter is a reminder of his actions that, in this timeline, caused the death of both Peters. In the old timeline, Peter also served as a reminder, but he was a calming and loving representation of it. In this timeline, Peter is seen as a temptation, a threat to his sanity and a danger to love. Walter has lost the one thing that had, before, made the guilt bearable.
The impact we have on those we love: I’m just going to let the writers of the show handle this one: “We’re really, really interested in the concept that life is valued by the connections that you make and the impact you have on others and what impact do they have on us: How do they make us better people? How do we make other people better for knowing us? We just think that’s really something worthy of writing about.”
Watch Fringe’s Winter Premiere LIVE on Friday, January 13th at 9pm on FOX!