Fringe is an American science fiction television series created by J. J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. It premiered on the Fox Broadcasting network on September 9, 2008. The series follows Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), and Walter Bishop (John Noble), members of a Federal Bureau of Investigation “Fringe Division” team based in Boston, Massachusetts under the supervision of Homeland Security. The team uses “fringe” science and FBI investigative techniques to investigate a series of unexplained, often ghastly occurrences, which are related to mysteries surrounding a parallel universe. The series has been described as a hybrid of The X-Files, Altered States and The Twilight Zone.
The series’ format combines elements from procedural dramas as well as those found in serials. The series began as a more traditional “mystery of the week” series, and became more serialized in later seasons. A majority of episodes contain a standalone plot, with several episodes also exploring the series’ overarching mythology.
Early critical reception of the first season was lukewarm, but became more of a critic favorite in subsequent seasons when the series began to explore its mythology, including parallel universes and alternate timelines. The show, as well as the cast and crew, has been nominated for many major awards. Despite its move to the “Friday night death slot” and low ratings, the series has received a cult following. The series has been renewed for a fifth and final season consisting of 13 episodes, which is scheduled to premiere on September 28, 2012. The series has also spawned two six-part comic book series’ and an alternate reality game.
Fringe follows the casework of the Fringe Division, a Joint Federal Task Force supported primarily by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which includes Agent Olivia Dunham; Dr. Walter Bishop, the archetypal mad scientist; and Peter Bishop, Walter’s estranged son and jack-of-all-trades. They are supported by Phillip Broyles, the force’s director, and Agent Astrid Farnsworth, who assists Walter in laboratory research. The Fringe Division investigates cases relating to fringe science, ranging from transhumanist experiments gone wrong to the prospect of a destructive technological singularity to a possible collision of two parallel universes. The Fringe Division’s work often intersects with advanced biotechnology developed by a company called Massive Dynamic, founded by Walter’s former partner, Dr. William Bell, and run by their common friend, Nina Sharp. The team is also watched silently by a group of bald, pale men who are called “Observers”.
Season 1 introduces the Fringe Division as they investigate cases that form “the Pattern”, many of which orchestrated by an international network of rogue scientists known as ZFT (Zerstörung durch Fortschritte der Technologie, or in English, Destruction through Advancement of Technology), led by David Robert Jones, who are preparing for a doomsday event. The ZFT threat appears to end when Peter kills Jones as he attempts travel to a parallel universe. Olivia comes to learn she was a child test subject for Walter years ago for a nootropic drug, Cortexiphan, giving her weak psionic abilities. Walter also struggles with adjusting to normal life in Peter’s care after living seventeen years in a mental institution while hiding the fact that Peter is from the parallel universe, “his” Peter having died as a child.
In Season 2, the occurrences are found to be in conjunction with activities of a parallel universe, which is plagued by singularities occurring at weakened points of the fabric between worlds. The Fringe team deals with more cases that are leading to a “great storm” as the parallel universe appears to be at war with the prime one, engineered by human-machine hybrid shapeshifters from the parallel universe. Walter is forced to tell Peter that he is from the parallel universe, a replacement for his own Peter that died from a genetic disease. Walter had crossed over on the frozen ice of Reiden Lake in 1985 to administer the cure for the alternate version of Peter, but, after destroying a dose of the cure upon transport, he instead brought the boy across; on return, they fell through the ice but were saved by the Observer September, reminding him of the importance of Peter. Walter’s crossing is what caused the singularities in the parallel universe, Reiden Lake at their epicenter.
Season 3 presents episodes that alternate between the two universes. “Walternate”, Walter’s doppelgänger in the parallel universe, is the U.S. Secretary of Defense and has set events in motion to assemble a doomsday device that reacts only to Peter’s biology. He also sent his Olivia, “Fauxlivia”, to the prime universe, in Olivia’s place, to engage the Fringe Division and assemble the prime universe’s version of the device, while he studies Olivia’s Cortexiphan-induced powers. By happenstance, Fauxlivia becomes pregnant with Peter’s child, Henry, before being outed and extracted to the parallel universe. Walternate orchestrated acceleration of the pregnancy to gain a sample of the baby’s blood, which he uses to activate the machine. Peter, with Olivia’s help, enters the prime version of the machine, and experiences a vision of the future where the parallel universe has been destroyed and the same fate threatens the prime one. Recovering in the present, Peter alters his plan and uses the machine to merge the two rooms, creating a bridge where inhabitants of both universes can solve their dilemma, before disappearing and being forgotten by both Walters and Olivias.
Season 4 begins in an alternate timeline, one in which September had failed to save the alternate version of Peter in 1985, according to the Observers. This creates a butterfly effect influencing the main characters’ pasts but otherwise stabilizing both universes due to the creation of the bridge. Peter is pulled into this new timeline due to the actions of the alternate timeline’s Fringe team, which includes Lincoln Lee. Peter initially works to return to his own timeline, fueled by fears that his memories are altering Cortexiphan-dosed Olivia’s of this timeline, but after encountering a wounded September, Peter comes to learn that this timeline is truly his home, and both he and Olivia come to accept the change, rekindling their affair. September also reveals to Peter that the Observers needed to erase Peter’s son, Henry, to assure their future will be created, though noting that Peter’s future child with Olivia will be important. Meanwhile, in the present, William Bell has instructed David Robert Jones, alive in this timeline, to work with the parallel universe’s version of Nina Sharp to synchronize the two universes together, aiming to collapse them both and pave the way for a third universe under Bell’s control, using Olivia’s Cortexiphan powers to enable the collapse. The Fringe division is forced to close the dimensional bridge, but this fails to stop Bell’s plan. Walter is left with one choice, to shoot and kill Olivia, her death disrupting the process; Bell manages to get away, while Walter removes the bullet and allow the Cortexiphan to restore Olivia to life. The Fringe division is given a larger budget, while Olivia learns she is pregnant with Peter’s child. September appears to Walter and warns that “they are coming”, alluding to a dystopian future set in 2036 where the Observers, having ruined the Earth in the 26th century, have traveled back in time to 2015, purging much of humanity, and taken over the world for themselves.
The fifth season will take place in 2036 and beyond, following on events from the fourth season episode, “Letters of Transit”, focusing on the Observer-controlled dystopian future; as shown in “Letters of Transit”, the Fringe team had purposely placed themselves in amber to avoid the Observer takeover, but now have been released to fight alongside other human resistance members, including Peter and Olivia’s daughter, Henrietta.
Learn more about the concepts, principles and symbolism behind the subliminals found in this television series: