TV Talk with Breanna #1: The Endless Impossibilities of Fringe

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By Breanna Shiflett

Television is my favorite medium. In my opinion, there’s nothing else like it. Sure, going to a movie theater and sitting down amongst a few dozen strangers to enjoy a film on the big screen is an experience on its own, but it’s nothing like watching TV. Some may say that movies are better because they’re longer, since most television shows are half an hour to 60 minutes. But what television shows lack in length, they make up for in quantity. When you see a movie, it’s over in 2 and a half hours, and you’re left with a temporary thrill and the hope that a sequel will be made within the next few years. With television, however, when that hour is over, you almost always have the next week to look forward to. Television shows are consistent: they’re on at the same time, on the same night, for months at a time. Not only that, but I believe that TV is much more personal than movies. When you go to a theater, you’ll be sharing the room with tons of people that you don’t know, and more and more often one of those strangers will have an obnoxious habit that they just won’t stop doing throughout the movie. With television, you are able to relax in your own home, and to me, bringing the actors into your house each week is just a wonderful experience.

Because of my intense love of television, I decided years ago that I would strive to become a screenwriter. As a result, I have ventured into the worlds of all sorts of different shows, both good and bad, new and old. There are still thousands I’ve yet to discover, but with the amount that I have seen and the number of which I tune into weekly, I think it’s safe to say that a column about television is just right for me.

It would be wrong of me to start this column in any other way than with this show. Fringe first started airing in 2008, just when I was entering sixth grade. I only watched it here and there for the first season, but I did make sure to tune into the season finale, and it was then that I knew this show was special. The cliffhanger was something unlike I had ever seen before, which for a long time I thought was just because I was only 12 years old. But the more I think about it, the more I believe that it is still one of the best season finale cliffhangers I have ever seen. With the end of that last scene, my life changed.

Now, that is a bit cliché, but allow me to explain. As soon as that episode finished, I jumped online to find all of the others I had missed throughout the season. Over the next few weeks I rewatched every episode, found all of the extra content online, and even immersed myself in a few fan groups. This was the first time that I had really interacted with a show other than when it was on my TV, and I loved it. During that summer, I discovered my love for television, and though I would not realize it for another two years, found out what I wanted to do with my life through it.

I can’t say that Fringe is a completely unique premise, since at its core it is similar to The X-Files, at least at the beginning. Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) is an agent with the FBI, who suddenly has to join the Fringe Division when strange events start happening in New York. Olivia is joined by Walter Bishop (John Noble), who is a mad scientist that had spent the last several years in an asylum, and his son, Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), a jack-of-all-trades. During the first season, the trio goes around New York solving cases about the mysterious “Fringe events” which all somehow connect to “The Pattern”. Each season has its own premise, but as the show goes on, the overall story arc becomes more focused on an alternate universe in which the characters have to interact with different versions of themselves, first as enemies and eventually as allies.

One of the things that makes Fringe so intriguing is how every single detail means something. Like many other JJ Abrams shows, anything can be a significant detail, such as the green and red lights that show up throughout the series and the bald men known as the Observers that appear somewhere in the background of every episode. A big part of these details was the glyphs that would appear before every commercial break for only a few seconds. These glyphs could be anything from a hand with six fingers to a frog with a Phi symbol on its back. Each one also had a yellow dot positioned somewhere around it, and viewers were able to determine that the glyphs were actually a cipher, with each one corresponding to a letter of the alphabet. The words that the glyphs would spell out were often hints for the next episode and would give special insight to the hardcore fans who took the time to decode each message.

While Fringe is mostly centered on science and the paranormal, it also has real characters with beautiful relationships. The relationship between Walter and Peter is one of the most iconic things about the show, with their struggle between a father who was never there but wants to do everything he can to fix that now and a son who doesn’t want anything to do with him. There is also the beautiful love story between Olivia and Peter, and the odd but amazing relationships between the characters and their alternate selves.

Above all else, Fringe has great themes and thoughts that actually mean something to the viewers. A conflict that occurs frequently throughout the show is that of science vs faith, as well as themes like family troubles and having a sense that you don’t belong. These are topics that fans can easily relate to, and in many cases did. Looking back, the show also had great pieces of wisdom, ranging from things like “We’re all mutants– what’s more remarkable is how many of us appear to be normal” to the simple “Everyone has a purpose.” Even though the show is largely about things that could never happen, the fact that it has such a realistic tone with true feelings is remarkable.

After five seasons and 100 episodes, Fringe ended in early 2013, but its legend still lives on in the hearts of many fans. The show’s beautiful characters, amazing storytelling, stunning visual effects, and real emotions brought in thousands of fans, and today it still has an extremely dedicated fanbase. If you would like to see what Fringe is all about and perhaps even become one of those fans, you can watch all five seasons on Netflix, iTunes, and Hulu.  But be careful, because in the world of Fringe, there are endless impossibilities.