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Sunday, November 1, 2020

The Best TV Series of My Life: Fringe (2008 - 2013)

J.J. Abrams' series appear more than once here. Lost, which I will eventually review, is one of my all-time favorite series, as is Person of Interest and Westworld. I will review each in turn.

Broadly speaking, Fringe is pure joy, The X-Files brought into the 21st century. It's part science fiction and crime drama and cultural kitsch thrown in for good measure. It's a J.J. Abrams production, which means that friggin' everybody in it is drop-dead beautiful. I mean, look! The chances you'd see six people that good-looking show up all at once at, say, a local restaurant or a grocery store or who perhaps work alongside you at Dewey, Screwum, & Howe, are approximately as remote as the chance Republicans will grow a moral conscience and start doing the right thing anytime in the next decade. Basically, zero.

Anna Torv in particular. She stars as Olivia Dunham, an FBI agent who comes to be employed by a special section of the Bureau called Fringe Division, which investigates the continuing spread of unexplained--and often tragic and gory--phenomena. Her boss is Phillip Broyles, played by Lance Reddick, a hard-nosed (of course) chief who hands out assignments and keeps everyone, more or less, in line.

Dunham 's first assignment has her on the tail of Peter Bishop, whom she needs to contact in order to finalize the release of his uber-brilliant father, Walter Bishop, from the mental hospital, where he has been confined for seventeen years. Peter Bishop is played by Joshua Jackson, an initially slippery and dodgy character who is gradually wooed over to the good side by Dunham (seriously, who wouldn't be?), and who eventually falls in love with her. I wish I'd see a lot more of Jackson; I think he's a terrific actor. His father is played by the great John Noble, whom the series, in my opinion, revolves around.

It is Dr. Bishop's many inventions, his many thoughts, his many endeavors that ultimately spawn the story arc, along with many of the unexplained phenomena Fringe Division has to deal with.

The story arc reveals that the world is being watched by time-traveling beings called the Observers, who ultimately prove hostile and who conquer the world and impose their fascistic culture and breathing air upon everyone. For me, though, the more meaningful stories aren't those, which take place in the fifth season, in my opinion its weakest, but those in seasons one through four, one through three is particular. Here we get a parallel universe and parallel Beautiful People Everywhere; here we get less a broad-view epic potentially outreaching itself to more intimate, closer-in stories of humanity and people just trying to abide the weirdness.

Jasika Nichol plays Astrid Farnsworth, the lab assistant and a character who should have had a much more involved and visible story. Her relationship to Walter is touching and often hilarious, especially the myriad ways he butchers her name. She's one of those characters without whom the series would be diminished far beyond her screen time, which speaks both to the excellence of her acting and to the writing.

The woman on the far right of the top poster is a character by the name of Nina Sharp, played by Blair Brown. She's the Chief Operating Officer of Massive Dynamic, a tremendous global corporation started by Walter's best friend, William Bell, played by the late Leonard Nimoy. Like all corporations, it's at least as dodgy in its dealings, personally, politically, and globally, as any; as a result, a fair few episodes have the team dealing with it and its many secrets and shenanigans. Massive Dynamic is a perfect mirror for its head, whose own aspirations include things like creating his own universe, where he can play god, the rather obvious aspiration of all CEOs.

Fringe is one of those series that makes binge-watching a thing. If you haven't seen it, start. I bet you'll be binge-watching it in short order.