Friday, January 18, 2013
Fringe: A Love Story
Tonight Fringe comes to an end. For five seasons, this show has entertained its tiny, loyal audience, and somehow achieved the impossible: surviving on FOX without being cancelled. Clearly someone high up loves this show as much as we do.
Why do so few people watch it? I think they're afraid of the fact it's a "sci-fi show." And why do the rest of us love it as much as we do? Well, because it's so much more than a sci-fi show (as almost all sci-fi shows are).
Fringe, as I've said here many times, is a story about love. It's a show, like Lost and so many other shows of the 21st century, about the connections we have with others. But while Lost was content to show us that everyone is connected, Fringe explores what those connections mean and more importantly, what we are willing to do for those we love.
Season 1 began with a typical fringe-science-freakshow-of-the-week premise, where they found a problem, dealt with it, and moved on. But even then there was a sense that it was moving to something bigger. Like many people, I watched the first episode or two and then gave up. Too much science, not enough emotion. Boy, was I wrong. Thank goodness I came back.
Now, five years later, it's clear what Fringe is. It's a show about love: parental, romantic, filial, platonic. It's a show where a father loves his son so much he creates a catastrophic bridge between two universes to find him. Where he hates himself so much for what he's done that he literally has a piece of himself removed. It's a show where a race of superhumans can travel through time like the aliens in Slaughterhouse-Five to observe how their ancestors acted. Where one of these superhumans defies his own unemotional nature to become attached to the Bishop family, saving Peter's life as his father crosses him from one universe to the next, thereby driving a hole through time that would destroy one universe while another one slowly disintegrated.
It's a show where that son would grow up and love a woman so deeply that he would cross over through the ether to show her he loved her, where he could tell the difference between her and her alt-universe copy and love only one. It's a show where these two people would find each other in a world beyond our world, beyond death, beyond any understanding, and come together once again. Where they would create a daughter who would bring them together and then explode them apart when she is taken during the Earth's invasion of the Observers (circa 2015), and where they would freeze themselves in time just to find her 20 years later, and help her overthrow the superhumans. Where their love is not only just for each other anymore: it's for all of humanity.
And I have this terrible feeling that they're not all going to make it. There is nothing in the world that Walter Bishop loves more than his son, Peter. And nothing Peter loves more than his wife, Olivia. And nothing she loves more than her daugher, Etta. They've already lost one, leaving Olivia a shred of her former self. And if they can follow the path that will lead them to the salvation of all humanity — moving to a point in time where they can make it so the Observers never existed — then does that mean that the history of humanity will play itself out without the interference of the Observers? Will Walter still create a bridge to steal a son... but lose him in the ice?
Fringe began as a show about a group of scientists and agents who were intent on helping save the world from nasty things. And they grew into a group of people who were intent on finding each other and saving their relationships. Now, they must try to save the world without losing each other in the process.
If you have not watched Fringe, I urge you to go to season 1, make it through those first episodes (don't worry, they will add up to something by the end of the season), and watch the most exquisite love story unfold before your eyes. There is nothing these people won't do to save each other. And that's what makes their fate so terrifying... and yet so beautiful.