Sunday, 15 September 2013

Bingeing on Fringe

I was delightfully blown away by the fifth and final season of Fringe. While the initial seasons were mapped out like X-files, monster-of-the-week format, the final and shortest season is an exciting suspenseful serial. It is more of a treat for fans of the earlier 4 seasons like me. I couldn’t stop right after the first episode and couldn’t get enough, I went on a Fringe Binge.

For those of you who don’t know about Fringe, let me explain a little. In Fringe universe, much like the X-Files universe, unusual and unexplained things seem to happen in the US, and that’s why the FBI forms a division, the Fringe Science division to investigate all the things that go bump in the night. Instead of monsters, Fringe frequently deals with some technology or other that brings out the monsters in men.

FBI agent Olivia Dunham recruits Dr. Walter Bishop from a sanitarium. He was once this great scientist who now the world thinks is mad. But Walter doesn’t go willingly, and Olivia hunts down Peter Bishop, Walters’s estranged son to persuade him as well as to legally release him from the mental institution.

Walter is one kooky scientist who insists on working from his old lab in Harvard. There he mingles with anything from candy, LSD to human blood. He keeps a cow in the lab, which he has to regularly feed and clean up after. Basically, Walter is source of scientific inspiration as well as quirky comedy.

In the early seasons, the show follows the procedural drama format, but with every episode, a continuing mystery builds and deepens. For example, the large sinister conglomerate Massive Dynamic was founded by Walter’s science partner, William Bell, before he was institutionalized. Massive Dynamic has conducted many experiments on test subject in the name of science and is the source of many fringe incidents.

A major subplot is the parallel world in which Peter was rescued from. You see, Walter’s original son died some time ago, but Walter jumped into another universe, and inadvertently stole the other Peter back to his universe. Of course all this crossing into parallel universes has its repercussions; as a result the other world experiences singularities like a black hole vortex. Soon such singularities would be formed on this side as well. To counter the singularities, the other side developed ‘Amber’. When a location is ambered, everything turns yellow and has somehow frozen in time and space, and thus preventing the singularities from destroying the place.

Now, the other side knows what Walter did. In fact, Walternate, the other side’s Walter is Secretary of Defense and is launching a war against our world. Among the soldiers are shape shifters who can take the shape, form and voice of someone they just killed. And of course Walternate has a sinister end game.

The other side is quite interesting really. There must be a point in time where they diverged from our universe. Many things are different, the have obsoleted the use of paper, forced everyone to carry IDs and just have an incredibly technologically advanced law enforcement. They still have New York’s Twin Towers because Sept 11 never happened and their statue of Liberty is bronze instead of the green rust we have on ours. Lastly, they have airships!

Another subplot is the Cortexiphan drug experiments Walter and William Bell conducted on children a long time ago. Turns out, Olivia happens to be just one of those children. The catch is that Cortexiphan can give children special abilities, like telekinesis, telepathy, power absorption and all kinds of weird. Among other powers, Olivia had developed the ability to detect and see objects from the parallel universe and well as the ability to cross over.

The third and most intriguing subplot is that of the Observers. Observers are pale, bald men who wear a full grey suits, matching fedoras and carry suitcases around with them. They show up at defining moments in history, hence, they ‘observe’ history. But one such observer took history into his own hands and changed history forever. It resulted in the survival of Peter (from the other side), whom otherwise would have drowned in a lake. The observers would be the basis of a horrible war that takes place in Season 5.

I hope I have whet your appetite for what is no doubt a very good sci-fi series. They don’t make them like these anymore. Many of them now are about a post-apocalyptic world and depict people trying to survive, so it hardly gets too philosophical nor science-y. Five delicious worthwhile seasons. Bon App├ętit.

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