The Essential Fringe

One more day until the Fringe series finale, and when we bid a fond and teary farewell to our intrepid team. I must admit, I am quite saddened by the prospect of not seeing the gang in action any longer. Not to mention in action as more than one version of themselves! Fringe remains an innovative show with tons of heart, and like so much excellent TV that came before it, is really a story about love. Father/son love, soulmate love, friend love and deep loyalty, and love of our world. 

Likes any series, Fringe had its moments of wandering and, I think, was one of those that was truly hampered by non-progressive network politics. It didn’t really come into its own until season two, but definitely gave us tantalizing glimpses into its true nature from the get-go. If you are late to Fringe, or if you want to go back and get the larger picture (or see the writers connecting the dots earlier than you ever thought) after what is sure to be an explosive and dizzying series finale, here is a list of the essential Fringe episodes you must watch to truly know the series as a whole. It ain’t a short list, but it’s a thorough one. Let’s get crackin!

The Fringe team: more awesome than you

Season 1

Pilot – duh. Just watch it.

The Arrival – this is the first episode focused on September, our lovely bald Observer friend! We discover some quirks about these odd trenchcoated lurkers, and we see that Walter protecting the cylinder and meeting with September.

Typical Walter – one hand in a corpse and the other holding a Red Vine

In Which We Meet Dr. Jones – the title says it all, and we see David Robert Jones, as visited in a Frankfurt jail by Olivia. Walter and Peter communicate with a dead guy to give Dr. Jones information. 

The Dreamscape – aka the butterfly episode. We get more information on the subtle and mysterious workings of Massive Dynamic, and we begin to see the power of Olivia’s mind.

He sees you when you’re sleeping; he knows when you’re awake…

Safe – people walk through bank vault walls and Dr. Jones is successfully teleported from his cell in Frankfurt to Little Hill (30 miles north of Boston)

Inner Child – one of my least favorite episodes, but proven to be very important. Here, we meet the child Observer, Michael, for the first time

Father/son human experimentation

There’s More Than One of Everything – the best episode of season 1, and jam-packed full of epic Fringe plot points. DRJones rips a hole between the universes and a truck partially comes through; Walter visits a grave, talks with September, and we realize Peter is from Over There. Peter and Walter later stop DRJones at Reiden Lake, and Peter kills him by closing the window and slicing him in half. Olivia crosses over and meets William Bell (Spock in da house!) in the Twin Towers.


Season 2

A New Day in the Old Town – Olivia is missing from her SUV, but then pops back in and flies through the windshield – an impact of her crossing over. 

Grey Matters – Walter’s brain is missing pieces! We find out who took them out and why

Jacksonville – Olivia begins to recall her Cortexiphan trials with Walter and Bell when she was a child; the Cortexiphan in her system is what lets her see traces of the other universe and helps her cross over without harm. At the end of the ep, Olivia sees a glimmer around Peter and realizes he’s not from this universe. 

Very sad! But here’s a spoiler: there’s another Peter, and he’s alive + super hot

Peter – we get Peter’s childhood story – his illness, death, and Walter’s crossing over to cure and save the other Peter. Walter and his wife cannot bear to return him to his universe, and raise him as their own.

White Tulip – a scientist tries in vain to save the woman he loves by altering time, and Walter shares his guilt over taking Peter from his real, Over-There parents and expresses his wish for forgiveness. A pivotal and essential Walter episode, and one of the series’ finest outings.

A sign of forgiveness

The Man From the Other Side – we see Thomas Jerome Newton again (why do the baddies always have three names?), and he helps Walternate cross over. Peter learns Walter took him from the other side and leaves in anger

Over There, Parts 1 and 2 – Peter willingly goes with his ‘real’ father, Walternate, back Over There and becomes aware of the existence of the Machine. Walter and Olivia cross over with the help of others from the Cortexiphan trials. They find Bell, and he helps them figure out a way to reopen the door so they can get back while Olivia impersonates her doppelganger and convinces Peter to leave with her. They kiss for the first time! Bell then appears to sacrifice himself helping the team get home.  However, we find out that the wrong Olivia went back, and our Olivia has been captured and is being held prisoner Over There. 

Old man snarling: Bell & Bishop Edition

Season 3

Olivia – our Olivia fights to escape her captors Over There, but has been brainwashed into thinking she’s her alternate self. Over Here, Fauxlivia keeps on getting in deeper with the team

Fringe Divison: Over There (with 300% more biceps!)

The Plateau – one of the coolest episodes ever! A drug enhances the abilities of the super-smart to set events in motion. Our Olivia, trapped and brainwashed, sees a vision of Peter who tells her not to believe her current circumstances. 

The Abducted – our Olivia comes to, and briefly crosses over to get a message to Peter

They will take you DOWN!

Entrada – Peter is hip to Fauxlivia’s biz! The Fringe team rushes to capture Fauxlivia while Olivia fights for her life Over There (they were going to cut out her brain!). When Fauxlivia crosses back over to her original universe, it’s at the expense Colonel Broyles. Olivia manages to return home as well, exhausted but happy to be alive and with Peter. Also, more into on the Machine and it’s supposedly ancient origins.

The Firefly – Christopher Lloyd guest stars in this truly outstanding ep, as the Observer gets in touch with Walter to help him in correcting a mistake from the past. So much intricate awesomeness happens in this episode that I can’t even effectively sum it up. Just watch it!

Subject 13 – we flash back to Olivia’s childhood and her Cortexiphan trails with Walter and Bell; we see just how far back her power extends. We also see her meeting Peter for the first time, as children.

Peter in the Machine, about to erase himself

The Day We Died – flash forward! Peter steps into the Machine to repair the damage to the universes and sees what life is like in 2026. To prevent the worlds from falling apart and prevent Olivia from dying, he changes the future by bridging both universes and eliminating himself from all timelines. Noooo!

Season 4

Neither Here Nor There – We see how sad a Peter-less universe really is, and what has become of the team if he never existed. However, his image is bleeding through to both Walter and Olivia, and while September has the power to erase him completely, he chooses not to. 

Back to Where You’ve Never Been – Peter, already having popped back in to this new timeline, is frustrated because no one remembers him or is listening about the big shapeshifter problem they are having. He decides to visit Over There for some help, and they discover that DRJones, alive in this timeline, is at the heart of the shapeshifter invasion. 

Welcome to Westfield – the universes are merging in this little town, and shit is going to hell! Also, Olivia seems to be remembering things that never happened to her…in this timeline. After surviving the town’s collapse at the eye of the storm, Peter heads over to Olivia’s to find her acting like the old Olivia he knew and loved. Everyone is confused.

Love is all you need

The End of All Things/A Short Story about Love – September is injured, and Peter goes into his Observery mind to communicate with him. Much is revealed! Later, September contacts Peter again and tells him the timeline is largely restored, and Olivia remembers everything. Peter and Olivia are reunited at last, and there is kissing. 

It’s the future, and it ain’t lookin good (except for HICusick, who always looks good!)

Letters of Transit – we hop forward to the year 2036 and the Observers have invaded and taken over the world. We meet a young blonde FBI agent, Etta, who is Peter and Olivia’s daughter. Our team froze themselves in amber, and they have a plan to defeat the Bald Overlords. Yummy and delicious Henry Ian Cusick guest stars to great effect!

David. Robert. Jones.

Worlds Apart – The agents say good-bye to their Over There counterparts, with a particularly touching scene between Walter and Walternate as they close the bridge to protect both universes from harm in the form of the evil DRJones. Bye-bye, Over There. We’re gonna miss ya.

Brave New World, Parts 1 and 2 – we start with more shenanigans from DRJones as he tries to crush the universes together – but it is soon revealed that this isn’t his master plan, it’s William Bell’s! Bell decides to ‘sacrifice a bishop’ and we think Peter is in for it, but it turns out Bell is about to sacrifice Jones now that he’s fulfilled his role. Peter takes care of DRJones’ stupid ass – ding dong the moron is dead – while Olivia uses her Cortexiphan abilities with awesome results (hint: stopping bullets WITH HER BRAIN). Walter figures out Bell is involved, and Astrid is caught in the crossfire. Thank goodness her gunshot wound doesn’t kill her, and Peter and Olivia (with help from Nina and Broyles) go gallavanting after Bell, jumping universes to get onto the barge he’s holed up on off the east coast. Olivia turns out to be the catalyst for the worlds smashing together, and Walter shoots her in the head at point-blank range. She dies, but Walter then pushes the bullet out of her brain and the remaining Cortexiphan heals her. She lives! In the final scene, the team is in the hospital awaiting her discharge, and she reveals to Peter she is preggers. Hugs all around! 

As far as season 5 goes, you pretty much have to watch all of it (except The Recordist) or else you’ll be hopelessly lost in terms of the finale. I would like to include an honorable mention – Brown Betty. This season-two diversion displays a musical Fringe world, brought on by Walter’s high-as-a-kite recreational-substance-saturated imagination. Everyone is dressed as 50s detectives from a hard-boiled crime story, and I just love every moment of it. It’s Fringe’s answer to the Buffy musicals of life, and manages to satirize itself while remaining true to the heart of the show. 

There you have it, Fringe fans!  Hop to it and order those Fringe blu-rays in time for a private marathon in a post-Fringe world. Are you ready for tomorrow’s finale? I have my Red Vines ready and waiting, and we’re going to concoct things in the blender while trying not to explode any papayas. I’d also like to think that somewhere, in another universe, Fringe didn’t have to fight cancellation every step of the way and we get to see many more adventures with Peter, Olivia, Walter, Astrid, Broyles, Nina, and September. I will, of course, be bringing you my thoughts on the last two hours of the series, so stay tuned to Open the Fridge for how it all goes down. I’m also going to do a separate goodbye-to-Fringe post, with my top ten favorite moments. For now, hug a mad scientist and let’s root for a happy ending for these crazy kids! 

Written by: Amy Imhoff

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