The Fox series FRINGE has earned its place in the tenants of science fiction history as one of the best sci-fi series to air on television. As the show wraps its fourth season, it has done the seemingly impossible and continues to get better and better with each episode. It is like the show is racing towards its finish-line, pushing itself harder and faster to achieve its prodigious goals.
In its latest episode “Letters of Transit,” FRINGE upped its game once again. The show has dared to take viewers into alternate verses, alternate timelines, and last week it dared to preview a totalitarian future — where the entire planet is ruled by the oppressive and omnipresent Observers. While FRINGE gave us a glimpse of an unimaginable future at the end of its 3rd season in “The Day We Died,” it was but a foreshadow of what would happen should the alt-verse be destroyed to save our universe. Whereas “Letters of Transit” ventured back into a murky and mysterious future to prophecy what will become of both universes should the Observers be allowed to take control and rule unchecked. Just like it was imperative to discover how much each of the parallel universes were dependent upon one another and needed each other; it is imperative now that both universes work together to find a way to prevent worldwide domination by the Observers.
From the very beginning of the series, the Observers were an unknown element. They were known to simply watch and observe events, not to intervene. But as the FRINGE tale unfolded over the past 4 seasons, the Observers role took on a more interactive state where they were manipulating events both for good and for evil. The more friendly and protective Observer known as September, risked everything this season to warn Olivia, “I have looked at all possible futures, and in every one, the result is the same. You have to die.” Despite this warning and despite being shot through the chest by one of his own kind, September has not only saved Peter’s (Josh Jackson) life twice, he found a way to ensure that Peter reunited with his true love, Olivia (Anna Torv).
FRINGE may have initially seemed like a show where there were mysterious phenomena occurring and each was simply a case to be solved; but, in reality, each was but a piece of a much larger puzzle building towards where the story is now. Advances in science in the future left ripple-affects in its wake and those with brilliant minds, curious hearts and an inclination to follow the breadcrumbs discovered so many wondrous things. FRINGE has been both an exploration of what could be possible, and a fascinating story about two intertwined universes with mirrored characters living similar lives.
Most television shows have a difficult enough time creating one universe and carving out niches for their characters, but FRINGE always has to do it bigger and better and added layer upon layer of mystery for viewers to explore with them. But it is not only in the complexity and detail that FRINGE excels in its stories, it is the characters themselves that FRINGE wove into its tapestry. Embodying these rich characters are an array of actors whose talents are exemplified as nothing short of extraordinary. John Noble, Anna Torv, Lance Reddick, Jasika Nicole, Seth Gabel and Blair Brown have not had to just portray one character, but two — and sometimes more — as alternate timelines and time jumps into the future have necessitated to create variations of their characters. (Josh Jackson has been exempt from having to playing multiple versions of his character Peter Bishop simply because Peter is the same no matter what universe, or timeline, he finds himself suddenly thrust amongst.)
It has been a mind-boggling, confounding and very labyrinthine journey. Fans who held on tight for the wild ride have been ecstatically rewarded.
“Letters of Transit” served to remind us once again how phenomenal the show is. It had the brazenness to take us into the future without a point of reference. The episode took a leap of faith and opened the episode with a brand new character, never seen before, and we followed in her footsteps through the episode uncertain where the story would take us. Reassuringly, our new heroine soon discovered the body of Dr. Walter Bishop and with aid of a comrade-in-arms, they freed Walter from his amber tomb. It was a brave new world where Observers were everywhere, reigning with ironclad control, and ruthlessly killing anyone that opposed them. Yet even in a world where there were initially no familiar faces, we trusted that this all tied back to our heroes: Walter, Peter and Olivia. Thus, just as soon as Walter was found, we all breathed a sigh of relief. Yet astoundingly, the remainder of the episode was Olivia-free, and it was not until the end that Peter made a brief appearance. But was this the Peter we know as he recognized the young woman as his daughter Henrietta (Georgina Haig)? The Peter we know does not have a daughter. This future world clearly had all sorts of new dimensions not yet explored.
The Emmy-worthy aspects are two-fold. Other shows may dare to envision alternate universes or dream of an alternate-future for its characters, but how many would choose to portray a world where its main characters were nowhere to be seen? FRINGE did not hesitate to venture into a world that none dare explore before. It knew that its core-fanbase and fans would follow them willingly and trust that all would be explained. “Letters of Transit” not only required a level of trust on both sides, it introduced a world that we would be happy to stay for a while. Within minutes it had viewers invested and clamoring for more. FBI Agents Etta Bishop (Georgina Haig) and Simon Foster (Henry Ian Cusick) were heroes we could root for and which we were curious to know more about. In fact, Etta’s special abilities and Simon’s keen, imaginative intellect ensured that we were hooked. Then throw in Walter Bishop into the mix, and this was FRINGE of the future. It is a show that we could easily see ourselves watching in 10 years, once the current actors’ contracts had expired and the show morphed into the next phase. It is bold and clever. It is as if the writers asked: why wait for the future? Why not create it right now?
FRINGE has never shrunk from being creatively risky. It knows no bounds and has a blast playing with all the possibilities. That boldness and trust edges it towards Emmy consideration.
What pushes it fully over into the Emmy-worthy category is simply the fine caliber of the actors bringing these audacious stories to life. All the fascinating stories in the world would be by pale imitations but for the talent giving each story breath and body. FRINGE not only creates worlds that we want to know more about and stories which we are dying to know more about, it has the talent to give the stories substance and believability. FRINGE makes these scientifically-advanced worlds feel real. The characters feel real, the adventures feel real, and we want to be a part of it. It is a rare feat when any show — let alone a science fiction show — has the ability to confound its viewers and make them believe in the impossible. For surely, there must be a Walter Bishop out there solving all the mysterious cases that we cannot explain with today’s science?
“Letters in Transit” was a vivid reminder what is the best thing about FRINGE: it dares to dream and it makes dreams a reality (albeit in FRINGE’s reality).
When looking for dramatic television shows worthy of Emmy recognition for their excellence, voting guild members should be looking no further than FRINGE. This season in particular has earned it.
“FRINGE Round-Table: Letters of Transit”
“TV Review: Fringe – ‘Letters of Transit'”
“FRINGE Review: The Many Ways ‘Letters of Transit’ Blew Our Minds”
“Looking Through the Alt-Verse Lens: Who Died and Broke Our Hearts”‘
“Counting Down FRINGE’s Final 8 Episodes of the 4th Season”
“Interview with EP’s Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman re FRINGE”