As Fringe airs its finale tonight, I can’t help but think back to a hot July evening in San Diego back in 2008. I was taking in the spectacle of my very first Comic-Con, and the first scheduled event was a screening of some weird new sci-fi show on FOX from hotshot producer J.J. Abrams, something that would be pushing the boundaries of network television. It starred an unknown Australian actress, Pacey from Dawson’s Creek and Denethor from The Lord of the Rings.
That first episode contained a lot of what the series would go on to be known for: weird cases that stretched the limits of science, the no-nonsense charm of Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), the roguish brilliance of Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) and the unforgettable mad genius of his father, Walter Bishop (John Noble). Abrams, still stinging from the ever-growing ranks of disgruntled Lost fans, promised that the show would not get so heavy into its mythology that new viewers couldn’t tune in each week and enjoy themselves. Well, that lasted about two seasons and change, before the show’s ever-widening conspiracy theory started to involve alternate universes, doppelgängers, psychic powers and a myriad of other elements that could no longer take a backseat to any creature-of-the-week episodes.
So on came The Observers, bald men wearing sharp-looking suits who would show up sometimes surreptitiously in every episode, then Leonard Nimoy as Walter’s old friend William Bell. Season 3 cast a daring gauntlet, working to establish an entirely new set of characters — doubles of the original characters who lived in a parallel universe — sometimes setting entire episodes “over there.” As the storyline grew more outrageous and the stakes ever-higher (with existence itself being up for grabs), viewers panicked that the modest ratings would mean we wouldn’t get a proper ending for Fringe.
Well, those fears are put to rest tonight, as Fringe airs its 100th and final episode, putting a bow on five seasons of one of TV’s trippiest diversions. While I watched the show devotedly its first three seasons — and took up much space on the blogosphere letting you know about it — I have to (shamefully) admit to having lost touch the last couple seasons. While it might seem strange to tune in tonight, I’m highly tempted, just so I can say goodbye to the Fringe Division along with everybody else. Yeah, I know I’ll be — ahem — lost (Olivia and Peter had a kid? And now she’s dead?), but I have no doubt it would still be an entertaining two hours. Plus, it might make going back and watching the shows I missed that much more fun, seeing what little bread crumbs the writers placed along the way.
So what do we know about the finale? Well, it’s broken up into two episodes, the first called “Liberty,” and the second “An Enemy of Fate.” It’ll involve the team searching for the child Observer, Michael, in an attempt to finally defeat Captain Windmark and the Observers forever. That’s all fine and good, but my humble request is to get just one more peek at Walter’s cow.
Photo: © 2012 Fox Broadcasting Co. CR: Liane Hentscher/FOX