After the first episode of its fifth season, Fringe proved itself, once and for all, as the best show on TV.
I only learned about the show two years ago and, being a little compulsive, sat with my friend through showings of every single episode, starting with the first chapter of season one.
In the shocking conclusion of the first season, the attractive blonde FBI agent Olivia (Anna Torv) came face to face suddenly with the controlling William Bell (Leonard Nimoy), in a World Trade Center office in a reality where the buildings had not been destroyed by terrorists.
From there, in the comfort of my living room sofa, as the episodes rolled on, I journeyed through alternate universes, met shape shifters and double agents, watched horrific genetic experiments on children and rocketed through worlds of new, often unexplained phenomena.
You can always tell when a show doesn't sell you out for the sake of sponsors. The sellout shows are the ones you can catch anytime, not worrying about how many episodes you've missed. Since they don't tell you new stories each week anyway, it really doesn't matter how many installments you miss.
Not so with Fringe. The people putting on this show refuse to dumb it down and refuse to cut back for the sake of ratings or sucking in some more viewers. The endless variety of new material, new stories, new twists and turns is what they promised and this is what they give. This refusal to sell out, more than anything else, is why the show doesn't have the ratings of - let's say - The Walking Dead or Supernatural.
During the first four years, strange, bald, hat-wearing men have been watching Olivia, her lover Peter (Joshua Jackson), and his father Walter (John Noble). Sometimes they do more than just watch. They intervene, and since they are time-travellers, this can cause real problems.
To our characters, the pale visitors, called Observers, appear to be nothing but other- worldly record keepers who have no interest in impacting human history. At the end of last year we realized, however, they were indeed interested in changing human history and not at all in changing it to the benefit of humanity.
Season five features the war between the Observers who come full force to earth, and the ordinary people living on the planet.
Fringe explores the concept that we, the people, don't always act in our own self interest and that, in fact, we often act to do ourselves in. Unlike most other science fiction ivolving invaders from space, Fringe doesn't blame the so-called invaders for all of humanity's troubles. It blames those among us who get too carried away with ourselves. Science run amok. Technology controlled by a greedy few in order to suppress the majority. Capitalism. They are the real enemies we must worry about.
Walter shows how we as people, in the process of learning and seeking truth, are capable of causing or allowing great harm. When Walter tried to save his son from a killer disease, he opened a rift between the dimensions, the alternate universes. In trying to unleash the potential of the human brain and thought, he created a whole race of dangerous superhumans.
Walter shows how even the best of instincts can be perverted and corrupted if we ignore the 'morality' of what we do; if we ignore who is in control of the things we discover, and if we ignore what they will do with it.
John Noble has had to play the many and totally different sides of Walter, a man, just like all of us, too often turned against himself. Noble, as far as I am concerned, should have a pile of awards and recognitions for his superior performances in all of his 'Walter'roles.
I can tell from watching the first episode of the fifth season that it will be as good, if not better, than the four that have gone before it.
Physicist Michio Kaku said the science behind much of what we saw in the first four years was complicated, but theoretically sound. In the first episode of the current season there was again no sign of any dumbing down. There was no sign of selling out to gain more sponsors or viewers. There was only the uncompromising high-quality stuff that makes this the best show on TV, even if this is, as the advertisers and the network have decided, the last season of a show made for all seasons.
Photo: Fringe official site