Top 10 Episodes: Fringe – Season 1

Top 10 Episodes: Fringe – Season 1

In 2008, Fringe came storming out of the gates and onto our television screens.

Following the fictional life of Agent Olivia Dunham and members of her FBI Fringe Division team, we observe as they are tasked with investigating bizarre and seemingly unexplainable events. The use of science as a medium to try and solve these mysteries calls on the services of Walter Bishop, as well as his son Peter.

A spiritual successor to The X-Files, Fringe lasted for 5 seasons through the use of  the show’s mythology-like episodes as well as “monsters of the week.” Instead of trying to avoid parallels to shows of similar genres like the aforementioned X-Files and Star Trek, they often hit that point on the head, and even directly referenced those classics. It is here that Fringe wasn’t afraid to be what it was, and if you wanted to make comparisons to other shows go for it. Olivia and Peter aren’t TRYING to be Mulder and Scully, so don’t think the show was failing to try and recreate that chemistry – they weren’t. Fringe was doing it’s own thing. And they did it well.

Here are the Top 10 Episodes of Fringe, Season 1.

10. Arrival

On the surface, this may look like a bit of a random episode. We meet this bald guy who apparently has no taste buds, and a cylinder appears from underground only to eventually go back to where it came from.

Many seeds are being planted here however; we’re getting valuable insight and history into some of these characters, and the overall mythology of the show is slowly starting to take shape. Peter and Walter go at it quite a bit in “Arrival”, perhaps the most we’ve seen so far in this early season. Luckily Walter continues to show his soon-to-be knack for a perfectly timed line during tense situations.

House of Cards aficionados should enjoy seeing Michael Kelly (who plays Doug Stamper) as the villain.

9. The Dreamscape

An employee at Massive Dynamic thinks himself to death – with the help of razor-sharp butterflies.

The cold open in this episode is really good. You can almost feel just how sharp those butterflies are, based on the character’s reaction. Olivia and the gang are called upon to find out what happened, and once again the mystery of whose side Massive Dynamic is on continues to grow.

It would also appear that John Scott is still an ongoing problem for Olivia, as she experiences his presence in several different methods prompting her to ask Walter for assistance in getting over him. We revisit the sensory deprivation tank we first saw in the series pilot, and journey with Dunham into her own mind as they explore Scott’s memories located within. These are exciting sequences, and make a lot of sense when you think about it. The moment John Scott *looks* at Olivia during the memory is a spooky one!

We see a side story involving Peter and people from his past… where will this end up?

8. The Transformation

We get our monster and we get some closure to one of the main stories to date all season:  John Scott. (At least we think so…? You never know with Fringe.)

Regarding the monster, the idea was a little more frightening then the final product. Whether it be the CGI beast, or the dead version we saw among the plane wreckage, neither looked overly convincing. Having that thing on board an airplane though – very scary idea. Suppose the tranquilizers Walter used in the lab weren’t overly effective on Hicks, what exactly was the backup plan? There didn’t appear to be any armed guards or other members of the FBI there in case things went awry. Were Peter, Astrid and Walter really going to be able to tame the possible beast on their own?

So was John Scott a good guy all along? It’s so hard to tell. One can’t help but sympathize with Olivia and her doubts regarding the man she loved. It was a touching scene to close out the episode.

7. The Road Not Taken

There’s a lot going on here in the penultimate episode of Season 1. Spontaneous combustion, Olivia is seeing things and another appearance from The Observer – who Walter seems to know, apparently. What gives?

Olivia is pretty hot about being tested on when she was a child, and takes it out on Walter. You have to feel for the guy, but at the same time drugging children isn’t exactly cool. Nina Sharp appears throughout; although each time she does there isn’t much explanation or context behind what she is doing. It may have been a cheap move to make Harris a bad guy, but perhaps they just weren’t sure what else to do with him; the way he treated Olivia it didn’t exactly come as a surprise. Clint Howard’s guest spot is a source of levity, and is especially funny since he was a guest star on the show he speaks to Olivia and Peter about. (Star Trek. There is an ever bigger connection to the famed franchise, but that will have to wait until the season finale.)

6. Ability

So we follow up the Mr. Jones storyline with his escape from prison and a test of Olivia’s (unbeknownst to her) mental capabilities.

It’s great how Fringe isn’t afraid to directly call out some of their inspirations – in this case Star Trek with regards to Mr. Jones’ escape. We certainly get some more character development for Olivia, in a method that is a surprise to both the audience and herself. The “ZFT” manuscript while fictional certainly seems to reign true in some regards to our real life. Walter (who’s always good for a laugh-out-loud line an episode), gets a beauty here when he wants clarification on the status of a victims various orifices.

5. Bound

The resolution of what was left hanging from the previous episode, “Safe”.

It won’t take too sharp an eye to notice that “Bound” was the first episode back after a long break. The introduction of several new characters (specifically Harris), who basically gives a quick synopsis of the entire series to date seals that deal. Speaking of Harris, he certainly seems like a piece of work, and the audience immediately hopes Olivia will get the best of him again sometime down the road.

The monster-of-the-week is especially gross this time out, as it is a massive one-celled “slug” that exits the body through the mouth, damaging many organs on the way out. Nasty.

It’s a shame that the “tell” for who the man was that captured Olivia was so basic and obvious. They couldn’t have made it at least a little harder? And would he really have been wearing loafers while operating on Olivia? And then wore those same shoes to work? They were so particular and astute in cleaning up wherever Olivia was taken, not leaving a trace, he couldn’t have disposed with the shoes??

4. In Which We Meet Mr. Jones

An absolutely fantastic episode which seems to have it all: the ticking clock, an FBI raid, a creepy “monster”, Walter playing mad scientist…and some love for Miss Dunham??

“In Which We Meet Mr. Jones” doesn’t take too much time to kick it into high gear. The…”organism” surrounding Loeb’s heart is pretty gnarly. The teeth are a nice touch. Mr. Jones himself is played perfectly by Jared Harris: Calm. Confident. Seemingly in complete control despite being held in a German prison. Peter gets to spend some time in the field as he tries to prevent Broyles and his team from killing an important contact, and Walter really gets to stretch his legs when it comes to his latest scientific endeavor: making a dead man talk. (Through the use of Peter.)

Keep an ear out for more ways Walter botches Astrid’s name, and what the heck does “Little Hill” mean anyways??

3. Safe

A very important episode in the season, as many characters we’ve met in the past make further appearances here.

Everyone has something going on in this one, and we get more hints about Peter’s childhood from his father. It is starting to become commonplace for Peter to have absolutely no recollection of Walter’s stories…did he really block out his childhood that much?

The cold open to this episode is quite exciting, featuring a unique bank heist. You could also add to the list of things not seen before was the type of jailbreak that occurs at the climax. The proposed science behind it SEEMS to make sense! Walter’s demonstration certainly spells it out for us.

More than any other episode to date, this one ends with one heckuva cliffhanger!

2. Pilot

It all starts here.

We meet all our series mainstays, and the show does such a great job with character development that it doesn’t take long for us to be rooting for our new heroes. The relationship between Peter and his father Walter is an instant success, and Walter’s quirks and odd outbursts are immediately enduring. Olivia is perfect as a leading lady, and nothing is outside of her abilities. We get to see what kind of world we are dealing with right away, including what exactly “Fringe” stands for. Sharp Canadian eyes will notice that the car chase scene takes place in downtown Toronto, and much of Ontario subbed in as “Boston” throughout the show.

Buckle up, because there is a fun ride ahead of us!

1. There’s More Than One of Everything

David Robert Jones is trying to open up a window to an alternate reality – and it’s a race to stop him.

So we finally get to see where all the events of this season have been going.  Turns out DRJ has something to prove to William Bell and is determined to show him – even if it means travelling to another world to do it. We get an explanation as to why Olivia has been seeing things recently, and Walter makes an EXTREMELY interesting visit to a cemetery that has us scratching our heads yet again.

So…no one driving or walking by was curious enough to interrupt David Robert Jones while he was setting up his alternate-reality-opening-gear in the middle of the street? Low traffic area perhaps? The final reveal of who William Bell is and Olivia’s “trip” to see him is the best part of the episode, and leaves us with a fantastic final “whaaaaat??” moment. The casting choice of Bell fits perfectly both in and out of universe! Once again, Fringe is embracing the kind of show it is and aren’t trying to avoid comparisons or similarities.

Bring on season 2!

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