November 14, 2012

Fringe: Life Lessons in Alternate Dimensions

Print More

You all know that I can be very critical of television shows, so you will understand the magnitude of this statement: Fringe is one of the most remarkable shows currently on television. Fox’s Fringe, a science fiction show about the “Fringe” division of the FBI that investigates unexplained events, began its fifth season 20 years ahead of its last. After “ambering” themselves in 2015 when the Observers took over the world, Peter, Olivia, Walter and Astrid wake up in 2036 to find the world in complete disarray. They must find all of the pieces of the plan to defeat the Observers and save the world. Peter and Olivia also meet their now grown-up daughter, since she was separated from them when the Observers invaded.

Fringe has this extraordinary ability to take the ridiculous and make it relatable to viewers. With a show that revolves around seemingly impossible cases and occurrences, the fact that we can sympathize with these characters and their stories is truly amazing. Even this season, set in a future where bald men in suits run the world, Fringe is one of my favorite sources of insight and enjoyment.

Fringe has given me so much to think about between its crazy plot twists and characters. Instead of giving away too much of the current plot for those of you who have yet to watch it, I want to tell you about a couple of the lessons Fringe has taught me.

So, if you are planning on watching any or all of Fringe and have not reached season five, do not keep reading because this will give A LOT away.

Choices: In season three, Fringe explored a parallel universe; one almost identical to our own. Everything was the same, except for some slight changes. On the “other side,” the twin towers are still standing, JFK was never assassinated, Olivia’s mother is still alive and there are endless other slight differences. In addition to very interesting and entertaining storylines and characters, this alternate universe taught me the importance of choice.

Even the smallest choices we make define our character and the way our lives turn out. Just as the slightest changes made all the difference for the alternate versions of our beloved characters, any choice we make can affect us now or even down the line. Our majors, the classes we take and the people we associate with are all choices that we make that define who we are and what might happen to us. Fringe illustrates perfectly how making the right choices dictates our identities and our lives.

Everything matters: In season four, one of the main characters, Peter Bishop, was literally erased from existence. After serving as the key piece in a machine to save both universes from collapsing, Peter had “served his purpose” and was therefore erased from existence. None of the characters remember him and every event from the previous seasons is altered so that Peter was not a part of it. During the season, Peter eventually comes back and reunites with Olivia, who comes to remember him. However, the world’s timeline is still missing Peter, and everything that ever happened involving him only exists in his and Olivia’s memories. Now in season five, even though their past technically did not happen, Peter and Olivia use the knowledge they acquired in the first four seasons of the show to fight the Observers.

While this scenario is extremely far-out and hard to imagine, it makes me wonder whether anything we do matters, even if people do not remember it. While watching season five, I realize that everything does matter. Each moment in our lives— whether it is receiving a good grade, having a first kiss, engaging in a meaningful conversation or producing a change in a club— matters. Even if it is secret or temporary or no one remembers, everything matters. Yes, Fringe is science fiction and people do not actually get erased from existence, but this show still emphasizes that no matter what, every moment in our lives is worth something.

I could go on forever about this show, but here’s where I leave it to you to interpret your own take-aways from your favorite shows. The way I see it, Fringe is an incredible program in terms of its characters, writing and filmography, but it also affects the viewer in a profound and extraordinary way. That’s what I call good TV.

Samantha Weisman is a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at scw68@cornell.edu. Her blog appears alternate Thursdays this semester.

Original Author: Samantha Weisman