As you may have heard, tonight marks the series finale of the Fox television show Fringe. The show first premiered not long after I was married in 2008, and I’ve been an off-and-on viewer ever since. An inheritor of sorts to The X-Files (though never quite as compelling), Fringe told the story of a group of people associated with the FBI who investigated various unexplained cases involving so-called “fringe” science. A very sci-fi show to its core, it nevertheless is rooted in a deep sense of the real world–at least as real as a world could be where dead people could be reanimated or one could jump between alternate universes.
At one level, I’ve always enjoyed the show’s gumption. It wanted to tell stories that probed both the human condition and strange sci-fi corners of the really weird. It was willing to radically reorient the show (this season, for instance) when they felt it necessary or helpful. They even managed to bring Leonard Nimoy out of retirement for a notable recurring guest-star role. Most notably, they gave us one of television’s most compelling and sympathetic characters: the often comically drug-addled “mad” scientist Walter Bishop, a man of deep pathos whose desire to be a good father and better person conflicts with his own shortcomings and (lately) fearful ambition. The story of Fringe is in some sense his story, and it has made for an interesting journey.
For all this, though, there’s always been something about Fringe that has kept me at arm’s length. While there have been edge-of-my-seat moments and some compelling arcs over the past four and a half years, a not insignificant portion of the show’s run has been rather plodding for me. I often call it “the show that isn’t afraid to bore me,” and for inexplicably long series of episodes it has stubbornly kept to its deliberate and sometimes painfully slow pace…even when more exciting storylines or less ponderous developments were available. I don’t know: as a longtime genre fan, maybe I’m just jaded. Maybe its characters–with the exception of Walter–just aren’t that compelling. Perhaps the show just really likes the slow approach, and that’s all there is to say.
In the end, though, there aren’t a lot of shows that are willing to take the time its writers need to tell a story (viewers be darned!). Well, not a lot that survive for five seasons. And so, even though I haven’t always loved the way the show has gone about its business, it has had a creative boldness all its own. Despite the fact that I’ll always remember it as the show “that wasn’t afraid to bore me,” I’m going to miss it…and am looking forward to seeing what strange developments and conclusion tonight’s final view into their world has to bring us.