“Fringe” is an American science fiction television series created by J.J. Abrams of “Star Trek” and “Alias” fame. The series follows the Fringe Division which is part of the FBI, it investigates strange occurrences and a much bigger world changing mystery thing that really cannot be explained easily. Basically, at first there were lots of gross things and by the end of it there was time travel and parallel universes etc. The show features (half Estonian) Anna Torv as agent Dunham, Joshua Jackson as her love interest/man of all trades Peter Bishop, as well as Peter’s father Walter who is so very well played by John Noble.
The show finished its five season run last week, and while i did watch all the episodes i must say it was seriously the least feminist TV show in the last few years (that also survived more than a few seasons, and not counting Playboy bunnies etc). So few TV shows have strong female lead characters and even in that scenario to manage to make the show a feminist’s nightmare is a skill. The show basically only had 3 female characters who had stuff to do: Nina Sharp, Astrid Farnsworth and Olivia Dunham. I am not including Olivia’s sister or daughter here because both were only there to give Olivia someone to act off of, as well as only appearing in 10 and 6 episodes, respectively.
Nina Sharp started off as this slightly unnerving possible bad guy with a robotic arm who knew more than she told our heroes. However, throughout the show she started appearing more and they watered her character down more than they did with a pancake (or was it waffles?) making Sylar in “Heroes”. Nina became Olivia’s mother figure in an alternate universe and less of an ally and more of a “oh yeah we need some technical device, let us give Nina a line to say”. Just no!
Astrid Farnsworth was always there, she started off as a fellow FBI agent and assistant to Olivia with great linguistic skills. However, all she ended up doing was babysitting Walter and while their interactions had the potential to offer character development, they just made Astrid seem weak and useless. Noone ever talks about her and in 5 seasons they never really developed her backstory, just mentioned it in passing. The one time i remember that she was given some action stuff to do was when she had to protect Walter in a warehouse, guns blazing and everything. Well she gets herself shot immediately and then is all sorry and crying that she couldn’t protect Walter. Astrid’s character is not allowed to have a fulfilled personal life or career, she is there to be treated like dirt and used by men around her.
Olivia Dunham, a strong and beautiful female character who is not looking for love in the big city but instead is a powerful protagonist. A feminist’s dream..or is she? If you start looking at her character’s actions and reactions to events, they are mostly concerning men in her life or her role as a daughter and mother, and the female responsibilities that come with them. She regularly and pointlessly puts her life in danger to satisfy her role as a woman/girlfriend. While you could argue that the same applies to Peter, he is much more proactive, he uses Walter’s input but contributes enough to drive the story forward, he does not just react to happenings around him. In the first season, it was all about Olivia’s dead partner/lover, anything she did was to get him back or clear his name or forget him. Later on, it was all about Peter, “he must be saved and he is the hero and i have to help him and follow through with his ideas”. In the last season it is all about a daughter that appeared out of thin air and all Olivia does is for the purpose of getting her daughter back or telling Peter to not distance himself from her cause she does not want to be alone.
In conclusion, “Fringe” has ended, yay! There would be so many other things that could be said about the show, it was generally well acted and Walter Bishop became one of my favorite TV dads. However, the main reason why i kept watching this show was because it felt that the 5 seasons i watched included 4-5 absolutely different shows that had little in common with each other. Yes, the writers tried to make it seem like all the timelines and universes were part of this big conspiracy and one story arc but more often than not they just switched over to another timeline when the writers had concluded one idea and weren’t sure where to go from there. Throwbacks from the overall mythology where used when needed not when plausible or relevant, therefore not contributing to but convoluting the series as a whole. While that infuriated me sometimes, it also switched it up so often that i could always find parts that kept me interested. But after 100 episodes i think it was time for “Fringe” to end cause this storytelling experiment was starting to run its course.