Fringe – Season 1

Olivia in the tank

All shows need the lead female getting nearly naked in the pilot, right?

So before John dies in the pilot, while he’s in a coma, Olivia needs some information from him. Walter tells her that he can allow her to share consciousnesses with John, so she’ll be able to ask him anything she likes. All they have to do is hook Olivia and John together using a metal rod into the base of their necks, put Olivia in a sensory deprivation chamber full of saltwater (naturally, this requires Olivia taking off everything but her underwear, onscreen), and pump Olivia full of psychotropic drugs. I’ll add that this leads to one of the best lines in the pilot, when Olivia agrees to all this. Walter replies gleefully: “Excellent. Let’s make some LSD!” And it leads to one of the iconic images from this show, of Olivia in the tank (in her underwear, naturally):

Another important introduction for the show is Massive Dynamic, the largest scientific research corporation in the world, with multiple defense contracts with the US government. The CEO is William Bell, whom Walter used to work with in his Nina SharpHarvard days, and whom he refers to as “Belly”. We never see him throughout the season, however. He’s a very mysterious figure, apparently “traveling” a lot. We do meet Massive Dynamic’s Executive Director, however. Nina Sharp, played by Blair Brown, is rather cryptic herself. She kind of randomly shows Olivia that her right arm had to be amputated because of cancer several years ago, so it’s robotic now. She says William Bell himself designed the arm. The other important thing she does is to mention something called “The Pattern”, but she clams up when she realizes Olivia doesn’t know what that is.

It turns out the Pattern is a series of strange, outlandish occurrences that have been going on worldwide (and in many cases, on the eastern seaboard of the US). Most if not all of them have to do with science and technology run amok, and they seem to be related somehow, although no one knows what that connection might be.

These kinds of cases are what Olivia, Walter, and Peter (together with the help of Astrid and often Charlie) end up investigating as part of the Fringe division of the FBI. The cases of the week are pretty awesome/gross/creepy, ranging from a baby being born and then dying of old age all within a few hours, to a woman’s head exploding in the middle of a diner, to a creepy computer virus that literally makes your head explode. I wish I had time to recap them all, but I definitely don’t.

Oh, also, even though John Scott is dead, Olivia keeps seeing him. When Walter finds out about this, he’s not surprised. He tells her that some of John’s memories and emotions must have transferred into her mind when they shared consciousnesses, but there’s only room in her brain for one person (a point we all have cause to remember later in the show). So her mind is trying to purge the foreign personality the only way it knows how to. But meanwhile, Hallucination!John helps Olivia solve some Fringe cases, and generally seems more helpful than a traitor would be.

Walter and Peter start to learn how to be a family again, as Walter must be in Peter’s custody. Peter’s still not thrilled with the arrangement, but you can see a growing fondness for his father under all his exasperation. But as you also find out, Walter has some kind of secret about Peter that he’s not going to tell anyone, and that Peter doesn’t even know exists.

Most of these cases turn out to have some kind of connection to the work Walter did with William Bell before he was put away. Sometimes it’s a more blatant “Oh yes, now I remember, I did something exactly like this!” moment (Walter, along with being crazy, has memory problems), and sometimes it’s just that he knows of people who were working on something similar. Still, it’s a little bit of a plot crutch, like reading the classic Nancy Drew series where her case always just happened to relate to the one her father was investigating. Also, in many instances, Peter has a shady acquaintance with some kind of special skills that help move the case forward.

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