Fringe premiered on September 9, 2008, and despite the fact that it never became the ratings success it deserved to be, the smart, inventive sci-fi drama still gave us five seasons and 100 episodes of alternate universe-hopping, time-traveling adventures anchored by Olivia (Anna Torv), Peter (Joshua Jackson) and Walter (John Noble) – and variations thereof.
In honor of Fringe’s 10th anniversary, we’re taking a look back at what we consider the 10 best episodes of the series. Check out IGN’s Top 10 Fringe episodes below.
This was the first part of the two-hour extravaganza that brought the Fringe series to a conclusion, and it was a perfect way to start things off. The importance of Michael (aka Observer Kid) becomes solidified as he turns the tables on Windmark’s interrogation techniques and leaves the old cueball bleeding and humbled. Then Olivia, who had been in the background for much of Season 5, comes back to the forefront via a series of cortexiphan injections that get her all juiced up to be Super Olive again. In short order, Olivia is hopping back to the parallel universe to enlist the aid of her alternate self and Lincoln (who haven’t aged convincingly, but that’s the only gripe with this story). Olivia saves Michael and kicks a whole lot of butt in the process, but the action wasn’t the only thing this story had going for it. The theme of liberty was reinforced through the episode’s title and the Statue of Liberty in both our world and the “other side”. In the parallel universe, where there are no Observers and Fauxlivia and Lincoln have a happy family life, the statue is seen in shimmering copper and lacking the signature green patina we’re familiar with. In this future, the statue is practically destroyed, which is certainly an apt metaphor for the destruction of liberties that the observers brought with their invasion. “Liberty” is an episode that pulls off the clever trick of being action-oriented while enhancing the story through a subtle metaphorical theme.
The Season 1 finale featured David Robert Jones trying to follow in Walter’s footsteps and open a portal to an alternate universe. That plot by itself would have been enough for a great story, but the showrunners went all out and packed this episode with even more awesomeness. Leonard Nimoy made his first appearance as William Bell in a masterfully directed scene, we get our first look at the differences in the alternate universe via a stunning view of an intact World Trade Center, and most importantly, Peter’s true nature as a visitor from another universe is confirmed. This episode ended a string of stories that gave the series solid direction and kept viewers riveted. It began a tradition of shocking finales that left Fringe fans wondering what the hell could happen next.
Fringe isn’t always about the Big Three of Walter, Olivia, and Peter. Sometimes the other characters get a chance to shine too, and although a number of “supporting cast” episodes could have made this list, this one holds a special place for having so many elements of what makes Fringe great. It started as what seemed like a mystery of the week, with a weird creepy guy kidnapping kids. But later we learn that alt-Broyles has a personal connection to this case: his son was a victim of this kidnapper known as The Candy Man. The investigation and its very personal nature portray Broyles as more than the quietly intimidating hard-ass we’ve come to know. Here he was a loving and concerned father desperately fighting to bring a bad guy to justice. The other side of this episode involves Olivia’s daring escape from the clutches of Walternate. After being captured and brainwashed, she figures everything out and makes a mad dash for her own world. It wasn’t quite successful, but she had just enough time in Universe A to warn Peter, who figures out that the woman in his bed isn’t who he thought she was. There’s only one word for the way this episode handled two awesome storylines and intertwined them seamlessly: brilliant.
The first part of Fringe: Season 1 kind of wandered around with interesting episodes and a compelling premise, but not a clear storyline. Fringe was stuck in “science mystery of the week” mode until “Safe” hit and suddenly the series had direction. The episode opened with a harrowing sci-fi bank heist gone awry, and featured one of our favorite old bad guys, Agent Mitchell Loeb. But the real focus of the story is a man who would become a true villain in the series, David Robert Jones. This episode marked his escape from prison and his elevation as an icon in the Fringeverse. “Safe” aired as the cliffhanger for the first mid-season break of the series and it left viewers thirsty for more. When Fringe resumed months later with “Bound”, the series had 3 million more viewers.
This was the very last episode of Fringe for 2009, a very good year for Fringe. In this story, our man Thomas Jerome Newton breaks into a medical facility and starts fiddling with man’s brain while he’s alive! The story then goes on a strange, literal trip into Walter’s brain, and his past. Newton is going around various places and removing bits of brain from people’s head. Although that sounds weird, it initially seemed like Newton might be doing these people a favor because they used to be quite crazy until he came around and took those brain bits out of them. Then we learn that those are Walter’s brain bits. We soon discover that Newton is going around on a grey matter scavenger hunt so he can put Walter’s brain back together. The story is brilliant, with twists and turns and remarkable acting by both John Noble and Joshua Jackson as they portray a bond that’s closer than anything else up to that point. Once Newton has the brain parts back, we see a glimpse of the confident, dangerous man Walter once was. We even get a surprise cameo by William Bell at the end. This fantastic episode was an early Christmas present for Fringe fans.