If you are looking for a thrilling law-enforcement show that features paranormal phenomena, shadowy conspiracies, and lots of scientific investigation, then get ready to binge-watch Fringe. It really is out of this world.
Year it began: 2008
Where it can be seen: Fox; Amazon
Who’s in it: Anna Torv; John Noble; Joshua Jackson; Lance Reddick; Jasika Nicole; Kirk Acevedo; Blair Brown; Leonard Nimoy; Michael Cerveris; Seth Gabel
Typical episode length: 44 minutes
Number of episodes to date: 100
Brief plot description: Working alongside chemist Walter Bishop and his son Peter, FBI agent Olivia Dunham becomes part of Fringe Division, a secret Homeland Security group focused on paranormal threats tied to corporations, governments, and some other mysterious sources.
Why it’s worth watching: Like the magnificent X-Files (to which it is clearly indebted), Fringe creates thrilling science fiction by mixing horror and playfulness in its otherworldly law-enforcement investigation. Taking up such issues as conspiracies between corporations and governments, unregulated scientific experimentation, and the possible interaction of parallel universes, Fringe features charismatic investigators confronting unsettling threats. At the center of the show lies the bond between Agent Dunham and the scientific team of Walter and Peter Bishop. Torv brings vulnerability, physical toughness, and exceptional intelligence to Dunham, whose mysterious past, difficult present, and uncertain future are central to the story. Noble’s performance as the socially awkward, but often endearing Dr. Bishop is stupendous and crucial: besides charming us with his infectious enthusiasm for all things scientific and culinary, Bishop’s fears and memory lapses become key to the plot. Other standout roles include Jackson’s Peter, the wayward son who has turned his life around and now helps his formerly institutionalized father function; Reddick’s intense, highly competent Homeland Security agent Philip Broyles, who heads the Fringe Division; and Nicole’s scientifically curious Agent Astrid Farnsworth, whose gentle touch with Bishop aids in their investigations. The show generates a wonderfully unsettling, yet weirdly cozy atmosphere by setting much of the show’s action in Bishop’s old laboratory, located in a Harvard University basement: in a shadowy underworld filled with scientific equipment (as well as a cow named Gene), and in the very space where Bishop and his partner William Bell (Nimoy) once created cutting-edge experiments for the US military, the Fringe team try to solve technological crises uncannily similar to ones facing us today.