When she's not editing science fiction and fantasy novels for Pocket Books or writing comics, Jennifer Heddle is a die-hard Fringe fan. Here she lists the crucial episodes you need to catch up on past seasons.
One of the more buzzed-about, critically-acclaimed shows of the fall season has been Fringe, and as a fervent fan and proselytizer for this smart, endlessly intriguing series, I've been asked by more than one person how they could possibly dive in now without having to watch the entire first two seasons. Well, it may be easier than you think. As a show that admittedly stumbled in the beginning before truly figuring out and embracing the science fiction drama it wanted to be, you can watch just a smattering of episodes—less than half of each season—to bring yourself up to date on the fascinating mythology that currently drives the show.
So here are the episodes that I, personally, consider essential viewing in order to get up to speed.
Recommended for obvious introductory and expository reasons, although honestly, the more I think about it, the less essential this episode actually is to understanding where the show is now. Still, I'd feel guilty if I didn't include it in the list.
1x04 "The Arrival"
In which we meet an Observer for the first time. The Observers are a particularly intriguing and, dare I say it, delightfully wacky part of the show's mythology, and Michael Cerveris brings a perfect otherworldly quality to the role.
We are introduced to the concept of teleportation—not for the first time on this show about traveling to the strangest places in the most of unusual of ways—and just how creepy Jared Harris from Mad Men can be. We also learn more about Peter's childhood, information that will bear fruit later. Jared Harris makes his first appearance in 1x07, "In Which We Meet Mr. Jones," which is a decent episode, but not as essential viewing.
This is the episode where the show sharply took a strong turn for the better, starting to crystallize what it wanted to be and teasing us with the knowledge that our seemingly ordinary protagonist is much more than she seems. If you started watching Fringe in season one but gave up before this episode, dive back in with this one. Plus, more Jared Harris!
1x17 "Bad Dreams"
This episode reveals some truly unsettling information about events in Olivia's childhood—and how Walter Bishop was involved. We hear William Bell's voice for the first time over a disturbing final image.
1x19 "The Road Not Taken"
The destructive scope of Walter Bishop and William Bell's experiments continue to have a deeply personal effect on Olivia. We meet childhood friends of Olivia's who will turn up again later. Events ramp up as we head into the finale...
1x20 "There's More Than One of Everything"
Stunning revelations, touching character moments, suspenseful action scenes, and a one-two sucker punch of an ending. All that and Leonard Nimoy. What more could you want?
2x01 "A New Day in the Old Town"
This premiere not only does the necessary follow-up from the previous season's finale, but is a nice showpiece for Joshua Jackson and also treats us to a very interesting liaison. A new, slightly annoying female FBI agent is introduced, but don't worry, she doesn't last long.
2x04 "Momentum Deferred"
Lots of shape-shifting super-soldier action. Don't panic, you aren't watching The X-Files.
We learn more about the fascinating beings known as the Observers, and why Our Heroes are so important to, well, everything. This is a wonderful script by executive producers J.H. Wyman and Jeff Pinkner, who separately or apart have given us some of the series' best episodes.
2x10 "Grey Matters"
Important only for the additional pieces of Walter's backstory that are revealed. Plus more shape-shifting action!
This is the first episode of Fringe I saved on my DVR for repeat viewing. Alternate universes converge in horrifying ways, Olivia continues to explore her powerful potential, and one character discovers a life-altering secret about another.
Quite possibly the perfect episode of Fringe, and in my opinion, as someone who watches a lot of TV, one of the best episodes of television produced last year. Absolutely crucial to understanding the heart of the show, with a tour de force performance by John Noble, who I believe was robbed of an Emmy nomination. Watch and see if you agree.
2x19 "The Man From the Other Side"
A suspenseful episode with plenty of action, culminating in Peter figuring out the truth about his past.
2x22/2x23 "Over There Parts 1 & 2"
If I just say, ONE OF THE MOST EPIC SEASON FINALES EVER, is that enough? How about "Leonard Nimoy eats Twizzlers?" Seriously, if you don't watch any other episodes of Fringe before diving into season three, watch this two-parter, or odds are you'll be completely lost.
Keep in mind this is just one fan's opinion, and others may disagree on the specifics. The entire second half of season two is fairly extraordinary viewing, so if you do have the time, I highly recommend starting at least from "Jacksonville" and watching the rest of the season straight through. On the flip side, if even this list seems too intimidating, you could probably lose "Safe," "Bad Dreams," "Momentum Deferred," and "Grey Matters," and still be sufficiently informed. And if you're really lazy or impatient and just want to read recaps, I recommend Fringepedia as an excellent resource.
Regardless of your approach, please consider watching one of the best science fiction shows on television. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised.
The second episode of Fringe season 3 airs tonight on FOX.