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Doux Top Twenty! Number 20: Fringe

As mentioned earlier, Doux Reviews will turn twenty years old this March. To observe this auspicious occasion, I’ll be posting our top hitting shows throughout January, starting with twenty and counting down to number one, posted January 31. (What will it be? Can you guess?)

Number 20, Fringe, was reviewed as it aired by Josie Kafka, who wrote the following:

Josie Kafka: Fringe aired from 2008-2013. It had a weak start. It felt like an X-Files knockoff trading on J.J. Abrams' then-ascendant star and Lost's ambitious clue-hunting. There were "codes" in the title card, for instance, which some fans loved to parse but which never did much for me. If you read my reviews of the first season, you can... well, you can skip reading them. The disdain will just waft from your screen directly into your brainstem. (I hated one so much that Samantha filled in a decade later!!)

But the third season, the show became wonderful, and it ended perfectly, thanks to the incredible skills of showrunners Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. In one of my reviews I said that "In the past, one of Fringe’s strengths is that it forces us to ask questions. But its greatest strength has been that it reminds us that questions can change." Watching the show develop as an art form, just as the characters and worldbuilding expanded in both breadth and depth, was a privilege.

If I recall correctly, Fringe was the second show I reviewed for Doux Reviews. (The first was Chuck, which I was unable to finish). I found my writing voice in these reviews, just as the show found its footing over time. Even after more than ten years, some of my Fringe reviews are the pieces of writing of which I am most proud. Not just the weird stunts, but also my attempts to consider television as a narrative form that can do more than just tell a good story: it can also say something insightful about the world's possibilities.

In my review of the final episode I said Fringe "ended well, ended with dignity, and it did so with more optimism than I expected, and more beauty than I’d hoped" and that in the finale, "I was reminded of just how respectful the Fringe writers are of us, the audience. They trust us to understand various scenes and their relationship to scenes from years long past. And we, in turn, appreciate that trust." All these years later, I stand by those statements. It was a respectful show, and I maintain my respect for it.

But I have not yet rewatched Fringe. Part of my love for the show was fostered by having the opportunity to review it, by which I mean the opportunity to think through it in communion with others – including with many of you. If I do a rewatch, it will be inherently more lonely than the original viewing experience was. I am also afraid I will not love it again, or that the bad parts of the first season will seem even worse, or that the grace I found in the show will feel hollow to my much-older self.

Maybe someday in the future, or in an alternate reality...


  1. I absolutely adored Fringe, and I found out about it through this site.

    So thank you Josie, my life would have been slightly poorer had you not stuck through those rough early episodes.

    1. Trousers, this really means a lot to me. Thank you!

    2. No worries! I mentioned this to my wife last night and she pointed out that I'd remembered slightly wrong. We had tried the series when it first came out, and I'd not managed to get through the opening scene with the melty faces on the aeroplane before I decided to give it a swerve. We gave it another go a few years later after I saw some of your reviews. So it's all your fault I had to watch that scene twice!

  2. I have to thank Josie, too. I started it late and didn't care for the first season at all, but kept watching because Josie said it got good. It did. I loved loved loved the parallel dimension stuff. It was amazing.

    1. I'm really glad we're doing these retrospectives, Billie! I think I can guess what the #1 show is, but I'm so curious to see what numbers 19-2 are.

  3. I know I am shallow, but I have been in love with Joshua Jackson since he played Pacey. He is the main reason I got through the early episodes of this show. But then, I was hooked. One of the greats.

  4. Fringe is one of my all time favourite shows and as someone who initially struggled to get into the show in season 1 I would definitely recommend you give the show another rewatch (I’ve probably rewatched the whole show at least 5 times) as I found even the slightly less watchable first season becomes more watchable the more I’ve seen it. It’s also up there on top of my list of one of the best final episodes, I loved how it all ended.

  5. Cheers to 20 wonderful years :-) I've been reading reviews on this site on a regular basis since around 2005/2006, which is kind off insane to think about and makes me feel ancient. It's still one of the first sites I check to see if there are any entertaining and insightful reviews out there for the shows I'm currently watching.

    I'm excited to see how many of the shows in the top 20 I'll have seen already! Fringe is a fitting start for the countdown - a show I'm in the midst of watching for the first time (and, of course, simultaneously reading your reviews, Josie Kafka ;-) ), and that I would personally place similarly if I were to countdown my favorite shows. I've just finished Season 3, easily the best one so far (I'm so with you on the parallel dimension stuff, Billie!), but as Josie's post alludes to, it wasn't exactly the smoothest watching.

    Season 1 is rough, and Season 2 , while a BIG improvement, does also have its rough patches still. I'm very happy that I kept watching and that the show becomes quite wonderful at a certain point. I like most of the characters, though Walter so far remains the only one of the bunch I truly adore and can't get enough of.

    It's a cool, fascinating and sometimes (a little too) disgusting show, and one I'm glad I gave a chance to. But it's probably not a show I will ever name as one of my absolute favorites shows ever (well who knows, I've still got two seasons to go, that's just my assessment so far ;-) ) - too much of Fringe is a slog to get through in order to get to the good stuff for me, which does make it a little harder to get excited for future rewatches, for example.

  6. 20 years? Holy crap. I first found your Alias reviews on TV Tome (I think that was the site… right?) probably right after losing my mind over Phase 1. Graduated onto your Lost reviews, and have followed you since then.

    Anyway, funnily enough I’m working thru a Fringe rewatch now, just started S2 (Poor Charlie) and have very fond memories. This was the first show me and my wife binged together after we got married.

    Acting is great, stories are great, can’t wait to get into the true serialized section of the show now! Think I’d have this slightly higher in my top 20 personally, but glad it made the cut!


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