If you haven't been watching "Fringe," the admirably madcap Fox sci-fi series co-created by J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, well, you have a few weeks to catch up before the fifth and final season (and we suggest you do). Originally a kind of gooier version of "The X-Files," with a liberal dose of Cronenbergian scientific weirdness thrown in, the show has evolved into one of the most imaginative and surprising dramatic hour-longs on television, each season deepening its mythology while raising both the stakes and the emotional content. Not even a move to the Friday night death slot could slow it down creatively. And by the looks of two new trailers released for the new season, it's going to end on a high note.
To briefly explain the set-up of "Fringe," FBI Agent Olivia Dunham (the supernaturally adorable Anna Torv), thief and raconteur Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) and his brilliant, potentially insane mad scientist father Walter Bishop (John Noble) consult on a "Fringe Division" of the FBI, initially investigating a series of interconnected anomalies dubbed "The Pattern," but really they hang around to check out any manner of indescribable weirdness. In season two, the show started to focus on a parallel universe (one in which the Twin Towers still stand tall and Eric Stoltz actually starred in "Back to the Future") and that universe's relationship to our own. Last season introduced a third variant universe, which we're actually still puzzling over a little bit, and also, in its nineteenth episode (typically the episode each season where stuff goes really insane), we learned that the earth would one day be taken over by The Observers, a mysterious group of bald, suited men who, in the "Fringe" mythology, monitor important historical events and love spicy food.
From the looks of these two trailers, that future-battle will begin this season. While both trailers only offer glimpses of actual plot (looks like there's a jump forward in time, with Olivia and Peter raising a small child of their own), the longer trailer (at over a minute), is the better of the two. "Everything that we've been through has been in preparation – today is the day for which we were created," Peter gravely intones. This first trailer also ends on an incredibly haunting note – as Peter and Olivia's child frolics on a grassy field, while more and more Observers appear on the horizon. Spooky stuff! (The second trailer is half as long and features even briefer glances at similar scenes.)
We cannot wait for the show to return this fall, even if it is for half the normal number of episodes (thirteen). Fox has been patient and lenient with "Fringe," a hugely expensive series that rarely makes its money back. (We wish they had been just as undersanding with Joss Whedon's brilliantly whacked-out "Dollhouse," but still…) These last thirteen episodes should bring the series home in a fulfilling, thoughtful and slimy way. The far-out freakiness returns on September 28th.