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Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 1 Season 1, Pilot

Posted by Karl Withakay on June 9, 2011

They were all Blue Episodes back then.

As always, an episode synopsis will be found over at Scott’s Polite Dissent

Opening Theme Fringe Terms

The Fringe terms in the opening theme were:




Artificial Intelligence


Dark Matter


Suspended Animation

Artificial Intelligence


Dark Matter


I guess the writers of the pilot ran out of fringe science terms and had to reuse three of them.  Frankly, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, dark matter, cybernetics don’t really qualify as fringe science.  The are legitimate, mainstream fields of research.  Teleportation on a quantum level is not fringe either, but anything on a larger level would qualify as fringe.  Suspended animation would fit nicely in the fringe category as well.  Psychokenesis, precognition, and transmogrification are just plain pseudoscience.

Yes, We Have COLOR TV in 2008!

The sign for the hotel at the beginning of the episode had Color Cable TV as one of the hotel features listed on their sign.  Um, when in the last 30 years did you see a hotel with a black and white TV, especially if they also had cable?

Olivia Dunham, FBI Interagency Liaison

Apparently inter-agency liaison is the position you assign the slow agents to before you transfer them to the Fringe Division.

Standard Level 4 Hazmat Suits?

I think the writers were thinking of Biosafety Level 4 biocontainment precautions, where level 4 is the highest level of precaution.  Hazmat suits come in levels A through D, where level A offers the highest level of protection.  (In Europe, hazmat suits are Types 1 through 6, with Type 1 offering the greatest level of protection.)

Fringe Division, On the Job

That plane would have been classified as a Biosaftey level 4 situation until they could determine what caused the deaths.  An unknown,  exotic , possibly infectious, possibly airborne, agent lethal to humans, for which there is possibly no known vaccine or other treatment was present inside the cabin.  If they couldn’t tow the plane to a hanger which they could then seal up, they would have probably done a better job enclosing the whole plane (or at least all hatches and exit doors) inside a containment tent system.  Also, they would never put people who had no experience with BSL-4 procedure inside that plane.  Someone might carelessly take a glove off and who knows what that could lead to?

Darwin Would be Disappointed

No wonder Olivia’s a liaison.  Olivia and Agent Scott are following up on a lead in a bioterrorism attack case where a plane load of people were killed by some unknown, possibly airborne bioagent, and they discover two mysterious, unlabeled gas cylinders in a dumpster.  What do they do?

A  Immediately call for a hazmat team to secure and investigate the cylinders.

B  Carefully secure the cylinders themselves for later investigation in the lab.

C  Hold the cylinders close to their faces and sniff them.

It’s a wonder Olivia manages to live through season one, let alone make it to season four.  (Sorry for the spoiler)

US Marine Corps Special Investigator

How was Olivia a US Marine Special Investigator?  Marine Corps criminal investigations are not the jurisdiction of the FBI.  Was she in the Marine Corps?  She had a 4 year degree, so if she was in the USMC, she should have been a commissioned officer, but US Marine Corps Criminal Investigation Division Agents are non-commissioned or warrant officers.  Major crimes are referred to the NCIS, and it’s possible the sexual assaults she investigated would fall under NCIS’s jurisdiction; was Olivia previously an NCIS agent?

Quote of the Show #1


“Sweetheart, we all care about someone who’s dying.”

Your Tax Dollars, Hard at Work

That sure was a nice plane the FBI used to fly Olivia to Iraq to retrieve Peter in luxury; there’s no flying coach on a crowded Airbus for Fringe Division.

You’re So Transparent

As implausible as the transparent Agent Scott may seem, it’s not completely out in la-la land.  Check out this extremely cool frog picture from National Geographic via P.Z. Meyers:

It’s a Moo Point

Yes, any mammal’s DNA is pretty close to a human’s, but there are far closer matches to human DNA, and better animals for research applicable to humans than a cow, such as monkeys, chimps, mice, rats, and the proverbial guinea pig.  I think Walter just wanted fresh milk.  I hope he didn’t drink it raw, but that would qualify as fringe- or pseud-oscience.

Quote of the Show #2


“The only thing better than a cow is a human, unless you need milk.  Then you really need a cow.”

Quote of the Show #3

Walter to Olivia:

“Of course, you’d have to have an electromagnetic probe place in the base of your skull whilst emerged without clothing in the old tank, and you’d be heavily drugged.”

Character Interaction and Dialog

From episode one on, Fringe has featured great character interaction and banter involving Walter and Peter.


“The man who was just released from the mental institution, he wants to give you a drug overdose and stick a metal rod into your head and put you naked into a rusty tank of water.”


“No, I don’t want to.  No, no, I’d rather not.  I’m just saying I can.

Assistant to the Liaison

If the liaison position is as crappy of an assignment as Broyles keeps implying, how crappy is it to be the assistant to the liaison?  I am convinced that Astrid must have backed her car over the FBI director’s dog to have been assigned as Agent Dunham’s assistant.

Cliché Time

This won’t be the last time Fringe features a basement lair accessed via a trap door hidden beneath a carpet.

Unanswered Question

Not to spoil anything for those just watching the show for the first time, but why didn’t Peter and Olivia remember each other?  Edit to add:  Why didn’t Olivia remember Walter?  Will season four actually answer this these questions?


3 Responses to “Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 1 Season 1, Pilot”

  1. FC said

    I don’t think I’d recognize or remember some of my friends from when I was 9 or 10. Especially if you meet them again 20 odd years later. Olivia also went through Cortexiphan experiments. She may have blocked off a lot of those memories. If you’re going to ask why she doesn’t remember Peter you should also ask why doesn’t she remember Walter. It’s clear she’s walled off those times into a tiny corner of her mind. Peter also eventually forgot all about the other side, this guy has memory issues too. As a matter of fact I would not be surprised that after things went Haywire Walter decided to induce a little amnesia into these two.

  2. Daedalus said

    According to the DVD extras, the pilot was shot in Canada. Vancouver, was it, or possibly somewhere in Quebec. Maybe the hotel sign promising Color TV and Cable was a hangover from 30 years ago. They must have been out in the sticks, though. Shortly after the series got the green light, outdoor production switched to NYC on account of favorable tax arrangements.

  3. Karl Withakay said

    In normal circumstances, I agree with you about the recognizing, but not the remembering. I might not recognize many or any of my childhood friends if I ran into them today, but I’d remember most of them, even the ones I only knew for a short while. I remember the names of my best friends from pre-school and kindergarten, even though I only knew them each for one year. I’d remember all my grade school teachers as well.

    Peter not remembering the other side is likely a result of “brainwashing” by his alter- mother and Walter to convince him those memories were false.

    From a plot convenience viewpoint, your explanations may work, but I’m hoping for a better, more plot coherent and satisfying resolution from the writers in season four.

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