Into the Looking Glass: Exploring the Worlds of Fringe by Sarah Clarke StuartInto the Looking Glass: Exploring the Worlds of Fringe by Sarah Clarke Stuart

Into the Looking Glass: Exploring the Worlds of Fringe

bySarah Clarke Stuart

Paperback | October 1, 2011

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A holistic approach to television criticism, this analytical companion to the popular show Fringe examines the drama’s mythology and unveils its mysteries while exposing significant cultural issues addressed in each episode. With a strong basis in science fiction, Fringe has all of the archetypal characters and themes of the genre, from the covert mastermind and the mad scientist to dangerous advances in technology, parallel worlds, and man-made monsters. This guide explores how the show uses these elements to tap into a deeper understanding of the human experience. Less focused on individual episodes, this book is split into three parts, each discussing a broad element of the narrative experience of the first three seasons of this multilayered show.

Sarah Clarke Stuart is the author of Literary Lost: Viewing Television through the Lens of Literature and a teacher at the University of North Florida and Florida State College of Jacksonville. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida.
Title:Into the Looking Glass: Exploring the Worlds of FringeFormat:PaperbackDimensions:232 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.5 inPublished:October 1, 2011Publisher:ECW PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1770410511

ISBN - 13:9781770410510

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Read from the Book

Amid the clamor of Lostmania and a growing appetite among television audiences for more science fiction shows, the pilot episode of Fringe aired in September 2008. The opening scene, a chilling scenario clearly reminiscent of an X–Files episode, features a deadly virus that wipes out an entire plane full of passengers. We are then introduced to the rational Agent Dunham and, shortly thereafter, the brilliantly mad Dr. Bishop. They make a strong first impression as an unlikely pair of heroes, but their shared goal of discovering “the truth” plants the series firmly within the tradition of great science fiction, with science playing a starring role.Recent science fiction television series tend to make the continuous search for “the truth” central to their long–term plots. Whether it is made explicit by the television creators themselves (The X–Files’ “the truth is out there”), or the narrative is an epic spiritual puzzle (Lost), or questions of right versus wrong take center stage (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), there is a general longing for scientific, ethical, and cosmic understanding among audiences of tv fantasies. In this book I attempt to identify and explore these more meaningful notions that Fringe addresses but does not always make explicit. Like all good science fiction Fringe deals with dynamic and controversial topics using fantastic elements to convey its compelling messages.This book is thematic in design and does not follow the series in a chronological order. As a result, one episode might be discussed in three or four different chapters, while another may receive very little attention. It closely examines many of the ideas, archetypes, and characters that make Fringe unique. By elaborating upon many of the narrative traditions within which Fringe was created, I hope this book will compel readers to carefully consider the dynamic connections that the show has so elegantly woven together.Because my background is in literature, I naturally view television shows with literary traditions in mind. My purpose in this book is to share this viewing perspective with the reader. It is both revealing and instructive to place Fringe in the context of its science fiction tradition, acknowledging its literary, televisual, and film inheritance.The reader will also notice my strong tendency to draw comparisons to other television shows, particularly Lost. While Fringe has its own unique appeal, it shares writers, producers, and fans with the island–based J.J. Abrams show, so it’s fitting to compare the two. They explore common themes, including the notion of free will, the tension between faith and reason, and the mysterious nature of time.The book is divided into three sections, each focusing on a broad element of the narrative experience of Fringe. The first section establishes Fringe’s identity as a science fiction classic, while moving the reader through the plot twists, character changes, and significant themes of season 1. It explores Fringe’s cinematic, televisual, and literary roots by identifying fundamental themes and character types that position it within the tradition of science fiction. This section does not address each and every episode specifically, but the content is based primarily on season 1. The second section uses the metaphor of “the looking glass” as a means to examine cultural and social problems. It also explores the notion of alternate universes, addressing what is made clear at the end of season 1: “there’s more than one of everything.” In addition I discuss Peter Bishop’s reluctant discovery of his own connection to “The Pattern.” Here I place a good deal of emphasis on the transition from season 2 to season 3, especially focusing on the two–part episode “Over There.” I examine season 3’s bifurcated narrative structure and discuss the juxtaposition of the two mirror–image worlds, acknowledging the significance of doubles and twinning. I also look at the interpersonal conflicts of the show and present the mirror as a symbol of self–knowledge. The final section, “The Small Screen as Looking Glass,” is an examination of how Fringe reflects its audience and, in turn, the viewers reflect, or refract, the show. Do they see a reflection of their world in the small screen? In addition, I examine the online digital communities of Fringe fandom and the extra–canonical feature of the Fringe comic book series.Into the Looking Glass explores the ways in which Fringe reveals, and sometimes critiques, the society from which it emerges. Along with many other post—9/11 television shows aired in the West, Fringe exposes a society’s collective paranoia about an invisible web of clandestine puppet masters. It also underscores the fear of radical advances in technology and urges its viewers to ponder the ethical limitations of science. Its artful exploration of these issues against the backdrop of a compelling interpersonal drama makes Fringe one of the most intriguing tv shows of the last decade.

Editorial Reviews

"Stuart writes with lucid authority on the topic, and her passion for the program is clear from the depth of knowledge and insight she exhibits in her prose. A must-have for fans." —Scene Magazine (November 2011)