Once in a while I may stray from the dark macabre and steer into an adjacent genre, and in tonight’s case I am celebrating the series finale of Fringe– the sci-fi show that fuses science with horror and conspiracy… or today’s version of The X-Files. We really are fortunate to live in a graphite-golden age where nearly all genre shows are represented, and some in various shades to boot. Horror comes in many forms: American Horror Story preys with the evil tendencies of human nature; Supernatural grapples with monsters and demons; Grimm chases us with fairy tale monsters; True Blood serves us with vampires and a side of witches and werewolves; Vampire Diaries is True Blood lite, or what I call McBlood; and The Walking Dead is post-apocalyptic zombies. But Fringe, like The X-Files, dances on the plausibility of “what if” along the fringes of science (hence the name and organization) and leaves us in the darkness of our own paranoid curiosities.
The X-Files played a big role in my life. It connected me to a culture of followers and believers in the show. The rise of its popularty came at the same time as the internet (I was plugged in since 1991 via AOL), and as such the show had a big following online with user groups and fan sites. The fact that the show’s writers culled their episodes from true events made it all the more fun to fact-find online- with what limited information there was out there. Discussions evolved around everything from a single photo pinned behind Mulder, to facts of similarly true cases mirrored in the show. If you weren’t sure about something specific, there always seemed to be an X-Phile (fan) who had captured an image and posted it online (the early pics were literally someone taking a picture from their camera off the TV screen, and uploading it). I remember driving home from work one evening, thrilled to see a taped “X” over an office window- a tribute from a fan. You felt as if you were part of an underground, cultural club. It was probably the way Trekkies felt after the cancellation of the classic show. With popularity came other accessible media: X-Files events to attend, and the fan club to join. There were magazines and behind-the-scenes books to satisfy every geek’s desire. I knew the names of my favorite writers and could anticipate if the episode would utilize long lenses or wide, depending on the director credited. It was the show that ignited my creative fire, and made me a regular card-carrying geek member.
When I was a child there were only a handful of shows that could give you chills: There were The Hardy Boy Mysteries, The Incredible Hulk, Kolchak (which I missed out on), The Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. In the late 80’s there were short-lived shows like Amazing Stories, The New Twilight Zone, Eerie Indiana, and Friday the 13th The Series.
The only thing they all had in common were main characters who seemed nerdy and weird. You may have rooted for them, but you never wanted to be them. The X-Files came along and made science fiction-horror cool again, with its two badge-carrying and gun-wielding x-file hunters. Mulder and Scully showed you it was okay to be obsessive and geeky, human and vulnerable. It was okay to be scared, to trust no one but your own instincts, and to stick to your own beliefs when in the face of doubt or ridicule. Being called “spooky” was better than giving up your stubborn search for the truth.
Fringe was the second-coming of The X-Files. It may not have started out that way in the pilot, but the producers evolved it to play on similar emotions and story elements: Fear, paranoia, the wonders of scientific possibilities, and a cast of characters that are brash, vulnerable yet fearless, and always fallible. There were the supernatural monster/events-of-the-week episodes, and the running arcs that drove the spine of the characters. Tonight’s two-hour season finale will wrap the show’s intriguing yet elusive clues featured in my above apple pie, and sadly it will mark the end of this type of genre… once again. As I sip my wine and enjoy a piece of tonight’s macabre meal, I will wonder if someone out there is already dreaming the next generation of this type of show. I just have to believe.
NUTTY APPLIE PIE
CRUST: Ground walnuts, cashew, dates, and agave syrup.
FILLING: Sliced apples, agave syrup, maple syrup, lemon juice, and cinnamon.