The final two episodes of Fringe air tonight. "Liberty" and "An Enemy of Fate" will serve as the sci-fi show's two-part series finale, starting at 8/7c on FOX. So, just in time for the show's two-hour endgame, I've compiled a list of my twelve favorite episodes of the series since it started airing back in 2008. Please add your own favorite lists in the comments section below.
Here's hoping these final two hours will render all of these lists obsolete in any case (I'm fully expecting the episodes to be amongst the series' best). In any case, let's kick it off, shall we?
12. "The No Brainer" (Season 1, Episode 12) -- It took a long time for Fringe to really hook me, but I can remember the exact moment that it did. It was the cold open of "The No-Brainer," in which an unsuspecting teenager watches a video, and then hallucinates that an arm comes out of his computer screen and grabs his head.
The episode certainly didn't feature Fringe's best writing, but it was one of the show's best "fluff" episodes. It pays apparent homage to David Cronenberg's gritty, grungy thriller Videodrome, and until Fringe found its mythological feet, that was how the series functioned best: as an unsettling sci-fi/horror show.
11. "And Those We've Left Behind" (Season 4, Episode 6) -- The first half of Fringe's fourth season was probably the show's weakest yet, although it does deserve bonus points for bold writing. Though it took the show a while to retrieve its balance after Peter's return to the timeline, we were at least treated to the occasional brilliant standalone -- and this episode was one of the best.
Of course it was thematically relevant to the overall mythology, but this episode's greatness stems not from the main characters, but from the fantastic guest turn of Stephen Root (Office Space, Justified) as a grieving husband attempting to save his invalid wife by creating a time bubble. It shares plot elements with one of Fringe's best episodes (read on), but this episode distinguished itself with some of the show's most pitch-perfect character writing yet, and proved itself to be one of the brighter moments of an otherwise meandering stretch of episodes.
10. "An Origin Story" (Season 5, Episode 5) -- The death of Peter and Olivia's daughter Etta in the fourth episode of season 5 was rather predictable from my view, but it was a storytelling necessity that made the rest of the season much more personal for the main characters. Though I'm still a little disappointed that the writers didn't take the Peter-turning-into-an-Observer storyline just a little farther, this episode was in any case an exciting set-up for that arc.
Fringe has always been a story about parents and children, and watching Peter and Olivia grieve for their daughter in different ways was brilliantly executed -- though Peter's storyline proved to be much more compelling. The final scene, which saw Peter installing Observer technology into his own neck, was one of the show's much unsettling yet, though the ethical dilemma leading up to it proved to be just as intriguing.
9. "Lysergic Acid Diethylamide" (Season 3, Episode 19) -- The nineteenth episode of each season became a staple of Fringe weirdness for its middle three seasons. The musical episode "Brown Betty" left a little to be desired, but the series really cranked up the crazy in "Lysergic Acid Diethylamide," which took place largely in Olivia's head. And, as the title of the episode indicated, things got trippy.
Namely, the entire episode suddenly (and quite hilariously) became a cartoon. There was enough storyline motivation for this to not be such a dubious creative choice, and the cartoons allowed for larger set-pieces that Fringe's relatively low budget wouldn't have been able to afford. Minus the comedy, the episode actually felt a bit like an episode of Archer -- though, of course, with some intense echoes of the just-released Inception. (One quibble with this episode: Olivia's would-be assassin, Mr. X, turned out to be a big fat red herring.) The weirdest nineteenth episode, though, is still to come...