When Fringe debuted on Fox four years ago, its debt to The X-Files was clear. Like that earlier show, Fringe is about government agents investigating inexplicable, paranormal events, some of which are part of a larger mythology. There are also significant differences: there are two FBI agents, but they’re not partners; the team is larger, but no one is as skeptical as Scully was; and the larger story, the mythology, is more coherent.
The chief difference between the shows, however, is that at its heart, Fringe is about the power of love to transform the world, for good and ill.
This has been clear from the very beginning. If the pilot is about the formation of the Fringe team, its engine is FBI agent Olivia Dunham’s efforts to save the man she loves, John Scott. He’s injured in the course of an investigation into a bizarre event on an airplane, his injuries peculiar (his skin becomes transparent) and life-threatening. The only man who can help her is Dr. Walter Bishop, locked in a mental hospital for the last seventeen years; the only way she can get to Dr. Bishop is through his estranged son, Peter. Olivia is so determined to get help, she convinces a superior who has no use for her to let her follow this unlikely lead. She hunts Peter down in Baghdad and cons him into helping her. This action is the beginning of not one, but two love stories central to the series.