Love Explored on Fringe

“Fringe” star Joshua Jackson.

The nature of love is being explored in a unique way on Fringe, the fantastic sci-fi series on the Fox network Friday nights. The show follows a “Fringe Division” team from the FBI, which investigates the unexplained. Their strange cases have led them to discover a parallel universe, and both worlds start to collide.

Joshua Jackson plays Peter Bishop, and in this current fourth season Peter comes back after sacrificing himself to save the two universes. But now he is trapped in yet another world that has the same people he loves. Among them are his father Walter (John Noble) and his partner in solving Fringe mysteries, Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) — but they are different with no relationship memories of Peter. In the alternate timeline his father actually rejects him, and Olivia has feelings for someone else.

Chatting with Jackson at a Fox network party, he told me that this strange world got him thinking about the process of falling in love. “Do we fall in love with someone simply because they look like and remind us of someone we love? Or do we have to earn that love somehow? Or do we have to have a shared experience so that love grows and the emotions are unique to that person?” Jackson contemplated the questions as he talked about the show’s characters and their relationships that span several alternate universes.

Previously, Jackson did the series Dawson’s Creek and The Mighty Ducks films. Now he films Fringe in his hometown of Vancouver and said he strongly believes that his character made the “highest romantic gesture last season by choosing to end his existence, so that the people he loves can survive. That’s the type of man he is. And in an alternate universe that love is still there as far as he’s concerned, but it becomes very interesting when it is one sided. Do you continue to have those feelings for someone who is basically a stranger now?”

A mother’s love seems to transcend the universes on this show, with an emotional storyline this season that reunites Peter with his mother who died in a different timeline. “He still carries the baggage from the relationship with his parents. That is crucial and kind of under-explored, but there’s so much interesting stuff coming up,” he promised. It is very ambitious to explore these questions, and the show has a loyal following of fans who love the complexity of the storytelling.

The series was created by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci. Abrams is the current golden boy of genre productions, with the series Lost and Alcatraz, plus Mission: Impossible— Ghost Protocol, and the new Star Trek movies among his credits. Abrams said he is hopeful about the future of Fringe, “because there’s some stuff coming up that is so great. They’re doing such amazing work. Maybe it’s dumb to be so optimistic, but I’m hoping that when good work gets done, it gets rewarded.”

Are serialized shows considered too difficult to sell now? Abrams said, “I think a lot of serialized shows were so purposefully complex, and all about asking big questions, that they became so quickly impenetrable, and people said, ‘Oh, I know what they’re trying to do.’ I think that when there’s an authentic mystery, as opposed to just a question being asked, that’s what makes you lean forward and usually there’s an emotional connection to that and it makes it interesting.” And on Fringe, the big question is about the nature of love. So tune in.

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