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God is science. If you're a man of science, then [science] is the only faith we need." Since a character uttered those words three seasons ago on Fringe, now in its final season on Fox (Fridays, 9/8c), the crime show spent its first four seasons crafting an engrossing and personal rebuttal of that declaration.

Last season's finale—which one critic called the show's "ultimate statement on scientific hubris"—made it clear that Fringe's main arc was always about the motivations and consequences of playing God. As the series ends, it will be remembered as perhaps the most captivating and nuanced exploration of science and faith ever shown on television.

Having made that ultimate statement on the arrogance of playing God,Fringehas now moved onto a short 13-episode final season where the show has completely switched gears—"freezing" its characters for more than 20 years in a strange substance to awaken them in a totalitarian society where they are the world's only hope.

Co-creator J. J. Abrams (Alias, Lost) conceived Fringe as a marriage between mythology- heavy but ratings-light serials (the kind you have to watch every week to keep up) and Nielsen-juggernaut crime procedurals (the kind you can jump in at any time and still "get" it). Fringe had decent ratings the first year, but as the show moved from cleanly-resolved crime-of-the-week episodes into deeper, serialized mythology, the ratings began to slip. Fox kept Fringe on the air thanks to critical praise, a cult following, and hopes of reaching the traditional threshold of 100 episodes for syndication—thus earning back some of its lost money. (The finale will be episode number 100.)Now that ...

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In the Magazine

November 2012

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