Joel Wyman, You Are Amazing


Dear Joel,

To borrow a line from my favorite movie: I have been in the Fringe business so long, now that it's over, I don't know what to do with the rest of my life.

It was probably not your intention, but I have finished just a few books since the middle of the fourth season. I used to read quite a lot. I also wanted to start seriously drawing again instead of only designing knives. Though I love it, especially the one I made for Fringe, the last two seasons have given me the desire to create more. The wonderful Fringe Benefits posters that just came out depicting individual episodes, such as "White Tulip," which I couldn't resist buying, were the kinds of things I had in mind. But at some point, Fringe became so important that any free time, including bedtime, would be filled with words running through my head about this amazing little show that could, and I would be forced to blog about it and search out interviews and videos for hours on end. I always put everything else off until later, though we never know how many laters we have.

Now, I don't want to make you all weepy, so I'm sorry to say I didn't like the finale...I didn't love the finale...I absolutely adored it. It was bittersweet, beautiful, wonderful, absolutely right, and perfectly Fringe. It was the best I've ever seen. I have had many favorites and Fringe steadily crept its way up my top ten, eventually leaving behind all the rest. I still enjoy a handful of other current incredible shows with amazing actors, writing, and imagination, but Fringe means the most to me. The story is uniquely out there yet always relatable, and every bit of it feels like it was crafted with a tremendous amount of care. The final episode was no exception.

Even while the best are still turning in great episodes, I am disillusioned again and again with the deluge of awful television. By the time Fringe came along, I hadn't really looked forward to any new show in years and I wasn't even going to watch it. The fall season usually brings apathy instead of the enthusiasm it used to, but Fringe gave me hope that there are still gems out there. You just have to know where to look. Not many shows have done that so effectively: Doctor Who, Firefly, Sherlock, Supernatural, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Buffy, and Angel being some rare examples. Most of my favorites, those that break through my walls, are sci-fi or fantasy, which should tell people something. They are limited only by imagination, and the best of the genre showcase the importance of love and family, among many themes, in impossible situations. They are some of the most human stories, and Fringe has been the most human of all.

I doubted for so long. I doubted because TV has taught me to expect ninety-nine percent of series finales to be terribly disappointing, when they're lucky enough to get one. I suspect that's why I tend to keep my connection with characters at arm's length. The writers either write themselves into a corner or they think they're being brilliant with an unexpected twist, which only elicits from me a reaction of "Oh, what a surprise. I'm not even sad, because this always happens and it was handled poorly, as I suspected. In fact, that was hilariously stupid. My favorite character died pointlessly? Yes siree, Bob. Right now I can tell you five better endings, both character- and plot-wise" instead of reducing me to a blubbering puddle on the floor with a scenario that feels right, that is loved even as it breaks me, which is the way it should be...or happy; I'll take that, too, if you don't mind. By the way, Peter's disappearance DID work. A misstep? No. Of course, I'm not the writer, but it was tragic and epic and handled beautifully, as I was sure it would be. I had no doubt Peter would be back because by that point I knew the show wouldn't let me down. Nothing is ever technically perfect. Even Fringe I'm sure has its flaws (love tends to gloss over those), but it felt right, and that's all that matters to me. That's what I remember.

I live for happily ever after, because real life is not so kind. I'm not opposed to down or outright depressing endings, but they have to be brilliantly written, emotionally genuine, impeccably acted, and not a complete departure from everything that it was. Ashes to Ashes always comes to mind as an example of how it should be done. It was the ending I was dreading, a knife in the heart, but it didn't come out of left field and was gorgeously acted and bittersweet. I'm not religious, but I love stories of the supernatural, and it's always a fine balance between being a great story and feeling like a trip to Church complete with hard pews, droning priest, and a single fan for the hottest summer day. Unfortunately, so many think it's the height of drama just to kill off characters. It seems usually they haven't thought it through or aren't good enough to realize when those deaths serve no purpose or a very thin one, and could have been written in a far more satisfying way. Instead of mourning the character and applauding the performances, a once great show loses the respect I had for it and makes me regret the time I spent.

With Fringe I know I don't have to worry about that kind of disappointment. Sometime last year I saw how completely invested you were; it was then I was certain Fringe could only have a perfect ending. Up until that moment, I was convinced, though I had no evidence to the contrary, that it would ultimately end up like most that came before. Whereas other shows are frustrating in a myriad of ways, I understood for a while that Fringe had never disappointed me in any of them. It was in its fourth season and was still going strong, surprising me at every turn with its depth of creativity, intelligence, and emotion. This revelation inspired complete faith in you...and I've never been the type to have faith in anything. I had stopped letting myself hope - for television, for anything. You helped turn that around. 

I am so convinced of your ability to treat the material and the fans with tenderness that I wrote this before bed on your last night of filming and barely changed a word. Actually, I've added some...well, quite a lot. Really, I think it doubled. And now I'm finally finishing up two nights after Christmas. I can hardly believe this is my third letter to you. I never imagined having so much to say. I hope I am finally done. I wish you luck on your next series, not that it's needed, not in writing or showrunning anyway. You listen to your heart and put every beat into your work, so I am always reassured. May you be blessed with actors and crew that are even half as passionate as everyone on Fringe.

All right, now that I've thoroughly embarrassed both of us, I must stop. See you on Twitter and your name in the credits of the next big thing.

Erin Bates


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