My rule in regards to determining my top favorite episodes of a TV series is that the list is five episodes per approximately 100. In other words, if a TV series, in total, features approximately 100 episodes, my list of favorite episodes will consist of five selected episodes, and if the series, in total, features approximately 200 episodes, my list of favorite episodes will consist of ten selected episodes, and so on. Because of that, compiling a list of favorite Fringe episodes was immensely difficult because even though there are, indeed, a handful of episodes that are so good that they deserve to be officially heralded as some of the best television that has ever aired (in my opinion), there are episodes that I love to a great extent that obviously do not make the top 5, and it deeply saddens me to make such cuts. As anyone knows me is aware, Fringe is a TV series about which I was and am immensely passionate. It holds an incredibly special place in my heart, and I will never forget it. This is merely one way that I honor it - by honoring the best, in my opinion, of course, five hours that it had and has to offer. Without further ado, in addition to an honorable mention, here are my top 5 favorite Fringe episodes.
Honorable Mention - "Subject 13" (3.15)
I have a few problems with this episode. One is that, for whatever reason, the actor who plays young Peter the first time around during season 2 must not have been available the second time around during season 3 because he does not return and is replaced by a different actor, one who really does not look much like the original actor at all, and I prefer the original actor because he looks a lot more like Josh Jackson. The second problem that I have with "Subject 13" is that the actor and the actress look a little too old to be playing how old Peter and Olivia would have been in early 1986, and this is especially true of the actress, Karley Scott Collins, although she did a wonderful job. Olivia says in "Ability" (1.14) that in 1981, she was three years old, which suggests that she was born in 1978. This means that in early 1986, she would have seven or eight, and the actress looks much older than this; she was, in fact, about eleven when this episode was filmed. The third problem that I have with this episode is that we see Peter and Olivia meeting as children and sharing a very special moment together in a white tulip field, and Olivia makes it snow in Florida. Firstly, no one near the daycare center finds it odd that it is snowing, and secondly, the series never once goes on to explain why, as adults, they seem to have no memory of it. I think that it is beyond safe to say that this is because Walter somehow tampered with their memories so that they would not remember, but it is never explicitly stated. This is, however, a fantastic episode. We get backstory. We return to the 80s, which is awesome. Karley Scott Collins and Chandler Canterbury, in their own rights, do fantastic jobs. We get answers, such as how Walternate found out that Peter was in the Blueverse and how he came to be aware of Blueverse Olivia (and probably, for that matter, why he recruited Redverse Olivia). It is, despite its flaws, a great episode, and it is also worth mentioning that Quinn Lord (who plays Peter the first time around in the season 2 "Peter" episode) and Karley Scott Collins play Hansel and Gretel in the "True North" (1.09) episode of Once Upon a Time, doubtfully a coincidence.
5 - "The Man from the Other Side" (2.18)
I absolutely love "The Man from the Other Side" for so many reasons. One is that we finally see what the Shapeshifters look like as infants, before they shape-shift, and prior to this episode having aired, I had been hoping that that would be something that we would see. The scene when the lights in the lab go out and the Shapeshifter talks to Walter is extremely creepy, and this episode also introduces the mysterious character initially known only as The Secretary. I was immediately sure that it was Walternate, crossing over to take Peter back, and this is strongly hinted at when the Shapeshifter seems to recognize Walter as his superior. This is also the episode when Peter finally finds out that he is from the Redverse, and this is such a great scene, setting the stage for the phenomenal season finale. I can't find any more words; it's simply a fringetastic episode for so many reasons.
4 - "Ability" (1.14)
"Ability" is definitely my favorite season 1 episode, and it is easily one of my favorite episodes of the entire series. This is the episode that sets the stage for so much. It is during "Ability" that we learn of the parallel universe from the ZFT manuscript (which I think could also be interpreted as potentially being about the Observers), and we also learn not only of Cortexiphan but that it was given to Olivia when she was a child. These are two major pieces of Fringe's overarching mythology, and this one single episode opens the doorways into them. I also love the scene when Olivia successfully turns off the lightbox to prevent the orifice-sealing toxin to be spread around the city. I remember first having seen it and being blown away by it; it struck a nerve (in a very good way) and still does. I remember the Cortexiphan trials having reminded me of Alias's Project: Christmas. "Ability" is definitely a classic quintessential episode of Fringe.
3 - "Over There" (2.21) (2.22)
"Over There" is the best season finale of all five seasons, with "An Enemy of Fate" (5.13) coming in second. So much happens in this episode, and I remember how immensely exciting it was finally seeing the Redverse in more detail, actually meeting Redverse versions of characters. There is the memorable "You belong with me" scene, which, of course, is followed by the heart-wrenching cliffhanger that leaves us feeling vehemently desperate and angry, desperate because we know that Olivia is trapped and angry because we know that Peter is going to think that Redverse Olivia is his Olivia, which, of course, he does. The cliffhanger is, in my opinion, the best cliffhanger of all four, and it really sets up the season 3 conflict. "Over There" is a fantastic season finale and, as I said, definitely the best that Fringe has to offer.
2 - "A New Day in the Old Town" (2.01)
My #2 and my #1 selections are so close that they're just about tied (as is the case with #3, as well). The season 2 finale, apparently titled after a quote from Josh Jackson after the show's filming location was moved from New York City to Vancouver, Josh's hometown, is so great because of how exciting it is. The scene when Olivia crashes through the windshield of her S.U.V. may be the best scene of the entire series, and this premiere not only introduces the Shapeshifter mythology but also leaves us with a pretty intense cliffhanger - one has killed Charlie and is now posing as him. The only problem that I have with this episode is that it introduces a character by the name of Agent Amy Jessup and makes her seem like she is going to be an important character of the season; we even see her near the end of the episode connecting Fringe Division cases to the Bible, and not only is this never again explored, we only see her again in one more episode, and it is a brief scene. It seems like the Fringe crew started something and then abandoned it, which is frustrating, but this episode is phenomenal and is definitely my favorite season premiere of all five seasons, with the pilot episode probably coming in second.
1 - "Peter" (2.15)
I will never forget the way that this episode made me feel when it first aired (and still does) and how stunning it is, overall. First of all, it surprises us with an unforgettable new intro, the Fringe theme retrofitted to sound like 80s synth. We finally get pieces of an incomplete puzzle regarding Peter having been taken from the Redverse, and it also surprises us by showing us that, indeed, nothing is at seems, as something that we had thought that we fully understood is not actually accurate. The series does something similar near the end when we discover that even though, as September says in this episode, we had believed that Peter was the boy who was important, it was actually September's son, Michael, the Child from "Inner Child" (1.15). We had believed that Walter taking Peter from the Other Side was purely selfish, was done out of pure greed because he had missed his own son that had died, but this ended up not really being the case. "Peter" shows us that Walter had initially intended merely to bring a cure to Redverse Peter so that another version of his son wouldn't have to die, but the vial of the cure broke, so Walter, therefore, brought him back to the Blueverse, and Elizabeth was unable to let him go. I would imagine that Walter also figured that it was for the greater good if he kept Peter because returning him would mean opening another hole between the universes, which would do even more damage, something that I believe that he even says six months later during "Subject 13" (3.15). "Peter" is a heartbreaking episode, and Quinn Lord does such an amazing job as young Peter. The casting was a great choice (as he even kind of looks like Josh Jackson actually did at around that age, and it's a shame that he was replaced during season 3). I would also argue that this is the first time that we see just how expansive John Noble's acting ability truly is. Josh Jackson is not in this episode at all, and Anna Torv is in very little of it, and it's simply such a special episode. Season 2, as a whole, is fantastic, as evidenced by the fact that four of my selections are season 2 episodes.