On Fringe

Fringe Diseases

By Jovana Grbić

The Fringe culture grows on you. Few viewers exposed to its first-season episodes found the show particularly infectious; in fact many viewers cast a jaundiced eye toward the Fringe Division as bad Mulder and Scully clones. By season two, Fringe seemed to chart a new vector and find its direction. It saw an outbreak of new viewers: its popularity went viral and viewership grew at a fevered pitch. This growth in popularity reflects the more literal infections germane to Fringe, whose role Jovana Grbić, PhD, clarifies.

Fringe is not a show about biology or infectious diseases in the same way that Breaking Bad inherently incorporates chemistry or CSI is naturally about forensics. Of the three-plus seasons to date, only a handful of episodes directly deal with communicable diseases, bioweapons, and the threat posed therein.

In fact, the season-two episode “What Lies Below” (2-13) is probably the only stand-alone episode of the series to date centered around a traditional infectious disease plot. In the opening, a man walked into a modern corporate penthouse for a meeting only to collapse, with his veins erupting and spraying blood everywhere. Shortly thereafter, the man who attended to him died from the same symptoms, leading Walter Bishop, the Fringe FBI team, and the lightning-quick on-the-scene CDC to declare a quarantine due to a contagion. A two-block radius was sealed with a barrier, and the office workers were segregated into groups–those who were near the victim and those who weren’t–for the purpose of determining whether the virus was  …

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