On Fringe


By Amy Berner

“The cow is of the bovine ilk; one end is moo, the other, milk.”


“The only thing better than a cow is a human. Unless you need milk. Then you really need a cow.”


Walter Bishop–our Universe’s version–is a tough nut to crack. He has no problem experimenting on children. He’ll happily push both others and himself past their physical and emotional limits in the name of science. The ends do tend to justify the means as far as Walter is concerned. But there is one . . . not person, entity perhaps, that he cares for and protects far more than the people in his life: his trusty lab cow.

Gene the Cow is the SpongeBob Squarepants—loving mascot of Fringe. She was referred to originally as a handy “ethical test subject,” but she has become more of a pet project and raw milk source for Walter, a one-animal petting zoo for young lab visitors, and an in-joke for the other characters; Peter used the name “Gene Cowan” while staying off the radar (“Northwest Passage” 2-21). For any character visiting the lab for the first time, she stands as an instant signpost that Walter’s lab is anything but a standard FBI facility. But even more importantly, with as dark, twisted, and just plain gross as Fringe can get, we–and the characters–need a presence like kind-eyed Gene. For the audience, Gene is the “spoonful of sugar” that makes the more disturbing parts of Fringe easier to bear. Walter might be digging into the  …

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