Warning: The following review contains spoilers for Fringe: Sins of the Father.
Peter Bishop, the key to our survival, healing worlds on the brink of annihilation, ‘Boy Wonder‘, the brilliant ex-con artist who’d easily walk away from the mess…just how in the hell did that guy turn into the savior we met in the show’s final hours?
What was the deal with brokering ‘that deal’ in Baghdad right before Olivia tracked him? Was there more to Big Eddie’s grudge? Why things didn’t work out between Peter and his (kinda) ex, Tess? Was there more to the otherworldly aura surrounding his past? Will we ever find out the truth behind the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’?
Well, “Sins of the Father,” (the third in the prequel trilogy written by Christa Faust and published by Titan Books) for an all-guns-blazing prequel of sorts, lets us get a glimpse of the Boy’s backstory just before The Pattern’s fallout, while shedding a touch more light on certain events that shaped him into the multi-dimensional, dark trench coat-strapping neo-noir anomaly whom we met back in Season 1. So let’s dive in…hanging close to the surface.
“A bit of theater is exactly what we’ll need.”
This is the story of Peter’s (pretty much) last scam gone wrong, one which leads him into a neatly woven web of deadly proportions where he gets a chance to shine as the unspoken hero before even knowing what triumphs and tragedies would befall him in the future. Along the way we get to meet a few familiar faces from the show, including fan-favorites, there’s serious precognition of the constantly evolving mutations, plus the Redverse saga, all the sparkly yet quite gooey sci-fi elements we loved about Fringe. And to make matters all the more exciting, Peter finds a mysterious unexpected ally, Dr. Julia Lachaux, who would have also worked amazingly on the screen; with that said, it’s still great how the cinematic aspect of the story works fine within the constraints of the book.
“Peter wasn’t a hero by any stretch of the imagination…”
After what feels like an overlong setup, the main plot kicks in midway through Part 2, from then on it centers around a bio threat, where a certain retrovirus is revealed to be capable of both saving lives and, in the wrong hands, causing a major catastrophe. The book remains well-paced for the most part, reads swiftly and would rarely require looking back for a refresher. The chapters are properly divided into short segments of action sequences or dramatic revelations, all making up six concise parts covering semi-episodic acts of the story, each bringing enough doses of intensity, suspense and a touch of nerdy humor, without hitting too many bumps down the road.
What you’ve got in your hands is pretty much the typical Dan Brown-esque thriller with one too many (mostly) good twists and turns round the corner (think, the first “National Treasure”) and one great nod to the show’s distant past which could catch you off-guard. So naturally, it’s only a matter of a couple of chapters before we find out the conman’s getting conned, then gaining the upper hand , before falling bareback again… but going through it all begs the question: does the new drama add significantly to the show’s mythology?
“…a doorway that led into another world.”
Faust remains loyal to the show’s format, even starting off with a chilling cold open, subliminally dealing with existential matters, like the ones we Fringe fans are used to. Although most of the events take place in 2008 – just a while before the show’s pilot – we’ve got chapters dedicated to true-to-Bad Robot productions flashbacks that actually pay off, including one taking us back to a particular grim incident that changed everything for everyone.
At times certain reveals may strike as a touch too contrived ala 007-style resolutions, such as characters from different sides catching up by what seems like a way too lucky coincidence. On the bright side, however, the author’s style coherently captures the show’s atmosphere from the early seasons, particularly in action sequences. Peter’s traits, charm and trademark wit are consistent with the character and Joshua Jackson’s portrayal. This is evident when the book lets us peek through Peter’s inner thoughts as they closely match the mostly visual/musical sense of the show’s similarly reflective moments.
“Hadn’t he always been alone?”
There’s a fittingly unsettling darkness to Peter’s past up to his fateful encounter with the Fringe team back in Season 1, which is appropriately depicted in early chapters; one resonating with dystopian classics like “Blade Runner”, in that, everywhere he goes he’s the outsider, the alien kid from beyond, leading a purgatorial life from one hotel room to another, one Bond girl to the next, come another fishing job, blending in with crowds, slipping through unnoticed, with no clue of the greater quest in store for him. Seems Peter was always destined to serve as the failsafe restoring balance to the almighty multiverse. That is perhaps hinted at in one of his jobs involving two buyer gangs where he plays the go-between atop an ‘ivory’ -of-sorts Infinity Tower Hotel. Later, when there are lives to protect, he gets a chance to play a bigger part.
“His “take” from this job was his life.”
Some chapters strike as pointless or they just stall, particularly in Part 4, perhaps because we’ve already seen the schemes play out in the show. And then everything speeds up into ‘rushed mode’ for no good reason near the end. So yeah, at times it feels like you’re watching a tame procedural Fringe spin-off (“Adventures of P. Bishop, Intergalactic Conman”), where the format is, you guessed it, ‘scammer with a gentle heart gets conned but finds a way out, so help him god’, and the plausibility is lost.
But all that doesn’t keep you from being invested, as Parts 3 and 5 easily deliver the best moments in the book: including a vividly cinematic action sequence in which Peter and Julia struggle to prevent a disaster on the verge of taking form, all while the thin fabric of the world falls apart right beneath their feet. The chemistry between the leads works to further build the tension. Having both experienced trauma, they get to save the world, each with distinct agendas for better or worse, balancing on the objectivistic and altruistic extremes of humanity. The book could easily be translated into a two-hour special event (if only…).
“But I assure you, everything will be explained in due time.”
With all the new revelations and slight improvements to old ones, can we assume that we’ve seen the repercussions come into play later in the show? Does it actually ‘matter’ or have we ‘heard it all before’? Well…depends on how you’d map it on the grand scale. Some elements do not quite fit the show’s mythology; does the book take place in the alternate (yellow) timeline? Even so, isn’t the mere notion of ‘timeline inconsistencies’ a convenient excuse for justifying some of the actual shortcomings of the plot? In the end, if you’re willing to look past that, “Sins…” gets you on a thrilling ride filled with great narrative imagery and symbolic nods to the show, all worth your while. So go grab the book, and look for the allusions as you re-watch Fringe and its glory right from the start!
“Sins of the Father” gets a solid 7.5 out of 10 Seriable Star Rating