The Perfect Streaming Sci-Fi Series For Fans Of The X-Files Isn’t On Netflix

By Jonathan Klotz | Updated

fringe the bullet that saved the world

After watching the entire run of The X-Files, from the original series to the revival, and one movie (we don’t talk about Fight the Future), you might be itching for another smart, well-written, conspiracy-filled sci-fi series to binge. In that case, you must check out Fringe, another Fox sci-fi series that’s an unofficial spiritual sequel to the Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny classic. The good news is that the shows are so similar; the bad news is that the shows are so similar.

The Spiritual Sequel To The X-Files

Fringe follows the secretive FBI Fringe Division, tasked with investigating cases on the fringes of science, from transhumanism to bank robbers that can walk through walls, while following The X-Files monster of the week format. At the center is Walter Bishop, played by John Noble, a slightly mad scientist once institutionalized, his son, Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), and FBI Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv).

Overseeing the trio is the late Lance Reddick, as Philip Broyles, head of the Fringe Division, with recurring help from Agent Charlie Francis (Kirk Acevedo) and Agent Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole), who ends up working as Walter’s assistant.

Unraveling Layers Of The Mystery

I’ll admit, back when Fringe first aired, I thought it was nothing more than an X-Files knock-off, but that was before the show’s mythology opened up with the introduction of the mysterious Observer, a pale man that functions like The Watcher from the Marvel Universe. At first, the Observer is simply…there…but as the show gets into what’s really going on, it lays out the masterful plan that, unlike other J.J. Abrams shows, answers the questions it raises.

John Noble’s Best Performance

john noble fringe finale

If you give Fringe a shot, get through the first season, and then, as the second slowly unfolds, you’ll realize the exact moment that the series started to develop a cult following. John Noble’s performance as Walter, in particular, continues to develop new layers from the initial absent-minded professor to a man dealing with unfathomable grief, and while it takes a while to get there, his evolution is one of the highlights of the series. The problem is that, like The X-Files, while questions are answered, it’s not entirely satisfying.

Leonard Nimoy’s Final Acting Role

At the heart of the mystery in Fringe is Massive Dynamic, a multinational company run by Walter’s former lab partner, William Bell, played by Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy in his last acting role. The true nature of the company and its ultimate goals do get revealed, but the twist is so massive that Fox had to sign off on it even before the series went into production because it quite literally changes everything.

I thought the reveal at the end of an early season would be the end of it, but no, as after that, there’s another show-altering event that proves, if nothing else, Fringe is a series not afraid of change.

J.J. Abrams Sometimes Makes Great Sci-Fi

As with The X-Files, Fringe goes beyond the monster of the week format and goes heavy into mythology in the later seasons, and while I thought it was worth the journey, be warned that this show has very permanent consequences for its characters. Airing in a post-Lost world, creator J.J. Abrams seemingly learned from his mistakes, and this series is the result, even if he takes his time getting to the point. You might figure out the first twist a few episodes before it’s revealed, but the second and the third are like punches to the gut.

There’s Lots Of Ways To Experience Fringe

fringe cast


Throughout it all, the characters help ground the story, provided you’re willing to go along for the ride at its own pace. Olivia, in particular, starts out as annoying, with an aloofness that borders on appearing bored in every scene, but she gets better, and Anna Torv can put on an acting tour de force in later episodes.

It’s not a perfect series, but Fringe wasn’t afraid to take major risks, not all of which pay off; in this day and age of sanitized and safe sci-fi, it’s refreshing to come across a mystery box show that for the first time, ever, actually pays off. You can stream the show on Amazon Prime Video, Max, and purchase it via Video on Demand through Google Play, AppleTV, and Vudu.