Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fringe - "The Recordist" Review

"A hero died today."


After the last two relatively claustrophobic episodes, it was nice to seen the Fringe team entering some form of civilization this week.  I was wondering how long it was going to be before we stopped talking about the resistance, and actually started seeing some of it.  Most of what followed was great stuff, though I feel it had a potential to be transcendent and never really got there.

We open with the continuing, unnecessary descrambling of Walter's betamax videos, all of which could've been made digitally and tucked away on one flash drive, yet apparently his fragmented brain likes to make things harder on himself.  I digress.

Is it me, or does Walter seem more... composed this season.  Much more stern, and much less anxious.  More like Walternate.  Maybe this occurrence happened in the large interim we weren't able to see.  Maybe it happened because of the amber, or the mind torture, or maybe he's just become comfortable with his team, and his objective.  I digress again.

To the Quaker State!

I have to say that I applaud this series for changing the status quo of the series so dramatically in its final installment.  Sure, it wasn't much of a risk, but it's nice to see a team that was relegated to such dark corners of society for so long now being treated like legendary superheroes.  In fact, it's this avenue that "The Recordist" dedicates much of its time exploring: Heroes, and what makes one.

In today's uber-connected society, we often take the ability and importance of recording history for granted.  Fringe did a good job this week highlighting just how important it is to know how events in life play out, as we may be doomed to repeat them if we do not.  They are the silent scribes.  The photographer on the proverbial battlefield.  This is how the recordist finds purpose in a world all but devoid of hope.

Having River as a huge Fringe fanboy was cute, but I feel like the writers needed to spend more time setting up the payoff for this episode, which is why I didn't feel it lived up to its potential.  River felt very much like a blank slate, and a lot seemed to be riding on us feeling badly simply because he is a child.  If they spent more time displaying the relationship he had with his father, it would've hit harder.

That is not to say it didn't hit.  It was well executed and effective all the same.  I feel the main issue with the episode was the proportionality of the storytelling.  Too much of the focus was on Walter inevitably remembering things and not enough on the camp's characters.  These people are supposed to be a representation of not only an important theme, but of the realities of the world.  The show has spent plenty of time developing its leads, but in this episode, they were positioned as ciphers for the audience, stumbling blindly into an unfamiliar environment, and what they learn from that environment is also our own to take away.  "The Recordist" forgot that in a few scenes, specifically those of Peter and Olivia, which seemed a little more heavy-handed and redundant than it did in the premiere.  Peter talking about second chances was nice, but the road to that point could've been more concisely paved.

This was a much more subdued and introspective episode than the one that I thought I was going to get from watching the trailer, but that didn't make it any less good.  Every aspect of this episode was well told, but if the focus had been shifted, we may have been looking at a classic Fringe episode.  As it stands, the show hasn't yet matched the emotional catharsis of last season's imperfect "A Short Story About Love", which, though uneven, saw the show's best climax in recent memory.

All in all, Season 5 continues to run smoothly, though the show is going to have to speed up the tape hunt with Walter soon, because that is going to become increasingly repetitive, and take away from the precious little time that Fringe has left to go out with a bang.

Some series are defined by their journey and not their destination.  Fringe, and its legacy, will be defined by or forgotten on the strength of its closing chapter.  Time to get moving.

And maybe it's just me, but I get chills just looking at the names of the remaining episodes.  They just seem so artfully powerful to me.  Those kind of names that are so simple and matter of fact on the surface, yet end up talking on so much more meaning when it's all said and done.  That was maybe the most pointless of anecdotes I may ever write.

Good Episode.  Could've been great.


72% = *** = "Good"


-VMA

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