Sunday, October 7, 2012

Fringe - "Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11" Review

Ah... Fringe.


I remember when this show was still on the fringe of premiere, and everyone was hailing it as the new LOST, since it was created by J.J. Abrams and its two-hour pilot also cost a staggering ten million dollars to make.

I personally really enjoyed the pilot.  The problem was what followed, something I like to call "Network Syndrome".  This is where a series with a premise that is inherently serialized tries too hard too maintain the status quo by including self contained stories each week that don't forward the overarching narrative in any significant way.  Examples of this include every single network television series.

Though Fringe has never been a transcendent show, the writers are actually very good at what they do. They've always managed to take their stories in interesting directions, avoiding the clich├ęs that litter their genre despite it looking many times like they've written themselves into a corner.  Every time they are allowed to flex their muscles and take the more serialized approach that a show like Fringe demands, the results are positive.

I was a big fan of the Pilot, but by episode six I was ready to call it quits on the series.  The over-reliance on throwaway, "monster-of-the-week" plots and an obtuse overarching narrative that seemed cut way too deeply from Chris Carter's cloth, it all reeked of a potential squandered by the need for broad appeal.  We all know how the X-Files turned out (Or do we?  Cause I'm pretty sure that series was a decade long stroke job), and I wasn't interested in reliving that.

Luckily, as Fringe's viewership began to fluctuate and eventually dwindle, the producers decided to take more risks and add a heavier serialized element to the show, paying off set ups and answering questions about the narrative we never thought we'd get.  The show hit a creative high early in it's third season, and it's been intermittently great ever since.

This is becoming more of a retrospective than an episode review, but that's because I don't really have much to say about the premiere.  It was solid.  Jarring, but solid.

I mean, it's not like we didn't know this was coming.  Ever since the baffling non-sequitir "Letters to Transit" last season, we knew the show was headed in this direction.  And a good direction it is, don't get me wrong.  In fact, I have abundant faith that season five of Fringe will arguably be it's best, because it is its last.  The show has lost nearly all of its viewers, and it needs not prove anything to anyone but to satisfy its hardcore fan base.  It can get as crazy as it wants.  The tethers have been cut, and that is an exciting prospect.

That being said, it took me a minute while watching this premiere to realize what the show left behind.  I forgot that, for all intents and purposes, all major story lines in Fringe were resolved last season.  William Bell, DRJ, the alternate universe, all in a relative bow.  I have to say, I miss those dopplegangy bastards.  Fringe feels like a very different show now, not that that's a bad thing.

Whether it was what they were going for or not, I experienced serious future shock when watching "Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11".

There's not really much to say about the rest.  Much of this episode consisted of "search for the magic MacGuffin that keeps the plot going", which was executed well, but it is what it is.  I imagine Fringe's compact final season will take the form of many basic cable shows.  The first three or so episodes are designed to set the scene and set up the plot, at which point, triggers will be pulled and we'll be off to the races.

The writers have done a great job in setting that Orwellian dystopia.  It's especially interesting to see the evolutionary powers that the Observers obtain.  Removing memories and causing hemorrhages from telepathy?  Jesus.  The observers are a formidable opponent, and I can't wait to see what the resistance will cook up.

All the reunions were nice.  It's hard to get us invested in Henrietta and everything that's transpired between Peter & Olivia since so much has suddenly changed and we have so much to adjust to, so the fact that I care is a testament unto itself.  I would've loved a few extra episodes to see that all play out.  I feel like there were so many potentially tearjerking moments that were glossed over simply for the interest of time.

Fringe tends to have an issue with pacing, in that when it slows down, it feels like it.  It's not like Breaking Bad when you're hanging on every word.  I believe this is because, most of the time, the slowness has often come from explaining the case of the week to the audience.  If you don't have a good case, or it's been too long since the main plot developed, we're going to get antsy.  Fringe should only slow down when it's to highlight the relationships between it's leads, which, thankfully, seems to be the likely trend judging from this episode.

And, just for the record, the fact that John Noble hasn't won an Emmy for his portrayal of Walter Bishop is a sin of the highest order.


I'm looking forward to what's next.


65% = *** = "Good"


-VMA

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