Yeah....anyone who watches or posts in the "what scifi ep did you watch today" thread over in General SF/F will have noticed that I was plowing through Fringe in an effort to catch up. It's something that a buddy of mine (and my dad, and my sister) have been bugging me to watch for about two years now, so I finally relented and got on it. And I like it, though I find that the show isn't without issues. But then that's really par for the course with any TV I suppose.
An interesting introductory year, with well-introduced characters pretty much across the board. My biggest complaint with characters in year one is that they really never found anything interesting for either Charlie or Astrid to do other than be scenery. It's as though Charlie was just there to add colour to the FBI team, while Astrid was there for....what? To be little more than a lab tech for a man who can't even remember her name?
The others, fortunately, are great. I was already familiar with Lance Reddick from The Wire, so it's nice to see him here again (even if the role is somewhat similar). I wasn't really sure about Joshua Jackson coming in, because all I knew about him was Dawson's Creek, but he's really really shined and made a believer out of me. I'd never heard of Anna Torv before (and haven't seen her in anything else to this day), but I'm suitably impressed with her ability to pull off the lead female role. I've heard that she got a bit of a bad rap when the show first started for not being able to carry it, but for this newcomer I don't think that's justified at all. Nina spends Season 1 providing just the right amount of mystery from Massive Dynamic to be interesting, despite having a main cast credit and barely appearing in half the episodes. But as I'm sure everyone knows, John Noble is the real achievement here as crazy Walter. Brilliant actor, brilliant character brilliantly acted. Absolutely wonderful.
Plotwise, I found that the first year was a bit hit-or-miss. The stories that were obviously or apparently arc-related consistently had my complete attention and kept me fully engaged for the entire episode. Good, good stuff. But the more X-Files-ey one-off standalone episodes frequently bored me to tears. I just could not wait to get to the end of those episodes and get onto a better one.
And truthfully the John Scott thing kind of bored me. Yes it was a way to give depth to Olivia, and yes it was an interesting backdoor way to introduce ZFT and the 'war of the universes' angle, but holy crap what a boring actor. His smug, smiley 'All American' good looks might've done well for promotional photography, but damn was it ever boring to watch on screen. I'm very very glad that he's dead and that in RL he and Torv are now divorced, so the odds of having to see him again are very slim.
All in all, a nice introductory season. Not without issues, but intriguing enough that it kept me coming back and wanting to see where the story went in Season 2.
Wow what an improvement over Season 1. Great stories--even the (less frequent) one-offs. An increasing reliance on primary story arcs is only a good thing as far as this viewer is concerned, and they delivered it in spades. The increasing revelations about the alternate universe, the cortexifan trials, Olivia's childhood, and finally the brilliant episode stitching together Peter's past, the Observer/lake story, Nina's arm, the cause of the cracks in the universes, and bundled together with a brilliantly 80s-style intro--holy hell. Amazing stuff.
Biggest complaint about this season was how poorly they handled Charlie. I know I just said that he was a bit of a wallpaper character in Season 1, but I don't want my wallpapers to just get killed off because they don't know what to do with them or the network wants to be rid of them or whatever else. I want development, for crying out loud! And to just see that he was killed off-screen and disposed of in an incinerator, come on. Not even a mention of his wife, either!
That aside though, an excellent year. And a great setup for Season 3.
Season 3 (so far)
You know, I hate to say it, but so far I've been finding Season 3 to be a bit of a disappointment. The way they set it up in the S2 finale was just masterful; when I finished that episode my imagination went wild with possibilities. But I've really just found that, instead of capitalizing on the opportunity, most of what we've got has been boring one-off monster/mystery-of-the-week stories in alternating universes, with a little bit of story arc thrown in in the last 5 minutes or so of each episode. And I just don't find that interesting. Plus, it certainly can't be inviting to casual viewers. I also really, really don't like the Peter/(Alt-)Olivia romance and am absolutely praying that it doesn't end up happening between him and our Olivia too.
That said, I do find the arc elements of this season intriguing. The mysterious ancient weapon--what is it? Where does it come from? Why was it originally built? Why are there parts for it in both universes? Does it have anything to do with why there are two universes in the first place? Does it have anything to do with the Observers? Can it be used to fix the fractures in the universes? So many questions!
Plus 'Over There' is a really fascinating place. I'm not even looking for the Observer anymore, I'm too busy looking at all the stuff in the background to smirk and laugh at all the difference between their side and ours. I love how Olivia and Charlie are essentially still themselves, just shaped slightly differently. I'm amused at She-Bot Astrid, and I'm (as usual) floored by John Noble playing Walternate....who as near as I can figure is just the realization of what our Walter would have been if he hadn't had a friend in William Bell who was willing to take pieces of his brain out in order to stop him from becoming such an arse.
Still enjoying the year though, and hoping that FOX's boneheaded decision to move the show to Fridays doesn't kill it. I can absolutely see the show having at least one more year of stories in it.
Who and what are the Observers?! With months for names, are we to take it that there are only 12 of them (or rather 11 now)? What's with their 'hot' eating habits? Why is it that they appear to have no distinction between the two universes? Why are they junkies for historical moments? What was with the 'pod' that September recovered from Walter back in The Arrival? What was with the boy in Inner Child? If they don't perceive time in the same way that we do, and can be anywhere any time, can August (or any of them) ever truly die (at least from our POV)?
Are aliens in any way part of the overriding mythology? That ghostly alien thingy that was bonded to a Russian cosmonaut....it was on our side, but do they have corresponding alternates Over There, who are also being adversely affected by the damage to that universe?
What is the weapon? Who built it? What was its original purpose? How does it fit in to the history and mythology of the series?
The Rachel/Ella thing bugs the crap out of me. I loved the way they were a part of Season 1, they gave so much colour to the live of Olviia. I liked how they had their own story outside of the Fringe mythos, and I enjoyed how they seemed to be building toward a Peter/Rachel romance. And then....they vanished. And then Rachel recently gets a passing mention of having moved to Chicago 'because her husband took a job there'? The husband she was estranged from and crying over his trying to take custody of their daughter from her last time we saw her? Come on, what the hell kind of resolution is that?
And I find it an odd curiosity that the first person that any of us saw from Over There was actually Broyles way back in There's More Than One of Everything--and now he's the first major player from that side to die.